Deciding whether and when to extend the job offer in the recruitment process can be an excruciating exercise for hiring managers. If you’ve hired the wrong candidate before, you may want to take your time so you can be confident in your decision. But waiting too long to hire can leave you lamenting the one that got away, especially in today’s employment market.

Talented candidates are in high demand and short supply. They hold the advantage, and they don’t like to wait.

What job candidates say about a long recruitment process

In a recent Robert Half survey, 64 per cent of the more than 400 Canadian workers polled said the most frustrating part of the job search is waiting to see if they got the position after going through the interview process. 

How long is too long? Nearly one-quarter lose interest in the firm if they don't hear back within one week after the initial interview; another 47 per cent lose interest if there's no status update from one-to-two weeks post-interview. Candidates expect the recruitment process, from interview to offer, to be wrapped up quickly.

Besides just losing interest, many of the respondents (46 per cent) said a lengthy hiring process would lead them to lose interest in the job and pursue other opportunities. Ouch! Imagine if your top candidate removed him- or herself from the recruitment process because you dragged your feet. 

How a long recruitment process can hurt your business

“The hiring process is a company’s opportunity to make a good first impression on potential employees, and is reflective of overall corporate culture,” says  Greg Scileppi, Canadian president, Robert Half International Staffing Operations. “If people feel that their career growth will be impeded by a slow and indecisive organization, they may choose to forgo the position entirely.”

Beyond that, consider that in-demand candidates may have multiple companies competing for their talents. The longer you wait to extend a job offer, the more likely it is that another firm will do so first and snag the professional you had hoped to bring on board.

A quick but informed recruitment process

What’s a hiring manager to do? On the one hand, job seekers exiting the interview process expect a quick decision. On the other hand, that costly hiring mistake you made last year still haunts you. You probably feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place.

Learn what making a bad hire could cost your organization.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, hiring is one of the most important decisions your firm makes. But that doesn’t mean the recruitment process must drag on.

With an organized approach, a full understanding of your company’s needs and the exorcising of unreasonable expectations, you can create a quick but informed decision-making process — and get a step ahead of your competitors. “Ultimately, companies must be prepared with a recruitment strategy that is both thorough and nimble,” Scileppi explains.

Follow these steps to a timely, successful recruitment process:

Define — or re-define — your hiring need 

It’s foolish to think that any candidate will fit the bill until you know what you want. So be sure your hiring criteria are clearly outlined from the start. If you’re staffing an existing position, consider how your needs may have changed since the job was last vacant. 

Be meticulous in crafting the job description 

Not only will this ensure you attract candidates who are truly qualified, it will serve as a performance evaluation tool once you’ve found your perfect hire. Be honest about the duties the position does and does not entail. Don’t over-promise room for advancement or gloss over unglamorous tasks like filing. Clearly state the degrees, certifications or experience required. This will help you quickly evaluate the first round of applications.

See the essential elements of a job description that attracts strong candidates.

Get in position 

Make sure you’ve secured the sign-off to staff the job along with an approved salary range and the buy-in from stakeholders that hiring is a priority. You don’t want to find the perfect candidate only to be unable to pull the trigger and have to start the recruitment process back at square one.

Set a schedule and a deadline 

Block out time for the interview process and commit to it, consolidating on-site meetings in one or two days, if possible. Set dates for key steps like deciding whom to call in for an interview, when you want to offer the position and a start date.

Use these top 5 interview questions to help find a great hire.

Be consistent, objective and realistic 

Be sure you’re not creating a job very few, if any, people could be considered qualified for. Of course you have the dream candidate in mind. But ask yourself: Does that person really exist? Holding out for Mr. or Mrs. Right is a surefire way to delay the recruitment process. Decide on four or five must-have attributes and apply them to every candidate. And take notes during interviews so you can objectively review every candidate at the end of the interview process, when all your encounters may seem to run together in your memory.  

Check references 

You want to be efficient, not foolhardy, so don’t speed up the recruitment process at all costs. Checking references, for example, is not a step to be rushed through. It could be crucial in avoiding a hiring mistake.

Find out how — and why — to check references every time.

Don’t leave them hanging — even for a little while

During the interview process, let candidates know when they may expect to hear back from you, and follow through. You know your silence means you’re polishing your offer package, but a potential hire might interpret it as disinterest and pursue another job.

Make the decision

When you find that next addition to your team, you’ll want to make a verbal offer pending any reference or background checks before you negotiate an offer package. Make sure you have the buy-in from fellow stakeholders to do this — and then pick up the phone!

Hiring is among the most critical decisions your company makes, but its importance can lead to paralysis in the recruitment process. With an understanding of the key attributes you’re looking for in a candidate and an organized, targeted approach, you can nab the best talent quickly without suffering hirer’s remorse.

You’ll have a hard time hiring the best talent with a strong compensation package. Find out how your salary ranges stack up with our annual Salary Guides.