Why The Interview Process Is A Hellish Mess

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Two women talking at a tableBy Donna Fuscaldo

Hiring the wrong job candidate can cost a company serious money, which is why it's all too common to make job seekers go through a multi-phase interview process. It may seem cumbersome or downright annoying to the candidate going through it, but career experts say it's necessary in today's job market.

"Competition is tough, especially for professions where there isn't a skills shortage," says Vinda Rao, the marketing manager at Bullhorn, a recruitment software company. "More and more companies are using personality and intelligence tests to weed out applicants and it usually takes more than just one interview with one person to gauge if someone is a fit."

According to career experts it's not uncommon for a job candidate to go through multiple phases starting with an initial interview over the phone. Once they've passed the first screening process, many companies will have a job candidate take personality and intelligence tests, meet with human resources and then interview with the hiring manager. Companies will even make the candidate undergo a multi-day tryout, interview with a panel of people, or even the entire team before deciding on whom it will hire. There's even those companies that take it to the next level by requiring an FBI-type background check or require them to write a series of essays.

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All of that may seem like overkill to a candidate, but there is a method to the madness. After all, a company is only as good as their employees and if they continually hire the wrong people it will not only cost them money but will hurt their ability to run the business. "By using different phases, the company can get to know an applicant better, before the hire, plus get feedback from several members of the organization," says Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. "Additionally, interviewing in short phases minimizes the amount the company invests in a candidate, if they are able to determine early on they aren't suitable for the position."

Take the initial phone interview for example. This is a common practice for companies, particularly ones that use recruiters to find their employees. Having the first interview over the phone enables a company to weed out candidates without wasting time and money having a face-to-face meeting. The second, third, fourth and even fifth interviews are designed to make sure the candidate has the skills to do the job, gels with the company's culture and clicks with all of the people that he or she will be working with.

Group interviews may be intimidating, but even with those there's logic behind the perceived misery. According to Jaime S. Fall, vice president of workforce and talent development policy of HR Policy Association, a panel interview makes sense if the person interviewing will be working with all the people on the panel on a daily basis. "A lot of people may be affected by the output of the individual position the company is hiring for," says Fall. "Instead of doing separate interviews it's easier to do a panel."

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Terry Pile, principal consultant of Career Advisors, knows all too well how grueling the interview process can be, especially in a competitive job market. She herself once had to go through 12 interviews before getting a job and recently counseled a client who went through a tough interview process. "It's partially endurance test and partially to see if they are a good fit for the company," says Pile.

Her client, who was interviewing for a mid-level job working for a small city, had to answer 15 essay questions before she was invited in for an interview. After that she was required to give a 15-minute presentation, go through two panel interviews, write a sample letter for the local mayor, interview with another manager, and write yet another essay about how she would approach the job.

While the process was completely frustrating to the job candidate, she went through it all because she really wanted the job. And even though she was passed up, Pile says that it was a learning experience that put her in a better position for the next interview. "Even though she didn't get the job, they were very impressed with her," says Pile. "She may not have been picked for that job, but there could be other opportunities."

While it's easy to throw in the towel and give up in frustration, career experts say that you need to weigh how much you want the job before making a rash decision. "The bottom line is, a hiring company has every right to require several rounds of high-pressure interviews," says Rao. "And a job seeker has every right to walk away from the interview process if it seems abusive or futile."

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