The recruitment process is delicate. There is a fine line between (a) leaving the interview process open long enough to benchmark candidates and (b) leaving the process open for too long, which results in losing a preferred candidate.
Two is the Magic Number
Multiple interview stages enable a hiring manager to understand a candidate’s background, motivations and assess long-term cultural and technical fit. This does not mean, however, that the recruitment process should take a long time to complete. Depending on the seniority of the role, an effective process can be consolidated into two stages. For a junior or mid-level hire, the process (from reviewing a CV to making an offer) should be completed within two weeks.
Novelty wears off. Recruiters work hard to create a buzz around vacancies. A protracted interview process will kill off the initial excitement of the opportunity: candidates forget what initially made them excited about the role.
Silence is deadly. Delaying candidate feedback, or neglecting to arrange interviews promptly, will result in the candidate feeling undervalued and losing interest.
The job market is a pyramid. There are fewer senior jobs than at lower and mid-level. As there are more opportunities at lower and mid-levels, candidates drive the market. A prolonged interview process will reduce the chances of securing the best candidate: it gives competitors the opportunity to turn a candidate’s head with another offer.
How to Win
Prioritise Recruitment. Line managers should commit to more interviews over a shorter period and will therefore have to park the bulk of their day-to-day duties. This can feel counterintuitive and unproductive but if it results in finding the best talent, the team will be more productive in the long run.
Consolidate interviews. Most recruitment undertaken at junior and mid-level comprises of two interviews and a presentation. Companies which consolidate the process into two-stages successfully secure the best available talent. This can be done by, for example, holding an hour’s interview, followed by a combined two-hour presentation and interview.
Manage upwards. Often, an offer needs to be authorised by a key stakeholder who might be busy or on annual leave. Plan for this scenario: (a) block out time in the stakeholder’s diary if the candidate is likely to reach final stage; (b) find out if the stakeholder can conduct a Skype interview from their Mediterranean villa; or (c) ask for the authority to make an offer in their absence.
Be flexible. Leaving work in the middle of the day for a ‘doctor’s appointment’ is awkward and impacts on a candidate’s ability to manage their time. Empathise with candidates. Give them the opportunity to interview at a convenient time. Candidates who are busy, devoted to their work and loyal to their current employer are ideal recruits.
Strike while the iron is hot. The best time to make an offer to a candidate is when they are most excited about a role. If possible, make an offer to the candidate before the day is up. An offer is flattering and will strengthen the candidate’s feeling of excitement. A delay could result in the candidate losing interest or a competitor swooping in. Keep the ball rolling. Sometimes it is not possible to prevent a delay in the process. In this case, it is vital to communicate with the candidate: explain the delay, demonstrate continued interest and maintain momentum.