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

This continuation of the two-part article covers specific actions that corporate recruiters can implement to speed up their hiring during each individual step of the recruiting process. Part 1 covered the cost of slow hiring and some advanced steps on how to improve the speed of the overall hiring process.

Speed Improvements for Each Major Step of Recruiting

To quicken the pace of hiring, talent acquisition leaders must be aware of the most effective and proven tools for reducing the classic speed-of-hire metric: time to fill. There are various ways to reduce this amount of time, at all phases of recruitment.

Change the recruiting process

Improve your speed of hire by adjusting the recruitment process to:

  • Train recruiters and hiring managers. Start by educating both of these groups on the negative aspects of expedited hiring. Then tell them when they (recruiters or hiring managers) are the cause of the problem. Support their awareness by offering proven and easy-to-understand speed-of-hire tools.
  • Prioritize your jobs. Rather than trying to improve speed on every job, focus your efforts only on those jobs where speed has a major impact and/or where new-hire quality is really important. Designate which jobs are “expedited jobs” and then focus recruiting resources on those positions.
  • Prioritize applicants who are in high demand. You should also expedite hiring for highly sought-after applicants; speed is absolutely critical in order to land them.

Streamline the requisition approval process

You can expedite your req approval process with these actions:

  • Limit approvals for expedited jobs. Because many approvals turn out to have no actual positive impact, eliminate the ones that have an extremely low reject or problem identification rate.
  • Set an automatic approval date for expedited jobs. Let a req move forward automatically whenever a manager fails to act before the specified req approval deadline.
  • Let sourcing begin after only 60 percent of the requisition signatures are obtained. For expedited jobs, let sourcing begin simultaneously as the approvals are still being obtained.
  • Use electronic approvals. Eliminating paper signatures dramatically improves requisition approval speed.

Eliminate excessive job specs

You can streamline hiring if each initial req includes reasonable job specifications.

  • Demand realistic job specifications. Many hiring managers demand position specs or experience requirements that are so high that they can double sourcing time. After the initial sourcing failure, the search must be completely restarted with lower specs because so few prospects in the talent pool could meet the original ones.

Refine job posting approaches

You can streamline hiring by setting shorter job posting time periods. Shortening them does not have much of a negative impact because, as one (StartWire) study demonstrated, “almost 50 percent of all hires had applied within the first week after a job was posted.”

  • Set earlier job posting end dates.Cut 20 percent off of posting times and see if there is a measurable negative impact on the quality of applicants.
  • Begin sorting early. For expedited jobs, begin sorting/qualifying resumes before the posting deadline is reached.
  • Publish simultaneous postings. In order to limit delays, post internal preference and external job announcements so they run at the same time.

Decrease target response speed

Ineffective communication with prospects can cause major hiring delays. To reduce response time, try to:

  • Improve return calls with “same-level calls.” Having a professional at the same job level contact the target may result in a 10 times higher response rate than when a recruiter places the initial call.
  • Use the mobile platform for communicating. Use market research to identify the communication channels that have the fastest and the slowest response rates. Frequently, the mobile platform provides the fastest response rate because it is carried and accessed 24/7.

Accelerate resume screening

Streamline resume screening, which takes up a significant portion of the total recruiting time. Some approaches to consider include:

  • Use LinkedIn profiles rather than waiting for an updated resume. “Passive prospects” can be slow in applying because they simply don’t find the time to update their resume. You can eliminate that wait for an updated resume by accepting LinkedIn profiles as an initial application. LinkedIn profiles, because they have the same exact format, also make it easier to make side-by-side candidate comparisons.
  • Set benchmark resume review time periods. Recruiters should set strict resume review time periods, and then they should alert hiring managers when they have reached the deadline.
  • Withdraw resumes from slow hiring managers. An effective approach at large firms is to require that resumes must be read in x number of days. If they are not reviewed by the deadline, then the provided candidates are withdrawn and they go to other managers within the firm.
  • “Five great no uglies” candidate slates. Unfortunately, hiring managers may create resume review delays when they find an ugly resume (i.e., a totally unqualified candidate) among the resumes provided by the recruiter. This frustration often causes them to stop reading resumes for many days. So if you provide only great resumes (and no ugly unqualified ones), hiring managers are much more willing to read the supplied resumes.

Pre-identify and pre-assess candidates

Decrease hiring speed dramatically by creating a talent pipeline, where promising prospects are evaluated in advance of an actual job opening. Some of the most effective approaches include:

  • An electronic prospect talent community. Firms can create an online community for nurturing and assessing those prospects who have expressed an interest in some future job at your firm. A talent community allows them to learn more about the firm, and it gives recruiters an opportunity to build relationships and to assess the candidates.
  • Pre-assessed talent pools. A talent pool is made up of current and past applicants who have been pre-assessed and determined to be qualified for future openings. Many in the talent pipeline may be applicants who were “almost hired” when they applied for past jobs. Having a prequalified applicant pipeline makes it easier to fill a vacancy quickly.
  • Predictive “prior to need” hiring. Organizations that forecast job openings, turnover, and retirement openings can hire and train replacements so that they are ready when predicted openings actually occur. This “prior to need” hiring is a practice used by the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Contest winners. Firms can use online technical contests to identify a group of very capable prospects who can later be targeted for hiring when a position opens. (Most contestants are likely to be currently employed “passives.”) 

Speed up employee referrals

Not only do referrals routinely produce the highest volume and quality of hires, but they also can produce the fastest hires under a well-designed referral program. Some referral speed improvement approaches include:

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  • Boomerang referrals. These “already known” ex-employees can be contacted and rehired quickly. They are usually easily tracked and contacted by employees or recruiters on LinkedIn.
  • Proactive referrals are the fastest. So proactively seek out the top past referrers and ask them directly for referrals for expedited jobs in their job family. Incidentally, top performers also make high-quality referrals.
  • Create A+ candidate referral deadlines. For expedited jobs, set a one-week deadline for screening and interviewing A+ referrals.
  • Increase the referral bonus for expedited jobs. Provide an added reward for referrals in expedited jobs that are made within one week.
  • Blue-light specials sandwich board referrals. Providing a “blue-light special” sandwich board in the lobby announcing immediate referral needs can result in many same-day referrals. Periodic targeted electronic “need help alerts” for key jobs can also be effective.
  • Same-day referral assessment events. Holding on-site referral events can be quite effective in getting same-day referrals. During these events, employees are interviewed about their top referrals, and then candidate interview decisions are made on the spot.
  • Meet the team at an on-site evening referral event. Invite top referrals to a “meet-the-team” evening event where offers are made on-site before the event is over.

Speed up interviews

To avoid the delays that occur during the interview scheduling and interview processes:

  • Limit the number of interviews. Set a limit on the number of interviews, or educate hiring managers about the drawbacks of conducting more than four interviews.
  • Use live video or telephone interviews. Reduce scheduling delays, eliminate travel time, and impress them with your use of technology by offering live video interviews via mobile phone (at least for initial interviews).
  • Record your interviews. Make a video of your interviews so that those who are absent can watch them later. Also, the interview video can be viewed again at a later date, often avoiding the need for a re-interview.
  • Interview on Fridays. Reduce the perennial problem of hiring manager unavailability by making it a corporate policy, requiring them to be available on interview day.
  • Hold all interviews on the same day. Coordinate interviews and hold them on a single day so that candidates only need be physically present only once.
  • Speed interviewing. Follow the speed-dating model, which allows managers to briefly interview multiple candidates in a single event.
  • Track the manager’s time to complete all interviews. Identify which managers are particularly slow at interviewing, so that slow managers can be helped.
  • Limit hiring by consensus. Avoid consensus decision-making, because it dramatically increases hiring time when you have to get everyone on board with a hiring decision.
  • Avoid duplicate questions in multiple interviews. Shorten total interview time by reducing the duplication of interview questions. Do that by assigning the interview questions to the most appropriate person. Also share the interview questions and their responses online, so that everyone involved in the hiring can review them.

Quicken the offer process

You can dramatically reduce the time involved in making and accepting offers by taking the following actions:

  • Know their job-acceptance criteria. You can avoid the time it takes to renegotiate an offer or to shift to the second-ranked candidate if you identify a top candidate’s job acceptance criteria and then you meet it in your offer.
  • Same-day offers. Hiring speed can be increased dramatically if you don’t let the finalist leave the building without an offer.
  • Exploding offers. Supplying an incentive for the candidate to say yes quickly or before they leave the building can be extremely powerful.
  • Offer acceptance on the mobile phone. Reach out via the finalist’s mobile phone to make it easy for them to instantly say yes from anywhere.

The Bottom Line: Making Accelerated Recruitment Work For You

Note that hiring speed was revealed to be one of the top five most important recruiting problem areas in a recent ERE.net survey of recruiters and hiring managers. Although I have found that few in recruiting are experts in speed of hire, it is easy to learn how to expedite processes, because so many other business functions have long excelled at expediting and speeding up their business processes.

So if you aren’t satisfied with the tips that I provided in this series of articles, I encourage you to walk over to your production, supply chain, or IT function to get direct advice on how to speed up your hiring process. They can also help you to build the business case for covering the high dollar impact of reducing process speed.

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.