The Over-Complication of Hiring

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May 1, 2023

It’s not complicated. And it shouldn’t be. But “complicated” is precisely how so many people label their talent acquisition process. Some even do so as a badge of honor to be revered. They believe that “complicated” somehow proves that an organization, an industry, or a process demands numerous scientific equations and feats of heroism.

However, I have yet to experience any talent acquisition process that is justifiably complicated. Instead, “complicated” really just means that there are inefficiencies and bureaucracy — which often results from systemization of what was first born in a paper process decades ago and then transitioned to technological solutions.

We therefore owe ourselves an opportunity to step back and truly assess the end-to-end process, and ultimately how a myriad of HR tech systems support the process.

Complexity and Efficiency

Though I must admit to a degree of sarcasm, it’s nonetheless important to define the difference between complex and inefficient: The former is when something consists of many different and connected parts. The latter is not achieving maximum productivity; that is, wasting or failing to make the best use of time or resources.

To gauge whether you’re overcomplicating your hiring process, it’s important to ask: Does your process represent continuity from the initial stage of identifying a talent need to the final hiring decision? Or have you potentially pieced together a series of deliverables that lack connectedness, causing issues both upstream and downstream?

More specifically: How could the process to identify talent, either internal or external, become bogged down in time delays, layered steps, numerous approvals, multiple calculations, and exhaustive explanations?

To put this into context, a declaration of complexity often occurs when organizations are seeking new technology. Some proudly declare to a prospective software vendor that “our process is complex.” This often leads to the potential client serving up questions about the vendor’s client base and whether they specialize in the client’s specific industry.

Identifying Inefficiencies

But let’s first be clear that all talent acquisition processes are rooted in a similar framework:

  • Identification of a talent need
  • Seeking and obtaining approval
  • Creating a job posting
  • Posting the job
  • Application of candidates
  • Reviewing, considering, and contacting candidates
  • Pre-screening or a technical Interview
  • Developing a short list or final slate of candidates
  • Identification of a final candidate
  • Creation of an offer package
  • Making the verbal and written offer
  • Offer acceptance (or declination)
  • Communicating pre-employment conditions
  • Making the hire

In my time as a TA leader and consultant, I have experienced inefficiencies at each step in the process. Here are the most common:

Headcount approval. Is this process rooted in a paper trail before the position is entered into your ATS? Or can your finance team directly access the ATS to review, approve, or decline the role (thereby maintaining visibility of the process audit trail)?

Interviews. Does your organization seek validation and consensus from a myriad of stakeholders? Does this process span multiple weeks? Is this specific to the final candidate or several top candidates? Is the process and time commitment well-communicated to process stakeholders and candidates? And last but not least, how is this all documented?

Offer. Despite a defined salary range and candidates having communicated expectations, does the process require development of a salary as an original calculation, equity comparison, and validation from comp and finance teams? Might any of these factors have been reviewed earlier in the process as to expedite presentation of an offer to the candidate in close proximity of the final interview?

If any — or all! — of these scenarios sound painfully familiar to you, then it’s critical to make changes. The hiring process is a highly repeatable one that should be simple and easy to follow. While legal compliance and company policies are relevant, they should not mandate complexity.

You owe it to your hiring process stakeholders — your TA team, candidates, hiring managers, and others — to simplify a process that drives your talent strategy. Take the time to illustrate the entirety of your process. Review in detail process segments that are anchored in bureaucracy. Evaluate process segments that stall or unnecessarily delay things.

And if you find yourself saying “because we’ve always done it this way,” take that portion of the process, write it on a separate section of the white board, and destroy it. Your “why” should always be rooted in sound business practice, proven results, and the ability to be expeditious and competitive.

The transition from complexity and inefficiency is possible — and rewarding. Involve your stakeholder community when doing so, monitor the outcomes, and commit yourself and your team to an annual review. Your team and TA process will be better for it.