Do You Move Too Slowly?

Recruiter Bill was referred to Candidate Joe around 3 p.m. on a Thursday. Candidate Joe was pleased to get Recruiter Bill’s phone call and seemed very interested. Candidate Joe was employed by a competitor, had all the right skills and experience, and faxed his bio almost immediately after being contacted. He didn’t have a “real” resume, as he hadn’t been looking for another job. Recruiter Bill suggested he take the weekend, log into the recruiting website, and enter his information. They agreed to have a follow-up telephone conversation Monday morning.

Around 2:30 p.m. Monday, Recruiter Bill remembered that Candidate Joe had not called. He dialed the phone. Candidate Joe answered and said, “Oh, a friend of mine saw me working on my resume Saturday morning. He referred me to his boss on Sunday and we met this morning. I think I’m going to go work for them. Thanks for the interest.”

If this or something similar has happened to you, then you can appreciate that traditional recruiting processes need to change.

Do you know how long the average candidate is available and willing to listen to offers? How about the tough-to-find technical candidate? If you said seven days and three days, respectively, you win the prize! And in the example above, it took even fewer days.

As countless other experts and I have said: “This is a seller’s market.” The candidate is king and often makes decisions in minutes or hours, not days or weeks. Your processes have to reflect this need for speedy decision-making and efficient processes.

Consider the following five streamlining solutions to make your recruiting zip along with the best in class:

Idea #1: Empower key people to make instant decisions about candidates. Let managers and recruiters make provisional offers on the spot, perhaps with salary and other details contingent on final approval from HR. As a recruiter, make sure managers have access to online salary information and prepare materials that they can access easily wherever they are to help assess a candidate. These could include online screening tools or something as simple as a list of prepared questions.

Provide them with a standard form for a provisional offer that they can email to a candidate ? and make this offer simple enough to be sent to and read on a Blackberry or other PDA.

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One executive I know has hired two senior-level people on airplanes at 35,000 feet. Just the idea of being offered a job in an airplane seat is enough to get candidates to say yes. He says the candidates were really serious, showed up for final interviews and application processing, and are both working in his firm today. As I have repeated, screen people into your firm by finding them a job that fits their skills and desires, and do not screen people out by the traditional methods of endless interviews and unclear job duties.

Idea #2: Get rid of bureaucracy. Remove approval layers and reduce the number of interviews to just two to three at the most. Make sure you have a probationary period and terminate poor performers quickly. While it is nice to make slow and certain decisions about people, this marketplace does not make that a very practical policy. While testing and other assessment processes raise the level of certainty about a candidate, they should never interfere with making offers to potentially good people who have been assessed by qualified and empowered managers. If it is critical that a candidate have a particular skill, at least let them know you are very interested and streamline whatever testing process you have. Every day that passes without a decision reduces the likelihood of availability and acceptance.

Idea #3: Take a chance. People are hard to predict, as all of us who are or have been recruiters know. Wendell Williams, Charles Handler, and other ERE writers have written that most of our traditional measures of candidates are useless. As Wendell has said, an interview is perhaps only 1% accurate when it comes to predicting how well an employee will work out. Smart managers and smart recruiters are willing to risk a little on a candidate who seems reasonable, and not lose the candidate while they include a few more people in the process.

Idea #4: Know what you are looking for. I can’t tell you how many times candidates tell me about the interviews they had for positions that were never described to them clearly and that had vague responsibilities. We all work in a rapidly changing world and we all have to have flexibility in describing a job. That’s okay; however, it is not appropriate to interview candidates for skills they may not need, for jobs that may never materialize, for jobs that seem to duplicate other jobs in the firm and people don’t understand why more are needed, and on and on. Keep things well-defined with a simple reporting structure. I believe that thousands of jobs go unfilled every month because they are not defined enough to convince a candidate of the need for or of the importance of the position to the firm.

Idea #5: Develop impeccable customer service. This final tip is my old favorite, as you should never make a candidate have to call you. Get back to candidates the same day as the interview. Give them honest assessments and feedback. Provide information immediately. If you are having them travel for an interview, fly them first class or put them up in a fancy hotel. Give them VIP treatment ? limo, nice restaurant, whatever. The cost is minimal compared to losing them to a competitor. People remember good service, even if you don’t end up hiring them. They will spread the word and make sure that your company gets good publicity. We often treat minor customers better than candidates. Which, in the long run, is worth more?

As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand . . .keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


3 Comments on “Do You Move Too Slowly?

  1. Kevin Wheeler is right on the money! The recruiting process is much too long in Corporate America. I find that managers do not want the responsibility of making a decision for fear of making a wrong one; they involve everyone and anyone in the process thus taking for ever to make a decision. In addition, if one out of 10 interviewers says no, then all bets are off. What is the saying? Too many cooks spoil the ?.

    I strongly urge Senior Managers appoint a team of no more then 3 within their team to conduct interviews and make hiring decisions, if not immediately then within 24 hours.

    The great candidates are not going to hang around for even a moment once they have a serious offer from a good company.


  2. As usual, Kevin Wheeler is right on, and provides excellent direction for fixing a common problem. The issue I have with the article is that the example cited, and follow-on fixes, are so far removed from my own reality that the article seems a bit ‘pie in the sky’.

    I manage a search firm at which one specialty is hospital staff, specifically Managers and Directors related to Nursing. The typical timeline from submitting a candidate to HR and the acceptance of offer is about 35 days. The shortest time the process was completed is three weeks, and the longest has been 72 days! If you include the time it takes many facilities to approve the initial contract, you’ll need to add between two and eight weeks! Often, our voicemails and emails are ignored completely. When answered, the responses seldom address the question we raised in the original message, focusing instead on how the decision-makers and/or HR are in meetings all week, then going on vacation, etc. The delays and unresponsiveness are nothing short of incredible.

    I cannot reconcile Kevin Wheeler’s cited example, where a delay of one day cost a hire, and the reality I/we face, in which HR operatives appear to have little concern for actually filling positions, appearing more interested in protecting their turf from the hiring manager and outsiders, and in asserting whatever control they can over the process.
    Because of that, I also cannot envision a situation in which Kevin’s steps to remedy the problem are embraced, as the people we often deal with are so far removed from that ability as to be nearly laughable.

    Undoubtedly, there are countless HR people out there who are exemplary in their performance, and completely objective. I merely wanted to relate what I have seen in Healthcare/Hospitals (and previously in IT). For the record, we work with facilities with 500 to 4000 employees, and see the same problem across the board, regardless of size.

    Since this forum is mostly populated by corporate employees involved in the search process, I fully expect to get flamed for my comments. If only a few really look at how they conduct themselves, and make some minor changes, it will be worth it. As for those who will flame the search profession for it’s own poor practices (and there are many), I would only ask that you stay on the original subject, which is how delays at the corporate HR level result in lost hires.


  3. Jim,
    I rarely respond anymore due in part to two things you bring up. One is that disagreements often end up straying from the original topic and into many posters working hard to prove their points. The other reason is because many of the posts (NOT ALL!! – do not abuse me) sound ‘pie in the sky’ to me, too.

    When I first joined ERE, I often found myself thinking, ‘Wow, I (we) must be doing everything wrong!’ HR was supposed to get back to us, we’re supposed to have job descriptions, candidates should go into the interview knowing what the client company is looking for…You get the picture, I’m sure.

    While our industry and our company has issues (as you wisely point out), HR rarely helps the cause. We get much better information and communication from the clients at which we deal directly with the hiring managers. We’re recruiting in the IT industry. Here’s an example from a local client (Fortune 500): They were desperate for a Java programmer and I had one. She was well-educated, had a real depth of experience, reasonably priced – in short, an IT recruiter’s dream in this city. Her resume went to the client, but also to 2 others. She was hired within 48 hours by one of the other clients (they knew what I knew: she wouldn’t last). When the first client realized they lost her, they expressed frustration that we didn’t ‘keep’ her off the market for them. I pointed out that we hadn’t heard back from them for TWO weeks. She said she had just (I repeat just) opened the email with her resume.

    So the article was interesting and I read it top to bottom and shared it with my co-workers, and saw our company in parts. I would also ask the clients to examine their practices and how they might be tempted to blame TPRs for missing out on top talent. Like Jim, I see it in organizations of every size and we also have clients and managers who are excellent in moving the process along.

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