Here’s When It’s Okay to Be Slow to Hire

Being slow to hire often means a job goes unfilled for awhile. But it doesn’t have to. There’s a way to be slow to hire that’s fast and effective. It starts with understanding the real meaning of the idea.

The Unintended Consequences of Slow to Hire

The idea of slow to hire has been around for years. I noticed it gained traction as leaders became increasingly aware of the significant costs of a bad hire. The financial cost alone has been estimated as a five- to six-figure sum. Then there’s the lost time, missed opportunities, wasted effort, and added stress. Because of these costs, it made sense to make hiring decisions carefully.

That was the original intent of being slow to hire — taking the time necessary to make smart hiring decisions.

Unfortunately, the idea of careful hiring took on a life of its own. One or two rounds of interviews with prospective hires expanded to three, four, five, sometimes six separate rounds before making a hiring decision. Then there are additional steps including testing, reference checking, and background checks.

Finally, if all goes well, a job offer is made to the most qualified person. However, if that offer is declined and the second-choice candidate has already taken another job (which often happens after a long, drawn-out hiring process) the whole process starts all over again. That adds more time, more effort, more expense, and more interviews, making slow to hire even slower.

Has this cautious approach to hiring worked? Not if you’re a leader with an unfilled job. Certainly not if you’re in HR and can’t find enough qualified people. Definitely not if you’re in staffing or talent acquisition and your best candidate was just hired by a faster competitor. The time it takes to fill just one job has reached an all-time high, and there’s been no improvement in employee turnover.

Because of this misunderstanding about slow to hire, the world has been operating on a faulty premise. People have mistakenly been equating time and effort spent on hiring with making a quality hire. The more take they take, the more energy they expend, the better the hire will be. It’s given them a false sense of control. Taking lots of time to hire doesn’t save companies from bad hires; it only saves people from making a decision they’re afraid may be wrong.

Slow to hire became something unintended. It turned into being slow to fill.

You can break your organization out of this cycle, while still taking a prudent approach to decision-making. You do that by being slow to hire and fast to fill. Here are six steps that will help.

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  1. Recruit ahead
    Pick one role and start cultivating talent for it right now, even if there are no current openings. It’s not if that job will open, but when. You’re preparing for the when.
  2. Build rapport
    Let candidates know you hire differently, getting to know people before jobs open. You’ll typically find that talented people welcome this approach since this gives them an option for their future.
  3. Interview actively
    Just as you try on clothes before buying them, you can have people try on opportunities. Invite people to experience your company and culture. Having them try out sample work lets you both determine if a role in your organization may be a future fit.
  4. Maintain contact
    Touch base with prospective hires at least monthly. Use the few minutes you spend to pass along valuable information, such as marketplace updates or news on a trend you’ve seen. This keeps your relationship top of mind while also making her better off just from having spoken with you.
  5. Fill fast
    When a job opens, offer it to the top person with whom you’ve stayed in touch. If she’s unable to say “yes,” offer it to the next best candidate on your list.
  6. Repeat
    As you maintain contact with candidates who are ready to be hired, you can repeat these steps with another role (if you like). And then another. And then another.

Smart decision making and a speedy process can work hand in hand when you’re slow to hire and fast to fill. This balanced approach lets your organization make prudent hiring decisions while filling jobs the moment they become open.

 

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As president of the Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott Wintrip has helped thousands of companies improve their ability to hire talent on demand. He helped these organizations to grow faster, increase revenues, improve profitability, and expand market share. In the process of advising, educating, and coaching his clients, he has created more than $1.3 billion in positive economic impact for them. An astute strategist, he is respected for his strong leadership and practical advice. He is also the author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill, April 2017). You can learn more about him and his services at WintripConsultingGroup.com.

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