How many candidates should I interview for my IT role?

When a client engages with us, one of the questions they often ask is this:

How many candidates should I interview?

This is a good question, whose answer will vary according to several factors:

  • What the current market is like for the kind of candidates you need to recruit
  • How quickly you need to recruit
  • How many people you need to recruit
  • The level of candidates you need to recruit

There is fierce competition for the top candidates with the most in-demand IT skills at the moment, which means that if your role demands a particular skillset, it is unlikely you will have a high volume of quality CVs presented to you in the first instance.  You might find yourself in a position where you need to move quicker than intended to recruit the best candidates – or risk losing them.

Recruitment strategy to decide how many candidates to interview for IT roles

With this in mind, we recommend that you pursue the following strategy with your recruitment partner:

  • Ask for their advice on what the market is like for the candidates you require.
  • Ask them to suggest, roughly, the number of candidates they think they will be able to find within an allocated time period.
  • Agree some interview dates, if possible, in advance. This will help to ensure you’re your recruitment project progresses as planned.
  • Maintain regular contact with your recruitment partner and be prepared to adjust the plan if needed.

If there are an abundance of good candidates for your role, you are fortunate!  This often happens with junior IT roles, and also for positions such as IT manager where there may be a lot of applicants but fewer positions.  It’s a good idea, in this case, to ask your recruiter to carry out video interviews with the candidates whose CVs you like. Having watched the video interviews with the shortlisted candidates, it is likely you will want to shortlist further and only interview the individuals that performed best at this stage.

Competition for IT candidates

To allow for the possibility of candidates dropping out during the process, particularly when the market is competitive, it’s worth aiming to interview 3-4 people (again, this applies only if you’ve had a decent number of CVs in the first place).

However, if the skillset required for your IT role is rare, you might find that there are very few candidates that will be suitable (and interested), and you might find that you have only one or two.  If you feel you need to see more candidates, you are likely to miss out on the one or two that you have shortlisted, so you might need to make your decision more quickly than you would have wanted to.  All recruitment comes with risks, but one of the key things we make clear to our clients when they engage with us is the following:

There are no perfect candidates. 

If you are holding out for a ‘unicorn’ candidate, you need to manage your expectations.  They don’t exist.  However, if one of the candidates you’ve interviewed has the right attitude, the ability to learn, and the motivation to succeed, it is wise not to write them off in pursuit of your unicorn candidate.  Make sure your interview process is solid and thorough and use psychometric assessments to learn as much as you can about the individual you are considering.  Consider the big picture; if the candidate isn’t a perfect fit now, can you see them growing into the role you need them to perform, at the pace you require?

Are they a ‘potential unicorn’?

If the answer is yes, don’t miss out on them by insisting that you need to interview more people.  You might have to wait a long time to get someone better, by which time your ‘potential unicorn’ might actually have grown into one.