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, 57 percent of the more than 1,000 U.S. 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 46 percent 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 (39 percent) 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.

Learn more about why managers need to move quickly in their recruiting efforts, what workers want and what it takes for companies to bring them on board in Robert Half's report, The Demand for Skilled Talent.

How a long recruitment process can hurt your business

“The hiring process provides a window into the overall corporate culture,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “If people feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organization, they will take themselves out of the running.”

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.

Discover 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. “The key takeaway is for firms to tighten their timelines without skipping steps,” McDonald 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 10 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 without a strong compensation package. Find out how your salary ranges stack up with our annual Salary Guides.

Read the infographic text.

Are you Taking Too Long to Hire?

U.S. Workers Weigh in on Timing Issues During the Job Search

Hiring is one of the most important decisions any organization makes. But stretching out the process can cause good companies to lose out on the best candidates. Read on to find out the hidden costs of a long hiring process.

In your opinion, how long is too long of a hiring process – that is, the period of time from which you initially interview for a job to the day a job offer is extended?

39% 7-14 days
24% 15-21 days
12% 1 month to 6 weeks
10% 22-28 days
10% 1 wk or less
5% 6 weeks or more

What is the most frustrating situation in the job search? (Multiple responses allowed)

57% Long wait after the interview to find out if I advanced to the next step/got the job
47% The interview described a different role than what was advertised
35% Multiple requests to return to the firm for more interviews/skills evaluations
33% Scheduling delays setting up first interview

After an interview, how long are you willing to wait for an employer to inform you of your status before you lose interest in the role?

46% 1-2 weeks
23% Up to one week
23% 2-4 weeks
8% More than a month

When faced with a lengthy hiring process, which of the following describes your feelings? (Multiple responses allowed)

39% I lose interest in the role and pursue other job openings
33% It affects my self-esteem. I feel if they really wanted me, they would move quickly
32% I question the company’s ability to make other decisions if they can’t seem to make a timely hiring decision
23% I don’t mind. I’m willing to go through a long hiring process to work for a great organization
21% I completely understand and respect their need to be thorough
18% I lose interest in the role and decide to stay in my current job

Survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults currently employed in professional environments.

Tips for speeding up the hiring process:

Gather the stakeholders

Before you post the job opening, set the timeline for the hiring process and get everyone’s commitment that hiring is the number one priority. Block calendars for interviews. Determine who has the final sign off.

Tighten the interview schedule

Conduct the screening interview via Skype or FaceTime. Consolidate all on-site, in-person interviews to one day if possible. Get feedback immediately from the candidate and hiring managers to determine interest levels

Keep communication lines open

Inform candidates when you expect to make a final decision. If there is a delay, call them with an updated timeline.

Make the offer

Make a verbal offer contingent on satisfactory reference and background checks.

© 2016 Robert Half International Inc. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.