The concept behind “hire slow, fire fast” is understandable. There’s no sense in being careless about your hiring process. After all, a bad hire can cost you $17,000 to a whopping $240,000 (depending on the role). Thoughtful, deliberate due diligence can lead to successful and long-lasting hires. But if you’re still hiring “slow”—meaning that you’re taking more time than other employers to make hiring decisions—you’re missing the point. Time-to-hire matters. Your competitors are using recruiting firms and advanced technology to accelerate their hiring processes while maintaining the highest standards. Is it too good to be true? Let’s find out.
Why Time-to-Hire Matters
You may see time-to-hire averages reported around 30-45 days or so and think that you’re doing pretty well at that rate. But it’s all relative. There’s an often-quoted stat that most talented people are off the market in 10 days. It’s been cited so many times in the past five years that we’re not even sure where that number first originated. But as recruiters out in the field, we can say with absolute certainty that the claim bears more than a grain of truth.
In fact, think of the averages this way: If you don’t win over a top candidate for a highly competitive position within the first two weeks, your time-to-hire might increase exponentially as you sift through, interview, and reject candidates that don’t quite measure up. The longer it takes, the poorer the quality of matches (generally speaking), and so on. The candidates willing to wait for you and to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop will likely not be your ideal picks. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that applicants who are unemployed for less than five weeks have a 30.94% chance of receiving a job offer, while those who are unemployed for 27+ weeks have an 18.44% chance.
So 45 days—or whatever the industry average is for that role—should not be your goal for most jobs. Within two weeks—or, really, ASAP—is the goal that will give you the best candidate pool.
A study of recently laid-off tech workers who have been rehired shows two out of every five found a job less than a month after they began searching. Nearly 80% were employed again after three months. That was just below the 83% share of all laid-off workers who were re-employed in the same time frame.
Who’s to say that those first few hires weren’t the best of the best? That the top talent who took three months or maybe even longer weren’t really passive candidates during that time—enjoying their time off thanks to a nice severance package— and once they were ready to jump back into the candidate pool, they had offers quickly? Assumptions in these areas can be costly.
Time-to-hire vs time-to-fill
It’s important to note at this point the difference between time-to-hire and time-to-fill. Here’s how SHRM defines them:
“Time to fill captures the time for the entire hiring process, from job requisition to job acceptance; time to hire captures the time the eventual hire entered the talent pipeline to the time they accepted an employment offer.”
The metrics are often used interchangeably. In the end, though, time-to-fill affects your operations: How long can you be without that role before it affects the bottom line or team morale? When we discuss time-to-hire here, we’re referring to the time it takes to move each candidate through the hiring process. Both are critical metrics and deserve attention. We’re focusing primarily on time-to-hire in this report.
How to Accelerate Hiring
You can’t just snap your fingers and reduce time-to-hire. But you can take some steps to move faster without sacrificing quality.
Improve your candidate pool
You likely already know that listing a job on popular job sites alone won’t get you in front of the candidates you hope to attract. But why? And what’s the magic formula, then?
First, you need to understand the net you’re casting. Is it ignoring important demographics? Jobvite found that while 45% of surveyed workers want to find a new job this year, that number jumps to over half of certain minority populations, including veterans, Blacks, workers with disabilities, and parents of school-aged children. Therefore, have you considered tailoring your recruiting efforts to attract overlooked populations, and have you thought about how the motivations and behaviors of these populations may differ from job candidates as a whole?
Let’s look at a classic example of women versus men to illustrate this point. Women are 16% less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing it and, therefore, apply to 20% fewer jobs. Why? Research has uncovered that in order to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%. But here’s the missed opportunity: Women are also 16% MORE likely than men to get hired after applying for a job and 18% more likely to be hired for a senior role. Women are desirable candidates, as long as you can convince them to apply.
Then there’s that pesky little problem of finding and attracting passive job seekers, who will definitely not see or respond to a job listing proactively. Many of these potential candidates switched jobs recently as a part of the “Great Resignation” and are no longer searching (but are also no happier with their new job than they were before). Recruiters and word-of-mouth are the best ways to reach these candidates.
Rethink your job descriptions and requirements
About 52% of job seekers told Indeed the quality of a job description is very or extremely influential on their decision to apply. Without thoughtful wording, your job descriptions may not compel the best-fitting candidates to apply. Heck, those candidates may never even see your job descriptions at all. It’s imperative to eliminate all but the most essential criteria and make sure those key points are stated clearly and accurately. The more focused you can make it, the easier it will be to find good matches quickly.
Some of the other mistakes we see with poorly worded job descriptions are:
Not following the guidelines/instructions of each job board you’re using. Not all job boards are created equal. It’s essential to tailor your listing to fit the best practices of each job board so that your listing has a fighting chance of being seen in searches. Reputable recruiters can help (and even do that work for you).
Not clearly or realistically defining required qualifications versus preferred qualifications. Take an honest look at your requirements. As stated earlier, many job seekers won’t apply unless they believe they’re a 100% match. Are you ruling out great potential employees by not allowing for transferable skills or opportunities for upskilling?
Job titles that no longer reflect the job or modern job-seeker preferences. Tyrone Smith, Jr., Global Head of People Analytics & Insights at Udemy, makes an excellent case for re-evaluating your job titles. “Conventional job titles have become outdated in many different workplace contexts,” he states. Updating those job titles can vastly improve job seeker response. Indeed found that 36% of job seekers search by job title, so it’s important to understand what is being searched for and tailor your titles accordingly.
Ignoring perks. Today’s job seekers have particular desires: remote and flexible work arrangements, mental health provisions, quality healthcare, and childcare assistance top the list. Featuring these modern perks in your job descriptions is a smart move (if you do indeed have the perks). Joblist’s 2022 Trends Report found that 80% of job seekers believe that employers need to re-evaluate their benefits. About 54% would consider taking a lower-paying job with a better benefits package.
Keeping compensation too tightly guarded. Nearly 40% of job seekers expect salary to be included in an initial job posting. Doing so can be tricky, but don’t just skip the salary field without putting some thought into it. There should be a compelling reason to keep it (or a range) secret. Remember that job seekers have other ways to find out that information—and more—through sources like Glassdoor and Comparably.
Giving no indication of company culture within the listing. About 72% of job seekers consider details about company culture very or extremely important in a job listing. Your job descriptions—alongside your website, social media and other online assets—should exude a consistent message about who you are as an organization. If they don’t, take some time to make it happen.
Trash old processes
Nearly 60% of job seekers quit online job applications mid-way due to their length and complexity. About 58% of applicants who did make it through the hiring process told CareerPlug they declined an offer because they had a poor experience with the company during that most crucial time. Many cited a slow and disorganized hiring process as the reason. In contrast, a positive experience helped lead to an offer acceptance in 80% of the cases.
It’s imperative to establish a well-defined hiring process and make sure everyone in the organization knows how it works, who’s responsible for what steps, and when they need to be completed. Set deadlines for every step in the process and make sure everyone is aware of them. This will help recruiters identify potential delays that can be avoided and provide a consistent timeline for candidates.
And automate where you can. Yes, a recruiting firm told you to automate (because we do). A.I. tools and automation are essential for streamlining the recruitment process and accelerating time-to-hire. But you need to know when and how to use them effectively. For instance, 75% of recruiters and over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS technology to help them weed through resumes. But there’s a trick to using the technology to prevent one little infraction—file formatting or having a B.S. instead of a B.A. degree—from taking a top candidate out of the running.
Automation tools are increasingly important for communication during the hiring process as well. Take chatbots, for example. You can use an automated chatbot feature to keep candidates informed throughout the process. Why? Recruiting software company iCIMS found that 76% of job seekers feel that not hearing back from an employer after applying for a job is more frustrating than not hearing from someone after a first date. They want a way to ask questions 24/7 but don’t expect the answers to come from a human every time. About 66% of candidates are comfortable interacting with chatbots during the hiring process (before their interview, specifically). Recruiters use these tools to respond to and inform candidates along the way so that there isn’t a feeling of being ghosted.
Don’t leave them at the offer
Despite popular belief, the clock doesn’t actually stop on time-to-hire when the offer is accepted. Onboarding and those first vital months are critical for retention. Here’s why: One in every three new hires today will leave a job in the first 90 days. A recent poll by the Muse gives further insights, showing that 72% of young workers say they’ve regretted a new job after starting. Additionally, they found that 20% of job seekers say they would quit within a month if their new job isn’t what they expected, and another 41% would give a new job just two to six months before quitting. Regular check-ins in those first critical days, weeks, and months are vital.
And, believe it or not, retention starts before their first day. Expedite your background checking process and other final decisions to get the information you need and get the newly hired employee in the door quickly. During that time, stay in touch. Why? People analytics firm Visier found that roughly one in five job seekers has ghosted an employer lately. About 46% of Dallas employers and 49% of Houston employers admit that ghosting has noticeably increased, even with newly hired employees. Roughly 42% of those ghosting say it was because they got another job offer, which is why keeping lines of communication open and noting changes in responses is imperative.
Along those same lines, be open to re-negotiation even after your top candidate accepts the offer. They may receive a better offer after accepting yours. Wouldn’t you rather be given a chance to discuss it than have them ghost you or suddenly back out of the job?
“Before you say ‘no’ out of hand, consider how much you’ve invested in recruiting this candidate so far, and how much it will cost you to restart the process. You don’t want to get into a bidding war, but you probably don’t want to lose out on a great candidate for a few dollars,” explains Zenefits’ Riia O’Donnell.
Don’t just rinse and repeat
Let’s dive deeper into acceptance rates. Accelerating your time-to-hire makes no difference if your candidate acceptance rates are abysmal. It’s essential to track your rate of offer acceptances and, if you spot a negative trend, find out why.
According to BLS research and our recruiters’ experiences, compensation is often the reason. When combined, however, personal/lifestyle factors can be even more of a deciding factor. These include the lack of childcare options, the schedule, a long commute, or the lack of flexibility. How important are these lifestyle factors? By 2022, for example, nearly half of all workers were willing to accept a lower salary in order to work remotely.
Get candidate and new employee feedback, watch trends, and listen to recruiters out in the field. As liaisons, recruiters can gain input from candidates who may not be as willing to share with the employers they just turned down. Sometimes it just comes down to a “feeling,” which points to something within company culture that just isn’t quite right. Advisors can help take that sort of abstract feedback and use it to pinpoint real, actionable areas of improvement.
Volume Hiring and Untethered Growth
Mass layoffs, particularly in the tech industry, have put shock and fear into the hearts of both employers and workers.
“Even traditionally layoff-resistant companies like Netflix have made cuts, and now companies that saw a pandemic-era boom, like Shopify, are cutting hundreds of jobs,” Business Insider reports. A PwC survey of 722 U.S. executives found that 50% anticipated a reduction in overall headcount in the next 12 months, while 52% foresaw instituting a hiring freeze and 44% expected to rescind job offers during that time.
The excuse given by most is that they grew too fast or hired too quickly during the pandemic-era tech hiring spree. Volume hiring is its own animal, and many well-known, well-respected companies have gotten it wrong lately.
While time-to-hire is important, don’t fixate on it in a vacuum. Before pulling the trigger on hiring, it’s essential to identify and mitigate the conditions that could bring you to a similar mass layoff situation. Improving your operational roadmap can help. So can adjusting your talent acquisition strategy: Is it time for temporary, temp-to-hire, or contract workers? It’s vital at this point to think outside the box and consider employment arrangements that could save you from facing a mass layoff again in the near future. Studies have shown that temp employment has been an essential tool for enhancing labor flexibility during economic uncertainty.
Speed When It Makes Sense
The key to successfully reducing time-to-hire is in understanding that hiring fast and being thoughtful about your hiring strategy aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be fast and smart with careful planning and repeatable processes. Consider acceptance rates and lifestyle factors when recruiting candidates, and think about how you can improve your operational roadmap and adjust your talent acquisition strategy in order to avoid hiring mistakes. Finally, don’t forget the power of temporary or contract workers. These arrangements can provide flexibility during economic uncertainty while helping you achieve your goals.
Ultimately, by considering all these measures, you’ll have a better chance at finding success with hiring new employees quickly and keeping them around long term. Use reputable recruiters as a resource and, if you need to hone your strategy from the ground up, seeking help from a knowledgeable advisor could be the best decision you make all year.