Hiring a new employee can be a difficult and lengthy process to navigate. Firms often do not have a formal documented hiring process to follow (or may have never even hired a professional staff member before!), thereby exacerbating the situation.
In instances where a firm does have a process in place, some either have no screening measures to evaluate and vet the prospective “fit” of their candidates, or alternatively, screen so much that candidates deem it excessive and burdensome to go through it all (and thus just decide to move on). Simply put, it can be a challenge to assess the candidate's potential fit within a reasonable time frame.
Here are some guidelines for crafting and implementing a standardized hiring process workflow, assuming your candidates have been pre-screened:
- Candidate Action - Resume submitted.
Firm Response - Review resume and contact candidate within 3- 5 business days to either schedule an interview or inform them that you are declining to do so. It is fine to wait a little longer to ensure candidate follows up properly, but remember that good candidates will have likely sent their resume to other firms, as well.
- Candidate Action - Scheduled initial interview.
Firm Response - Ideally, this would be scheduled no longer than a week out from first contact. If you are using multiple interviewers, make sure the candidate knows who they will be interviewing with, and how long it will take. (Hint: It is a good sign if the candidate asks who they will be interviewing with.)
- Candidate Action - Sent follow-up thank-you note recapping interview (Hint: if they don't send this, consider moving on.)
Firm Response - Follow up with candidate within 10 business days to schedule 2nd interview (if they’re advancing to the second round), ideally not longer than a week out from that contact. If they are not selected for another interview, politely inform them that they are not advancing in the process.
- Candidate Action - 2nd interview held. (Hint: Ideally, the candidate will check in the day before the interview is to be held to confirm everything, especially if a week or two has lapsed since scheduling.)
Firm Response - Follow up within 3-5 business days to decline or make offer.
Once you have your candidates screened – which should be done before the interviewing itself! – the interview process should only take a few weeks. The probability of selecting the best candidate, and having that candidate actually accept the position and not go elsewhere, decreases with time. The firms that we have witnessed struggle are those that did not have a clear picture of what they were seeking in the role and/or from the candidate, prior to beginning the process.
Other than the obvious outcome - you lose the candidate - here are two other ramifications we often see when firms do not interact with candidates effectively:
- Candidates swing mentally and emotionally from feeling extremely excited about the opportunity and your firm's story to feeling as if you are not interested. And once this happens, it is difficult to get them to swing back to the excitement stage again when you get back to them. If you are interested, let them know. You can't lead them on forever. (Hint: Following up with them and letting them know that they are going to the next round, but that it will be a few weeks, so you can conduct other interviews, is better than nothing. Just be aware that you might lose a good candidate who accepts another opportunity in that timeframe.)
- Candidates who have interviewed at other firms share with me frequently that "so and so firm" seemed disjointed, ad hoc, and overall, unprofessional. Other comments, such as, "they seem like they aren't even sure what they want," can negatively impact the firm's reputation on a larger scale when the candidates start telling their friends, which in turn, makes it a chore to attract future talent. In fact, there are some firms that I cannot recruit for because their repeated failed attempts at hiring have put out a bad word about them (yes, your firm really can get a bad reputation for its bad hiring process!). If you find yourself not being able to get excited about any candidate you come across, then you are either asking for too much, or you are not clear on what you really need.
Ultimately, the top candidates want to work for firms that they are excited about, and that are excited about them. Additionally, they want to be treated with respect and kept in the loop on the interview process. Using the guidelines above should help you shorten your time to hire, so you do not lose candidates and suffer productivity set backs.