how can I decide if a long interview process is worth it?

A reader writes:

I recently was turned down for a job after 11 interviews over a two-month period, which included taking a day off of work to fly to an office to do three interviews in another city. I was told that I did “extremely well” in the process, but the company decided another candidate was a better fit. I realize that’s just the way it goes.

But the day of interviews could have raised suspicions at my current job and put my income at risk. Is there anything I can do to better gauge if a protracted interview process is worth the risk?

Well, it depends on how you’re defining “worth the risk.”

Can you know that you’ll end up with a job offer at the end of the process? No, never. You are always taking the risk that you could invest time in interviews and not end up with an offer. There’s no way around that.

But you can ask about the employer’s hiring process. Eleven interviews is fairly insane, and it would have been completely reasonable to ask about the remaining process when they were inviting you for, say, the third interview. I’d say something like this: “Can you tell me a bit about what steps remain in your process from here and what your likely timeline will be for making a decision?”

Of course, employers who conduct 11 interviews often don’t know from the beginning that they’re going to end up making people do 11 interviews; it tends to happen because they’re disorganized and haven’t thought through what their hiring process will be, so it unfolds in a haphazard way. But asking can nudge them to actually think it through … and if it doesn’t, it at least sets the stage for you to say at some point, “I’m very interested in this position, but it’s becoming harder for me to take time off work for additional meetings. Is there a way for us to consolidate some of the remaining steps?”

Additionally, before doing something inconvenient like flying to another city to interview, it’s reasonable to say, “Because I’ll need to take time off work for the trip, I wonder if you can give me a sense of how strong you consider my candidacy.” This won’t get you any kind of guarantee — but it can get you information like “you’re one of two finalists” or “you’re one of nine candidates.”

But again, you could be one of two finalists and still not get the job. You could even be the lone top candidate and still not get the job. You’ve always got to decide if you’re willing to participate, knowing that that could be the outcome.

{ 128 comments… read them below }

    1. Not So Sunny

      Seriously. How do you not know/have gathered all stakeholders to assess by, say, Interview FIVE?

  1. Bend & Snap

    That’s horrible. I wonder how many people they put through 11 interviews.

    A few jobs ago I asked the hiring manager directly where I stood, and she told me. I got the job. I think a lot of people would find that request off putting but this woman respected it.

    I agree that some recon is in order before this kind of time commitment.

    1. Fantasma

      My first thought for this person was “Are you me?” My last job required 11 interviews (phone screen, hiring manager phone interview, onsite interviews in another state including another one with the hiring manager and several other stakeholders, then after I flew back home, a few more phone interviews with people who worked out of other offices).

      By the last interview, I was losing my voice and I asked if I could get a drink of water. The last interviewer asked how many interviews I’d had and I croaked out, “You’re the 11th.” And he said, “Did you say 11?!” “Yes. I apologize if I’m hard to understand.” Once I finished, I went out to get soup and an hour later, the recruiter called to offer me the job (when I was sure she was going to either reject me or ask me for another interview). I was very surprised and said something to that effect, and she replied that the last person (an executive) said things had gone on long enough.

      In hindsight, the process should’ve been a red flag — the interviewers all asked the same questions and didn’t seem to talk to each other. I left after 9-10 months for a better job.

      My thoughts for the OP: 11 interviews means they don’t know what they’re looking for and not communicating internally. If you’re asked for more than 5 interviews, question what they really need/want from you.

      Good luck in your job search!

  2. The Cosmic Avenger

    Eleven interviews is fairly insane…

    No, 4-5 interviews would be “insane”. Eleven interviews is a TREMENDOUS RED FLAG, in my opinion. I suppose there might be industries where this is more common, but I can’t imagine what they might be. Anyone work in an industry where somewhere in the area of 4-6 (or more) interviews for one applicant/application is typical?

      1. Cautionary tail

        As soon as I saw Homer I was thinking this was “32 dohs.”. Yours was just as good. :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          I wish I could have found (or posted) a clip that started with Marge’s line “…go crazy?”, because that would have encapsulated what I was trying to convey…although IMO, the best part of the scene starts a couple of seconds earlier, with Homer saying “All work and no beer make Homer…something something…” XD

          But the 32 dohs would have also been a great video response. :)

    1. Kyrielle

      I think they’re counting each interviewer as an interview, though, since they took “a day off work” to fly elsewhere for three interviews. I’d think of that more as a day-long interview with three people.

      My process for my current job involved a phone screen with a recruiter, a phone screen with the hiring manager (who is in another office), and a four-hour interview process with five separate sessions, with six people total. I could count that as 7 interviews if I want to, but really it’s three at most, depending on whether you place the initial phone screen with recruiting as an interview.

        1. BRR

          Depending on the details this is either highly disturbing or not that unusual.

          But I can see the person who thinks a candidate should have to come in 11 times to prove their desire for the job. Probably then to slam them for taking off so much time from their current job and not being a team player there (it’s an extra cynical day).

        2. Green

          I met with 22 people on a callback once over the course of the day and got the offer at dinner with some of the attorneys. There was just no hope of prepping for that one.

          1. Green

            Oy, and academia interviews if you’re not full time on the meat market? Those are rough. Dinner, breakfast, half day of interviews, prep for and teach a class on your original research…

            1. So Very Anonymous

              Exactly. If you broke each segment of an academic interview down and called them each discrete interviews, then, yes, you’ve got an insane number of interviews. But for most academics, there’s the phone/conference/Skype interview, and then The Onsite Interview, which contains multitudes — but I’d count those as two interviews total.

          2. MicheleNYC

            My friend went through something similar when she interviewed with Apple. Her day long interview was with 10 or 11 people. On top of the day spent with the team she also had multiple phone interviews.

      1. Artemesia

        When I interviewed for my biggest professional job, they flew me in for 2 days of intensive interviews — There were at least 11 interviews, maybe more — but I saw it as one step.

        1. AW

          I agree. I think it’s reasonable to count the separate sessions as separate interviews.

          It’s better in that they didn’t ask them to interview on 11 separate days but they did make the OP do 11 distinct interviews. That just seems so unnecessary. Why do these 11 (or more?) people need to interview the OP separately? Is there really anything new to learn by the time you reach the 5th session?

          1. Green

            These are definitely not separate interviews, at least for the purpose of taking time off of work and traveling and hassle. And this is very common in lots of fields where fit is very important or everyone performs the same function and you’ll likely be working under lots of different people for different projects (law). (And for those scenarios it’s better to have lots of interviews; one partner at a firm may be lukewarm on you, while a really enthusiastic partner could get you hired.)

      2. Dan

        I *have* seen people post nutty stories about lengthily interviews for sub $50k jobs. Makes my jaw drop. In my field, my interviews are much like you describe, and these are for jobs that are approaching six figures, if not a bit more.

        1. Sunflower

          Yeah I’m in the camp of the more senior/higher salaried the position, the more intense the interviews should be. Entry to mid-level should really be capped at 3 interviews

      3. M. S.

        I wouldn’t. In my company, We’ll normally have 1 candidate interviewed by ALL stake holders in a single day. It could be as many as 9 people in 30 minute chunks.

        Then the candidate takes 1 day off and we’re not (potentially) leading them on.

      4. Koko

        Yes, this is what I was assuming. My current role involved:

        -Phone screen with HR
        -In-person day 1: two interviews with the hiring manager and her boss, totaling 1.5 hours
        -In-person day 2: three interviews with five people, totaling 2 hours

        In theory I could say that I had 8 interviews, but it was just two steps and each day-of-interviews lasted 2 hours or less. (The phone screen was really more about verifying factual credentials and making sure we were aligned on salary, HR didn’t ask any probing/free-response questions.)

      5. Another Steve G

        This. Sounds like the OP met with eleven people, but didn’t go to eleven separate interviews. Hot companies like Google do stuff like this because they want the best of the best, and unfortunately most applicants get turned down.

      6. The Cosmic Avenger

        Good point, Kyrielle…although “over a two-month period” makes me think that it was spread out over at least 3 separate days. (If there were two, people tend to say “two months apart/later”.) But there could have been multiple “interviews” in one day, depending on how you define it.

      7. SystemsLady

        Counting it that way, I’ve actually done ten interviews in one day before. But overall it was just two interviews (screening and then a “do we like each other” kind of thing).

        That being said, that still leaves 8 other interviews the OP had to do that probably *weren’t* all in one day, whether they were the same people or not.

        1. TL -

          Yeah, I’m thinking at least a total of three interview periods, maybe more. Three is the upper limit of what I would assume is normal, including a full day interview.

      8. Biff

        They indicated that their on-site was 3 people in one day. I get the impression that even if they are counting as ‘person spoken to’ as an interview that this company has asked for a a rather excessive amount of their time.

    2. Rachel8489

      I just accepted an offer that involved one 30 minute phone interview and three one-hour in-person interviews. Since I was unemployed, it wasn’t an issue, but four rounds before hire is the most I had ever experienced. There was also one assignment for the last interview, but it wasn’t a big deal – took me maybe an hour or two of work, max.

      Before this, I had never had more than three interviews – usually one phone and two in-person. I do communications in non-profits focused on activism and advocacy.

    3. InterviewFreeZone

      Higher ed…I had 6 interviews, as in one phone call and then came into the office 5 additional times to meet with people. I’m in a process now that I was told upfront in the phone screen would require 3 or 4 additional in person interviews and they let me know who they would be with. The process will last about 5-6 weeks.

    4. ModernHypatia

      I had one a few years back (at a for-profit college, their hiring is notably weird) that was a phone screening (15 minutes), a ‘pick three of these questions to respond to’ part, an hour phone interview (someone on the other end of the country who oversaw the librarians at all the campuses), an in-person interview (requiring an all-day drive) and if I’d progressed, there would have been two more interviews (higher division people: both were close to where I lived at the time, but I gather if they hadn’t been, those would have been travel, too.) I might be missing a phone interview with someone who wasn’t there the day I drove, too.

      I was unemployed at the time, so the time wasn’t the issue, but the whole process took forever, even by academic application standards (which often are time consuming, but they pack all the actual interview and complex prep parts into a phone screen and a day/day and a half visit.)

    5. Zatchmort

      Yeah, I work in IT in a location that’s a bit remote, in an industry where firing people is rare… so after the initial sifting of resumes and one phone interview, we bring people in for a full day of interviews with the different groups they’d have to work with – because once someone’s here, you’re pretty much stuck with them (and vice versa), so you want to be *really* sure it’s a good fit all around. If you counted them separately that would be 4-6 interviews. It’s frustrating if someone’s obviously not a good fit and you’ve got to stick out the day, but the official hiring committee generally values everyone’s input and overall I think it makes sense.

      (The aspect of the process that I’m less certain is necessary is when I was a temp and applied for an identical permanent position, I had to start with a phone interview to be “fair” because not all the candidates were internal. So my boss invited me to use her office so I could have some privacy, while she stepped down the hall into the conference room with a few other co-workers so they could call me. Fortunately I got the job, but it was a surreal experience.)

  3. John

    Talk about disrespecting a candidate’s time. The whole time, you keep thinking you’re almost at the end of the process and, let’s face it, the longer it goes on and the more people they have you meet, it’s hard not to think it is increasingly likely the job is yours.

  4. Stephanie

    …11? What?

    After a certain point, you’re just repeating yourself. I’ve done all-day things where I’ll interview with everyone on the team back-to-back, but even then, seven was the absolute max (and that was all just one interview trip).

    A family acquaintance did say he had 18 interviews for a high-up job in a large city’s government.

    1. BRR

      I feel many rounds of interviews are repeating yourself. Sometimes I wish I could talk to a panel just because 5 people asking me the same questions is a waste of time. So much is playing the game now.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Keep in mind, though, that they’re probably doing that because they want multiple perspectives on you (which generally leads to better hiring). It’s not that all your answers go into one bucket evaluated by one person; each of those people is assessing you and making a recommendation.

        1. BRR

          I understand and agree with the method, I’m just cranky. It’s the same reason I ask the same questions to my interviewers.

        2. Stephanie

          I think, too, that happens if you’re going to work with many different people as well. All your potential coworkers or bosses can assess your suitability.

        3. Another Steve G

          I get the thought process on this, but I think a panel satisfies most of these needs. That said, a phone screen + 3-4 separate interview dayss for an extremely competitive position is where I think most companies can and should max out.

        4. Revolver Rani

          It’s maybe not great hiring strategy if all the interviewers are asking the same questions. The hiring committees I have been on have divided up areas of focus, so we are all asking questions about different aspects of the candidate’s work experience and personality.

          We also do a combination of panel interviews and 1-1 interviews – typically a candidate who has passed a phone screen with the hiring manager comes in and gives a presentation (scope of presentation well-defined ahead of time and candidate has the opportunity to get hiring manager’s feedback on the slides ahead of time) to the entire hiring committee and other members of the team. There we can ask questions in front of the group. After the presentation (the same day), the candidate gets walked around for 45-minute 1-1 interviews. This has seemed like a sensible approach to me.

        5. AcidMeFlux

          Ok, but crap, when does it stop? I think this will just make candidates more and more neurotic, and employers more neurotically picky. How about 15? How about 25? or how about having some well-trained people with good gut instinct to give serious weight to the decision? I can see this process getting way too fragmented. It reminds me of one of those crap wedding dress reality shows where someone shows up with 14 relatives and gets so freaked out they can’t made a decision. (Ok, a dumb/prosaic analogy, but you get me?)

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        We also sometimes split interviewers out because the candidate might react differently to one person than another. If I meet with someone, they know I’m the boss-boss (who, in most cases, they won’t be working with day-to-day), so maybe the person is more nervous, or more formal, etc. If they can meet separately with the potential direct supervisor, that person can get a better idea of how that interaction looks – without me present. We might also have them meet with a peer. Sometimes we get an even better impression of people from these one-on-ones, and other times, we learn they are great with the boss-boss, but not professional enough with a peer. We’d do this all in one day, though.

        1. hbc

          Yes, you can get surprisingly different results (and even different answers to the same question) with different people in the room. Plus, I’ve had people be very intimidated by the panel interview. If that kind of scenario isn’t part of their job, I’d much rather see how they respond in a more conversational environment.

      3. Koko

        I actually found the last time that I was in a round of back-to-back interviews with various panels, that I began to like when they asked me a question that a previous panel had already asked me, because by the third or fourth time around my answers were smoooooth.

  5. cncx

    Worst job of my life had a similarly long interview process. I got the job in the end, but the working environment was just as much as a disorganized train wreck as the interview process (the cfo has burned through like three jobs since). It is a red flag for me now. I get that in executive positions there can be a reason to see five million people, but not at my pay grade. From now on, any more than three is a yellow flag, and i will stop at five unless their explanation is really, really good. If they can’t get their lives organized enough to not impose on people then they will continue to impose on people when they are hired. I feel sorry for the person who got the job and i truly believe OP is better off even if short term things are sketchy. Team OP on this one, eleven is insane.

  6. Mrs. Psmith

    My first thought on reading the question was “Did you actually have 11 separate interviews, or did you interview with 11 people over the course of several interviews?” Because we’re having a candidate visit today who is meeting with a total of 9 people over the course of the day and that’s the norm for our industry. The 2-month interview process is what alarmed me more, that part seems dragged out.

    1. Sigrid

      That’s how I interpreted the letter — she’s counting each individual person she met with as a separate interview, hence her describing having three interviews on the one day she was in the company’s city.

  7. Dana

    Here are Raspberry Tea Kettles, Inc., we give everyone a chance! Everyone who fills out an application gets an interview! If you screw up on your first interview, don’t worry, you can have a re-do! If you do well with your first interview with our janitor to find out if you’ll be too messy to clean up after, you get an interview with our receptionist to see if she is comfortable with your name enough to transfer a phone call to your voicemail! If you fail that test, that’s okay! You can legally change your name and come back for another interview! In fact, if you act now and show up at our building, we’ll give you not one, but TWO interviews for the price of ONE! Time slots are limited, but that’s okay because we don’t actually do any work at Raspberry Tea Kettles, Inc., so we are free to interview you ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

  8. grasshopper

    If it is multiple interviews on one day, that is easier to excuse as an absence from work than repeated occasions across multiple days.

    I don’t think that I could come up with 11 different dentist appointment/doctor appointment/plumbing emergencies/take the cat to the vet/pick a kid up early/personal reasons over the course of a few weeks without raising suspicions.

  9. Lily in NYC

    That sounds like it was arduous, but I think OP is overestimating the risk that comes with interviewing and is annoyed about not getting the job after such a long, painful process. Unless I’m misreading and each person met counts as an interview. If that’s the case, I think this is an overreaction.

    1. LSP

      I agree. I think I’d feel the same way. “I didn’t get the job after all that! Eleven people!” It sounds like OP only had to take one day off though? At least that was my interpretation from the first sentence.

      I’m just over one year in the application process for a job. Multiple days off. Average beginning to end time is 1.5 years (6 months if you are lucky; 2 years is pretty standard).

      To repeat others: how bad do you want this job? And there are so many other factors/questions to ask yourself. Chin up, OP. You’ll get’em next time.

  10. cupcakes...but not for everyone

    My close friend once interviewed at a company that required 15-20 interviews, even for entry-level jobs. The company’s reasoning was that they really wanted to make sure people were a culture fit and committed to their cause (by the way, this was a for-profit company). They also wanted people to fully know exactly what they were getting into with this company (i.e. potentially long hours, very low pay, etc.).

    The final interview is usually over dinner with the candidate, candidate’s spouse (because, like today’s earlier question about the work parties, you need to make sure the spouse is invested too!), the potential manager and manager’s spouse. And heaven help you if you’re not married – from what my friend told me, they really didn’t like to hire single or divorced people.

    1. Sigrid

      …How many candidates did they actually get after that process? And how many of those were actually good? Especially with the long hours and low pay!

      1. cupcakes...but not for everyone

        I can’t speak to the quality of candidates, but I can tell you that the company has no shortage of applicants. I’ve known several people who have moved from out-of-state to work at this particular company. Granted, it’s not Apple or Google, but it’s got a lot of customer loyalty and many people (especially people early in their careers) want to work there because of the work the company does. It’s a for-profit with a non-profit mentality, and I think a lot of people are willing to work for less because of that.

          1. Sigrid

            Dear god, seriously. That sounds like my worst nightmare. But I’d never stand for that number of interviews coupled with the long hours and low pay, so they would successfully screen me out up front.

    2. Ad Astra

      I’d be a bit wary of a company that needs eleventy billion different people to sign off on a hire. If management doesn’t trust HR and the hiring manager to bring in the right person, how can I expect them to trust me to do my job without micromanaging? I don’t see any reason to meet with more than, say, four current employees during the interview process.

      1. Stephanie

        There is a pretty common interview format that has you interviewing with the manager and then a group of peers. Sometimes, this is really just four people (the manager and three peers), but some places also want there to be an HR screening. Some have a large peer group and want all or most to be in on the interviews. Some places will also have another manager interview as well if this position does a lot of work that overlaps with that department. If this position is a manager position, they will also have the employees reporting to that manager do an interview. If it’s a high-profile position, they may have some higher-ups interview as well.

        And then, (and I’ve seen this several times) there is the situation where you interview for one position, you go through a couple screenings even, and they decide that you might be a better fit over in another department, and you start the process over again with a different group of people (assuming a larger company, where the interviewers wouldn’t overlap.)

        Generally speaking, I do think that they should be grouped into about 3 different actual interviews or less, but the number of people being limited to four is a little unrealistic in my experience. (I’m in HR) And I would hope that they have it organized to take up as little of the candidate’s time as possible.

        1. Ad Astra

          I participated in some of those sorts of interviews as a peer, but never as an applicant. Of course, the peers weren’t really “signing off” on the hire; we were mostly telling the applicant about what it’s like to work there. It was part of a very long day for the applicant and I would have preferred to skip it in their position, but maybe I’m missing the value.

          1. Stephanie

            Having input from the peers or reporting employees can speak a lot to how the candidate will fit into the team and culture; a good hiring manager will find a lot of value in that. It’s also important for a hiring manager to have their buy-in with new hires; if you are involved in the hiring of your new coworker/manager, you are more likely to work towards the success of that candidate.

            I’m sorry that you had the experience you had; I would have prepped you with what I wanted you to get out of it, and what you were looking for, and helped the group pick questions. (This is something I have done before!) I honestly believe that peer/reporter input is extremely valuable, and I’ve seen managers ignore that input, and those candidates are usually less successful.

            It’s not a one-size-fits-all interview format, but it’s very common.

        2. AnotherFed

          I’ve seen this a lot for entry and mid-level people applying for our equivalent of basic Teapot Designer jobs. If there are multiple openings, but spread across the Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and White Chocolate divisions, the candidates might interview with hiring managers from each division to see which division is the best fit and let the hiring managers horse trade positions and candidates like NFL draft picks.

    3. Jennifer

      Wow, they must time travel in from the 1950’s to interview spouses. Are they making sure the little woman’s fine with him never being home again or something?

    4. Tinker

      Is this the Dave Ramsey interview process? It kind of sounds like it, what with the intense examination of commitment and the dinner-with-spouse component. Not being into single people isn’t necessarily a part of the process but I’d be decidedly unsurprised to hear that such a thing was associated.

  11. BRR

    11 rounds of interviews or meeting with 11 people from the company because those are very different. And without the OP clarifying I don’t think we’ll know.

    11 rounds is insane and I would need a good explanation and job that was very appealing. 11 people isn’t that out of the ordinary even if it’s spread over three rounds.

    1. Meg Murry

      That’s what I was trying to say below, in a longer much more convoluted way. 11 rounds – crazy. 11 people – annoying that some of them couldn’t be combined but not quite as crazy.

      1. BRR

        I think I met with 11 people over two rounds. For this job I think 8 would have been appropriate.

  12. Sascha

    How senior is the position? Because 11 interviews, no matter what the format, seems less insane for a very high level position than it does for something mid or lower.

  13. Ad Astra

    Eleven interviews is insane, but it sounds like at least some of them were individual meetings on the same day, so it’s not like she had to show up on 11 separate occasions. I’m curious about exactly how much time this OP took off work. And I’d love to know whether this company always does 11 interviews for a position, or if there was something unusual going on.

  14. Meg Murry

    When OP says 11 interviews, are they talking about 11 different meetings on different days? Or was it more like a “pass from person to person” type of interview. For instance, they mention “taking a day off of work to do 3 interviews in a different city”. Does that mean they went to the company and had meetings with 3 different people? Because that isn’t that unusual, and most people wouldn’t count it as 3 separate “interviews”. For instance, at one of my jobs, I went in and first met with HR for half an hour, then I met with 2 different hiring managers separately (there were 2 open roles that I was qualified for, so I was interviewed for both) then I met with a department head. It was one day of interviewing that was about 3 hours long, but I wouldn’t call it “3 interviews”. For people that were entry level or close to it, that company used to do what was sometimes referred to as “the gauntlet” where they would have a series of 45 minute interviews with HR and then 5-7 different departments/hiring managers, and then at the end both the candidates would rank the departments and the hiring managers would rank which candidates they were interested in hiring, and HR would match up the best pairs. For instance, it might be the Chocolate Teapots R&D, White Chocolate Kettles R&D, Plant Technical Service for the Caramel plant, etc – all places that could potentially take on an entry level to under 5 years experience person, where everyone might be qualified on paper but one position might be a better fit for a more analytical, sit in a cube and crunch numbers person, and another might be a better fit for a “roll up your sleeves and get dirty testing teapots in a loud, high energy factory” but both would have the title of “Teapot Engineer”.

    I wonder if this is a similar case, especially if OP is long distance – did they try to arrange for OP to speak to multiple people in separate phone interviews since it was long distance, and that is what made it seem like 11 interviews? Or was it possibly a case of “well, we interviewed you with the Chocolate Kettles division but that went to an internal candidate, but now that person’s spot in White Chocolate tempering is open, would you like to interview for that?” type of domino effect? Or if it was some kind of “first you have to meet with the external head hunting company 1-3 times, before you even start with the process of meeting with the people you would actually be working for”?

    But yes, 11 interviews seems a bit crazy, especially if all on separate days/times, and doubly so if you met with the same people 2 or 3 times. I can understand why OP was so frustrated.

    1. SevenSixOne

      “where everyone might be qualified on paper but one position might be a better fit for a more analytical, sit in a cube and crunch numbers person, and another might be a better fit for a “roll up your sleeves and get dirty testing teapots in a loud, high energy factory” but both would have the title of “Teapot Engineer”.”

      I could definitely see this being the case if, say, the company had gone through three teapot engineers in the last two years. Maybe the company was smart enough to realize that the high turnover was because the previous engineers all thought they were applying for a high-energy hands-on job that turned out to be a sedate paper-pushing desk job.

      For a job like that, it’s 100% reasonable to make sure applicants understand exactly what they’re signing up for before anyone gets a job offer… but you still shouldn’t need ELEVEN interviews to figure that out!

  15. Mack

    Depending on the level of the position, that does seem like a lot of meetings, even if there were multiple meetings in a day. I see why it is frustrating for OP now, as it may have seemed like they really wanted her by bringing her back multiple times and flying her out to another office.

    My advice/thought is definitely to ask about next steps. This can not only help you clarify the timeline, but also make HR/Recruiting/Manager actually come up with a distinct timeline rather than the haphazard meetings.

    I just completed interviews for a new position, and did 6 interviews over 3 days (so just 3 mornings late to/out of my current job) and on the first round I asked the HR manager what the timeline looked like from here on out, and got detail about second rounds.

  16. Lizzie

    Man … this has backfired on me tremendously in the past, though.

    My first year out of undergrad I was looking for a position in which I could actually use my degree while I was still working my makes-the-rent-but-does-nothing-for-me college job. I had been on three interviews and missed some work to do them, so I asked them very politely if they could let me know how strong a candidate I was or where I might be in the running, given that I was taking significant time away from my current position to interview them.

    The person I asked (who had called me to set up a fourth interview) immediately backtracked and said that she was very sorry, did not mean to cause any undue hardship and that she would withdraw my candidacy immediately so as not to put any strain on my “current situation.”

    I’m still confused. I get that I was pretty young and those questions coming from a 22-year-old probably sound less professional and more petulant, but I swear, I don’t think I was being whiny about it!

    1. James M.

      Mentioning how much you’ve committed to their process probably didn’t help. Actively searching for a job has many costs, but employers assume (I assume) that you are fully aware and prepared to cover those costs unless otherwise specified by the employer (e.g: airfare/hotel for a distance interview). I believe AAM is suggesting some careful wording in this situation, framing the question as helping you understand their hiring process and where you stand therein.

      1. Ad Astra

        Even interviewers who don’t seem to value your time will usually still understand that you can’t miss too much work.

      2. Traveler

        They should also care that you’re committed enough to a job to not suddenly start taking frequent and erratic time off without a good reason. Can you imagine suddenly have to take 11 separate days off over the course of a few weeks or a month? I imagine OP scheduled some of these at beginning/end of day or lunch, but still.

    2. Mitchell

      When you ask this question, you’re asking someone to be blunt and tell you if you have a chance. It can hurt to find out that you were a courtesy interview and there was never a possibility you would get the job. Try to be grateful that the person was honest instead of wasting even more of your time. If I’m right and this was a courtesy interview, asking them to be frank about your chances isn’t what cost you the job. You were never going to get the job.

      I’m not trying to be mean– I say this to reassure you that you didn’t do anything wrong. This happened to me fresh out of undergrad. I asked for feedback after an interview and one of the interviewers told me they already had an internal candidate that was going to get the job but they knew I was recently graduated and thought I would appreciate the practice interviewing.

  17. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    I had a lot of interviews for my last gig, and the process took 3.5 months from first interview to offer. But 11 is crazy! I think I had 6, which already seemed like too many.

  18. Meredith

    The process for the job I currently hold took 10 interviews, two visits, and 5 months. I know it sounds nuts, but in this case, it was a really good thing. It’s an organization that rarely hires outsiders and has a very strong and unique culture. They’re trying to be sure that a fit is a fit, and they are pretty successful at it. I will say that they were upfront about how long the process was. Some of the 10 interviews were quite short, and 2 of them happened during the visits. The second visit was also a ‘lone-finalist’ visit, with my family (on their dime), a realtor, and an offer before I boarded the plane home. For another organization, I wouldn’t do it, but for this one, I was happy to.

    1. The Strand

      It really does sound nuts, though. I would be uncomfortable about any company needing to meet my family before the offer; although I am on a first name basis with the leadership at my husband’s company, have been to holiday parties and lunches, that’s very different than expecting that kind of “buy-in” from a spouse or kids prior to hiring.

      1. TootsNYC

        It’s possible that’s almost more of a “your spouse meets us, sees the town, etc.” The Meredith talked about “the flight home,” so there was a relocation involved. If i were going to relocate someone, I’d want to know for certain that their life partner had seen the town, had a chance to ask some questions, etc., yes maybe even about the company.

        For me it would be less “did I approve of Spouse?” and more “does Spouse have all the info needed to make a very significant change in the family’s life?”

        You’re talking a new home/house; new friends; maybe a new job for Spouse; new travel distance to extended family (maybe better, maybe worse); new schools for Kids (if any). It’s a huge thing.
        I wouldn’t want to hire my fave candidate, after that much time invested in choosing, and have them turn me down bcs the Spouse didn’t get all the info to feel confident about the decision. Or worse, have them move, and the Spouse is miserable, and is not inclined to work at fitting into the new community/home because Spouse was never really on board in the first place.

        Having Spouse come visit and meet with us, see the city, etc., is not a guarantee that any of those things won’t happen, of course, but it hopefully would be less likely to occur.
        If my candidate were local, I wouldn’t care at all.

        1. Meredith

          This was indeed the case. In our case, from southern California to Illinois. They’ve had a fair number of people relocate (it’s an organization that people really want to be part of) only to have the spouse really hate the midwest/weather/being far from family. So I think they just wanted to give us all a chance to see the area and get familiar with things, since it affected us all. It was certainly not a ‘we need to like your spouse’ kind of thing.

  19. De Minimis

    Even if you count individual interviews during a single office visit to be separate interviews, 11 interviews is a lot.

    Think the most I’ve ever had for a job was maybe four or five, and those included office visits where I spoke with multiple people over the course of a morning or afternoon.

    I’d only consider a protracted process worth it if it would be a significant step toward a career goal, assuming I had a current job or other prospects.

    The main thing that has annoyed me now is that one employer has done a thing where they had me come in for what I thought would be an interview, but was more of a informal conversation with team members with an exercise afterward. Had all gone well, I would have been brought in for a “real” interview with the same people later on. I didn’t care for that. It was almost like an interim phone screening even though I’d already had one of those as well [with one of the same people I met in person.] If you’re going to have someone come in, just do an interview with them.

    1. De Minimis

      I should say too, that these interviews have been for entry to mid-level positions…not talking about any kind of VP or controller type gigs.

  20. Erin

    Not so much answering the direct question, but a thought that might help in the taking time off work aspect of multiple interviews:

    I have a friend who travelled about 4 or 5 hours for two extensive interviews, for a teaching position. When she was asked back for a third, she stood firm that she was unable to take more time off work and spend more gas money and time travelling. She asked for a Skype interview.

    This was completely unprecedented at this school, but she made a reasonable case, and so they made an exception for her. It was literally the first Skype interview they ever conducted, and she did get the job offer.

  21. Just another techie

    I wonder how the OP is counting the number of interviews. They said three interviews in one day; personally I’d describe that as one full-day interview with three panelists. In my field the norm is a half hour phone screen, then a full day of on-site interviews, usually with four to six different individuals, but we think of it as a two-interview hiring process. I could imagine finding a candidate who wasn’t a great fit for my group, but thinking she’d work great with another team, and then having her come back for a second interview day with the other team. That would easily amount to “eleven” interviews depending on how you look at it.

    1. MissDisplaced

      I thought somewhere up on the thread they said it was 11 interviews over 5 different days. But I’m my sure it was actually the OP.

      Taking time off work 5 days over a month to two month time can be hard to explain, especially if they lasted the whole day.

    2. TootsNYC

      For my current job, I had three interviews in one evening. That’s three interviews. It may be one trip to the office, but i spoke with three different people; that’s three interviews.

      If all three had been in the room at one time, that might count at one. But 3 individual meetings? It’s 3 interviews.

      To get this job, I had the most interviews ever: 5, in three visits. I’m not counting the short stop in the main person’s office before and after some of those interviews.

  22. T

    I had a friend of mine that also did 10+ interviews and didn’t get the job. Personally, I base it on how badly I want the job. For example, I am always technically “looking”, even when I’m happy. But when a Fortune 500 company wanted to interview me and they said I would interview with 8 people for an hour each, I pulled myself out of the running. I wouldn’t go through that hassle just out of curiosity.

  23. RO

    Assuming that one is currently employed, anything over 4 is a bit much if it is not for a senior position (director and above). How do you explain your days off when you are interviewing with multiple companies?

    I had six rounds of interviews (2 phone and 4 in-person and multi-city) over three months. I was ready to withdraw by the 4th interview as I had other offers to evaluate and they were being indecisive. I ended up taking a different opportunity as they were not giving me a working timeline.

  24. YNWA

    I’ve just finished doing 5 separate telephone interviews over the past few weeks (there was supposed to be a 6th, but they can’t fit it into her schedule, so thats been canned). They were all 45-60 mins with people in 4 different countries, on 3 different continents!! However, this is for a higher level position (Associate Director) with global responsibilities. This was after a ‘chat’ with the hiring manager prior to officially applying for the position (as I’ve know him for 10+ yrs and he emailed me about the opening).

    Thankfully I didn’t have to take any time off to attend an in-person interview, I was able to schedule these into my normal work day.

    Fingers crossed I should hear back from them this week!

  25. YandO

    For my new job I interviewed with about 12 people. I had 6 phone/skype interviews/conversations and 1 in-person meeting, where I had two different meetings with 4 people total across the country. This is for a junior position btw. Granted, I talked to more people and a few more than one time due having to re-apply 4 months after I was put on hold.

    Normally, they do a phone screen, then bring the candidate for two panel interviews and then take them out to lunch for an offer. I had different circumstances due to being out of state.

    Even though this probably the most intense interview process, the other once closely followed it to be honest. I had a company who asked me to do 5 phone interviews with 5 different people and also a 2- hour presentation that required reading a book, making PP, analysing research, and performing a writing assignment.

    To be honest, I like that a lot better than one-way interviews.

  26. Macedon

    I always find it fairly pretentious when you have to interview with more than three-four people. It’s nice that employers want to be choosy and put candidates through the wringer, but after a certain point, I feel that you’re signalling one of three things: you’re disorganised, you think far too much of yourself and your time (versus that of the candidate), and you have a workplace hierarchy where trust and communication are so fundamentally crippled that a rep of every supervisory level has to come and weigh in on a candidate separately. The fact that people’ve come to boast that they survived a nearly year-long recruitment processes or double-digit selection stages – that’s just surreal.

    1. The Strand

      Early in my career, I had a campus interview where a few members of the custodial, phys plant and housing staff, as well as a hiring manager, were present. It said to me that they wanted to know how I would treat people who I would work with who were in the trades, and that they valued what their opinion was of me, too. The school had issues, but one thing they had was an extremely committed staff who really got along well and treated each other with respect. That said, I think more times than not, when you have more than four people there, you are right about either disorganization or mistrust playing a part.

    2. HM in Atlanta

      “workplace hierarchy where trust and communication are so fundamentally crippled”

      This. So much this.

  27. Vam

    I don’t think you need to wait for the third interview to ask for next steps and a decision timeline. Ideally, you ask at the end of your first meeting. This accomplishes a few things:

    1) Wraps up your time for questions so it doesn’t linger awkwardly once you have the information you need about the role.
    2) Demonstrates that you are interested in the role/organization.
    3) Shows that you understand the hiring process.
    4) Gives you information on the criticality of the role, the speed of the organization’s management/HR, your suitability for the role, and the size of the applicant pool. (Many of these have to be read between the lines, but are still of value.)
    5) Prevents you from having to go to eleven interviews.

    I hope in OP’s case that negotiable requirements (salary, benefits, etc.) have been broached if not covered in one of the first eleven sessions, but since there’s no offer I doubt it. It would be a bummer to run that gauntlet only to find out you’re 20K apart, which could be the case here.

  28. Cath in Canada

    I had a ton of interviews for my last job – all on different days, with different people. It wasn’t as many as 11 but it was probably 8 or maybe 9. I had the initial meeting with HR, then an in-depth meeting with the guy who became my boss, at which he told me that he wanted everyone to meet me. “Everyone” turned out to be a bunch of professors and physicians who were constantly busy and near impossible to schedule together, so I’d get a call at 4pm that “Dr X is available for 20 minutes at 3pm tomorrow, between patients – can you pop in to meet her?” Luckily I was only 3 blocks away so I made it work. (I had a lot of “doctor’s appointments” – it was an appointment! with a doctor! – a colleague who helped cover for me, and a lot of late nights in the office finishing all my work). But it was ridiculous. I even went away for a 4 week honeymoon after the first few interviews, came back, and kept interviewing! (I told them up front about the scheduled travel and they were OK with it). There was then another meeting with my eventual boss followed by a looooong gap with no contact from them, then finally an offer and a “can you start on Monday?”

    And yes, it was a red flag. Overall it was a good job, and I ended up staying for almost 5 years, but the disorganisation and constant lastminutitis drove me up the wall at times.

    1. Cath in Canada

      Oh, should have said – I did end up doing quite a bit of work with two or three of the additional interviewers, but I hardly saw the rest of them again. And I did a ton of work with people I hadn’t met during the interview at all. Obviously not a well planned process (it was a brand new type of position for that department).

  29. Academic Librarian

    Depends how bad you want the job.

    January- on line application
    May- one hour on-site interview with the Department Director
    June- phone interview with hiring committee- 1 hour – 5 people
    July – Site visit. Two days- Dinner with Director and her supervisor. Job talk, 1 hour. Interview with IT Director-1 hour. Interview with HR director, 1 hour. Interview with hiring committee 1 hour- 5 people. Interview with the Division Director- one hour. Interview with the Director- one hour. . Lunch with the Hiring Committee.Meeting with the Dean- 1 hour Interview with stakeholders. Campus tour with Committee chair. Interview with department staff.
    One week later-August- Five essay questions arrive in email. Turned around in one day
    One week later- Phone interview with the development director.
    One week later- offer

      1. Academic Librarian

        Academic organization. Everyone above me is a director of either a division or building or service. I am a manager.

  30. Mean Something

    I teach and chair a department in an independent secondary school. Just for an ordinary teacher hire, we typically phone interview, then bring one or more people to campus for a one-day visit (7:30-3:00) that includes individual meetings with the head (in charge of everything), associate head (oversees faculty hiring and evaluation), divisional head (AKA the principal, will be your main boss), assistant divisional head (student life and activities–wants to know how you’ll contribute), department chair and assistant chair if there is one (assessing your subject matter knowledge, teaching style, collegiality). That’s five or six. Then you also have lunch with your prospective department (anywhere from two to twelve people, but a sixth or seventh interview situation) and teach a sample class, which also probably involves chatting with students before and/or after (I’d think of it as interview number eight). Finally, if you have any special interests or skills in arts or athletics, you’d probably have a chat with the theater teacher or the hockey coach or whatever.

    So maybe nine interviews, and that is what we believe is reasonable to figure out whether you’re a good fit AND to let you get a decent sense of how the place works and whether you think you’d be happy here. It’s an exhausting day, but it’s one day and very often we have a really good sense by 3 PM whether we want to invite you to join our team. Good candidates frequently get snapped up fast, so offers usually come quickly. Anyway, that’s the norm in our field, and while I always try to be considerate of the candidate by scheduling in breaks and making sure they have time to eat lunch and drink water, I also expect that someone who teaches ~75 teenagers a day will be able to handle this part of the process.

  31. Dorf

    Hard to see how the advice given in this case (“Additionally, before doing something inconvenient like flying to another city to interview, it’s reasonable to say, ‘Because I’ll need to take time off work for the trip, I wonder if you can give me a sense of how strong you consider my candidacy.’ This won’t get you any kind of guarantee — but it can get you information like “you’re one of two finalists” or ‘you’re one of nine candidates.'”) jibes with this:

    https://www.askamanager.org/2015/02/dont-ask-how-many-other-people-are-interviewing-for-the-same-job-as-you.html. (“Don’t ask about how many people are being interviewed, and if you happen to find that info out, don’t give in to the temptation to think this is useful information! Put it out of your mind. It doesn’t matter even a tiny little bit. There are too many unknowns and variables.”)

    Amen indeed.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, because they’re two different questions. Just asking how many people they’re interviewing is a different question and in a different context. In this case, you’re specifically saying “before I do something fairly onerous/inconvenient, talk to me about my place in the overall pool.” In the post you linked to, you’re just asking for a number.

      I do realize that in my examples (“it can get you information like “you’re one of two finalists” or ‘you’re one of nine candidates.’”), I framed it in terms of numbers, but there’s a whole range of answers you get (and in this context, numbers become more relevant than when you’re just asking it for a different type of reason).

      1. Dorf

        Except there was plenty of argument in the old post and its comments that the information about numbers wasn’t useful at all, much of it along the lines of “Why would anyone even want to know to that?” The idea that the information about candidate numbers isn’t useful is right there in the quoted passage as well. If candidate numbers don’t “matter even a tiny little bit,” it’s hard to see how they matter when an interview sequence is starting to feel onerous.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I get what you’re saying, but I think this particular question gives it a different context because you’re being clear with the employer about exactly what you’re asking about. You could certainly argue otherwise though.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’ve thought more on this, and I think you have a fair point. It is inconsistent of me. There’s something about the two that feels different to me, but I’m not able to articulate exactly what it is or defend it in any real way, so I think I need to acknowledge that you’re identifying a real inconsistency, and I’ll think more on what’s behind it. Thanks for pointing it out.

    1. Rebeck

      Still is, or has been for most jobs I’ve had. This ‘meeting your peers’ or getting a tour of the office is something I’ve never had: you meet your peers on the first day. My most recent interviews have been about an hour, panel of up to 4 people (HR, Manager, and at team leader level, a randomly chosen person at Team Leader level).

  32. Kix

    I went through something similar a few years ago and made it all the way to first runner up. Would I bother going through something like this again? No. I think it’s a mind game more than anything else.

  33. not telling

    Even if OP is counting each meeting as a separate interview, it’s still a lot. Why was each interviewee meeting with her separately–can they not sit in together on the same interview? Not only would I be wondering about the degree of dissatisfaction, I would wonder if there is some animosity or discord between departments that their managers can’t even be in the same room together.

    But I’m surprised no one has pointed out: No one is OBLIGATED to attend an interview just because they are invited. At any point in that 11 interviews, OP was free to say that he/she was no longer interested in the job, for any reason—and the perception that the interview investment isn’t worth the return is a perfectly valid reason. You don’t have to wait to be rejected by the employer, and you don’t have to wait to receive an offer to decline.

    1. Mean Something

      In our process, the conversations are very different because people are assessing your fit for different aspects of the job. And some people have very specific concerns–have you ever chaperoned an overseas trip? How are you in an emergency?–while others are oriented toward the big picture of how you fit in the institution and where in it your skills could be best placed. You’re definitely not being asked the same questions in every interview.

  34. Florida

    Eleven interviews is a lot, but I would rather do that than have to host a dinner party for the current employees. Does anyone else remember that letter? It was all all day group interview. Then all the applicants had to make dinner for the employees. Crazy!

  35. Audiophile

    I spent several years working for a large corporation. I watched a few people interview more than 11 times. One was interviewing to be an admin for the head of the department but would also be supporting the overall department and several big players within it. She even remarked that she’d turned down two jobs in the process and was worried that they wouldn’t offer it to her or that she was making a mistake. She ultimately wound up with the job.

    While I’ve never gone through this personally, I don’t know that I would go through that many.

  36. Stevie Wonders

    Eleven is definitely overkill, whether separate sessions or people. Did they subject all the candidates to this? Most I’ve done so far is seven in all day session, and that was plenty. This hiring by committee has turned job hunting into an ordeal, especially when you have to answer the same lame questions over and over.

  37. harrist

    getting a jobs, is like getting a women! they already know you the one they will choose! but not to make mistake, they have to make sure you have desire and want her!( I want you, do you want me?) but if they don’t want you in the first place, no matter how hard you try, they will not hired you!

    so the big question is, how do we know they want us in the first place? on the first interview! if they really want us so bad, make a bluff!(they will react) or if nobody want her make a bluff! but if they don’t want us from the first place, or there are to many competitors! we don’t have a chance to get that jobs! that’s why, when i apply a jobs, I will try the low competitions jobs! rare skill, hard jobs and etc! or using connections! ;) I know its awful, but at least I already know, I am the one! simple because connection!

    PS. most of company love refferal! they will not hired people from the middle no where! just ask GOogle ppl, I am sure HR staff will said, Insider! because they don’t want some spy on their team!

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