Chances are, you've been part of a lengthy hiring process in your career, either as a hiring manager or a candidate. There are different reasons the talent acquisition process might slow down, and some are even to your benefit, but in a recruiting landscape where great talent is snapped up quickly, a delay in your process could have real impacts for your company.
The challenge is to balance what you need to do in order to make an offer with the realities of modern hiring. Often companies might move slowly because they're taking care to find the best possible people and likely have a multi-step hiring approach. When it works, this strategy is great. You have a full vetted candidate joining your team that you think will acclimatize smoothly. But there is a downside to being cautious. While there are always exceptions to every rule, in general, a slower hiring process has negative consequences. You might find your top candidates are dropping out of the hiring funnel to take other jobs who offered faster. There could also be a revenue impact of leaving roles unfilled, especially in the tech world. And you might have to settle for lower-quality hires who are willing to wait around for you. Even your employer brand can suffer if annoyed candidates start talking about any delays they experienced.
It basically boils down to a Goldilocks choice: You don’t want to hire too slowly so that there’s an economic impact on your business, but you don’t want to hire so fast that you’re not evaluating properly. You need to find the balance that's just right and that will likely differ for every organization. But something that is universal across all hiring managers is the desire to hire great candidates as efficiently as possible. With that in mind, let's explore why your talent acquisition process might be slowing down and what you can do to turn things around.
Why is the hiring process typically slow?
There are dozens (possibly hundreds) of reasons for this, and again, it will vary by organization and business vertical. Here are some benchmarks on time to hire by industry if you're curious to see how you stack up. Some of the biggest reasons why a hiring process slows down include:
- Bad position description, or misalignment between description and potential salary: Oftentimes this issue arises in the HR-hiring manager communication period. If the requirements for a job seem overblown, and then correspondingly the salary is fairly low for the geographic area, you won’t get good candidates and your hiring process will drag on. No one wants to see a job description with 30 necessary skills and a low salary (or hear the salary number if it wasn’t posted in the description). If you need a certain set of skills, you need to pay a fair market rate for those set of skills, or define the skills you need differently. How you set up your job posting can make all the difference before potential candidates even hear about the role.
- Timing and schedules: The ultimate decision-makers need to be available when the hiring process is ongoing. If they are on vacation, or busy with other projects, or their schedule is completely backed up, this can delay your process 2-3 weeks at a time just in the interview stage. A really strong candidate will be gone in 2-3 weeks if they are interviewing at multiple companies and let's face it, these days everyone is. Great candidates get snapped up fast so if you have to tell your top contender, "Sorry, I need two weeks to get approval on your offer" their response will likely be to say goodbye.
- Inefficient interviews: It's not uncommon for interviews to be conducted badly. Busy hiring managers might use a generic list of questions and a savvy candidate will be ready with rehearsed answers, decreasing the amount of authentic information an interviewer might be able to uncover. If multiple people are interviewing a candidate, this problem can become compounded if interview questions (and opinions) are not shared between interviewers. Not to mention, if a candidate answers the same question for 4 different people, their candidate experience is not going to be positive.
- Your required steps: One person writing into Liz Ryan’s column noted an employer who required a 30-page questionnaire, not the mention some Applicant Tracking Systems go through 20+ tabs. This is all part of the candidate experience. Get the information you need for your system and compliance, but don’t overburden candidates with too much to fill out. They will exit the system and you’ll lose good people, which will naturally elongate the process. Think carefully about what information you need to capture to screen properly and then build on the information you acquire as successful candidates move further down your funnel.
How can you improve the speed of hiring?
There are a few natural, and important, steps to helping to decrease that lag time in the hiring process. Start with:
- Rely (somewhat) on technology: AI for HR is all the rage right now. While AI isn’t fully at scale in terms of ultimate functionality, it can still screen and source candidates way faster than human beings can, and with positive results. Use technology as a force multiplier to make your human recruiting team better and more time-efficient. But beware of the trap of letting technology run the show. Bias is still a very real problem with AI tools on the market so make sure human eyes are double-checking the screening process as well.
- Better initial conversations between recruiters and hiring managers: This is a common problem when it comes to hiring and seems like such a simple fix. When hiring managers and recruiters communicate poorly, the rest of the process stalls. The hiring manager needs to clearly define what they need, why they need it, what has to be there, what is a “nice to have,” and any other details that might make or break the candidate selection process. The recruiter needs to understand a bit about how that specific team works, where the salary range can fall (with real hard limits), what level of seniority this role requires, and more. When hiring managers and recruiters are initially on the same page, the process goes faster and more smoothly as they don't have to pause to realign in the middle of the hiring process.
- Explain to people the need for availability as hiring processes commence: It’s not a great idea for someone to commence a high-value hiring process for their team … and then go on vacation for three weeks. It won’t endear your company to top candidates. When you’re trying to fill important roles, you need to be present. Cue Larry Page of Google’s attitude on hiring: “It’s the most important thing you do.” In a similar vein, be cognizant of the candidate's time and schedule. If they are going to be away for a week, fill their spot with other candidates while you wait.
- Communicate with candidates: We all know there's a hiring black hole that candidates often find themselves stuck in. If you know the role you're hiring for is going to take longer than normal, then your communication strategy has to be on point. Candidates who don't know what's going on aren't going to wait for you. Now they might not wait even if you give them a reason but your chances are much higher. Texting, chatbots, pre-schedule emails, or again AI hiring platforms can help you plan out how and when you can get in touch with candidates. Remember, always ask permission if you're going to stray beyond traditional communications channels so your candidates don't feel spammed or invaded.
Hire at the right speed for you
Building a great squad is one of the most important things you can do as a team leader. But it does require commitment, analysis of your blind spots, a partnership with technology, and a willingness to engage with the recruiting team actively. If you can reduce your time to hire without sacrificing quality -- which is totally possible -- you’ll be one of the best organizations in your area to work for. Top talent will notice and appreciate that effort and if you are consistent enough about your recruitment process, you may find candidates are coming to you and are willing to wait a little longer for your verdict. Hiring decisions do (and should) take time. So instead of jumping at every job seeker to cross your path, be methodical and create a plan. Your talent acquisition strategy can make or break the new hires entering your company so invest in making it the best you can. Then sit back and reap the rewards of strong candidates and a smooth recruiting process.