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The need for speed: how to unblock your hiring processes to attract top talent
One of 2021’s most striking images was the massive cargo freighter Ever Given, wedged in a narrow stretch of the Suez Canal. It became the ship that launched a thousand memes, and a perfect metaphor for any business stuck in its old ways, unable to move fast when the situation calls for it.
Like a certain stranded super tanker, lengthy and slow hiring processes are blocking companies from hiring strong talent. We’re hearing this firsthand from frustrated candidates, who get called to interview for interesting roles, and then… nothing. No feedback for days or even weeks in some cases – whether the answer is yes or no.
Or they get mired in an incredibly drawn-out interview process that takes multiple rounds – far beyond a reasonable timeframe for companies to make a decision. The message we hear from candidates over and over is along the lines of: “If [hiring company] can’t see my value after two rounds, what I can do? They’re obviously not the company for me.”
So they look elsewhere – and the company has lost a valuable opportunity to add serious talent to its roster.
Understandably, companies want to get their hiring right as much as possible but moving so slowly makes no sense a time when the market for talent is extremely dynamic and competitive. And permanent roles will usually take longer to fill than contract positions.
But when candidates have their pick of roles to choose from, small details can make all the difference – as we’ve established in this blog before. Salary isn’t such a big differentiator anymore; it’s things like clear HR policies and streamlined recruitment processes.
Companies can start by identifying the causes of delays. Usually, it’s due to one of the following three reasons: checking the market before the job is signed off, an overly lengthy hiring process, and a lack of communication.
Sometimes a hiring manager kicks off the process too early. They identify the need for a certain skillset in the business, and the recruitment agency springs into action, lining up candidates’ interest in the role. But then the client gets in touch to say they need to check they have budget approval and signoff for the job, and candidates decide to look elsewhere.
Another cause of lengthy hiring timelines is where people involved in the process don’t meet often enough to agree on job criteria, set parameters, and evaluate potential hires after the first CVs arrive and the interviews get under way.
Then, during the hiring process, poor communication often causes companies to run aground. They are slow in getting back to candidates – either to tell them they’ve moved to the next round, or to thank them but reject their CV. Even small delays like a key decision maker being out of work for a day due to illness don’t get fed to candidates, who are left in a vacuum, not knowing whether to keep their hopes up for a post that intrigues them, or to accept another offer.
(And there’s always another offer. If a senior or highly talented professional is weighing up multiple opportunities, they’re much more likely to assume that no word means the company is not interested or has hired someone else.)
So how can companies start to remove the obstacles in their recruitment? The first step is to have salary and benefits packages clearly defined upfront and have the signoff in place before the hiring process begins.
Then, have a streamlined interview process that’s fast. Keep it to three stages at most and remove take home tests. During Covid-19, we all became far more aware of people’s home lives. Don’t impinge on people already in full-time roles who may have families. Test them in person during stage one or two. That should be enough to evaluate their fit for your business.
The lesson here is, if the nature of the business dictates that many stakeholders need to be involved, is it possible to line them up ahead of time so some or all of them can sit in on interviews or vet CVs?
Better still, try treating the permanent roles as if recruiting for a contract position. That change in mindset alone can help to remove some of the hiring bottlenecks.
Lastly, communicate clearly and often. When there’s no immediate progress with a hiring decision, it’s tempting just to say nothing and assume it’ll all work out. But candidates don’t think that way. They want to hear from the hiring manager, or the recruiter acting on their behalf – even if it’s just to say “we’ll have an update for you the day after tomorrow”.
Ideally, you should set expectations at the start of the process and aim to stay in touch while interviews are underway. It shows candidates you’re interested.
When it comes to hiring the very best talent, speed can make the difference. We know of one candidate for a senior programme manager role who had their second-round at 1.30 on a Monday afternoon; by 3.30 they had the offer. In another case, a high-end developer was onboarded after a 24-hour turnaround from interview to offer.
Cases like these might be extreme examples but they show how the market is naturally reacting to demand. That’s where the bar is set if you want to hire the best. When it comes to hiring processes, could you turn the ship around as fast?