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The 22-Hour Interview: Best Hiring Decision Ever Or Total Waste Of Time?

One tech company devotes roughly 22 hours to vetting each hire. They even have a person who studies body language. Is it worth it?

The 22-Hour Interview: Best Hiring Decision Ever Or Total Waste Of Time?
[Photo: Flickr user Shoichi Masuhara]

Applying to Australian app-building company Appster, seems a little like applying for a high-security-clearance government job. From the initial vetting process through the offer, the company spends an average of 22 hours evaluating each candidate. Candidates spend an average of 15 hours each interviewing, testing, and impressing over roughly two to four weeks before landing an offer.

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The company starts with a brainstorming session about its “dream candidate”–not just his or her job skills, but also personality and development potential. Culling through resumes that pour in from online sites, social media, referrals, and other sources, hiring managers weed out resumes that don’t match the profile the management team developed. The interviewing process starts with a phone interview, typically with someone from human resources, that usually leaves about 10% to 20% of applicants in the potential hire pool, says cofounder and co-CEO Josiah Humphrey.

Getting to Know (All About) Them

The next two to four weeks include a whirlwind of competency tests, some they developed internally and others through companies like IKM, to test for specific skills. Humphrey says candidates typically need to score in the top 5% globally to move on, so another 70% of candidates are cut here. Then, an exhaustive half-day interview is planned, where candidates come into the office and meet with prospective co-workers, managers, and executives. The Appster team has typically developed as many as 100 questions to investigate the quirks and competencies the candidate might have.

After the candidate leaves–and there may be as many as three people at a time doing this type of on-site interview–the group holds a meeting to discuss strengths and concerns. Notes are kept on each candidate about what the team liked and what might need a bit more investigation. Then, another three to five-hour in-person interview is scheduled with two people from Appster. One interviewer focuses on your body language. Did you flinch at that uncomfortable question? Did you look very confident while answering? It’s noted, possibly requiring additional follow-up questions.

Checking Them Out

The company does a deep dive on reference checks, looking for the individual’s direct supervisor and checking social media and personal contacts within the company to ensure that he or she didn’t just pad the resume list with friends. Some candidates may be invited in for a “real-world assessment,” where they’re asked to work alongside potential coworkers for a day.

“We’ve had people where we’ve done that and it was a good thing we did because they just didn’t fit the job or the culture,” Humphrey says.

Currently, the company has roughly 130 employees, 50 of whom were hired in the past three months and Humphrey says it’s on-track to maintain approximately that hiring rate throughout 2015, so investing that amount of time in each candidate is no small commitment, he says.

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Weighing the Pros and Cons

It might seem like a lot of time, but not if you’re looking at someone you want to last many years with your company, says George Brough, vice president of Organizational Development Services at Princeton, New Jersey, talent management company, Caliper. The key to making this time investment wisely is to have a clear picture the type of person and the skill sets you need for the company.

“You want to be sure that, at the end of the process, you haven’t just hired someone who’s really good at interviewing and not good at the role you need to fill,” he says.

But scrutinizing candidates so closely can also have drawbacks, Brough says. Some, especially those in high-demand fields like software engineering, may not be willing to submit to many hours of interviewing and testing. It does happen, but that’s okay, Humphrey says. Those folks are probably not the right fit for Appster, he reasons. He says this in-depth vetting has helped him bring on more high-performers who tend to stay longer.

“The No. 1 reason for our growth is our people, and I would attribute a lot of that to our hiring. It costs a lot more in work and time to have to replace people,” he says.

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About the author

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books

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