Steps for Increasing Your Speed of Hire in Order to Improve Your Quality of Hire, 2 Part article

This two-part in-depth article covers the how-to steps that corporate recruiters can use to speed up their hiring process. Speed of hire is an important topic for recruiting leaders because without it you won’t be able to successfully land high-quality candidates who are in and out of the job market quickly. This article is a follow up to last week’s companion articleThe Top 12 Reasons Why Slow Hiring Severely Damages Recruiting And Business Results.”

How Much Money Slow Hiring Costs a Firm

Of course costs vary depending on the organization and the job, but as a rule of thumb, I estimate that the “on job performance” of those you hire into competitive jobs decreases by as much as 1 percent for every extra day that you delay a hiring decision. So if you add just 10 days to your normal average time to fill, you can expect the “on the job performance” of your new hire to drop by 10 percent. For a firm like Amazon, a 10 percent drop in its average revenue per employee of $750,000 would mean a loss of $75,000 for every new hire. Obviously this amount is many times higher than the standard cost per hire and it is a significant dollar loss that is almost always unreported.

Steps in the Hiring Process That Are the Biggest Bottlenecks to Hiring Speed

In order to improve your speed of hire, you must first identify the unnecessarily slow segments of your current hiring process that create bottlenecks and delays. You can identify those slow elements quite easily with the use of a recruiting process map that contains the minimum, the average, and the maximum number of days that are required for each step in the process over the last year. The steps that contain a large amount of “variation in time” are the ones that you should examine first. The goal is to determine if you can permanently reduce the time that a “bottleneck step” takes to at least the minimum number of days that have occurred at least occasionally in the past. Of course which steps are the most frequent bottlenecks vary with the organization, but in my almost 20 years of work on speed of hire, I have found the biggest bottleneck recruiting steps to be:

  1. The interview scheduling step
  2. The resume screening steps
  3. The approval process for new job requisitions
  4. The added step of having to reopen a search with more realistic job specifications

Other frequent lag points include creating the offer, excessive interviews, and indecisive hiring managers who can’t select the finalist.

Options Available to Recruiting Leaders Who Want to Improve Hiring Speed

There are 10 overall options to consider. Let’s start with the three worst options.

Three high-risk options not recommended for improving speed of hire

  • Take no action to increase speed in a highly competitive job market and end up hiring weak talent.
  • Do the hiring steps faster but with the same resources, which essentially means rushing through the steps and hoping that you don’t make serious errors in your rush.
  • Skip some of the steps at random in the hope that no damage will be done.

Five More Desirable Options for Improving Speed of Hire

Unfortunately corporate leaders sometimes take the above three risky options in order to increase their hiring speed. However, fortunately there are five better options that are more likely to produce satisfactory results. They include:

  • Process compression — by shrinking the “dead time” between the recruiting steps, you can increase hiring speed without any negative impacts. An example of compression — hold night and weekend interviews to reduce the normal interview scheduling dead time that occurs during the hours when candidates and hiring managers are often busy.
  • Do some steps simultaneously — rather than waiting for one step to end before starting another, execute the two steps simultaneously. An example of simultaneous steps — instead of waiting until your final interviews are completed, start doing reference checks halfway through the final interviews.
  • Do some steps in advance — during your free time, “pre-do” some important work before its normal deadline. An example of advanced work – have employees make “pipeline referrals” (that are pre-assessed and pre-sold) for jobs that will likely have openings in the near future. This pre-work can provide you with pre-qualified candidates who are ready to go immediately when an opening occurs.
  • Remove low value parts from an individual step — analyze each individual step for elements in it that don’t add much value. And then eliminate these low-value parts in the step. An example of removing low value parts — because many interviewers make pass or reject decisions quickly, shorten your interview time by at least 10 minutes.
  • Apply more or better resources to the high-priority steps – first prioritize the recruiting steps based on their impact on the final outcome. And then apply more or better resources to the step so that the step is now done faster and better. An example of applying more and better resources — speed up interview scheduling by eliminating the need for back-and-forth “scheduling availability messaging” by using a web scheduling calendar to allow interviewees to select their own available interview times.

Use the Right Speed of Hire Metrics

You’re guaranteed to be less successful in improving your speed of hire if you fail to understand the best ways to measure hiring speed and quality. Some metric tips include:

  • Time to fill — be careful, because time to fill averages are misleading and they can mask slow hiring in expedited jobs.
  • Time to start  time to start may be a more revealing metric when excessive “position vacancy days” are important. This is because delayed start dates do negatively impact revenue generation and productivity.
  • Filled by “need date” — this is a good supplemental metric because it reveals when hires are made either before or after they are really needed.
  • Use a quality-of-hire metric – you must measure the on-the-job performance and retention rate of new hires in order to tell precisely where speed matters, and where it doesn’t.
  • Benchmark data — you can get industry and region specific TTF comparisons from and PwC/Saratoga. For your information, the average time to fill according to a SHRM survey is 43 days and the benchmark speed of hire improvement firm is Google that now hires in 45 days, down from close to six months’ time to fill.

Some Advanced Speed-of-Hire Approaches to Consider

Some speed-of-hire approaches that don’t easily fit into the standard recruiting steps are provided in this last section.

  • Evergreen jobs – one or two jobs are designated as “evergreen jobs.” Evergreen jobs are jobs where you seem to always have openings, so managers agree that recruiters should “hire them all” whenever a qualified candidate becomes available. Evergreen jobs also help to ensure that your competitors will have a shortage of top candidates.
  • Hire during slack hiring times – identify periods of low competition for talent, and focus your hiring during those periods where it’s easier to hire quality fast. Focus especially on periods when your competitors have a hiring freeze. (January is the highest/competition month and December is the lowest).
  • Reward fast hiring – measure, recognize, and reward hiring managers and recruiters on speed, bad hires, and quality on key jobs.
  • Service level agreements — set time and quality expectations for both HR and hiring managers because these agreements can dramatically improve hiring speed.
  • Assign your best recruiters when speed is needed — put the best and fastest recruiters on expedited hire jobs or put together a special expedited hire team.
  • Assign someone to expedite the hiring progress – assign a recruiter to track hiring progress (like FedEx tracks it’ packages) on expedited jobs and to intervene and expedite when necessary
  • Use third-party firms – if a recruiter shortage is a contributor to the slowdown, use third-party firms for hiring in your non-speed jobs.
  • Most-wanted list — assemble a list of high-impact target prospects who executives agree would be game changers. Then start assessing and selling them at the very beginning of the year and keep it up until they say yes.
  • No job opening hiring (a corporate resource)  when industry “game changers” or “pioneers” suddenly become available, large firms should have to have the capability of hiring a few “corporate resources” immediately, regardless of whether there is an open job.
  • Convert current temps to permanent — because temps are a known quantity, they can get up to speed quickly.


Steps for Increasing Your Speed of Hire in Order to Improve Your Quality of Hire, Part 2 


This continuation of the two-part article covers specific actions that corporate recruiters can implement to speed up their hiring during each individual step of the recruiting process. Part 1 covered the cost of slow hiring and some advanced steps on how to improve the speed of the overall hiring process.

Speed Improvements for Each Major Step of Recruiting

To quicken the pace of hiring, talent acquisition leaders must be aware of the most effective and proven tools for reducing the classic speed-of-hire metric: time to fill. There are various ways to reduce this amount of time, at all phases of recruitment.

Change the recruiting process

Improve your speed of hire by adjusting the recruitment process to:

  • Train recruiters and hiring managers. Start by educating both of these groups on the negative aspects of expedited hiring. Then tell them when they (recruiters or hiring managers) are the cause of the problem. Support their awareness by offering proven and easy-to-understand speed-of-hire tools.
  • Prioritize your jobs. Rather than trying to improve speed on every job, focus your efforts only on those jobs where speed has a major impact and/or where new-hire quality is really important. Designate which jobs are “expedited jobs” and then focus recruiting resources on those positions.
  • Prioritize applicants who are in high demand. You should also expedite hiring for highly sought-after applicants; speed is absolutely critical in order to land them.

Streamline the requisition approval process

You can expedite your req approval process with these actions:

  • Limit approvals for expedited jobs. Because many approvals turn out to have no actual positive impact, eliminate the ones that have an extremely low reject or problem identification rate.
  • Set an automatic approval date for expedited jobs. Let a req move forward automatically whenever a manager fails to act before the specified req approval deadline.
  • Let sourcing begin after only 60 percent of the requisition signatures are obtained. For expedited jobs, let sourcing begin simultaneously as the approvals are still being obtained.
  • Use electronic approvals. Eliminating paper signatures dramatically improves requisition approval speed.

Eliminate excessive job specs

You can streamline hiring if each initial req includes reasonable job specifications.

  • Demand realistic job specifications. Many hiring managers demand position specs or experience requirements that are so high that they can double sourcing time. After the initial sourcing failure, the search must be completely restarted with lower specs because so few prospects in the talent pool could meet the original ones.

Refine job posting approaches

You can streamline hiring by setting shorter job posting time periods. Shortening them does not have much of a negative impact because, as one (StartWire) study demonstrated, “almost 50 percent of all hires had applied within the first week after a job was posted.”

  • Set earlier job posting end dates.Cut 20 percent off of posting times and see if there is a measurable negative impact on the quality of applicants.
  • Begin sorting early. For expedited jobs, begin sorting/qualifying resumes before the posting deadline is reached.
  • Publish simultaneous postings. In order to limit delays, post internal preference and external job announcements so they run at the same time.

Decrease target response speed

Ineffective communication with prospects can cause major hiring delays. To reduce response time, try to:

  • Improve return calls with “same-level calls.” Having a professional at the same job level contact the target may result in a 10 times higher response rate than when a recruiter places the initial call.
  • Use the mobile platform for communicating. Use market research to identify the communication channels that have the fastest and the slowest response rates. Frequently, the mobile platform provides the fastest response rate because it is carried and accessed 24/7.

Accelerate resume screening

Streamline resume screening, which takes up a significant portion of the total recruiting time. Some approaches to consider include:

  • Use LinkedIn profiles rather than waiting for an updated resume.“Passive prospects” can be slow in applying because they simply don’t find the time to update their resume. You can eliminate that wait for an updated resume by accepting LinkedIn profiles as an initial application. LinkedIn profiles, because they have the same exact format, also make it easier to make side-by-side candidate comparisons.
  • Set benchmark resume review time periods. Recruiters should set strict resume review time periods, and then they should alert hiring managers when they have reached the deadline.
  • Withdraw resumes from slow hiring managers. An effective approach at large firms is to require that resumes must be read in x number of days. If they are not reviewed by the deadline, then the provided candidates are withdrawn and they go to other managers within the firm.
  • “Five great no uglies” candidate slates. Unfortunately, hiring managers may create resume review delays when they find an ugly resume (i.e., a totally unqualified candidate) among the resumes provided by the recruiter. This frustration often causes them to stop reading resumes for many days. So if you provide only great resumes (and no ugly unqualified ones), hiring managers are much more willing to read the supplied resumes.

Pre-identify and pre-assess candidates

Decrease hiring speed dramatically by creating a talent pipeline, where promising prospects are evaluated in advance of an actual job opening. Some of the most effective approaches include:

  • An electronic prospect talent community. Firms can create an online community for nurturing and assessing those prospects who have expressed an interest in some future job at your firm. A talent community allows them to learn more about the firm, and it gives recruiters an opportunity to build relationships and to assess the candidates.
  • Pre-assessed talent pools. A talent pool is made up of current and past applicants who have been pre-assessed and determined to be qualified for future openings. Many in the talent pipeline may be applicants who were “almost hired” when they applied for past jobs. Having a prequalified applicant pipeline makes it easier to fill a vacancy quickly.
  • Predictive “prior to need” hiring. Organizations that forecast job openings, turnover, and retirement openings can hire and train replacements so that they are ready when predicted openings actually occur. This “prior to need” hiring is a practice used by the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Contest winners. Firms can use online technical contests to identify a group of very capable prospects who can later be targeted for hiring when a position opens. (Most contestants are likely to be currently employed “passives.”) 

Speed up employee referrals

Not only do referrals routinely produce the highest volume and quality of hires, but they also can produce the fastest hires under a well-designed referral program. Some referral speed improvement approaches include:

  • Boomerang referrals. These “already known” ex-employees can be contacted and rehired quickly. They are usually easily tracked and contacted by employees or recruiters on LinkedIn.
  • Proactive referrals are the fastest. So proactively seek out the top past referrers and ask them directly for referrals for expedited jobs in their job family. Incidentally, top performers also make high-quality referrals.
  • Create A+ candidate referral deadlines. For expedited jobs, set a one-week deadline for screening and interviewing A+ referrals.
  • Increase the referral bonus for expedited jobs. Provide an added reward for referrals in expedited jobs that are made within one week.
  • Blue-light specials sandwich board referrals. Providing a “blue-light special” sandwich board in the lobby announcing immediate referral needs can result in many same-day referrals. Periodic targeted electronic “need help alerts” for key jobs can also be effective.
  • Same-day referral assessment events. Holding on-site referral events can be quite effective in getting same-day referrals. During these events, employees are interviewed about their top referrals, and then candidate interview decisions are made on the spot.
  • Meet the team at an on-site evening referral event. Invite top referrals to a “meet-the-team” evening event where offers are made on-site before the event is over.

Speed up interviews

To avoid the delays that occur during the interview scheduling and interview processes:

  • Limit the number of interviews. Set a limit on the number of interviews, or educate hiring managers about the drawbacks of conducting more than four interviews.
  • Use live video or telephone interviews. Reduce scheduling delays, eliminate travel time, and impress them with your use of technology by offering live video interviews via mobile phone (at least for initial interviews).
  • Record your interviews. Make a video of your interviews so that those who are absent can watch them later. Also, the interview video can be viewed again at a later date, often avoiding the need for a re-interview.
  • Interview on Fridays. Reduce the perennial problem of hiring manager unavailability by making it a corporate policy, requiring them to be available on interview day.
  • Hold all interviews on the same day. Coordinate interviews and hold them on a single day so that candidates only need be physically present only once.
  • Speed interviewing. Follow the speed-dating model, which allows managers to briefly interview multiple candidates in a single event.
  • Track the manager’s time to complete all interviews. Identify which managers are particularly slow at interviewing, so that slow managers can be helped.
  • Limit hiring by consensusAvoid consensus decision-making, because it dramatically increases hiring time when you have to get everyone on board with a hiring decision.
  • Avoid duplicate questions in multiple interviewsShorten total interview time by reducing the duplication of interview questions. Do that by assigning the interview questions to the most appropriate person. Also share the interview questions and their responses online, so that everyone involved in the hiring can review them.

Quicken the offer process

You can dramatically reduce the time involved in making and accepting offers by taking the following actions:

  • Know their job-acceptance criteria. You can avoid the time it takes to renegotiate an offer or to shift to the second-ranked candidate if you identify a top candidate’s job acceptance criteria and then you meet it in your offer.
  • Same-day offers. Hiring speed can be increased dramatically if you don’t let the finalist leave the building without an offer.
  • Exploding offers. Supplying an incentive for the candidate to say yes quickly or before they leave the building can be extremely powerful.
  • Offer acceptance on the mobile phone. Reach out via the finalist’s mobile phone to make it easy for them to instantly say yes from anywhere.

The Bottom Line: Making Accelerated Recruitment Work For You

Note that hiring speed was revealed to be one of the top five most important recruiting problem areas in a recent survey of recruiters and hiring managers. Although I have found that few in recruiting are experts in speed of hire, it is easy to learn how to expedite processes, because so many other business functions have long excelled at expediting and speeding up their business processes.

So if you aren’t satisfied with the tips that I provided in this series of articles, I encourage you to walk over to your production, supply chain, or IT function to get direct advice on how to speed up your hiring process. They can also help you to build the business case for covering the high dollar impact of reducing process speed

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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