by Bill Richards, managing director of Indeed in the UK and Ireland

A decade ago, when I applied to help set up the UK branch of Indeed, that hiring process took a long time. While the company quite rightly wanted to be judicious and hire the best person for the role, the lengthy process left me questioning my interest in the position. 

My experience was, in fact, common. A recent survey found that 62% of professionals lose interest in a job if they hear nothing from the employer within two weeks. That number rises to 77% if there is no status update within three weeks. 

I did join Indeed, ultimately, and it is now a personal priority of mine to help businesses reduce time-to-hire and improve communication to respect applicants’ time. I’d like to tell you why I, and all of us at Indeed, believe that streamlining the hiring process can give your business a critical advantage in a tight labour market, and offer some advice on how your organisation can speed up the process.

The real costs of a slow hiring process

The average time-to-hire in the UK, the amount of time that elapses from the moment a person submits their application to the point at which they accept a job offer, currently sits at around 36 days, and it can take far longer to fill highly skilled tech roles and positions in senior management. 

Lengthy hiring processes are costly to businesses and frustrating for candidates. A range of factors can delay and frustrate the hiring process in any organisation, including:

  • a large candidate pool that overwhelms decision-makers
  • poorly defined needs
  • a lack of clarity in the job description
  • inefficient screening and interview processes
  • a lack of communication and decision-making

Any combination of these factors can elongate the hiring process and leave key positions unfilled for longer than necessary. Lengthy time-to-hire costs businesses in myriad ways, most immediately in revenue lost to an empty role. Delayed recruitment can result in lost productivity, increased workload on existing employees that leads to burnout and turnover, and missed business opportunities. 

An inefficient hiring process can also turn off top talent. When businesses receive an average of 250 applications for each corporate-level role, it’s safe to assume that many jobseekers may be interviewing for multiple roles at any given time. Even highly desirable companies risk losing out on quality candidates when the process becomes excessively prolonged, a major issue when the most talented may only be on the job market for an average of 10 days. Plus, a drawn out time-to-hire can increase levels of bias in the decision-making process because the longer the process takes, the more subjective evaluations tend to creep in.

In addition, while a smooth and efficient recruitment process can signal a well-run organisation, a drawn-out process can give jobseekers the opposite impression, which can seriously damage your brand reputation.  

Reducing time-to-hire is a key way in which companies can reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve their brand perception among jobseekers and their networks, all while ensuring the best pool of candidates remain in play for the duration of the process. 

Eliminating the job application 'Black Hole'

In actual fact, a slow response time isn't always the worst thing that jobseekers experience: in extreme cases, they never hear back from a company about the position they applied to at all. This leads to a sense that their application has been swallowed up by a ‘black hole.’ In these circumstances, even the most optimistic jobseeker will become frustrated and disheartened. How can they plan for the future when they don't know what's going on?

Candidates then share their negative experiences within their families and social networks: according to CareerArc, 72% of jobseekers who say they have had a poor candidate experience then share the experience online or directly with a colleague or friend. By contrast, 81% of candidates who describe their application process as positive share their experiences with family and friends. A positive experience for a candidate, regardless of whether they received a job offer, can result in higher candidate satisfaction, increased word-of-mouth referrals and an enhanced reputation as an employer of choice.

How to find your ideal candidates in less time

The ideal time-to-hire timeframe varies depending on company, sector and the seniority and skills required by the role. But as a rule of thumb, companies should aim to fill vacancies within a month of posting a listing.

Identify your company’s hiring strengths and weaknesses

It’s important to first identify the areas of the hiring process where your business can make the easiest and most effective improvements. The figures you want to collect are:

  • the ratio of suitable to unsuitable applications you’re currently receiving for any position
  • the average number of days between making the final selection to issuing an offer
  • the time it takes a candidate to progress between each of the various hiring stages
  • the total average time it takes your company to fill a role
  • the tangible impact vacant roles have on your business, from lost revenue and productivity, to increased worker stress and turnover 

These numbers can enable your business to begin to identify suitable solutions.  

Streamline efficiencies with recruitment automation tools

Hiring is a complex process. While not every step can be automated (empathy, intuition and relationships are all factors that will always require the human touch), artificial intelligence and machine learning can help streamline the recruitment process by automating CV and candidate-screening, candidate outreach, interview scheduling, communications and even offer negotiations.

Indeed Assessments, for example, helps employers quickly find candidates with relevant and required skills. Employers can issue skills tests to candidates and easily compare results between candidates. Screener questions, to check, for instance, whether a candidate has a clean driver’s licence, how far they are willing to travel for work, or how many years of experience they hold in a particular area, can help remove candidates that lack the necessary requirements for a role and save both the jobseeker and the company time and money. 

Automation can also help eliminate repetitive questions and qualification steps. This, in turn, can prioritise more sensitive areas of questioning that might typically be back-loaded during a face-to-face interview until after an exchange of pleasantries and discussion of less potentially combative topics (For example, salary expectations.)

Reducing time-to-hire offers numerous advantages for companies and jobseekers alike. It improves the candidate experience and enables jobseekers to rapidly transition into new, better roles. For employers, an efficient process not only helps to win top talent, improve productivity and save on hiring costs, it also boosts your brand reputation by exemplifying why you’re an employer of choice.