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Taking Your Time to Hire

Recent data finds the average time-to-hire nearly doubling since 2010. While companies must certainly do their due diligence, experts say there's a balance to be struck between being thorough and being efficient in the hiring process.

Monday, August 10, 2015
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In March of last year, HRE reported on a Glassdoor poll that found the length of the average interview process nearly doubling between 2009 and 2013.

Here we are, roughly 18 months later, and the story is essentially the same.

As it did in 2014, the Sausalito, Calif.-based job and career website has again culled data from interview review surveys of its users to determine the average time employers are taking to fill open positions. Based on a sample of 344,250 reviews spanning six countries, Glassdoor recently found the average time to hire increasing from 12.6 days in 2010 to 22.9 days at the end of 2014.

These figures reflect employers' concerted effort to focus on the quality of hire, says Fran Luisi, a principal at Orlando, Fla.-based retain-search firm Charleston Partners.

"In the past, you've seen some organizations making quick decisions, but I think quality is trumping speed right now," says Luisi, adding that the involvement of third parties to conduct detailed candidate assessments "adds time to the whole process."

Many organizations and their HR functions have also made "running leaner" a priority in recent years, which, naturally, affects time-to-hire as well.

"It's a matter of wanting to make sure you're recruiting and hiring the right people, of course, and confirming as much through assessments and background checks and so on, and ensuring you uncover everything that you possibly can about the candidate," he says. "So it's a very detailed process, and organizations don't want to make mistakes. That will always lead to longer searches."

Factors such as the proliferation of background checks and pre-hire assessments are certainly serving to add days, if not weeks, to the hiring process, and many companies now consider such steps routine.

But those aren't the only factors at work, says Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director at Towers Watson's talent management practice.

Many organizations, he says, "seem to have a higher tolerance for dealing with open positions until they find that slam-dunk candidate, or one at the right price point."

Employers have recognized that "there are some jobs that can't be done without hiring someone for that specific role. But there are others in which you can find someone to pick up the slack for a while."

Companies are also coming to the realization that "hiring someone new is not the only way to get work done," says Jesuthasan.

"Let's say I need a world-class data scientist. But, I can use a coder to get things done until I find that perfect person," says Jesuthasan, who discusses the "free-agent workforce" in Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment, a new book he co-authored with John Boudreau and David Creelman.

In the book, "we looked at how companies are getting work done. And there's a dramatic shift away from full-time employment. Full-time employment certainly isn't going away, but it's just one way to get work done," he says. Other ways could be through relying on a third party, "free agents," or project-based production teams, for example.

Still, even with all that said, employers are looking at a labor market that's slowly opening up and job candidates who figure to have more options as the upswing continues. Will companies risk missing out on top talent by taking longer to hire?

Not necessarily, but longer hiring times carry pros and cons that employers and HR must keep in mind, says Kathy Kalstrup, senior vice president and global recruitment processing outsourcing leader at Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Aon Hewitt.

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On one hand, "taking your time and making sure you're getting the right candidate is obviously a positive," says Kalstrup.

But the organization must also weigh how long it can afford to keep a position open, she says.

"You have to ask, Is it a revenue-producing job? And if so, what are the implications of that job being vacant? And if it's a leadership position, what's happening with the team while this leadership void exists? From a performance perspective, there are some cons to consider."

Adding too much length to the process can damage the organization's employment brand as well.

"The longer it takes to fill a role, the more you need to make sure you're contacting [the top candidates] to make sure they're aware of what's going on," says Kalstrup. "If you're not doing that well, you're not representing your employment brand well."

Ultimately, HR leaders and hiring managers have a balance to strike between being thorough and being efficient in the hiring process, she says.

"It's now a job-seeker's market, and we know that finding all the qualifications we're looking for is harder and harder," says Kalstrup. "We're consistently trying to find that perfect match, and we're realizing that that person may or may not exist. HR can help coach the organization through this situation, helping to figure out how to be successful in hiring the right person, even if he or she comes with perhaps a little lighter skill set than the company wanted."

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