Interview process getting longer

Various screening methods increasingly popular: Study

Recruiters and hiring managers know well the delays that plague recruitment. Going through the interviews and screening procedures is often a long, drawn-out process.

And it’s getting longer. The average interview time — from the moment a person applies to when he finds out he got the job — has increased globally in length by 3.3 to 3.7 days since 2010, according to a Glassdoor report. That trend remains even after accounting for shifts in job titles, companies, industries and jobseeker demographics.

Of the six countries surveyed, Canada has the quickest timelines, averaging 22.1 days in 2014, compared to 22.9 in the United States. Overseas, it is considerably worse, with France averaging 31.9 days, Germany at 28.8, the United Kingdom at 28.6 and Australia at 27.9.

The time factor used to be less of an issue. In Canada, the average was 12 days in 2010, according to the research, based on a statistical analysis of hiring times from  340,250 interview reviews (with 14,600 from Canada) by job candidates on 

Hiring delays can represent money left on the table both for workers and employers, according to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor in San Francisco.

“Longer or shorter hiring times are a dual-edged sword where if you speed things along too quickly, yes, you make a quick match but it might be a bad match and those people might not stay, they might be the wrong person for the job. On the other hand, if you wait too long, you risk losing those people to a competitor. And also, every day that a position isn’t filled, the company makes less money and the worker doesn’t get a paycheck so there’s a tradeoff that is going on… but there’s certainly some evidence that things can be speeded up without losing much.”

Longer hiring times are definitely bad for employers, said Ben Hutt, Sydney-based CEO of the Search Party, a recruitment firm with offices in Toronto.

“Empty seats lead to a loss of productivity for businesses, overwork for other team members, and every hour a manager spends searching for the next employee could be better spent doing other things.”

In addition, the longer the hiring process drags on, the more likely managers are to hire poor-quality candidates, he said, citing Search Party research.

“It would seem like an obvious conclusion to draw: ‘Move fast, make more mistakes.’ However, I believe it’s likely to be the opposite,” said Hutt. 

“Line managers in both small and large business reported knowingly hiring people who had lied about capability or history, or who they knew would be mediocre performers at best because they were sick of waiting and wearing the pain of an empty seat. This is an issue because while empty seats drain morale for everyone, adding a poor hire is more painful and has more disastrous consequences in the end.”

Growth in screening methods 
So, what’s behind the longer interview process? One factor seems to be the types of interview screening methods used by employers, according to Chamberlain. For example, in the U.S., candidate background checks increased from 25 per cent in 2010 to 42 per cent in 2014. Skills tests  went from 16 per cent to 23 per cent, drug tests from 13 per cent to 23 per cent and personality tests from 12 per cent to 18 per cent.

And each additional screen adds significantly to hiring times, such as 6.8 to 8.2 days for a phone interview or 3.1 to 3.4 days for a background check (see sidebar).

There’s increased use of these kinds of tools because people think they can predict outcomes, said Laura Randell, CEO of PeopleMatters consultants in Toronto, who questioned their reliability.

“There’s a lot of data out there that says behaviour-based tools and assessment tools are not necessarily really good indicators.”

Employers and recruiters also don’t want to make mistakes, she said.

“They really are looking at the cost of hiring and wanting to — and I think maybe this is a Canadian approach — making sure we don’t make a risky decision, we want to put people through as many hoops as we feel are necessary. There’s a flipside to that and there’s a negative to that which is you lose top talent by taking this approach. The longer you take, the more likely the top talented people are going to walk away from the process because they’re not going to bother — they’ve got other opportunities, they’ve got other offers, they want it to be simple and easy.”

Job candidates understand there’s an element of rigour that’s required but there are people at the C-level who are being sent for entry-level skills tests, she said.

“They’re not going to do it. So you’re trying to do risk mitigation and yet you’re actually losing top talent.”

One of the reasons behind the increased use of screening could be because jobs are changing, said Chamberlain. 

“Jobs, generally, are getting more technical, more sophisticated. Finance companies are hiring data scientists… when they used to hire mostly salespeople, and these more sophisticated jobs that are non-routine and that require more judgment and creativity, skills that are harder to fill quickly.”

There’s also the issue of sensitive data, which businesses never used to have, he said. 

“Like Target having digitized credit card information and transaction information for millions of people… what that means is they’re relying on background checks and credit checks more because they want to ensure that anybody who comes into contact with that is a trustworthy person who has a good track record.”

There is also a big drive to do recruitment internally — so not leaning on an agency — and employers are keen to manage the risk of getting it wrong or at least to protect themselves, said Hutt.

“Our research suggests that, even with all these tests, more than 60 per cent of the time employers hire a candidate who fails to live up to expectations. This suggests that people are either using the wrong test for the job or relying on tests instead of better methods for selection (which they may well be unaware of).”

All these tests are not really necessary if employers have a proper candidate sourcing, selection and evaluation process, he said.

“Most employers don’t even know how to interview properly, let alone screen and assess capability. There is a massive opportunity to improve capability and access to technology to help in this area.”

The key is using the right test, at the right time, for the right job. So, for example, using a psychometric profiler for someone who’s not working in a project- or team-based role “is totally pointless,” said Hutt. “My view would be assess for capability first, then willingness/motivation, then lastly fit with the team and broader organization.”

A lot of reference checking is also done well in advance, said Randell.

“We’re front-loading the assessment piece to recruitment and I think that’s a massive mistake, I really, really do. But the reason we’re getting away with that is because, whatever the numbers say, unemployment is really pretty high,” she said.

“People are desperate so the job seekers are desperate and they’re willing to do anything and everything to get a job. And, unfortunately… it’s the wrong people who will do these assessments. The right people are not going to waste their time, they’re in demand.”

The cost of background checks is also far lower today than it was a generation ago, said Chamberlain.

“There’s just so much information about us that’s digitized, it’s way easier for Experian or these other credit companies to quickly gather together your whole financial history and your record on paying your student loans.”

Newer hiring software could also be a factor, he said. 

“There seems to be some experimentation going on and people aren’t quite sure how to use that applicant tracking software to make the hiring process more efficient,” said Chamberlain.

It’s a matter of looking at when people are being put through all of these various hoops, said Randell.

“What HR can really learn and do better is make sure they only put people through these screens when it’s necessary and make sure that the timing is right. Really simple stuff — like you don’t do references, you don’t do background screening and you don’t do skills testing until you basically have finalized candidates — and too many organizations are doing that completely backward.”

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