Jun 8, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The early bird catches the worm. Mom and Grammy knew that, as did the English four centuries ago. Hardly a surprise, then, that a study of 6,600 hires finds that the sooner a candidate responds to a job posting, the better their chance of getting hired.

This confirmation of what most of us intuitively suspected comes from StartWire, a job search networking collaboration service launched six months ago by Chris Forman, formerly of AIRS, and his partner Tim McKegney, also an AIRS alum.

As part of the research and testing for StartWire, Forman collected hiring information from employers across 10 industries. Cumulatively, the companies shared data on 6,600 hires. From that emerged the correlation between speed of response and hiring.

What Forman and StartWire found was that almost 50 percent of the hires the companies made had applied within the first week a job was posted; 27 percent of the hires applied within two days. And three-quarters of those hired had applied within the first three weeks.

Forman says it sort of a “duh” revelation, but since he’s never seen a study that examined the matter, he decided it might be interesting. In the aggregate, the conventional wisdom about applying early improving a candidate’s chances is correct, he notes. On a job-by-job basis though, it might not be so.

“It’s all a function of supply and demand,” he points out. A security cleared, experienced Java developer can expect to hear from a recruiter regardless of when they apply. A customer service rep needs to get the application in on day one.

“Getting to the front of the line is important if it’s a long line,” adds Forman.

The study, however, has some potential OFCCP implications for recruiters. If the majority of your hires are coming from the applications submitted within the first three weeks, what, then, does that say of your candidate pool?

Online job postings can linger for weeks or even months. And many corporate careersites pull their listings from an ATS, which keeps a listing alive until the req is actually closed. Under OFCCP regs, a job seeker becomes an applicant by submitting “an expression of interest,” having the necessary qualifications, being “considered,” and not withdrawing.

Forman’s study implies that within a week or two of a job being posted, the future hire’s resume is likely already in the in-basket. Job seekers applying after the third week have a much lower likelihood of getting the job. With so many ATS’s not only searching for the basic qualifications, but also ranking candidates — an assessment, of sorts — the paperwork compliance provisions come into play, even if the short-list interviews have already begun.

Since OFCCP regs apply only to federal contractors and subcontractors, this may not be a major issue. But it does suggest that including a time limit on applications might be useful. Placing limits is an approved practice. The OFCCP FAQs say: “if there are a large number of expressions of interest, the contractor may limit the number of individuals it considers by using random sampling, absolute numerical ceilings, or other data management techniques, provided the sampling procedure is appropriate.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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