What Takes so Long? Inside the Hiring Process
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard throughout my career is that the hiring process takes way too long. Applicants don’t get it, and nothing frustrates hiring managers more than this. A lot of times, HR gets the blame for this too. I’ve seen company goals of 60 to 90 calendar days from the time they post the job to the start date. Of course, it’s frustrating. Today I’m shining a little bit of light on the hiring process that tends to look like a black hole for applicants. Keep in mind these are generalizations, and every company has a different process that may go faster or *gasp* slower than the time frames I’ve listed.
Job Posting (1-3 weeks)
Companies want to attract the best possible candidate pool, so job postings are usually put up for two weeks. This way, they can advertise and get a diverse applicant pool. I’ve seen postings just go up for one week, but most of them are around two weeks. If the job is highly specialized, or they are hiring for multiple positions, they might keep it posted for longer.
Some companies will look through the pool as people apply and start reaching out to candidates, but others wait until the posting closes to review any of the candidates. Here’s a tip, if you have a list of dream companies you’d love to work for, go set up profiles on their websites right now. You can set preferences so they’ll email you jobs that you’re interested in and you can apply right away.
Selection and Interviews (1-4 weeks)
Applicant tracking systems have helped the hiring process move a bit quicker through automation. These systems scan the resumes and rank them based on keyword matches. Once candidates are ranked, hiring managers or recruiters see the “top” applicants in the pool. The systems are still learning, and in a lot of companies, there’s a distrust of the technology, so they may still review every resume in person. Once the top 5-7 resumes are selected, usually the next step is to schedule interviews. I’ve seen companies that have internal reviews of the candidate selection before the hiring managers move forward with scheduling, which can add a lot of time as well.
After the candidates are selected, then the interviews take place. This whole process takes 1-3 weeks, but it can take longer if there are vacations, holidays or other scheduling challenges. Plus, Some companies have multiple hiring loops or interview sessions. There could be multiple phone screenings, in-person interviews and they might require senior leadership to meet with final candidates. The more senior the position, the longer and more involved the interview process is. This stage is where applicants may be asked to participate in a personality assessment as well. Just a reminder that these evaluations test for consistency in your answers as well as your personality.
Once the interviews are finished, hiring managers select the final candidate. The next step is to get the conditional employment offer out to the applicant
Conditional Employment Offer & Negotiations (1-2 weeks)
The first step in getting an offer out is to determine what salary to offer. Small, nimble companies can move a lot quicker in this step than some larger businesses that have multiple layers of approvals and bureaucracy. At this stage, you should be negotiating salaries, benefits and other conditions of employment. After negotiations are done a conditional offer is initiated, but don’t turn in your two weeks notice quite yet. Most employers have pre-employment paperwork and testing to get through first. Once you agree upon a salary, the offer is considered accepted. As an applicant, you should request all of the details of the offer in writing. The next step in the process is to complete all of the required paperwork and all of the checks.
Background, References, Credit Checks (1-3 weeks)
At this point in the hiring process, you’ll get a pile of paper to go through. In HR-speak, this is called your pre-employment paperwork. It typically contains your conditional job offer in writing and a bunch of forms to fill out. There are a lot of different pre-employment checks that a company can have in place depending on the type of positions. This list isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but to give you an idea of what they could include. It’s not common for an employer to use all of these checks, and there are federal and state requirements for companies that collect this information
- Employment verification
- Education verification
- Criminal background
- Drug Tests
- Credit Check
- I-9 Paperwork
- Polygraph tests
- Medical exams
- Security clearances
It’s important to note that some background checks take longer than others. If you’ve lived in multiple states, the criminal records can take a while to report back. This is just as frustrating for the employer as it is for you. When clearances start coming through, the hiring managers starts getting antsy too. Typically a drug test only takes a few days, unless there’s a problem with the sample. If there’s a problem, the medical doctor reviewing the test will typically contact you first to let you know the results before calling the employer.
Two Weeks Notice & Start Date (2-3 weeks)
The end is in sight! It’s risky to quit a job before you have the proper clearances from your pre-employment checks. Even if you’re confident that nothing will come up, there can be mistakes or delays in the process. One of my previous employers had a difficult time verifying my degree because I had placed a privacy hold on my records. I had to physically go to the campus to remove the hold before they’d tell the employer that I had graduated. Making the trip to my old college campus added some time to the process and almost cost me the job. The safest bet is to wait until everything is verified before you turn in your notice at your current company.
Most employees give two weeks notice at their current employer. Giving notice allows your current employer to come up with a plan for the work and a bit of training the person filling in. Some companies may ask you to stay longer if possible while others have policies to pay out the last two weeks and not have you complete the time. Paying an employee out and letting them go is rare. It tends to happen in when an employee is dealing with confidential or proprietary initiatives at the company.
What Can You Do?
As a job seeker, you don’t have a lot of control over the hiring process. The best you can do to stay informed and help move things along. Always ask what the next steps are so you know what to expect. Once you start talking about the offer with the company, ask how long the rest of the process typically takes. Respond quickly to emails, phone calls, and requests for information, so things don’t get stalled. Keep in touch with the company and your references. If your references aren’t returning calls, that can delay the process. Consider checking in with them to let them know to expect a call. Lastly, do your best to stay patient and assume positive intentions. Remember, the company needs you, and they’re doing everything they can to make the process work quickly within their boundaries.