Is 'Four' the Magic Number?

A while back, Google’s staffing team analyzed five years worth of interview data and concluded that four was the magic number of interview stages needed to predict a candidate’s future success with an 86% confidence level. This led them to implement the “Rule of Four”.

After three years of analyzing more than 100,000 interviews, we decided to dig in and see if this rule stood up in today’s world. Is four really the magic number to ensure you’re getting the best people into your roles? 

Before we dig into whether four truly is the magic number, it’s important to point out that the magic number of interviews varies by role. For the purpose of this blog, we focused on professionals with three or more years of experience. It’s reasonable to argue that hourly workers, recent graduates, and certain other positions may require fewer interviews as skills can be assessed quickly and speed is important. So, we’ll put those types of roles to the side for now. 

With that said, here’s what’s noticeable from analyzing the data from over 100,000 interviews: 

  • Our top customers consistently fill their positions within 36 days, while the least successful ones take significantly longer, often exceeding 84 days. 
  • The average number of interviews when we start working with customers is between five and six. Our most efficient customers recruit with three to four interviews.
  • Our customers are seeing higher 90-day turnover rates when they’re conducting only two or three interviews. 

When we dig in further to the data, there is plenty of supporting evidence that four interviews is the ‘magic’ number…Google does get it right. But - and there is a BIG but - it totally depends on what you do in those four stages. Here’s a good general framework for most roles:

1.) Recruiter Screen
This initial conversation determines whether an individual is a viable option for the job and should start with some introductory questions to learn about the candidate’s skills and their alignment with what’s needed for the role. This is also the time for the candidate to ask more specific questions about the company, the role, and the responsibilities so they can determine if they have interest in moving to the next stage as well. 

2.) First Interview
The first interview is usually a one-on-one interview between the candidate and the Hiring Manager. This is the time for them to ask questions related to work experience and skills and also for the candidate to ask their own questions to determine if there’s a mutual fit. We recommend this lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour (30 minutes isn't’ generally enough time to really go deep enough).

3.) Task
In a task interview, candidates are typically asked to perform a specific job-related task or assignment. This type of interview is designed to assess the candidate's practical skills, problem-solving abilities, and their ability to perform tasks relevant to the job they are applying for…whether that’s a mock pitch for sales or a technical assessment for engineers.

4.) Final Stage
The final interview with the Hiring Manager and/or leadership sets the stage on making the ultimate hiring decision. During this step, the task should be reviewed with the candidate and this is also the time to ask deeper questions that weren’t touched on in other interviews.

So, why does the number of interviews really matter?

Well, here at Pillar, we are big proponents of “fewer, better interviews”, and there are three major reasons for that:

1.) Reduces time-to-hire
Lengthy interview processes can lead to candidate drop-off, where candidates lose interest or accept other job offers before the process is complete. Fewer interviews help in retaining candidates' interest and commitment throughout the hiring process. Not only that, but a quicker hiring process allows your organization to secure the best candidates before competitors do, giving you a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent. There is seldom a good excuse for the process to last more than 30 days.

2.) Frees up employees
Interviewing is a considerable time commitment. It takes a lot of effort to prepare, participate, and provide feedback. That’s valuable time employees could be spending elsewhere, and time is something that every organization needs to be cognizant of. Especially since those on your interviewing panels are more than likely your top performers.

3.) Improves the candidate experience
Lengthy hiring processes can frustrate candidates, leading to a poor candidate experience. Quick, efficient processes help create a positive impression and increase the likelihood of candidates accepting job offers.

With advances in interview-related technology (hint: interview intelligence), the days of excessive interviewing processes are hopefully behind us…and that's good for everyone. Finding the balance between getting to know a candidate and facilitating too long of an interview process isn’t easy. If I can be helpful with how your organization can begin to implement “fewer, better interviews”, send me a message here.

Mark Simpson
CEO & Founder

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