A Hiring Manager’s Guide to the Optimal Hiring Timeline

If you speak with any active job candidate, they’ll tell you the hiring process is a drain. They don’t mind sitting for interviews, demonstrating their skills, or sharing their work. It’s the waiting that causes them grief. Often, it’s also the waiting that motivates them to pursue other opportunities. As a hiring manager, you know the process is lengthy – but believe it’s for good reason. You’re being meticulous. Unless you urgently need to fill a position, you’ll take your time to vet each applicant and find the perfect person. With some exceptional candidates in the market right now, you’re sometimes spoiled for choice. And you believe if you hold out long enough, you’ll eventually find your dream candidate. But that’s where we offer a word of caution. The market is filled with strong candidates, but if you wait too long to make an offer, you risk losing them to a competitor. The same holds true for internal conflicts. If you and your boss are in a stalemate over what type of person to hire, you’ll miss out on many qualified professionals who were snapped up by faster-moving companies. To avoid missing out on great hires, we recommend you to optimize your hiring processes using the following steps:

1. Skip the phone screenings.

Our job as recruiters is vetting candidates so you only meet the cream of the crop. Hiring managers should not be conducting phone screens or meeting with 20 potential hires. If you’ve provided your recruiter with a comprehensive list of criteria, trust that they will deliver the best candidates available. Time is money, and you serve your company best by meeting with the top three to five candidates, choosing the one that’s most well-suited to the job, and moving on.

2. Cap in-person interviews at two per candidate.

It only takes two interviews to know whether a candidate belongs at your company. That’s enough time for you and the candidate to get to know one another and decide whether the opportunity is a fit. Consider scheduling a group lunch or social for the second meeting. The informal nature of that interview will help the candidate and their potential colleagues gauge whether they’ll enjoy spending time together.

3. Issue tests only when necessary.

Many companies are in the habit of issuing skills tests during interviews. That’s fine when it’s appropriate, but don’t subject candidates to superfluous exams. When you ask them to sit for a test, have a scoring rubric in place beforehand. We recently met with a client that instituted a new test without knowing how to score it. They asked a candidate to take the test but then had to corral several other candidates to take it as well so they’d know how to judge the interviewee’s performance. This wastes people’s time and increases the risk that the candidate will have accepted another offer by the time their performance has been assessed. Implement tests strategically. Tests can take an hour or more, so be mindful of the candidate’s time. You don’t want to ask them to sit for an exam right out of the gate because they haven’t had a chance to decide whether they’re willing to move forward. But tests shouldn’t be the last step either. If the candidate’s performance disqualifies them, you don’t want to have wasted hours of their time and yours, only to find out they’re ill-suited for the job at the very end.

4. Coordinate important introductions in advance.

Before making an offer, you may want to introduce the candidate to their potential colleagues and managers. Identify who should be part of the process and schedule those meetings in advance. Don’t slow the process by having to schedule additional in-person visits or worse, chasing people down during the interview.

5. Make a verbal offer quickly.

Issue a verbal offer job within two days of the last interview. Confirm that the candidate is committed before checking references and compiling a formal offer. Onboarding requires a significant amount of time and resources, so get a verbal acceptance before moving to the next step.

A Tip for Candidates

We know waiting out the hiring process can be frustrating, but the timeline is largely out of your control. Internal delays often extend the time frame, and that’s just something you have to bear as you search for a job. However, you can speed up the process by strategizing about when to start your search. If you’re job hunting during popular vacation months or audit seasons, hiring managers are sometimes out of town or too preoccupied to focus  entirely on the search. Understand that these things will slow down the process. Make sure you’re available for interviews as well. Don’t launch a job search just before you leave for a three-week vacation. Commit yourself to the process and be willing to accommodate hiring managers whenever their schedules allow. Other candidates are doing this and you must as well in order to stay competitive.

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