​What a difficult interview means for job satisfaction

The interview process not only takes longer than it used to, but many companies are upping the game, asking tough interview questions (Google's brain-teasers, anyone?) or requiring potential hires to perform skill tests.

That prompted employment site Glassdoor to examine whether those interviews lead to greater or lower job satisfaction among eventual hires, said Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain.

The result? Employees who reported that they had gone through a relatively tough interview process were happier in their jobs, with the study finding that a 10 percent more difficult interview was associated with 2.6 percent higher satisfaction later on. While that bump is small, the satisfaction gain is statistically relevant, and demonstrates that it's worthwhile for companies to examine whether they are appropriately screening candidates, Chamberlain said.

"The interview process is like a dating process between companies and workers," he said. "What both sides are doing is trying to test out the other one to see if they are a good match. What this research is telling us is the best way to get good job fit is to have an interview that 's very specific about skills and pushes people to demonstrate they are the right fit for the job."

In the research, conducted by Chamberlain and Glassdoor research fellow Ayal Chen-Zion, employees scored the difficulty of their job interviews on a five-point scale, with five being the most difficult. The optimal difficulty rating that leads to the highest employee satisfaction is 4, the company found.

Job interviews can be too difficult, veering into dysfunctional, however. Processes that are ranked as a 5 in difficulty can be a red flag, with the research finding that employees had lower satisfaction than those who rated interviews as a 4 difficulty.

"The ideal difficulty was 4 out of 5," he added. An interview rated as 5 points can feel like "an incredibly stressful experience. It's not giving them any wins in the interview."

Easier interviews also can backfire, since they can lead to hires who aren't the right fit for the job or company culture, leading to lower job satisfaction, Glassdoor said.

Employers shouldn't shy away from tough questions, Chamberlain said. "Ask questions that are specific and have a reason behind them," he said. "Ask a hard question that's directly related to the job, like a coding test."

The average interview process in the U.S. now takes almost 23 days, up from only 12.6 days in 2010, Glassdoor found in research conducted earlier this year. That longer hiring process is due to more levels of screening, such as skills tests and background checks. The risk, however, is that some potential hires may walk away or receive a job offer from another company.

Of course, the interview process is just one factor in job satisfaction, with the bigger impact coming from how employees feel about management, whether they have advancement opportunities, and whether the corporate environment is healthy or toxic.

As for those Google brain-teasers, which asked potential hires to estimate how many golf balls can fit inside a 747, even Google itself has now backed away from them. That's all for the better, Chamberlain noted.

"They are often unrelated to the requirements of the job," he noted. "The best questions are ones that are less vague and more specific, such as coding tests, writing tests, or presentation tests. The reason why some of those brainteasers are going out of style is companies found they aren't closely enough linked to the job at hand."