36 phone interviews in 3 days

A reader writes:

I applied for an IT position at the university here and a week or so after the posting ended received a request for a phone interview, which I happily accepted. I was told to expect a 15-20 minute interview scheduled on the half hour. The interviewers called on schedule and quickly ran through their questions and gave me chance to ask my questions.

During the couple minutes of conversation, it came out that they were in the process of doing 36 phone interviews over the course of 3 days! Can you think of any circumstances where this would be reasonable number of phone interviews to conduct? I can’t imagine that the interviewers will remember anything about any of the candidates after that kind of insane interview schedule!

There was a questionnaire included in the application process that detailed applicants’ experience and education with various technologies. This questionnaire was used to rank the applicants prior to the interviews.

36 phone interviews is a lot, but they’re not necessarily crazy.

I usually conduct between 12 and 20 phone interviews for a position, so it’s certainly more than I’d do … but I wouldn’t assume that they won’t be able to remember anything about the candidates. First of all, they’re almost certainly keeping detailed notes. They’re probably asking everyone the same questions, and my guess is that some of them are very black-and-white questions about your specific IT skill set, which will make it easier to narrow down the candidate pool after this marathon is over.

Frankly, with the job market what it is, this may be a fairer way for them to narrow their pool. If they have a few dozen qualified candidates, the alternative would be not phone-interviewing everyone who seems like a good match. This way, they may be including people who otherwise would be arbitrarily excluded from this first round.

That said — 36 phone interviews in three days sounds like a nightmare. I’ve done something close to that when I’ve been hiring for multiple positions at once and wanted to move quickly on all of them, and it was miserable. Hopefully those people are stronger than me.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I agree with the manager. I work for a large insurance company and when we were hiring,it would often take several weeks, sometimes months to make a final offer. It wasn't that we were trying to stall, but we had to coordinate the schedules of the managers, candidates, conference room availability,etc. It wasn't personal to the candidate, please don't take it personal.

  2. Anonymous*

    I would hope it has more than one person interviewing you on the phone or else multiple people are making the calls because that does seem like an interview overload.

    This is why, AAM, I read your blog as it is very informative.

  3. Kerry*

    Actually, if the phone interviews are only 15-20 minutes, 12 a day is not that big of a deal. In volume recruiting environments, that would be considered a normal day. I did it for a couple of months straight in one gig. I'd plan on 20 minutes, and I'd schedule them on the hour/half hour (so that I had 10 extra minutes in case it when long, or to go to the bathroom or get a can of pop or whatever).

    I typed as candidates talked, so there was no need to remember them. They're more properly called phone screens rather than phone interviews; the goal is to get some very basic info from each candidate, record it on the form, and then push the form out to the hiring manager. I typed as the candidate talked, and after we were done I made sure I had everything, checked for typos, and sent it to the hiring manager before the next interview even started. You don't evaluate one candidate against the others in this scenario; you just evaluate each one individually against the minimum requirements for the position. That way you don't need to remember them (although I usually did; I'm weird that way).

    I don't know that this is what they're doing here, but I know lots of companies that do it that way.

    I do think it's a little tacky to actually tell the candidate this. Nobody feels good when you tell them they're in a pool that big.

  4. dustycrown*

    At this point in the process, your odds are 1 in 36. Whether that's good or bad depends on your point of view, I guess. But at least you know. Here's hoping they'll keep you that informed during the entire process!

  5. Ask a Manager*

    Your odds are probably better than 1 in 36, because a lot of people eliminate themselves during phone interviews by being crazy, rude, etc. So assuming you're none of that, your odds are better than they may sound.

  6. Anonymous*

    In todays job market they probably have a lot of qualified candidates so I wouldn't read anything into it.

    Phone interviews aren't very time consuming and are used to thin the herd. If they have 2 HR staff doing the phone screen, that's 6 a day or roughly 2 hours time conversing and notetaking. Even with 1 HR person it's only 12 a day or @4 hours. Although I wouldn't want to do it, it's not unusual or a bad turnout. Good luck!

  7. dustycrown*

    I meant your ~known~ odds are 1 in 36. You can be reasonably sure they're better than that, as AAM says, but you don't know how much better. My point was, you know what you know at this point, they're conducting 36 phone interviews. At least you know the number, and it's not 136…or more!

  8. Original Poster*

    OP here – the university sent me a rejection letter for this position (snail mail) so I don't really have any more insight into their process. I will say that if you are interviewing that many people I'd prefer to not know.

    Just to clarify: there were 2 people on the phone with me and neither one worked in HR – they were both IT people.

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