A Hiring How-To: Increasing Speed Without Sacrificing Quality

A Hiring How-To: Increasing Speed Without Sacrificing Quality


By Jim Buchanan
CEO, CadientTalent

Like quality of hire, time to hire is a typical recruiting metric. Mostly because time is something no one ever seems to have enough of anymore, and as the adage says, time is money. Translated into the parlance of talent acquisition: the longer it takes to hire, the higher the cost. The logic is simple enough and responsible for an increased need for speed. But speed and quality rarely correspond, with the exception of luxury vehicles, perhaps, and given the state of the job market, it is probably easier to sell cars than it is to hire. 

Even so, while it isn’t easy, it is possible to increase speed without sacrificing quality, particularly once one understands the disconnect between traditional hiring methods and current circumstances, what that means for recruiting outcomes and how to preserve human connection amid faster decision-making.

What’s Changed

It is well-established that the recruiting function traces back to the Romans, with more modern tactics coming about in the second of the 20th century. Given the thousands of years of history this one sentence represents, it comes as no surprise that a lot is being left unsaid. However, acknowledging the connection from present-day to the origin of common recruiting methods goes to show how little has changed despite the decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics even published a 100-year retrospective that demonstrates specific trends over time, summarized as “From January 1939 to December 2015, one sector lost jobs, others experienced substantial growth, and still others simply kept pace with total nonfarm employment growth over the period.” Not exactly an earth-shattering conclusion, given recent technological advancements, and likely supported, in some part, by the slow-moving nature of the hiring process.

Thirty years ago, recruiting relied on paper resumes, reviewed by real-life recruiters, who had to schedule phone screens and in-person interviews before conducting assessments and background checks ahead of a possible offer letter. Even with newer systems, including automation, the workflow remains largely the same, reliant on recruiters to move candidates forward step by step.

What to Know Now

After years spent discussing ways to improve the candidate experience, the pandemic and subsequent Great Resignation forced employers to take a long hard look in the proverbial mirror. Market rate compensation is no longer enough to entice qualified job seekers to apply, let alone stay post-hire. BLS research noted a 4 percent jump in wages and benefits in 2021 – the most significant increase in more than 20 years. Perks like unlimited paid time off and flexible working arrangements have gained favor over the last several months, as have swag boxes and other flashy attempts to curry favor with candidates. One company even announced that they would pay $75 for a one-hour interview and more for any required prep work or assignments. And while all of these ideas help attract candidates and maybe even improve quality, they do not promote speed.

Jim Buchanan - CadientTalent
CadientTalent’s Kim Buchanan

Speed relates to process. Over-architect the process, and quality diminishes as expediency takes over. Under-architect the process and speed diminishes as decision-making lags. Finding – and maintaining – the right balance is where speed and quality level out.

Speed + Quality In Action

Knowing that the same old roadmap has been in place forever, it is up to the organization to build new inroads. Industry analyst and TA expert Tim Sackett recently published what he titled “How to Not Suck at Recruiting, a Primer,” and while not explicitly about the connection between speed and quality, much of his guidance carries over. Specifically, Sackett advises not to let hiring managers delay outcomes, writing, “If they aren’t doing what you need, let them recruit on their own and tell them that’s what is happening. If they want to take that to people up the chain, welcome the opportunity to tell your executives what’s really happening in recruiting.” Allowing stakeholders to hold up hiring – at any stage – will directly impact metrics across the board and make recruiters look bad at the same time. Control the people aspect internally to control the people aspect externally.

Likewise, Sackett also recommends, “Use any recruiting technology you have to its fullest. It’s the only what you’ll know what you don’t have, what you need and what you desire. Using your ATS 60 percent of the way tells you nothing about whether it sucks or not.” Without technology, recruiting travels back in time and becomes unnecessarily manual. Leveraging Sackett’s thinking, it becomes possible to identify any snags, automate critical steps like scheduling, reconfigure along the way and crunch the numbers to see how speed and quality actually correspond in the end.

Jim Buchanan has spent the past 15 years in executive management roles in the talent acquisition industry. Before CadientTalent, Jim co-founded Merlin Technologies, the parent company of Assess Systems, a human capital management company specializing in assessment software and solutions. Under his leadership, the company experienced significant growth and was acquired by a private equity firm in 2015. Before Merlin, Jim was the CFO of Peopleclick, one of the first companies to offer an applicant tracking system serving a blue-chip customer base – including 49 of the Fortune 100 and more than a third of the Fortune 500. Jim earned his bachelor’s degree at Indiana State University and his MBA at Indiana University.

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