Gaining A Competitive Advantage Through Increasing “The Speed Of Hire”

Want to achieve extraordinary results? Set unreasonable timetables! – John Patrick IBM Strategist

What is the speed of hire?

A deliberate strategy for improving the quality of our hires by decreasing the cycle time for making a hiring decision. Don’t confuse speed of hire with “time to fill”. Speed of hire is a strategy to increase the quality of the hire! Our goal is to hire the very best and brightest but the competitors have the same goals. How is one to gain a competitive advantage if we use the same tools and strategies as our competitors?

Consider using speed hiring (also known as “real time” hiring) which is where the candidate is hired before the competitor even responds to their resume with the standard acknowledgement postcard! Normally the quality the people that are hired is the key metric for measuring the effectiveness of the employment function. In certain circumstances, the speed of hire may actually be the most significant contributor to a quality hire.

Let’s start with an illustration. A star player (i.e. Michael Jordan) begins to look for a job. How long would a star be on the market? A month, a week or a day? What are your chances of snagging this star if your selection decision takes 60 days? A major computer firm found this out when it examined the number of superstar candidates it was hiring. When they found the number of star hires to be unacceptably low they identified an astonishing fact. Superstars are only on the market for a brief time (usually less than two weeks and sometimes as little as a day).

The firms hiring process was so slow that by the time a decision could be made the star candidates were lost to the faster moving competitors and only above average candidates were left to choose from. The premise of speed hiring is that if you can build a decision process that responds to a hiring opportunity in a day or a week you will capture these superstars before the competitor can even schedule an interview!

Possible advantages of speeding up the time to hire:

  • The very best and brightest are in great demand. If you make rapid decisions for certain jobs you will get a better quality of hire.
  • Applicants may judge your firm by the speed of your hiring decision making. Wasting peoples time (due to interviewing scheduling delays etc.) irritates them and shows we don’t respect them.
  • There is no evidence that slow hiring produces better hires. There is evidence that the most desirable candidates are on the job market for “as little as a day?.
  • To gain respect in our own company HR must learn to mirror the speed of change of our product. HR must move at the same speed as the rest of the company Internet speed?
  • Delays can cause managers (and candidates) to lose interest in the process because they see no immediate rewards of making hiring a priority.
  • Once employment learns to use speed as a competitive advantage the rest of HR may follow our template and model our actions. We have to reduce the bureaucratic image of HR.
  • Targeted speed hiring sends the massage to HR and to managers that it is OK to prioritize customers and stop treating all of them equally.
  • The time for the department to return to productivity is shortened.
  • Team and product development disruption is reduced, as departing members are replaced rapidly.

Why do hiring decisions take so long?

Steps that tend to delay a hiring decision the most include:

  1. Time to issue the requisition/ job descriptions
  2. Advertising delays
  3. Approvals (headcount approval, salary range decisions)
  4. Resumes sitting on desks prior waiting for review
  5. Resumes that can’t be sent electronically to managers
  6. Getting hiring managers to make hiring (and scheduling interviews) a high priority
  7. Travel time and delays in scheduling multiple interviews
  8. Management indecision on hiring criteria and who is the best “fit”

Possible tools and techniques to reduce time to hire cycle times:

  • Eliminate / Reduce approvals or conduct post-hire analysis to see if the approvals were actually necessary
  • Eliminate screening steps for “speed hire” positions (or make them optional for selected “good” managers)
  • Set predetermined hiring criteria (with metrics) so side by side candidate comparisons are no longer necessary
  • Identify key jobs (and managers) where speed of hire can make a difference. Set quotas and metrics to monitor the effectiveness of the program
  • Pre-qualify certain candidates for “instant” hire capabilities
  • Get all headcount approvals before the hire process. Have “corporate resource” positions to hire superstars even when there is no open positions
  • Eliminate requisitions
  • Automate the process and eliminate all paper
  • Set a fixed maximum time limit for each step of the hiring process
  • Monitor and reward managers for fast, quality decisions
  • Eliminate consensus hiring decisions (and occasionally drop team approvals). Make it automatically approved, if you don’t veto a decision by a certain this time.
  • Make certain hiring steps optional for key positions or key managers
  • Conduct simultaneous approvals (internal postings/ reference checks etc.) while other processes are still going on.
  • Forecast openings and hiring trends so candidates can be in the pipeline prior to the time they are actually needed
  • In high turnover jobs, do continuous hiring even if there isn’t currently an open requisition
  • Do remote hiring using video or telephone interviews so scheduling problems are minimized.
  • Tape the interviews so those that are absent can view them.
  • Reduce the number of everything by ___ % (Approvals, reference checks, interview questions etc) to force us to focus on the ones that really make a difference.
  • Do simultaneous internal and external posts. Eliminate any internal post waiting period
  • Put your best (fastest) recruiters (or a special hire team) on the targeted speed hire jobs
  • Do a process map of your recruiting/ selection process. Look for “dead time” and use metrics to measure which steps add little value
  • Train recruiters and managers on how to cut cycle time
  • If multiple interviews are undertaken, share the interview questions and responses to minimize duplications. For panel interviews assign targeted questions to those with the appropriate expertise to minimize duplication.
  • Increase referral bonuses for speed hire jobs
  • Do “instant hires” with candidates that were pre-qualified or who are recommended by key employees/ managers
  • Pre-write your job ads and web page announcements
  • Use web pages for rapid postings, as opposed to the slower “paper ads”
  • Limit the reasons managers can use to reject a candidate
  • Assign someone to track the progress of the hiring process (like fed X tracks its packages) and to expedite the decision process.
  • Distribute speed hire metrics by individual manager so all can know who are the slowest and the fastest
  • Drop any requirements for completing Job Descriptions/ Requisitions prior to the beginning of the search

Possible problems with increasing the “speed of hire”:

  • Some may initially feel less ownership of the hiring process
  • Fast decisions may scare candidates that are not ready to make a decision
  • Head count targets might be missed. Finance and others outside HR might not agree.
  • It might violate our culture.
  • The HR technology that we have might not allow us to do it

Companies who have, in some cases, increased their speed to hire:

  • HP
  • Schwab
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • EDS
  • Chase Bank
  • C-Cube

Possible Non-HR models to follow

  • Jiffy Lube
  • Fed X
  • Mc Donald’s Reengineered Manufacturing Processes (agile manufacturing)

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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