Why Is This Taking So Long?

I don’t need to fight

To prove I’m right

I don’t need to be forgiven.

Baba O’Riley

“Why is this taking so long” is one of my favorite hiring manager questions. The best answer is to not have it asked in the first place. Sadly, it makes the recruiter have to justify their existence with a flurry of undocumented and ill-prepared remarks on past activity while feeling awkward and flat-footed. All in all, it is not a fun time.

I believe that we can avoid this awkward question in almost all cases, but before we discuss how that is done, let’s look at four sample answers to that question. These answers are not good ones and should be avoided. (The answers below might be accurate, but we need to be sure that candor and objective conversation take a back seat to organizational politics.)

  1. It is taking so long because it took you four weeks to finalize the position profile. Not a great answer. Managers like to see themselves as decision-makers (especially those who so clearly are not) as opposed to individuals who need input from 37 team members before they approve a position profile.
  2. It is taking so long because you take forever to respond to the candidates I submit. Not so good either. Managers have endless reasons for taking too long in terms of response time, but personally, I do not care what those reasons might be. Twenty four to 48 hours is all it should take. If you need more info on the candidate, I will get it for you. If you do not need more info, make a decision; do you want to see the candidate or don’t you?
  3. It is taking so long because you do not get back to me after candidate interviews. Avoid this answer! Having the candidate die of old age waiting for the manager to think, discuss, compare, contrast, evaluate, reflect, confer, plot, map out, or my personal favorite, “sleep on” is pitiful. (DOD, big pharma, and biotech can be glacially slow). Once again, 24 to 48 hours to make a decision. Do you want to move forward or not? (A client once told me he had to “ponder.” I hate ponderers.)
  4. It is taking so long because you change the position profile twice a week. Once again, no good! I have far more respect for managers who tell me they are not sure of what they want or they need assistance in defining the position or whatever. Under those circumstances I can help in a host of ways, but don’t keep changing the profile because hitting a moving target makes recruiting all the more difficult. (Beware of the manager who tells you the profile changes endlessly due to the “fluid and changing needs of our organizational objectives.” Those people are clueless.)
  5. Bonus Answer! It is taking so long because of all of the above! This is the worst possible answer because it simply points out the horrific shortcomings of many managers that do not seem to go away. Recruiting is a partnership, and partnerships do not work unless both parties pull their own weight and come to an understanding of what must be done, when it must be done, who is going to do it, and a clear sense of urgency.

As you can see, the answers to this question are not pretty. With this in mind, let’s look at some ways to avoid it.

  1. Agree to a contracted time to fill. Meet with the manager to discuss the position profile and set an agreed-upon time to fill. Agreed upon means that you and the manager agree to a timetable. For example, if 45 days to fill an engineering position is agreed upon, that’s fine, provided nothing foreseeable will interfere with progress. On the other hand, 45 days is not OK if the manager is taking a thre-week vacation during that agreed upon time-to-fill window and will not be available to interview. Make sense?
  2. Start aggressively. If you have a 45-day agreed time to fill, don’t wait 30 days to begin to source candidates. Start fast and start hard. Keep in mind that it is always easier to slow things down than to speed thing up. No one is ever sorry they are ahead of schedule.
  3. Keep it moving. In recruiting, the ball is always in someone’s court, so do your best to see that that ball is not in yours. Do whatever you need to do as quickly as possible without compromising quality. Be sure that you are always waiting for the manager as opposed to the manager waiting for you.
  4. Document activity. In my career, I have learned that I was never sorry that I documented activity even if I never needed it. In a world where data points can be very helpful, it is a great idea to just keep a simple running log of key activity on candidates, timetables, and anything you deem as important. Not a ton of work; just 4 or 5 minutes a day. You might not need it, but if you do, it will be a great thing to have handy.

Now, why not seek out and ask your most uncooperative hiring manager my favorite question:

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Why is this taking so long?

Pretty cool, eh?

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


3 Comments on “Why Is This Taking So Long?

  1. Yep, that is absolutely cool.

    “…don’t wait 30 days to begin to source candidates. Start fast and start hard…”
    Start that day if you know what’s good for you. Things can change in a heartbeat and often do. Get the job done immediately (this message is for sourcers).

    Also, I am always surprised when I am given a sourcing assignment and the recruiter goes on vacation. It happens not infrequently.

  2. I liked your action item 1 – Agree – This is where I like to start, it puts you ahead of the game. Putting a Service Level Agreement in place outlining the different steps in the process along with a timeline makes a huge difference. It increases the level of professionalism the hiring manager perceives that you have as you ask good questions and set up proper expectations for a successful engagement. Setting up your communication strategy ahead of time lets the hiring manager know that you will be following up in X amount of time after each step. Hiring managers have many other things they are working on at any point in time, but when they know what to expect they are much more responsive.

  3. Howard – You have brought up some very good points. I can recall some of these situations when you worked for me. We found though many trials and tribulations that the best way to ward this off was to put a Service Level Agreement (SLA) into place between the Hiring Manager and Recruiting which Tony alludes to in his post. The SLA defined clearly the various roles of each party and tracked the progress within the recruiting life cycle. We set up cetain metrics so we could proactively identify any area that needed to be discussed before balls would be dropped by either party. This process alleviated a number of problems before they could raise their ugly heads and brought continuity to the process.

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