How many candidates should make it to the final interview, and why?

We asked experienced recruiters and hiring managers for advice on streamlining your interview process. There are several perspectives offered to help you determine the ideal number of candidates that should make it to a final round.

A Small Number Who Meet The Core Criteria

There isn’t a hard and fast rule about how many candidates make it to the final interview. It’s important your pre-screening process ensures only qualified candidates make it to the final step of your interview process – since that’s an indicator that one of those people will receive an offer. Making sure those who have the essential skills for the position are the only individuals who are considered means you’re also being efficient with everyone’s time. If everyone who applied for a job or was invited in an initial screening made it through the entirety of the process, think about the burn rate of the managers who have to conduct all of the interviews. So, my guidance is to have an appropriate recruitment process outlined where candidates who demonstrate the appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities and core values are the ones who sit for the final interview. Naturally, it will be a smaller number compared to those you originally screened.

Eric Mochnacz
Senior HR Consultant, Red Clover

Be Swift to Hire Any Strong Candidate Instead of Tracking Numbers

The simple answer is as many that deserve to make it that far. In today’s recruiting landscape, where good candidates are hard to find and are usually grabbed up in record time, talent acquisition can no longer be a numbers game. If you have strong candidates that have been interviewed and you are confident that they would be a great hire, move the process along quickly and make the hire ASAP. If there is only one candidate deserving of making it to a final interview, do not hold up the process by needing more for comparison’s sake — just grab the strong candidate and finish the process before it is too late.

Ronald Kubitz
Director HR & Recruiting, Forms+Surfaces

Two Candidates is Ideal or…

For a final interview, I strongly believe that the pool should be narrowed down to two individuals. Whether you are making the hiring decision solo or with a panel, I feel like more than two candidates can sometimes paralyze your thought process or divide a panel. Using a sports analogy, the final interview is the World Series of the posted position. Having two candidates makes comparisons and talking points easier to look at. 

As opposed to the typical three or four candidates who make it to the final interview, being able to channel the field down to two is about trusting your instincts and hiring process to consistently find the right person. It’s a much simpler final process with two candidates when it comes to discussing which one best fits your company culture and meets the job requirements. 

Richard Clews
Founder, Pants and Socks

… Two or Three Candidates or…

When I started my career in recruitment, my experience with hiring managers said there can never be enough talented people in the pipeline. After scheduling an interview for a hiring manager with a fantastic candidate, I’d often get the response, “they seem great but do you have other candidates for comparison?” It often took me too long to close my job openings because the cycle never ended. A few years later, one of my managers gave me a great tip for working with hiring managers. She recommended that I always introduce more than one but never more than three candidates to the hiring manager, and always guide them to choose one of the candidates introduced. 

Two to three has worked out for me quite well. It makes the decision easy for hiring managers, and it doesn’t overwhelm recruiters with too much work. If none of the finalists are good enough, you should work on increasing the quality, not the quantity, of candidates.

Max Korpinen
Co-founder & CEO,

… Consider The Top Three to Five Candidates

The final interview stage should be a consideration of the top three to five candidates from the interview process. By now, the candidates that remain in the running clearly fit the requirements and ideals for the open position, so it is time to see if they are a fit for the person who they will be working under. The final interview stage should be conducted by the person who will have the most facetime with the candidate and who will be most affected by their success. This way, the final interview stage becomes an audition of personalities to see who will best fit the overall schema of the company and, as such, should not consider a vast number of candidates, but more a chosen few who have demonstrated ideal traits.

Chandler Rogers
CEO, Relay

Don’t Put a Limit on The Number

Only the most qualified candidates should make it, but there shouldn’t be a hard limit on the number. You should interview as many final round candidates as possible without it leading to yet another round of interviews. This may mean you tighten your requirements or take into consideration other attributes such as personality over just experience. Final interviews will always be nerve-wracking, but better to have too many qualified candidates than too few.

Colette Shelton
Founder, Chirpyest