How do you decide how many people to interview?

Deciding how many individuals to interview for a job opportunity is a problematic and challenging task. For many, one of the easiest and simplest solutions is to interview everyone that appears to be suitable for the opportunity and has the necessary qualifications. Whilst this may seem like a good idea on paper, a large pool of applicants does not necessarily mean that they are all competent individuals suitable for the role in question. Whilst there are obvious benefits to this approach such as the ability to directly compare the skill sets of all candidates to make more informed decisions, it in fact presents several issues that can be very difficult to overcome.

For example, it takes a great amount of time & effort to interview large amounts of candidates; significantly more than a smaller and more focussed group. This has an added disadvantage of additional administration & HR work and can slow down the feedback process after interviews, further hindering the overall timing of decisions. Additionally, a bigger pool of candidates can almost certainly mean that in some instances, it will take longer to make a final decision on who will be hired.

Perhaps you would be right then, to assume that the easiest solution is to simply interview less individuals? In fact, this solution comes with its own unique set of benefits and challenges.

The answer it seems is not a simple one.

Generally, it is good to narrow down the individuals you wish to interview to 3-5. This is a good amount that still allows for direct comparison with meaningful results and means that more time can be spent compiling a meaningful job description and specification to better attract more suitable candidates.

In addition to this, screening tools such as personality and aptitude tests can be utilised to narrow down the selection even further with results more suited to desired need. This also means employers can make a more informed decision on hiring for culture add vs culture fit and how the candidates will benefit the organisation in question.

Overall, there is no real way of knowing how many individuals to interview for a job opportunity. In truth it depends on the job opening itself; some job opportunities may attract more applicants than others and, in some instances may require more than just 1 hire. Each opportunity presents its own unique challenges which is why it is important to identify exactly what you are looking for from the onset and to also consider the benefits and disadvantages of interviewing more than 5 people as opposed to interviewing less.

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