Twenty-nine working days. That’s how long it took, on average, to fill a job opening in the U.S. last year. For some industries, like finance and health services, it was even longer. And for white-collar jobs in particular, that number jumped to a staggering 68 days in 2016—26 days longer than it took in 2010.
Time to hire has been creeping up, up, up for years—and with it, the cost of hiring has gone through the roof. Every extra day, week, or even month that a position remains unfilled quickly start to add up, draining your resources, slashing productivity, and putting strain on existing employees as they’re left to pick up the slack. And the true cost might be higher than you think: research by CEB shows that per 1,000 vacancies, a sluggish hiring process costs over $8.55 million on average.
Worse still, an unnecessarily long hiring process can seriously damage your chances of hiring the best person for the job. Some experts predict that the highest quality candidates are snapped up within 10 days, meaning a lengthy process makes it impossible to compete for the candidates you want—especially when unemployment is low and demand for a certain skill is high. Like now, for instance.
The longer the process takes, the more frustrated candidates can get—and the more likely they are to drop out. A 2016 survey by Robert Half found that an overly long hiring process causes 46% of candidates to lose interest in the job and pursue other roles, while another 16% simply decide to stay with their current company.
That bad experience can do more than cost you great candidates for the job at hand. The same survey found that 39% of candidates question your company’s ability to make other decisions if you take too long to hire. And in the digital age, word of a poor candidate experience can spread fast, damaging your employer reputation and making it harder to attract great candidates in the future.
This all begs the question: why does the hiring process take so long—and what can you do about it?
To understand that, it’s important to look at every stage in the hiring process—from the day your job post goes live to the moment an offer is made. Of course, you also invest time before posting a job defining your requirements and writing a compelling job description. But let’s put that aside for now and look at where some bottlenecks lie.
The application window: the problem with too many or too few
Your job post is live and the time-to-hire clock has started ticking. The first metric to consider is how long your window for accepting applicants really is. That may depend on whether you receive a steady flow of resumes, a sudden flood, or barely any interest at all—and that can fluctuate dramatically from job to job.
If your job description is too vague or your application process a little too easy, it’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed with more resumes than you know what to do with. Typically, the first resume is submitted within 200 seconds of a job being posted—not nearly enough time for the applicant to have fully read and digested your job description. That may explain why one in three applicants for entry-level jobs is unqualified, leading to a massive pool of unqualified candidates for you to go through and filter out.
Of course, if few people apply or are not qualified, you may be tempted to leave your posting up longer—dragging out the process and causing candidates who have applied to lose interest while they wait.
Filtering applications: the needle-in-the-haystack approach
There reaches a saturation point when it becomes nearly impossible for you to manually look through every application. So you turn to other alternatives—some may tack extra hours onto the process, others may skip over qualified candidates, and so on.
Maybe you hire a third-party recruiter. But your team struggles to communicate your criteria, leading to endless back-and-forth and time wasted hunting for a constantly moving target.
Maybe you use your applicant tracking system to scan for keywords and deliver the most relevant resumes. But there’s a strong chance that great applicants will fall through the cracks—for example, if they didn’t use the exact words or phrases you’re scanning for. Unqualified candidates, meanwhile, might fill their resume with all the right keywords to pass and it will up to you to catch their resume and remove it.
Or maybe you do the initial legwork before handing off a smaller pool of applicants to your hiring manager to filter further. But your hiring manager isn’t happy with any of the applicants, so you have to start all over again.
At this point, days or even weeks have gone by. And there’s still a long way to go.
Phone screenings: the curse of obligation and politeness
With a shortlist in hand, you begin screening candidates who made the cut, scheduling thirty-minute calls with each candidate.
Unfortunately, after only a few minutes into the call, you know they aren’t right. Do you tell them ‘thank you but no thank you’ and hang up? No because that would be rude. So, you carry on, knowing full well that you’re wasting their time—and yours. Multiply this by several candidates, and it gets expensive (timewise)—and doesn’t add to a great candidate experience (even if they didn’t even make the cut!).
The interview phase: more people, more time, no guarantees
Finally, you get enough candidates to get to the interview phase. You spend more time lining up schedules, coordinating with the hiring manager, subject matter experts, and anyone else who needs to interview the candidates. And when the candidate is finally sitting in front of you, it feels like you’re finally approaching the finish line… right?
Among tech companies, 47% of employers spend 5-10 hours across all their people per candidate—with a further 37% spending more than 10 hours. That includes the time it takes to prepare for and conduct multiple interviews with each candidate. Repeat that for a dozen candidates or more, and you’ve added days or even weeks to that ticking clock. And that’s assuming that each candidate’s interviews took place over a single day. Space them out over several days, and the clock keeps amassing calendar days.
Nor does a lengthy interview phase necessarily equate to a better quality of hire. Take Google. After digging into its time-to-hire metrics to figure out why the process took so long, the company discovered that after the fourth interview mark, the rule of diminishing returns set in.
After an exhaustively long search, you want to know you’ve hired the best person for the job. Unfortunately, 46% of new hires fail within the first 18 months. And the cost of replacing a bad hire? One-fifth (21%) of their annual salary (and that is one of the more conservative estimates)—plus the time and resources it takes to start the job hunt all over again.
Reduce your time to hire with a consistent, streamlined process
When it takes weeks or even months to fill every opening, something, somewhere, is not right. So, what can you do to cut your time to hire down—without sacrificing quality? Here are a few steps you can try, for starters:
Take the time to clearly define your requirements and communicate them clearly in your job description.
Use those requirements to filter the applicant pool. This should leave you with a shortlist that you already know are a good fit—so you won’t waste time on interviews that would never work out.
Clearly communicate the job requirements across the hiring team, to avoid searching for a moving target.
Establish a consistent set of questions based on the requirements, so candidates are evaluated consistently independent of who interviews them.
Replace screener interviews with a more efficient and systematic approach, like soft-skills or trait assessments as part of your process.
When you set out with a clear understanding of desired skills and traits, and a consistent, efficient process to find the best person for the job, you’ll find that your time to hire can drop significantly—from months to just a week or two. That in turn drives your hiring costs down while pushing engagement up, leading to a better candidate experience that may ultimately boost job performance and retention, not to mention the cultural benefits and diversity that will occur in the company.
All of the above is accomplished using career.place. Our software solution helps companies evaluate candidates quickly and fairly, based on the things that really matter. To find out how we can help you reduce your time to hire and find the best person for the job in no time, get in touch today.