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Usually, I have several interviews with potential employees when I act as a recruiter. For every prospect, I have 2 interviews, one rather informal (often by phone or in a neutral environment such as a conference, an hotel, etc.) and one more formal (in an office). Then if the prospect looks good, there is a technical interview and a last interview with a job offer and the start of the negotiation.

Most of the time, there is a few weeks interval between the two first interviews, while the last two are closer.

What is the best scheduling in this setting? Do I have to move the interviews closer? Which ones?

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Unless you are trying to go from a hundred candidates to 10 there should be a followup email after the first two round within 24 hours. That way they know they have passed the early hurdles.

Assume they are applying for several jobs, so periods without apparent progress will cause them to focus their energy elsewhere.

  • For most I can answer in 24 hrs, for only a few deeper background checks are necessary (essentially candidates from particular countries). – Sylvain Peyronnet Aug 23 '12 at 15:55
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I'm guessing from your profile you're asking about recruiting in France; my perspective is from the London market, so things may be different. But here goes...

there is a few weeks interval between the two first interviews

A few weeks is far too long. Assuming you're in a relatively fluid market, the better candidates from the informal interview will already have found work by the time you schedule the formal one. You are lowering the quality of candidates by taking so long.

If you are putting large numbers through the informal/telephone interviews, and that is what is causing this delay, then I would suggest looking back at previous vacancies you have filled to see if you can find a way to be more selective/ruthless at the stage of screening resumes/CVs. If I receive 30 CVs for a vacancy (which is quite normal working through specialised recruiters) then I will generally only interview 4 or 5 even in the first round, meaning I can spend more time with each candidate.

What is the best scheduling in this setting?

Above all, the key is managing candidates' expectations. Make sure they know how many stages there are, how quickly they'll hear after each one, and what the approximate gaps in the process will be. The process is about you selling the opportunity to them as much as it is about them selling themselves to you, so always be conscious of how professional you are made to look by the way you run your recruitment procedures. From my experience on the candidates' side of the process, in my field/industry it is normal to have around three rounds of interviewing, often with different people involved at each stage, and for the process to take one or two weeks from end to end.

Overall, make sure that there is a specific purpose to each interview round. Nobody likes being called back to be asked questions that could have been asked in the previous round. What is the difference, apart from the setting, between your informal and formal interviews for example? Could you consider a single, longer interview instead.

  • 1
    "Nobody likes being called back to be asked questions that could have been asked in the previous round." If one is soft-skills and one is technical then I very much prefer to do them separately. First, I'm usually exhasted by the time I get to the technical round; second I'd rather not waste that second hour if they've decided after the first hour not to hire me. Especially true if the last round involves a code-sample. – pdr Aug 23 '12 at 15:03
  • +1, currently we are lucky that the market is far from being fluid (we hire PhDs for academic positions). You are perfectly right, the first round of screening (through the phone) is the problem, it can be done only by us (= professors) and it is time consuming (we receive literally hundreds applications for each position). We have to find a way to do that more efficiently. – Sylvain Peyronnet Aug 23 '12 at 16:01
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I'm going to overstate things a little bit for effect, but only a little.

Most of the time, there is a few weeks interval between the two first interviews, while the last two are closer.

If you want me to go through 4 interviews, I will not work for your company. Especially since many candidates these days are trying to do interviews while already working full time. Asking them to step out more than twice is unusual, and frankly insensitive to their needs.

Further, if I need to wait more than a week for a second interview, I will not work for your company. If you really can't get your act together to schedule interviews promptly, what makes me believe that the actual workplace isn't just as... glacial? When job hunting, people are looking at different opportunities. If your competitors can get an offer into a good candidate within a week or two, guess who the talent is going to work for. If the candidate is unemployed, that's only going to make this effect worse.

Cut it down to (at most) a HR phone screen, a technical phone screen, an in-person interview with manager & peers. The last should be the main technical interview as well. You don't need to meet to supply an offer.

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I would try and get these all lined up within a week.

It depends on industry but given that you mention a technical interview I'm guessing that's it quite likely a programming sort of job.

If so it... also depends on location. Here in the northeastern US if I wait weeks (or even days in my specific technology), the person I talked to has frequently already been hired. Especially if they are good and have a track record.

As for the specific interviews, for an imaginary week, I would start with a bunch of candidates and then do phone interviews on Monday, formal's on Wednesday and the technical on Friday. Timeboxing this way will help both you, your organization and the candidates themselves.

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Being on the other end of this I can say, a week is long waiting for a response. I prefer hearing back within the first 48 hours after any interview if things are going forward. I don't like wasting interviewers time, and I would like the same respect for me as well.

It's just me, but when I have over 30 resumes I pump out a week in some cases, I have a lot of hooks out there, and I don't want to pick them up if I don't have a reason to.

That's me though.

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