At a glance
In a tight labour market where job vacancies are double what they were before the pandemic, candidates looking for a new role have a lot of choice.
However, many employers are missing out on valuable talent due to slow and cumbersome recruitment processes that see talented candidates being snapped up by the competition.
A recent survey by ELMO Software found that time-to-hire is increasing, from 33 days to 40 days in Australia and from 37 days to 50 days in New Zealand.
No one likes to be kept waiting. A Robert Half survey found 62 per cent of respondents reported losing interest in a job if they didn’t hear back from the employer within two weeks, increasing to 77 per cent by three weeks.
“It’s important for employers to act quickly,” says Tahnee McWhirter, a partner at HumanX HR.
In today’s job market, “candidates have lots of options, including other employers, staying in their current role or going to do things like consulting or living out their side hustle dream.”
Think of the hiring process as “a sales pitch”, says McWhirter.
“It’s easy to look at all the CVs you get and think that you’re in control of that process, but you’re not – the candidate at the end of the day has to choose us.”
She says that an employer should view the hiring process through the lens of candidate experience.
“[Candidates] need to feel like they’re continuously moving forward. Organisations that don’t return calls to candidates, promise that they’re going to respond and don’t, or leave any significant time where the candidate has to follow up – they’re automatically putting themselves out of the race.”
Creating a positive candidate experience through a series of touchpoints – from the initial point of contact to extending a formal offer – is critical.
Part of that is “making sure that messaging across [the] website, job boards, LinkedIn, socials, Glassdoor is all consistent, because quality candidates will do their homework and, thanks to Google, that’s very easy”, says McWhirter.
The way a potential employer engages with a candidate through this process is “the only window that a candidate has into what their future will look like at your company, and it needs to be curated to position the company in the best and most realistic light.”
Tips for hiring managers
Dysfunction happens when “no one owns the process”, McWhirter says.
Often, tasking the hiring manager – who likely has “a very busy day job” with little bandwidth to take on an extra project – with the responsibility for leading the hiring process is setting them up to fail, she says.
Instead, in organisations with an internal HR function, the HR team should drive the recruitment process, with the hiring manager contributing as “a subject matter expert or a stakeholder”.
As always, preparation is vital. Ensure the role is well-designed, so you know what you need in a candidate, says McWhirter.
It’s also important to “have a clear employee value proposition from day one, so that you know exactly what it is that you can offer.”
Map out the hiring process from end to end – but approach it with flexibility.
“If you say, ‘We’re going to advertise for 30 days’, and you find an amazing candidate on day five – it only takes one,” says McWhirter.
“It’s not progressive thinking [to believe] that you have to interview three people before you make a decision.”
You can also save time by screening candidates early.
“The most critical touchpoint that is often overlooked is the initial touchpoint, which is usually a phone call,” says McWhirter.
“That’s where you can get the non-negotiables out of the way – questions like salary, location, flexibility [and] anything that would be considered a non-negotiable by the employer – and equally asking the candidate, ‘What are your non-negotiables?’”
An employer can use this information to either rule out candidates or change their offer in response to candidate priorities.
“That’s important, too,” McWhirter says.
Think creatively when hiring
The challenge for an employer is to identify key skills, values and behaviour as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Longer is not always better. Faced with “an eight-step recruitment process, candidates will pull out simply because they can’t be bothered moving through all the steps,” says McWhirter.
Think outside the box, she says.
“Get creative with things like active interviewing, which is more about collaboration with a candidate and working through a problem together.”
Brief the candidate with information about the interviewers and the interview process.
“Setting them up for success in their interview is going to create an environment where they feel safe and where their true skills and their true personality can shine through,” McWhirter says.
As a result, “hiring managers will feel more confident to make a quick decision.”
Don’t be afraid to introduce informality into the recruitment process. Arrange a coffee meeting, where the candidate is joined by two or three people, “but it’s not a panel interview,” says McWhirter.
“You’re not creating this intimidating environment, but you’re giving the candidate an insight into your culture, and equally, you get the benefit of observation from a number of different people.”
Seal the recruitment deal
Keep in mind that some candidates will keep looking, even after a verbal offer, so it’s a good idea to get documents signed as quickly as possible.
Be aware that occasionally a candidate can be lost after signing a contract if another offer comes in. Showing love to a signed candidate with phone calls to confirm their start date and equipment preferences may help to keep them on board.