By Randi Weitzman, Executive Director, Technology and Marketing and Creative Talent Solutions for Permanent Placements

For months, Blair* had been unsuccessful in hiring a developer to deliver a large-scale, high-stakes web project. For the midsize healthcare company where they worked, Blair wanted to secure a standout candidate after inadvertently making a bad hire last year. 

To help guard against getting burned again, Blair decided to revamp their hiring process. They bumped up the number of interview rounds and assessments, believing this approach would increase their chances of landing a top candidate. 

But one after another, at some stage during the longer process, the candidates they wanted most withdrew from consideration or ghosted them. Sure, there were other candidates, but Blair grew frustrated and unenthusiastic about their increasingly limited choices as their workload soared. 

They were also surprised. From some of the attention-grabbing headlines about layoffs, Blair had assumed they could take their time and call most of the shots. But the data said otherwise: a low national unemployment rate plus millions of job openings.

As Blair lined up a third interview for a promising candidate, the chief financial officer caught them off guard by announcing a hiring freeze. Now Blair would have no choices. 

Full of the sting of regret, Blair told me they lamented losing their opportunity not just to snap up an outstanding candidate but a capable candidate. They knew it would have serious ramifications for their project, peace of mind and their IT team’s morale.

Faulty assumption: highly skilled candidates will wait 

Blair is far from alone in not landing the highly skilled candidates they want to recruit. According to research from Robert Half, 83% of hiring managers have missed out on a good hire in the past year.  

The reasons often boil down to in-demand candidates — who are usually already employed — being very selective about which job opportunities to pursue and how much time they will spend doing so. 

Ironically, elongating the hiring process, which Blair did, increases the likelihood of a bad hire because popular candidates tend to drop off.

How candidates feel about today’s hiring process

In conversations I have with candidates every day, job seekers are clear and specific about their feelings around the hiring process. What I see in surveys, on employer review sites and on social media only echo what I hear directly from candidates, such as:

‘The hiring process takes too long.’

A lengthy hiring process is the top complaint I hear from candidates, reflecting today’s current reality. With many companies adding more interviews and assessments, it’s taking them 57% longer to hire than in 2021, according to recent research from Robert Half.

As a result, I’ve seen many standout candidates keenly interested in a position at the start lose their enthusiasm as the process drags on, with many moving on to other opportunities. 

‘I want to hear from hiring managers more.’

Your candidates have burning questions: “Do they have feedback from my interview? Will I meet more of the team? What happens next?”

So, if you miss the chance to respond to a potential hire’s email or phone call in a timely manner, or you send them a robotic-sounding email that doesn’t address their questions, that person can feel slighted and may withdraw — emotionally and literally.

‘The process can be too one-sided and inflexible.’ 

Candidates seek some give-and-take. I frequently advise hiring managers to be mindful that in-demand candidates have options in today’s tight labor market. 

Take interview scheduling. It’s well documented that flexibility is a top attribute that many candidates want in an employer. But if you don’t meet candidates halfway on interview times, they often assume you won’t be a flexible employer, regardless of what you state in the job description. 

This can dampen a potential hire’s interest. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Below are some tips on creating a brand-boosting hiring experience that increases your chances of landing your top candidate.

How to create an exceptional candidate experience 

When a top candidate hears about your position and decides to apply, there’s an initial spark of interest. You want to build on that by bringing your A game, so the candidate feels energized, excited and compelled to work with you!

Here’s how to create an exceptional candidate experience: 

1. Evaluate your process through the candidate’s eyes 

First, take stock of how candidates feel about your current hiring process. Collect and examine any feedback you can find via surveys, emails or posts on social media or employer review sites. Check this information against the length of your previous hiring processes and how often you communicate with candidates to gain a more complete picture.  

Next, take a moment to reflect on your personal communication with candidates. If it’s a phone call, what’s the timber of your voice? Do you sound friendly and excited to speak with the candidate? If it’s an email, what’s your tone? Do you sound open and appreciative of their engagement?

And what about your assessments for gauging candidates’ skill levels. Are they reasonable and respectful of a candidate’s time? 

Based on what you learn, you can identify areas for improvement and act on them.

2. Speed up your process without sacrificing the vital information you need

Securing the job candidate you want to hire requires moving at speed. However, you still need to feel confident that you’re making the right decision. Here are some tips to tighten your process while building positive momentum: 

  • Condense multiple interview rounds — You need the key players on your team to weigh in on a candidate. But I’ve seen companies require seven interviews over four weeks, which can be unfeasible for a top candidate who is working while job searching. 

A better approach is to conduct structured panel interviews within days of each other. For example, a candidate might have two interviews but meet with six of your colleagues.

  • Curtail the number and length of assessments — Coding or copy assessments can provide you with greater insight into candidates’ capabilities. However, asking a potential hire to complete time-intensive assignments, such as a 15-slide presentation that takes eight hours to prepare, might dissuade them from continuing. 

Instead, use a test of skill that’s brief but not overly complex, such as a live tech assessment or short writing assignment. I always advise companies to avoid making the hiring process difficult and draining for candidates because you could inadvertently lose the best ones. 

3. Communicate clearly and personally throughout the process 

One of your first opportunities to impress a candidate is to outline the hiring process itself at the start, including details about interviews and timelines. By knowing what to expect, candidates often feel reassured. It also shows your company operates in a structured and transparent manner, which is the type of workplace ambitious candidates respect. 

Given how busy they can be, an in-demand professional will greatly appreciate it when you shepherd them through the process with proactive, regular and clear updates about where things stand. This matters more than you might think.

4. Show that you believe the hiring process is a two-way street

Make reciprocity a cornerstone of your relationship with a potential hire by providing thoughtful feedback to them during the hiring process and asking for it in return through a survey.

This feedback loop can make candidates feel valued. It also signals to them that your business is forward-thinking and focused on continuous improvement.

When you transform your candidate experience from a slow grind like Blair’s to a quick and enjoyable process, you will be in a strong position to secure a motivated new hire. And, if you need any assistance, we’re always here to help at Robert Half. Contact us today to find your next great hire.


Follow Randi Weitzman on LinkedIn.

*Hiring manager’s name has been changed for confidentiality.