What’s the Holdup with Hiring?

A recent Glassdoor poll finds the average interview process took close to 23 days in 2013, compared to approximately 12 days in 2009. While thoroughly vetting candidates is a must, experts say the risk of frustrating candidates and damaging the corporate brand increases greatly when the company drags its feet in filling positions — or even if applicants perceive as much.  

By Mark McGraw


At the moment, recruiters and hiring managers may be walking a fine line between taking their time and taking too much time to fill open positions.

Using data taken from interview review surveys completed by approximately 14,500 of its users, Sausalito, Calif.-based job and career site Glassdoor found the average interview process lasting 23 days in 2013, compared to 12 days in 2009.

The poll – which, Glassdoor notes, was not a randomized, scientific survey — finds averages fluctuating significantly by industry, but generally sees the interview process becoming lengthier across the board.

In the restaurant, bar and food-services sector, for instance, the process has stretched from an average of seven days in 2009 to 12 days in 2013.

Meanwhile, applying and interviewing for positions in entertainment and recreation took nearly a month on average in 2013, versus 13 days in 2009.

There are a number of elements that may be contributing to time-to-fill delays within organizations, says Robin Erickson, vice president of talent-acquisition research at Oakland, Calif.-based Bersin by Deloitte. 

Using pre-hire assessments, for example, can be quite effective in predicting future performance, but it also “takes time to administer and thoroughly evaluate results,” she says.

The search for the ever-elusive “purple squirrel” may be bogging some recruiters down as well, says Erickson.

“Since the cost of hiring the wrong person is extremely high, some organizations have become much more selective with the desired candidate requirements — skills, education, experience, location — [and wind up] looking for a candidate that doesn’t exist.”

Some companies’ interviewing procedures may also be suffering from a lack of purpose, she says.

“Too often today, interviews are unstructured and rely on the skills and perhaps even the whims of a particular hiring manager. The conversation may focus on irrelevant questions such as ‘What do you want to do five years from now?’ rather than probing into the candidate’s potential to fulfill the job at hand.”

The still-rebounding economy is a factor as well, adds Erickson, noting that some organizations have taken to requesting a “slow down” or “run rate” for open positions as a way to manage costs.

Indeed, lingering effects of the Great Recession are giving employers pause, says Mo Captan, lead of experienced-hire recruiting at New York-based consultancy Booz & Co.

“As a carryover from the recession, companies are still quite critical and conservative in their evaluation of talent,” says Captan. “Recruiters, HR business partners [and] hiring managers are all aware of mistakes made in the past — pre-recession — when firms were over-hiring, often bringing on less-than-adequate talent.”

As a result, “we have moved to an ultra-conservative mind-set that not only vets the best candidate, but is fungible enough to handle multiple tasks should the original hiring need dissipate.”

Stricter labor laws bring an additional degree of difficulty to the equation for recruiters, he continues.

“Firing an employee is tougher, [and] poor hiring decisions can take a long time to correct. A more prolonged upfront process, designed to really scrutinize candidates, can theoretically help buffer against hires who are hard to ‘manage out’ of the business,” says Captan. “In the end, making the process 10 days longer will be seen as a better solution than [spending] months trying to remove a bad hire.”

There are “inherent advantages” to a lengthy interview process, says Erickson.

“Assessing critical competencies is a part of the overall candidate interview,” she says. “Hiring managers and recruitment professionals must assess soft skills, cultural fit and long-term potential. Employees hire for the needs of today and tomorrow, and by assessing soft skills, fit and potential, they safeguard and perpetuate company culture.”

Employers certainly need to vet job candidates thoroughly, and there’s no “ideal” timeframe for which to fill an opening. But hiring managers and recruiters may still want to keep one eye on the clock throughout the process.

“The disadvantages [of a longer process] are significant,” says Erickson.

“Frustrated hiring managers could disengage from the process, damaging relationships with recruiters. This will have an effect on future staffing situations,” she says.

HR leaders should be thinking in PR terms throughout the process as well.

“Frustrated talent could also disengage from the process, and share their negative experiences with their network, including [through] social platforms,” continues Erickson. “When a role is open for too long, the reputation of the organization could be tarnished by what seems like the inability to staff [or] make a decision.”

HR must lead the effort to ensure applicants don’t come away from the interview process with such perceptions, adds Fran Luisi, a principal at Rumson, N.J.-based retained-search firm Charleston Partners.

“It’s paramount that HR helps its internal clients understand and manage the public-relations posture of the organization, which can be adversely impacted by an overly lengthy and slow-moving process,” says Luisi.

“Not only does the organization assess potential candidates, but candidates are assessing [the organization] and conducting their own due diligence. HR needs to have ownership for the interview and recruitment process, including managing the timeline and the metrics associated with hiring, as well as perception.”


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