Are multiple rounds of interviews a necessity?

Striking a balance between conducting a thorough evaluation and respecting candidates' time is crucial to provide a positive candidate experience

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The nervousness preceding the first round of interview is nothing compared to the anxiety before the second round. And the third? Well, many of us who have been there would remember the restlessness while awaiting the call for the third round and being on tenterhooks before the final round! And who can forget the hours that went into preparation, waiting and meeting the panelists. It requires heavy investment — in terms of time, energy and effort — not only on the part of the candidates, but the interviewers too. While some companies may conduct only one or two rounds of interviews, others may have several rounds involving different interviewers, panels, or stages.

The number of rounds can also depend on the initial pool of candidates and the degree of competition for the position. It’s essential to strike a balance between conducting enough rounds to gather sufficient information and making the process efficient for both the candidates and the hiring team.

Are multiple rounds of interviews really required?

“Personally, I find it illogical to have numerous technical rounds or additional rounds that do not serve a clear purpose,” opines Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources.  A single meeting is generally acceptable, and if necessary, an additional round of discussion may be reasonable. However, exceeding two rounds without a valid reason is unlikely to yield significantly different results.

Agreeing to the same, Manish Majumdar, head-HR EMS, Centum Electronics, says, “It is essential to ensure consistency, fairness and clarity across different interviewers and interview rounds. This means, having a clear understanding of the skills and competencies you are seeking when conducting interviews.”

However, he asserts that the necessity for multiple rounds of interviews is contingent on the nature of the role itself. If the position is at a junior level, conducting five rounds of interviews would be excessive.

“Personally, I find it illogical to have numerous technical rounds or additional rounds that do not serve a clear purpose. A single meeting is generally acceptable, and if necessary, an additional round of discussion may be reasonable. However, exceeding two rounds without a valid reason is unlikely to yield significantly different results.”

Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources

Conversely, for a senior-level role, multiple rounds of interviews are typically expected due to the high stakes involved. “The significant cost associated with senior positions necessitates thorough assessment through multiple interview stages to ensure a confident selection,” points out Majumdar. Therefore, according to him, “If the role is highly critical, it is reasonable to conduct multiple rounds of assessments. However, for less critical positions, having four or five rounds of interviews would be excessive and not the preferred option”.

Purohit enunciates, “For senior-level positions, in particular, it is crucial to show respect to the candidate and consider the time constraints involved. Increasing the number of panellists and interview rounds will only make the process more time-consuming, and is therefore, avoidable. Even for senior roles, extensive rounds of interviews are generally not required at all.”

Why do companies even consider multiple rounds of interviews?

Lack of clarity: One of the main reasons why more than one or two rounds of interviews are conducted is the lack of clarity among the hiring managers themselves. “The managers may not have a clear understanding of what they are assessing during the interview process, which is one of the reasons why multiple rounds of interviews are sometimes conducted,” explains Majumdar.

“It is essential to ensure consistency, fairness and clarity across different interviewers and interview rounds. This means, having a clear understanding of the skills and competencies you are seeking when conducting interviews.”

Manish Majumdar, head-HR EMS, Centum Electronics

Lack of preparedness: Another reason is the lack of preparedness of the interviewers. This prevents them from effectively evaluating candidates based on the role and what they are seeking. Due to this unpreparedness, the interviewers may conduct additional rounds of interviews that are ultimately unnecessary. Even though the evaluation process could have been completed within two or three rounds, the lack of clarity and understanding on the part of the interviewers may lead to prolonged and repetitive interviews.

Fear of ownership: This is yet another reason behind multiple rounds of interviews. “Sometimes, it can be attributed to flawed human interaction. Candidates may excel at saying all the right things during the interviews, but their actual performance at the workplace may be different. When such incidents happen and individuals are held accountable for making a wrong hire, they become extra cautious in subsequent hiring processes,” observes Majumdar. The hiring managers may insist on involving additional individuals in the decision-making process, saying things such as, ‘Okay with me, but check with this person as well.’ As a result, the number of interview rounds unnecessarily increases due to the fear of taking sole responsibility for the hire.

However, the organisations should take proactive measures in such situations. They should critically evaluate and improve the hiring process to enhance its efficiency, objectivity and alignment with the specific position being sought.

“It is crucial to establish a well-defined and efficient interview process. Once the process is properly structured and the focus areas are identified, one to two rounds of discussions should be sufficient,” emphasises Purohit. The right planning can optimise the interview process, minimise unnecessary rounds and maximise the use of time and resources.

Standardisation should be considered as a challenge that needs to be addressed. Instead of subjecting candidates to unnecessary rounds of interviews where the same questions are repeated, the organisation should strive to streamline the process. Doing so would not only save the candidates’ time but also ensure that their input is not diluted or overlooked.

“It is crucial to determine the most effective methods for assessing specific skills and competencies and identifying the individuals within the organisation who are best suited to evaluate them,” points out Majumdar.

Majumdar cites an example to explain — “Consider a scenario where a candidate successfully completes four or five rounds of interviews, only to face a sixth round where someone, for subjective reasons, does not find them suitable. In such cases, not only has everyone’s time been wasted, but also a promising candidate is lost. The question raised is, ‘What is that makes the organisation willing to lose this valuable individual who has successfully cleared multiple rounds of interviews?’ Therefore, there should be a clear understanding of the aspects being assessed and the most suitable person to evaluate the candidate”.

Additionally, it is essential to plan the meetings and engagements effectively, considering that interviews should be more than just question-and-answer sessions. They should be engaging interactions where expectations and other relevant aspects are discussed. “It is important to structure the interview panels in a way that includes the right people and relevant planning, rather than adding unnecessary rounds of interviews,” points out Purohit.

Sharing how interviews generally happen at Vedanta, Purohit says, “Planning the interview process to make it more streamlined is an approach that aligns with Vedanta’s practices. We prioritise a focused and efficient interview process. In fact, we don’t even call it an interview, but an engaging interaction where relevant team leaders and members sit together, and take collaborative decisions based on collective feedback.”

Consistency plays a significant role in assessing competencies and requirements for the same role. “Different panellists or interviewers in separate rooms should assess the same competencies in a consistent manner. There should not be a significant variation in evaluations between individuals. Therefore, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what is being sought, the best assessment methods and the ideal individuals within the company to conduct the assessments,” concludes Majumdar.

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