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Considerations for achieving an ideal hiring cycle time

Organizations that can hire more quickly than their peers and competitors have a distinct advantage in the talent marketplace. Moving too quickly to hire, however, could end up costing more in the long run if an organization does not get the right talent in the door. After breaking down cross-industry benchmarking data on cycle times for hiring, we’ll review three broad areas where you can focus as you work toward an optimal cycle time for your organization.

The cycle time in days from approval of a job requisition to acceptance of a job offer provides a good snapshot into the strength of an organization’s hiring processes and practices. The figure below shows cross-industry data based on survey responses from more than 5,100 organizations.

Time to Hire chart

APQC finds that organizations, at the median, take 30 calendar days from approval of a job requisition to acceptance of a job offer. The fastest organizations in our data set are those at the 25th percentile (below which 25% of responses fall), which can carry out the same set of processes in 20 days or fewer. The slowest organizations—those at the 75th percentile—take 40 days or longer.

The data shown in the figure gives a cross-industry snapshot of performance for this measure. For a more accurate assessment of where you stand, it’s important to benchmark your organization against peers and competitors that are similar to yours in terms of factors like industry, region and size. These often make a tangible difference when benchmarking. For example, governmental and healthcare organizations tend to have longer cycle times for this measure because of the policies and regulations to which they are bound.

It is also important to benchmark your cycle time for this measure as part of a broader and strategically balanced set of measures. The speed at which you hire is important—but you’ll also want to track measures like the total cost of recruiting, employee turnover and customer satisfaction with the recruiting process. Achieving the ideal hiring speed for your organization is often a matter of optimizing the tradeoffs between these different priorities—not pursuing speed at any expense.

The risks of moving too slowly—or too quickly
All else being equal, a shorter cycle time is better. Organizations that hire more quickly have a better chance of outmaneuvering their competitors in the talent marketplace, which is critical for acquiring talent with high-demand skill sets like AI. Organizations that hire too slowly not only risk losing the best talent but may also see declining team productivity and employee satisfaction as team members work to pick up the slack from any unfilled roles on top of their day jobs.

Find opportunities to shorten your cycle time for this measure if:

You are losing qualified candidates to other employers before you’ve made an offer;
you are receiving negative feedback from hiring managers, recruiters or candidates about the length of the recruiting process; or
hiring managers take a long time to make a selection or interview people.
While speed is important, rushing the process can be just as bad as moving too slowly. Tempting as it is to fill positions as quickly as possible, the time saved will not be worth it if your process is not bringing qualified hires through the door or employees are performing poorly once hired. Getting the wrong candidate into the role will, in fact, end up costing you more if you eventually need to hire, train and onboard a different employee.

See also: Is ‘structured interviewing’ a key to hiring success?

You may be moving too quickly to hire if:

You are not getting very many applications for a position;
you are not getting qualified candidates for a position or
managers are rejecting a large proportion of the candidates you bring to them.
Finding your cycle time sweet spot
If your organization’s performance on this measure is not where you’d like it to be, search for improvement opportunities across the people, processes and technology you use for hiring. Small improvements in each of these areas can add up to big wins that drive more efficient processes.

People
One of the most effective ways to strengthen your hiring processes is to build and sustain collaborative relationships with hiring managers in each area of the business. Business relationships and regular check-in meetings help HR understand each area’s unique strategies, goals, and talent challenges, which enables HR to find candidates who will better meet the organization’s needs.

Collaboration between HR and the business also helps organizations to identify the most promising talent acquisition approaches (for example, tapping into new sources of talent) and execute them most effectively.

As you build and sustain these relationships, it is also important to provide training to hiring managers on how to navigate the process, make it work smoothly, create job descriptions and set realistic expectations about hiring. The latter is especially important because organizations may not find the perfect candidate for a role. In these cases, hiring managers need to think strategically about which requirements are non-negotiable and where they are willing to be more flexible (about educational background, for example).

Process
Strong, collaborative relationships between HR and the business help to set the stage for effective process improvements. Gather a team or process committee to find best practices for recruiting across the enterprise and develop a standardized process around those practices. Many organizations find that efforts like these help to drive significant process improvements.

It is also helpful to break the larger process into smaller segments and look for improvement opportunities within each. For example, is it taking a long time to post jobs and review applications before you even schedule interviews? Are candidates giving negative feedback about the number of interviews they need to complete? Segmenting the process will help you better identify improvement opportunities and determine which ones will make the most impact.

Technology
The right technology can enable your organization to make data-driven decisions about recruitment, which will help to reduce your cycle time and drive more effective hiring. For example, many leading organizations use analytics tools to make sure that the time they spend is going toward things that have either worked effectively in the past or have a good probability of paying off in the future. Automation tools can also help to streamline tasks like initial resume screening and candidate communications.

Leading organizations use tools like these to enhance the candidate experience and drive faster recruiting. But technology itself cannot fix a broken process. Make sure that your process is optimized before applying technology like automation so that it doesn’t end up accelerating problems that exist in the process today.

Key takeaways
Hiring too slowly—or too quickly—will cost your organization in the long run. Relationships between HR and the business provide insights and opportunities that can help you find an optimal rhythm for hiring that brings the best talent in the door. Technologies like automation and analytics will help drive a more efficient process and a better candidate experience, but they should only come after you improve the process itself.

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