Friday, March 8, 2013

A contest: who's been on the most interviews for the same job?

From the New York Times, stories of too many interviews for a single position:
“After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say, ‘That’s it, I’m not going back,’ ” said Paul Sullivan, 43, an exasperated but cheerful video editor in Washington. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number. And besides, if I don’t go, they’ll just eliminate me if something else comes up because they’ll think I have an attitude problem.” 
Like other job seekers around the country, he has been through marathon interview sessions. Mr. Sullivan has received eighth- and ninth-round callbacks for positions at three different companies. Two of those companies, as it turned out, ultimately decided not to hire anyone, he said; instead they put their openings “on hold” because of budget pressures. 
At one company, while signing into the visitor’s log for the sixth time, he was chided by the security guard. “He thought I worked there and just kept forgetting my security badge,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He couldn’t believe I was actually there for another interview. I couldn’t either! But then I put on a happy face, went upstairs and waited for another round of questions.”
This is part of an article by Catherine Rampell about how companies are holding onto job openings for a very, very long time, posting and reposting the same job openings, lengthening and delaying start dates and generally taking full advantage of their high ground as potential employer. I recommend it. 

Perhaps I have a touch of "deciderism" (to coin a phrase), but I believe two or three meetings with a person would be plenty to determine whether or not you could work with someone.

So has anyone had more than, say, 3 in-person interviews (considering that the pharma/chemistry industry average is going to be 1.2 or so)? I am offering a prize (nothing fancy, probably a blog post, a stack of the finest Chemjobber business cards and some hard candies) to the person who can tell a story of the most number of in-person callbacks they've had for a position. The rules:
  • Must be for a bench/bench-supervisory position at a science-type place. 
  • Priority for ties will go: academic < industrial, non-bench < bench, general "science" < chemistry, less woeful < more woeful.
  • Each visit to a site for an interview counts one time (such as Mr. Sullivan's 6 separate interviews above).
Readers, how many in-person interviews did you have? 


  1. I recently quit a position with about 75% bench chemistry, 25% what I will call non-bench chemistry. Interview process went something like this:
    - Phone screen with HR, ~0.5 hours
    - On-site #1 with HR, ~1.5 hours
    - Take home assignment, ~4 hours
    - On-site #2 interview with "homework", related to the non-bench component of the job, ~5 hours + ~12 hours of "homework"
    - Write-up related to interview #2, ~4 hours
    - Delay
    - On-site #3 interview, technical (meals brought in) ~11 hours
    - On-site #4 interview, ~2.5 hours
    - Another assignment (I considered this one like free work, rather than a test), ~8 hours
    - Delay
    - Low-ball job offer
    - Delay
    - Low-ball job offer rescinded
    - Temp to hire offer
    - Long delay
    - Multiple weeks of on-site 1099 contract work
    - Same low-ball job offer

    If I wasn't desperate to pay the rent, I would have told them to take a flying leap after the third on-site. At least one job from this place has been featured on this blog. I cringe, because just about every interview they had, from fresh BS to experienced PhD followed this sort of routine. One candidate sat in an office and worked on "assignments" for an entire week (without pay!) as part of the evaluation process.

    1. Company name?! We must know!

    2. If I look past the interview process and compensation, they were otherwise kind to me and the work/life balance was orders better than my many years of being a postdoc. I will abstain from mentioning names online, both out of respect and to save myself from potential legal troubles.


    The whole article is interesting, but the bit beginning at "Recently, a comparable experiment was conducted by Frank Bernieri" is particularly relevant.

    I imagine that companies that take 2+ interviews to decide if they want to hire someone are just really bad at interviewing/making decisions. Real pity that job market is so bad that people will put up with this.

    1. When I'm hiring, I usually use the combination of resume and phone interview to establish technical capability. The onsite is more of the cultural fit aspect of things. One time, I had a candidate that seemed really good, but was very nervous during the onsite, and we didn't know if he would be a good cultural fit for the fairly small company. To figure that out, we had him back for lunch with the rest of the scientists he would be working with. We bought pizza and gave a more relaxed and informal venue for him to really demonstrate how he would fit in with the crew. Getting out of the interview panel session and into a more social was great for him as we gave an offer and he stayed with the company for quite some time.

      But overall, I agree that if you can't decide to hire someone after the first on site, the answer is likely "no".

    2. That's exactly the sort of scenario where I could imagine "more than one." But 7 or 8? That's just hazing.

  3. Turned down for this position a few months ago:
    - Phone screen - 1 hour
    - Phone interview - 2 hours
    - On site interview, boss #1 - 2 hour drive, 1 hour interview
    - On site interview, boss #2 - 2 hour drive, 1 hour interview
    - On site interview, boss #3 (seriously - like Office Space) - 2 hour drive, 1 hour interview
    - A month goes by - finally, a phone call to have me fill out application paper work
    - On site interview, HR director - 2 hour drive, 1 hour interview
    - A month goes by - finally, phone call letting me know they filled the position internally.

  4. Here's what our TT interview process looks like:

    *It usually takes us 1-4 months to sift through applications before step 1 - this is done 1 year before we intend to fill the position*
    1. Send an email to applicant letting them know they're in the running. Request availability for 2 consecutive days of interviews.
    2. Fly the candidate in for 2 x ~10 hour days of interviews, meals, etc. During that time they present a seminar to the department. We pay for and provide all transportation, food, and lodging.
    *2-3 months go by as we do the same for the other candidates*
    3. If that person is not a finalist they get a letter stating as much. That letter comes faster if they are truly not a match.
    4. If they are a finalist we do 2-3+ further calls (usually teleconference) to discuss the nitty gritty with things like lab space, salary, spousal/partner hires, etc. These usually last less than an hour each.
    *up to 2 months go by*
    5. Fly the finalist candidate(s) back in to do final talks about salary, hand over papers, and provide relocation and logistics assistance.

    Then we usually give the candidate(s) a month or so to make their final decision.

    The idea that companies require so many more interviews to come to a decision is astounding to those of us who handle TT decisions on a regular basis. I simply can't believe that a faculty hiring committee is more decisive than people who do HR for a living. Or...I don't want to believe it.