When the Hiring Process Takes Too Long

By Robert Half December 4, 2015 at 3:53pm

Following October’s strong jobs report, U.S. employers continued to hire in November, adding 211,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). November marked the second consecutive month that job gains have exceeded 200,000, a nice rebound after slower growth in late summer. The U.S. economy has now added more than 2.3 million jobs since the beginning of the year, clearly affecting the hiring process.

The BLS reports that the unemployment rate in November held steady at 5.0 percent. The unemployment rate for workers who are 25 or older and have a college degree was also unchanged at 2.5 percent, where it has stood since August.

Professional and technical services added 28,000 jobs in November, with a significant portion of those gains — more than 11,000 — occurring in accounting and bookkeeping services. Computer systems design and related services added 5,000 positions. Professional and technical services has added 298,000 jobs this year.

Combined job gains for September and October were 35,000 more than previously reported. Job gains have averaged nearly 210,000 per month in 2015.

2015 jobs report

Hiring managers’ No. 1 challenge

The strong jobs report is welcome news, and it’s doubtful anyone will complain if the economy continues to add jobs at the current pace. But the situation does present a challenge for employers: Hiring remains very competitive, and that means the hiring process often drags on much longer than most companies anticipate. 

In my conversations with hiring managers, one lament I hear is, “Why does it take so long to hire anyone these days? I need people now!” I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered employers who are downright shocked that a job has remain unfilled for weeks — and, very often, months — on end. They had visions of bringing in someone right away and hadn’t planned to be without a core employee for so long. Their current team is being asked to work shorthanded and running the risk of burning out. Worse, there’s no relief in sight.

Why the hiring process takes so long

There are a few reasons hiring is taking longer. The first is illustrated by the current unemployment rate. The rate has dropped by 1.6 points since the start of 2014. At just 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate is not only the lowest in more than seven years, but it is also at a level that the Federal Reserve considers to be full employment. There are relatively few people looking for work today.

A second reason is that U.S. employers continue to need good people to support business growth. Despite robust hiring, many firms would add even more employees if they could. The BLS reports that there were 5.5 million job openings in September. That’s up from 4.7 million the year before. With such intense competition, the top job seekers in the market don’t remain available for long. As good people are hired, your search for the right person gets longer.

Third, job candidates can afford to be choosy. Highly skilled professionals who are actively looking for work may receive multiple offers. It’s not unusual for companies to find that their top choice for a certain position has accepted a job with another firm. 

Meanwhile, passive job seekers — professionals who already have jobs but are open to other opportunities — need to be convinced of the benefits of changing companies. Even then, they may receive a counteroffer from their current employer and decide to stay put. 

So companies may go through the entire hiring process only to lose out on the candidate of their choice and have to start over again.

How to move more quickly

Is there anything you can do to shorten the hiring process and access the talent you need now? Here’s some advice:

Examine where you’re going wrong 

Try to identify the point in your hiring process where things break down. 

For example, if you’re not receiving resumes from qualified (or any) applicants, the job description probably needs to be reworked. Have you described the position accurately? Are the requirements reasonable? Are you highlighting aspects of your firm’s corporate culture that make it appealing?

If you’ve been unable to close the deal with potential hires, you may need to improve the job offer by increasing the salary or providing better benefits options. The point is to focus on just one aspect of the hiring process at a time so you can fix what isn’t working and avoid breaking what is.

Expand your recruiting sources

If you’re just posting your job ad to an online board, you’re not doing enough. You need to cover more ground. Ask your employees for referrals and provide an incentive for them to encourage the people they know to apply for a role with your firm. (Hint: Cash bonuses always work well.)

Increase your networking efforts, both online and in person. Let everyone know about your hiring need. Touch base with your contacts frequently to keep the connections strong and remind them that you are still on the hunt.

Also consider enlisting the help of a reputable recruiter. These professionals have deep networks of job seekers and are often able to identify skilled professionals who would otherwise be unaware of your job opening.

Be flexible

Here’s the honest truth: Your expectations might be one reason your hiring process has dragged on. Every employer wants a worker with years of experience, an advanced degree and a long list of relevant industry certifications. But it could be that few candidates meet all these qualifications. Your ideal candidate may not even exist. 

In the job posting, only list those qualifications that are essential to succeed in the position. Otherwise, you risk limiting your pool of applicants. And when evaluating applicants, focus on true job requirements versus nice-to-haves. 

Also remember that talented people are trainable — and are typically very eager to learn. So, keep the door open to promising professionals who may not have all the experience you seek but have the potential to ramp up and advance quickly.

Don’t hire just anyone

It’s tempting to bring someone — anyone – on board when workloads are piling up, and your employees are unable to absorb even one more task. But desperation can easily lead to bad (and costly) hiring decisions

Consider bringing on a temporary employee until you find the right person for the job. You might even find that the professional you engage in the interim is really the full-time hire you’ve been searching for all along. One-third of executives we surveyed said having a candidate work on a temporary basis initially provides the best insight into whether the person will be a good fit with the company culture.

Lastly, I urge you to start thinking about your future hiring needs now. You can’t wait to start the hiring process until there is an immediate need to fill a position. Try to build and maintain a talent pipeline that consists of candidates who could be a good fit for positions that open up in the future. Continue to collect resumes and keep in touch with job seekers who you liked but did not hire. Being proactive now can help you to shorten your hiring cycle next time around.

2015 jobs report

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