The One Metric That’s Causing Your Hiring to Go Haywire

Coronavirus has upended society in a way no other event has in recent memory. Estimates of when life might return to normal vary by months, but the consensus seems to be that at some point in the near future we’ll be doing the same things we had been doing at the start of the year. Which means the same problems will greet us once we get back to the office.

The hiring process is one of those problems. Research by Glassdoor found that the average amount of time it takes to fill an open position has grown by nearly four days in the previous six years. Gartner, the management and technology consultancy, recently conducted a similar study that focuses on white-collar jobs. The results? Standard hiring time for a white-collar role is a whopping 68 days, up 26 day from a study taken six years ago. Those extra 26 days can lead to staggering losses.

Take an enterprise sales position, for example. With a standard $1 million annual quota, your average loss in revenue every day an account executive post remains open is $4,150. Multiply that by the standard hiring time, and you’re out over $250,000.

Managers could blame everything from the proliferation of hiring committees to an increase in hiring tests and assessments, but there are smaller, everyday habits that also contribute to the issue.

For the past decade my agency has specialized in helping early-stage startups hire quickly. Though every industry is different, we’ve found six universal ways to fix the process, get hiring down to two or three weeks and stem the tide of all that lost productivity.

The problems begin with job postings that are too vague to attract the right candidate pool, too hip in an attempt to enlarge that pool or so restrictive (in a quest to ward off unqualified applicants) that they come off as negative or unfriendly.

Prospective employees are not only looking for a role fit but also a culture fit. The best way to start with the right pool is simple clarity: duties, requirements, benefits and employee characteristics.

For busy managers, it’s common practice to dump the launch of an interviewing process on HR for the box-checking of qualifications and the initial call. The smart know to avoid delegating.

Time kills deals, and the best candidates are in high demand. Being the tortoise in this race only narrows the talent pool. Because box-checking can be easily gleaned from a résumé, the best managers are quick to pick up the phone, see if there’s a fit and most importantly get candidates excited about the opportunity.

There are the hiring committees. The advisor who steps in after the process has begun. The venture firm that inserts itself in the search for new leaders. The peers and employees who all want their say. And the bigger the company, the more people involved.

These are the makings of the tortoise. With each new voice comes added delays from the time it takes to get everyone in the same room. Smart companies keep hiring on a need-to-be-involved basis.

Reducing the number of days between posting an opening and filling a desk means understanding that hiring is just as important —perhaps more important — as anything else you’re doing. In other words, stop rescheduling interviews. Applicants are familiar with the excuses:

“It conflicts with my team lunch.”

“I’m away at a trade show/at the airport.”

“I’m working from home.” (Unavoidable in these times, but soon, hopefully, not.)

Not only do these excuses slow the process to a crawl, but they send the wrong message to top candidates. After all, their schedules are just as tight as yours. Delaying interviews conveys that you’re no longer invested. If you don’t make hiring a priority, the best applicants will turn to companies that do.

You’ve set a budget and interviewed candidates within that range. But as the process plays out, your top picks discover that companies X, Y and Z are paying more, and their requirements have changed.

Without a realistic compensation range to begin with, you must ask for additional approval, which burns additional time. In the meantime, the process drags out, candidates become frustrated and those in demand discover there’s happier hunting elsewhere.

Firms in need of the most improvement are, ironically, those that spend the most time vetting. Caution is human instinct, of course. Everyone is familiar with the punishment of being saddled with a subpar employee. But the value of vetting has a way of costing you more in lost potential. If you’ve been selling your company as successful — that you have a strong pipeline and an employee is destined to grow — the poke, poke, poke of excess vetting can sour a deal, especially if it comes as the final step.

The reality is that vetting can easily be done while interviews are scheduled. It doesn’t just clear the field of red flags early. It allows you to maintain the momentum as you close the deal. After all, you get more bees with honey and pumping people up than you do with vinegar. Plus, vetting people before interviews means you can show how excited you are by making offers on the spot.

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