A reader writes:
I applied for a mid-level position over the summer and had my first interview in August. After not hearing from them for nearly a month, they asked that I come in to interview with another person, which I did last week, and afterward he asked for my references. I have just been asked to come back again to interview with two more people.
The first two interviews went pretty well and everyone I met there has been very nice, but they haven’t been able to meet me outside my 9-5 regular work schedule. It was difficult to arrange the first two interviews because I had to come to my current office late or leave early, and I don’t feel great about doing that three times. Is it rare to be asked for this many interviews and should I take any of this as a red flag?
Three interviews isn’t outrageous. When you think about how important the decision is on both sides, it’s actually pretty weird when companies hire after only spending an hour or two with someone. That said, by the time you’re on the third interview, you’d want to have a sense of what the rest of their hiring process looks like. It’s reasonable to ask whether this is the final step in the process or whether they anticipate additional interviews … or more generally, what the remainder of the hiring process looks like.
You also want to have some confidence that they’re doing three interviews because they’re truly being rigorous — and not just because they’re disorganized or inconsiderate of your time. So, have they used your time well? Did you understand why you met with each person you met with (and why you’re being asked to return to talk to these additional people)? Were the meetings valuable or were they not very substantive? Does this employer seem like they know what they want, or are they flighty and disorganized? That’s all information that tells you whether this is a process you can respect, or whether it’s not … and if it’s not, that’s valuable information about whether you want to work there.
As for their unwillingness to interview outside of regular work hours, it’s reasonable at this stage to say, “It would be difficult for me to take off additional time to interview. Would it be possible for me to come earlier in the morning or after 5? Or to talk by phone instead?” A reasonable employer should at least try to make that work after you’ve already come in twice on their schedule, and if they ultimately can’t, they should explain why (such as that the person you’re meeting with is constricted by her kid’s day care schedule, for instance). If they won’t budge and they won’t explain why, assume there’s at least some rigidity and inflexibility in their culture and/or that they don’t really get that hiring the right person is important enough that they should try to be accommodating.