Professionally Speaking

Interview Merry-Go-Round

How many times can one company call a candidate for an interview before suspicions of a runaround surface?

I have interviewed, in person, with an IT consulting company four times in the last nine months. I have spoken with the HR manager several times on the phone; he has kept in touch via e-mail with me, wanting to know my availability. I have been considered for two network engineer positions and have been the company’s “second choice” twice. I was recently called for another onsite interview. I have three and a half years of experience in Microsoft network administration and design, an MCSE in NT and 2000, a CCNA and a degree in engineering.

Is this company really interested, or is it just jerking me around?
—Anonymous in the Midwest

Anonymous, Steve has given you some excellent things to think about. I admit that I was once in a similar position myself. I went for an interview, missed out on a role, yet was called back later for another interview. I was reluctant to waste more time, but had been assured that “there’s definitely a role here.” And you know what happened next—after that interview, I still didn’t get an offer!

I don’t think this company is deliberately trying to waste your time. Even if you wanted to believe in conspiracy theories about this, let’s face it: No employer wants to waste any of its valuable time unless it’s dealing with credible employment candidates.

In my case, I believe that the company wanted to hire me for the skills I would have added, but it wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit for the profile of the firm. It was a small consulting start-up that would have had a relatively high proportion of my income dependent upon my billable hours. In addition, a great deal of travel would have been required. At that time, we’d just started a family; my wife had left work (making me, for the first time, the sole source of income for the family); and I wasn’t interested in spending any significant time away from my kids. So I think the company had the sense to realize that, in the long-term, this arrangement wasn’t going to work out (or at least that’s what I told myself at the time). Either way, I think there was a gut determination that—as much as the company wanted this to work out—it had some reservations about hiring me and, sensibly, didn’t proceed further.

As Steve suggests, it may be helpful to find out what, if any, reservations the company may have about you. It may be the case of having too many good candidates and not enough roles; or perhaps there’s some small doubt in the back of its mind. Having said that, it would probably be unlikely to get much useful feedback this way, but you can only ask—it seems you have received more feedback than I would have normally expected. You might want to think back on your interviews at this company and consider some of the concerns that may have, explicitly or implicitly, been mentioned. Keep this information in the back of your mind the next time you sit for a job interview.

Most important, I urge you to think carefully about how much you really want to work for this company. From the information you’ve provided, it seems unlikely they’re going to hire you. It already knows a great deal about your skills, experiences and career triumphs. It appears more likely that any further interviews will dig out more reasons not to hire you, rather than the other way around. If this is truly one of the great companies, it’s probably worth being a little patient and going along with this convoluted process just in case it works out in your favor and you get hired. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep exploring other options, nor does it mean you should allow yourself to be humiliated in the process. However, those few really great employers out there are probably worth some additional effort on your part. On the other hand, if this is just another company offering just another job, life is too short to put up with this. Move on and forget ’em.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to and


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