Steps for Increasing Your Speed of Hire in Order to Improve Your Quality of Hire, Part 1 of 2

This two-part in-depth article covers the how-to steps that corporate recruiters can use to speed up their hiring process. Speed of hire is an important topic for recruiting leaders because without it you won’t be able to successfully land high-quality candidates who are in and out of the job market quickly. This article is a follow up to last week’s companion article “The Top 12 Reasons Why Slow Hiring Severely Damages Recruiting And Business Results.”

How Much Money Slow Hiring Costs a Firm

Of course costs vary depending on the organization and the job, but as a rule of thumb, I estimate that the “on job performance” of those you hire into competitive jobs decreases by as much as 1 percent for every extra day that you delay a hiring decision. So if you add just 10 days to your normal average time to fill, you can expect the “on the job performance” of your new hire to drop by 10 percent. For a firm like Amazon, a 10 percent drop in its average revenue per employee of $750,000 would mean a loss of $75,000 for every new hire. Obviously this amount is many times higher than the standard cost per hire and it is a significant dollar loss that is almost always unreported.

Steps in the Hiring Process That Are the Biggest Bottlenecks to Hiring Speed

In order to improve your speed of hire, you must first identify the unnecessarily slow segments of your current hiring process that create bottlenecks and delays. You can identify those slow elements quite easily with the use of a recruiting process map that contains the minimum, the average, and the maximum number of days that are required for each step in the process over the last year. The steps that contain a large amount of “variation in time” are the ones that you should examine first. The goal is to determine if you can permanently reduce the time that a “bottleneck step” takes to at least the minimum number of days that have occurred at least occasionally in the past. Of course which steps are the most frequent bottlenecks vary with the organization, but in my almost 20 years of work on speed of hire, I have found the biggest bottleneck recruiting steps to be:

  1. The interview scheduling step
  2. The resume screening steps
  3. The approval process for new job requisitions
  4. The added step of having to reopen a search with more realistic job specifications

Other frequent lag points include creating the offer, excessive interviews, and indecisive hiring managers who can’t select the finalist.

Options Available to Recruiting Leaders Who Want to Improve Hiring Speed

There are 10 overall options to consider. Let’s start with the three worst options.

Three high-risk options not recommended for improving speed of hire

  • Take no action to increase speed in a highly competitive job market and end up hiring weak talent.
  • Do the hiring steps faster but with the same resources, which essentially means rushing through the steps and hoping that you don’t make serious errors in your rush.
  • Skip some of the steps at random in the hope that no damage will be done.

Five More Desirable Options for Improving Speed of Hire

Unfortunately corporate leaders sometimes take the above three risky options in order to increase their hiring speed. However, fortunately there are five better options that are more likely to produce satisfactory results. They include:

  • Process compression — by shrinking the “dead time” between the recruiting steps, you can increase hiring speed without any negative impacts. An example of compression — hold night and weekend interviews to reduce the normal interview scheduling dead time that occurs during the hours when candidates and hiring managers are often busy.
  • Do some steps simultaneously — rather than waiting for one step to end before starting another, execute the two steps simultaneously. An example of simultaneous steps — instead of waiting until your final interviews are completed, start doing reference checks halfway through the final interviews.
  • Do some steps in advance — during your free time, “pre-do” some important work before its normal deadline. An example of advanced work – have employees make “pipeline referrals” (that are pre-assessed and pre-sold) for jobs that will likely have openings in the near future. This pre-work can provide you with pre-qualified candidates who are ready to go immediately when an opening occurs.
  • Remove low value parts from an individual step — analyze each individual step for elements in it that don’t add much value. And then eliminate these low-value parts in the step. An example of removing low value parts — because many interviewers make pass or reject decisions quickly, shorten your interview time by at least 10 minutes.
  • Apply more or better resources to the high-priority steps — first prioritize the recruiting steps based on their impact on the final outcome. And then apply more or better resources to the step so that the step is now done faster and better. An example of applying more and better resources — speed up interview scheduling by eliminating the need for back-and-forth “scheduling availability messaging” by using a web scheduling calendar to allow interviewees to select their own available interview times.

Use the Right Speed of Hire Metrics

You’re guaranteed to be less successful in improving your speed of hire if you fail to understand the best ways to measure hiring speed and quality. Some metric tips include:

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  • Time to fill — be careful, because time to fill averages are misleading and they can mask slow hiring in expedited jobs.
  • Time to start time to start may be a more revealing metric when excessive “position vacancy days” are important. This is because delayed start dates do negatively impact revenue generation and productivity.
  • Filled by “need date” — this is a good supplemental metric because it reveals when hires are made either before or after they are really needed.
  • Use a quality-of-hire metric — you must measure the on-the-job performance and retention rate of new hires in order to tell precisely where speed matters, and where it doesn’t.
  • Benchmark data — you can get industry and region specific TTF comparisons from Staffing.org and PwC/Saratoga. For your information, the average time to fill according to a SHRM survey is 43 days and the benchmark speed of hire improvement firm is Google that now hires in 45 days, down from close to six months’ time to fill.

Some Advanced Speed-of-Hire Approaches to Consider

Some speed-of-hire approaches that don’t easily fit into the standard recruiting steps are provided in this last section.

  • Evergreen jobs — one or two jobs are designated as “evergreen jobs.” Evergreen jobs are jobs where you seem to always have openings, so managers agree that recruiters should “hire them all” whenever a qualified candidate becomes available. Evergreen jobs also help to ensure that your competitors will have a shortage of top candidates.
  • Hire during slack hiring times — identify periods of low competition for talent, and focus your hiring during those periods where it’s easier to hire quality fast. Focus especially on periods when your competitors have a hiring freeze. (January is the highest/competition month and December is the lowest).
  • Reward fast hiring — measure, recognize, and reward hiring managers and recruiters on speed, bad hires, and quality on key jobs.
  • Service level agreements — set time and quality expectations for both HR and hiring managers because these agreements can dramatically improve hiring speed.
  • Assign your best recruiters when speed is needed — put the best and fastest recruiters on expedited hire jobs or put together a special expedited hire team.
  • Assign someone to expedite the hiring progress — assign a recruiter to track hiring progress (like FedEx tracks it’ packages) on expedited jobs and to intervene and expedite when necessary
  • Use third-party firms — if a recruiter shortage is a contributor to the slowdown, use third-party firms for hiring in your non-speed jobs.
  • Most-wanted list — assemble a list of high-impact target prospects who executives agree would be game changers. Then start assessing and selling them at the very beginning of the year and keep it up until they say yes.
  • No job opening hiring (a corporate resource) when industry “game changers” or “pioneers” suddenly become available, large firms should have to have the capability of hiring a few “corporate resources” immediately, regardless of whether there is an open job.
  • Convert current temps to permanent — because temps are a known quantity, they can get up to speed quickly.

Next week – Part 2, which covers specific actions that recruiting leaders can take to improve hiring speed during each individual step of the hiring process.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.