Never Lose a Candidate to Bureaucracy! Some Ideas on Streamlining Your Processes

Recruiter Bill found Candidate Joe around 3 PM on a Thursday afternoon as a result of an on-line search. He responded positively to the cold call and seemed very interested. Candidate Joe was employed by a competitor, had all the right skills and experience, and faxed a bio over almost immediately after being contacted. He didn’t have a “real” resume to fax, as he hadn’t been looking for another job. Recruiter Bill suggested he take the weekend, prepare a resume, and then fax it to him. They agreed to have a telephone conversation on Monday morning. Around 2:30 PM Monday afternoon Recruiter Bill remembered that Candidate Joe hadn’t called. He dialed the phone. Candidate Joe 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.” Has this or something similar happened to you? This scenario is common today, especially with technically skilled candidates. And it means that traditional recruiting methods have to change. Do you know how long the average, non-technical candidate is available and willing to listen to offers? How about the tough-to-find technical candidate? If you said 7 days and 3 days you win the prize! And, in the case above it was even less. As countless other experts and I have said: “This is a seller’s market.” The candidate is king and makes decisions in minutes or hours, not days or weeks. Your processes have to reflect this need for speedy decision-making and efficient processes. Here are several ideas on how to streamline your processes and 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 offers on the spot, perhaps contingent on final approval from HR, but still real and realistic. As a recruiter, make sure managers have salary information and prepare materials that let them make quick, yet policy-compliant, and legal offers. This is particularly true with technical candidates like Candidate Joe above. It is particularly true with job fair candidates. One executive I know has hired 2 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 said over and over, 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 2-3 at the most. Make sure you have a probationary period and terminate poor performers, if you have any, quickly. While it is nice to make slow and certain decisions about people, this marketplace does not make that a very practical policy. I recommend using tests to check on technical skills, if those are critical to the work. There are many firms that offer skills testing such as Brain Bench, Inter-Q, and Skilltest. Testing is accurate, legally OK and used by thousands of companies to verify skill levels. It can go a long way to convincing management that it is OK to drop interviews and go for these on-line, quick, and accurate tests. Idea #3:

Don’t be afraid to take chances. People are hard to predict, as all of us who are or have been recruiters know. As yesterday’s ERE column by R. William Wendels shows, most of our traditional measures of candidates are useless. As he 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 that seems reasonable, and not lose the candidate while they include a few more people in the process. Idea #4:

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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 OK. What is not OK is 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. Try your very best to have clear and simple jobs, well-defined, and try to have 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:

My old favorite: develop impeccable customer service. 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 PR. We often treat minor customers better than candidates. Which, in the long run, is worth more? As Henry David Thoreau said in his book 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


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