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May 30, 2019

Prior to our last economic downturn in 2008, a company’s approach was — “What’s in it for us” and if a prospect didn’t meet those requirements, or complete an assessment prior to the interview process, it was a no go. This was done due to supply and demand — there was an abundance of talent, and only a limited number of roles available.

For many industries, this dynamic has dramatically shifted. There’s now an abundance of open roles and not enough qualified talent.

This brings a major challenge for most companies. We must shift our mentality and approach to “What’s in it for them.” The talent pool (all of us included) have choices, many choices. We don’t have to adhere to pre-assessments if we choose not to; there are many companies that don’t have those requirements at all. Opportunities are starting to approach us (vs. applying to them). There’s no rush or need to settle.

The employment process is now a two-way street.

Companies that embrace “the give before you get” mentality have a competitive advantage over those that have not adapted. At some level, the more friction that exists during the pre-interview, interview, and post-interview stage, the more detrimental it becomes to a company’s talent acquisition efforts.

When assessing our current recruitment efforts, there are several areas where adjustments can be made to have the most positive impact.


Anyone who is in a hiring capacity understands how hard it is to get timing right. I like to say to my team that “timing is everything, but on its own time.” Timing is a factor that we can’t control at the time of extending an offer. But it is something we can influence leading up to the offer stage. Most of us don’t do it well.


All of us have a process. Some are strong, some are weak, some fall in the middle, but all of them should be continuously tweaked and improved. A process that was effective two years ago may not be a process that is effective in today’s talent market. Process gives us structure at scale, enabling execution on our hiring initiatives. Many of these initiatives help us hire the right people for the right seats within our organizations, bringing a number of positive benefits to the company such as retention, culture fit, and teamwork.

Unavoidable vs Avoidable Obstacles

There are many obstacles that impact timing during the hiring process, including:

  • Assessment tests
  • Take-home assignments
  • HR pre-screens
  • Interviewing a specific number of people before making a decision to move forward

Most of these assessments make it easier for companies to narrow down the talent pool or as a filtering mechanism for prospects not serious about pursuing the opportunity. But these measures often slow down the process. In some industries, including IT and engineering, they’re a major detractor to the organization’s appeal. Most talent will lean toward organizations that invest time in them first, ones willing to set up phone interviews prior to requiring candidates to complete an assignment beforehand, with no guaranteed outcome.

Adjustments to Attract the Right Talent

  • When an assessment is given
    • Set up a phone interview first. Then give an assessment as a second step (if you must). Requiring talent to take assessments without a guaranteed next step is very risky.
  • Time commitment required across all interview phases
    • The less time, the better
  • How an assessment is administered
    • Integrating an assignment into a formal phone/onsite interview is ideal
  • References
    • Some companies no longer check references (traditional references are biased)
    • If you can hire without it, change it if you can’t integrate it
  • Interviews needed to make a decision
    • Best-case scenario: One phone interview w/hiring manager or team lead, and one onsite interview; get it done in one session (don’t make anyone come back)
  • Offers
    • Companies who make an offer in the room have a strong success rate
  • Sharing feedback/next steps
    • Speed = competitive advantage. Ideally, do it in 24 hours.
  • Other suggestions:
    • If time allows for it, take a prospect to coffee or lunch during the onsite interview. Get them out of a formal environment. Great team fit indicator.
    • Hiring managers should be involved as much as possible. This person isn’t working for a recruiter, or HR. They are working under the hiring manager.
    • If a personality/culture screen is a must-have requirement — ideally someone from the team where this person will be working should facilitate the call. Candidates consider team dynamic and environment a priority over company environment.

Increase Probability of Accepted Offer

In making an offer, we often jump through many hoops, from getting proper approvals from leadership, conducting references, to ensuring the hiring team that you will “make it happen.”

After all that, you may hear, “I need more than a few days to make a decision.” Or, “I’m in the final stages with multiple companies.” Or, “this is my second choice, waiting to hear from my No.1.”

Most of us encounter scenarios very similar to this on a regular basis. It’s not a pleasant experience.  When making an offer to a prospect who at the very same time has two or more offers already in play, how do we increase the probability of avoiding this scenario more often than not?

Unfortunately, if we find ourselves in this scenario, it’s too late. We can’t turn back time.

However, there are a few things you can do. Encourage the hiring manager and/or the head of the division or company (if it’s doable) to reach out to this person. Let them know the team is excited to have them join, and answer any questions/concerns this person may have.

As a last resort, the company may be able to offer more money, better perks, or a title bump to incentivize someone to join.

It’s our responsibility as recruitment operators to continuously assess internal processes. Revise and adapt them as current market conditions change, and give our organizations the best opportunity for a higher probability of success in landing ideal talent — on our time.

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