What is a callback?


A callback, or second round interview, signifies that an employer is interested in pursuing a candidate for a role and wants to further evaluate them.

A callback, or second round interview, indicates that a candidate has successfully passed through the first stage of the interview process. As callback interviews are intended to further evaluate the candidate and determine whether they will be a good fit, they are usually longer and more in-depth than the pre-screening or first round interview, and often include multiple people from within the company.

History of callback interviews

Many historians trace the origin of the job interview to Thomas Edison, who created a written test to evaluate job candidates’ knowledge in 1921. Prior to this time, however, the job application process was much less formal and was often based on personal connections or recommendations. It was not until the mid-20th century, after Edison’s assessment was leaked to the press, that many organisations started implementing formalised selection procedures such as interviews, tests and reference checks.

As businesses grew and workforce demands increased, companies began incorporating multiple rounds of interviews to ensure a thorough evaluation. The initial interview therefore served as a screening mechanism to shortlist candidates, while subsequent rounds allowed for a more in-depth assessment.

Through the advent of telecommunication technologies, companies have been able to diversify their interview methods beyond the traditional face-to-face format. This has enabled organisations to conduct callback interviews remotely, widening the pool of potential candidates and streamlining the selection process.

Recent trends in callback interviews

Virtual callback interviews

With the increase in hybrid and remote work following the Covid-19 pandemic, video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype have gained popularity as effective tools for conducting virtual interviews. This trend has allowed for greater flexibility, cost effectiveness and accessibility within the recruitment process and has helped candidates and employers connect regardless of their geographical location.

Asynchronous video interviews

In recent years, some organisations have started using asynchronous video interviews. In this format, candidates are provided with pre-recorded questions and are given a specific timeframe to record and submit their responses. Employers can then review the videos at their convenience, which allows for greater scheduling flexibility and reduces the need for real-time coordination.

Panel interviews

Panel interviews, where multiple interviewers participate in the callback interview, have become more common in recent years. This approach allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of the candidate by involving representatives from different departments or seniority levels within the organisation. It also streamlines the decision-making process by gathering input from multiple people simultaneously.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Some companies have started leveraging AI-powered tools to aid in the interview process. By analysing a candidate’s responses, facial expressions, language patterns and even where their eyes wander, AI-powered tools can help identify patterns or traits that align with the organisation’s desired attributes or company culture. This helps eliminate the potential for human bias by making data-driven evaluations and hiring decisions.

Advantages of callback interviews

The callback interview offers employers and candidates several advantages. For employers, it provides an opportunity to delve deeper into a candidate's qualifications and skills and assess their cultural fit within the organisation. Additionally, it allows multiple interviewers or decision-makers to meet with the candidate and collectively assess their suitability.

From the candidate's perspective, the callback interview signifies that they have progressed in the hiring process and successfully cleared the initial screening phase. It also gives candidates the chance to further showcase their abilities, address any concerns and gain insight into the company and the role they are pursuing.

Disadvantages of callback interviews

Callback interviews require significant time and resources from both the employer and the candidate. For employers, multiple rounds of interviews may extend the hiring timeline and prolong the decision-making process. Candidates, on the other hand, may need to take time off work or make additional arrangements – which may result in scheduling conflicts or other inconveniences.

As callback interviews often carry more weight than earlier stages of the hiring process, candidates may feel a heightened sense of pressure, stress and anxiety. This pressure may affect their ability to showcase their skills and personality and negatively impact their performance in the interview.

Use case

American multinational technology company Google has a multi-stage interview process – which involves not just one, but multiple callback interviews. While Google notes that the process may differ depending on the role, the process generally includes the following phases:

  • Assessments: Candidates may be asked to complete a brief online assessment, such as a coding quiz, after they have submitted their CV.
  • Short virtual chats: Candidates will typically have one to two shorter conversations via phone or video, which are likely to be with a recruiter, hiring manager or peer on the team.
  • Project work: Candidates may be asked to complete a small project prior to their in-depth interviews, which could involve providing code samples or prepping a case study.
  • Interviews: Candidates who advance to the callback interview round can expect to have three to four interviews in one day, either in person or over video.

According to Google, the process can be rigorous. However, “it’s also meant to be friendly, warm, and gives you the opportunity to get to know us better too.” All in all, the process is intended to assess each candidate’s skills and ensure that the role is a match – and, according to Google, you may even have some fun along the way.