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Hiring Process Timeline Best Practices

Allison Grillo
Allison Grillo

The hiring process is an important part of running a successful business. Make sure to develop a process that will lead to fruitful new hires.

Finding the right employees is a critical task that shouldn’t be rushed. Take the time to carefully consider the role you are hiring for, craft a solid job description, post your job opening, interview candidates, and eventually make an offer. Skipping any steps along the way can cost you in the long run. Here are some best practices for a solid hiring process.

What is the hiring process timeline?

It’s important to be flexible with the hiring process timeline, because you might find you need to adapt it based on the requirements of the role, your industry or your company. However, you shouldn’t necessarily customize the selection process for each candidate, because doing so often leads to excessive time spent with candidates for high-level positions and insufficient time spent with candidates for low-level positions. You need good people at all levels. Keep reminding yourself that finding the most qualified candidate is worth the effort, no matter the job level or business environment.

With that in mind, when you’ve identified the need to hire someone, use this model as a guide to the steps in the process:

Week one

  • Create a job announcement. The job ad should have an accurate job description. The right description combines two elements: what the company is looking for in a candidate and how the company will help the new employee succeed. In many cases, you’re writing for a specialized audience with specific expectations. Omitting important information about your company and the job might prompt a qualified candidate to look elsewhere.
  • Post the job opening. Circulate the job announcement on jobs boards, industry websites, social media and professional networks.
  • Look for outside insight. Discuss your hiring process with trusted professionals, personal advisors, or anyone who has shown a knack for providing insight into your business and industry. Sometimes, outsiders can offer fresh perspectives that will send you and your HR team in an exciting new direction. They might even name the person who eventually gets the job.
  • Talk to recruiters. Contact recruiters who have been effective in your industry.
  • Reach out to your network. Recruit candidates directly through social media or other more traditional networking methods, such as phone calls. It never hurts to remind people that their talents are held in high esteem, even if they don’t apply for this particular position.

Week two

  • Receive and review applications. Within a week of posting the job, you should have some applications and résumés coming in. Start looking through them to identify some good fits.
  • Conduct initial interviews. Once you have identified some qualified candidates, you can start conducting phone or video interviews.
  • Ask for additional information. Request more information from candidates (if needed). Have them answer emailed questions, take an editing or programming test, or provide work samples.

Week three

  • Schedule and hold in-person interviews. Based on your first round of interviews, start scheduling and holding in-person interviews. In emergency situations, video conferencing might suffice.

Week four

  • Finish the first round of in-person interviews. Depending on the position you’re filling and many other factors, the number of weeks you spend on the first, second, and additional interview rounds will vary.
  • Hold the second round of interviews. Schedule and conduct second-round interviews, and set up candidate presentations and group interviews.
  • Do reference checks. Contact references. The hiring manager or HR specialist may do this step earlier in the process, but if they haven’t, now is the time.

Week five

  • Conduct follow-up interviews. If necessary, do another round of interviews, often with applicants meeting with senior management.
  • Have candidates make presentations. Schedule and hold sessions in which selected applicants make presentations.
  • Finalize the shortlist. Narrow your list down to a few candidates you would feel comfortable hiring.

Week six

  • Make a job offer. Once you have a top candidate in mind, make an offer. Be sure to have all of the particulars, like salary and benefits, outlined in your offer.
  • Negotiate. Not every candidate will jump at your first offer. Be prepared to negotiate salary and other terms of employment.
  • Conduct background checks. Before finalizing any hiring agreement, make sure everything in a background check (if you choose to conduct one) has been addressed.

How long does the average hiring process take?

The timeline for completing the hiring process, from the initial job posting to the acceptance of an offer, varies among industries and companies. However, a 2016 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that, on average, it takes 42 days. The interview portion of the recruitment process usually takes more than three weeks, according to Glassdoor.

The length of the hiring process generally varies by industry. Here are the five industries with the longest hiring processes, according to Glassdoor:

  • Government
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Energy and utilities
  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals
  • Nonprofit

The industries with the shortest hiring processes are those with dynamic staffing patterns and a greater emphasis on abilities than educational credentials. Here are some of the industries that take less time to fill positions:

  • Restaurants and bars
  • Private security
  • Supermarkets
  • Automotive
  • Beauty and fitness

However, your company’s hiring timeline may not fall in line with what the rest of your industry is doing. The answers to these three questions may foretell the length of your selection process:

1. Does your company put a large emphasis on cultural fit?

Hiring managers are increasingly keen on finding candidates who “fit” into a particular system of customs, goals, and values. Finding such people extends the selection process, with more interviews, sometimes in informal settings.

2. Is your job opening for a position that requires significant judgment and creativity?

With automation eliminating many routine, task-oriented jobs, a higher percentage of positions require advanced thinking skills. That means you must think longer about whom to hire. Tools such as skills assessments and personality testing are often worth your investment in time.

3. Does the job description emphasize customer service skills?

Customer service skills have never been more important to business, and they are measured more accurately in a lengthier interview process.

How to create an effective hiring process

Your HR team must create a hiring process that is comfortable for both the company and job applicants. Tests of general intelligence and specific knowledge have their place, especially in identifying candidates who do not meet the minimum qualifications. Nonetheless, the final decision on a candidate typically depends on the judgment of a hiring manager or senior executive.

Hiring managers oversee all steps in the selection process, including recruitment, screening, scheduling and holding interviews, testing, and, finally, the negotiation of a job offer. But senior executives can also be involved in the hiring process, at least in an advisory capacity. After all, they are ultimately responsible for who works at the company and how well employees perform.

The ideal hiring process needs to be flexible enough to heed the wishes of senior executives. Companies with the best people tend to be those in which an HR specialist and a CEO talk to each other.

The complexity of your hiring process will depend on various factors, including the following:

  • Company size
  • Degree of profitability
  • Position within a competitive market
  • Company history
  • Company culture
  • Number of positions you’re seeking to fill
  • Level of the position
  • Whether the position is a new role for the company
  • Number of people involved in the hiring process

How to speed up the hiring process

Taking the time to hire the right person can prevent mistakes, but it can also give your favorite candidate the chance to wander off to a different opportunity. In addition, a leisurely hiring process means other projects may not get the attention they deserve.

Craft a job description that is clear and specific.

The description of the role should be complete but not laden with details of every possible demand that the new hire will face. The right job description can act as a road map for the entire hiring process.

Consider only the best candidates.

Be true to your screening process, and bring in only select candidates for interviews. Trust your instincts about candidates after reading their résumés. A certain candidate might look interesting, but will that person really be a good fit for your company? Instead of scheduling five to 10 people for a first interview, you might want to go with three to five. Avoid interviewing too many candidates who might look interesting but do not meet the minimum qualifications for the role.

Don’t overlook internal candidates.

Internal candidates may not be “perfect,” but neither are external applicants, despite their impressive résumés. And even if an internal candidate is interviewed but not hired, at least that person will not feel taken for granted. “Recruiting” people who are already on board is a way to build better communication links within your company.

Simplify the application process.

Go the easy-apply route, instead of requiring detailed information upfront in a lengthy application, which can discourage would-be candidates. At the outset, ask simply for a cover letter and a résumé. It takes only a few minutes to glance at this information. If you like what you see, you can get more detailed information during the next stage of the hiring process.

Get a head start on references.

Contact references earlier in the hiring process, rather than later. Tacking this step onto the end of a series of interviews can delay hiring. (A key contact might be on vacation, for instance.) Also, checking references is an important way to evaluate talent and should not be treated as an afterthought. Knowing more about a candidate who comes in for an interview will help your HR team ask better interview questions, leading to a richer exchange of ideas and information.

Be flexible.

If a candidate does not have a particular advanced degree or the same background as everyone else at the office, must that be a dealbreaker? With too many preconceived notions of the ideal candidate, you might overlook someone who could bring new ideas to your business.

Outsource certain tasks.

If you anticipate becoming overwhelmed by the hiring process – and that might happen, for reasons out of your control – outsource some of the process to a professional staffing agency.

FAQs about the hiring process

Here are three common questions – and their answers – many small business owners have about hiring new employees.

How much does the average hire usually cost?

The cost of a new hire will depend largely on their starting salary and any immediate perks. There are, however, nearly universal costs associated with hiring, and even in dramatically different industries, many of these expenses reoccur.

According to research done by the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost for hiring a new employee is roughly $4,000. That includes the cost of HR to process the new employee, payment to the employee that will likely not yield productive work (such as during orientation or training), and myriad other expenses that are part of the process.

What tools can help make the hiring process more efficient?

Applicant tracking systems are popular. They help HR post job listings, they parse and organize candidate resumes, they identify well-qualified candidates, and they help companies track candidates throughout the hiring process.

Another useful tool is a good old-fashioned reference. Employee referral programs require an investment to set them up, but they can generate big rewards by attracting quality hires to your company who may not otherwise hear about your company.

What day of the week/time of day is best to make a job offer? surveyed more than 270,000 separate jobs, and according to their findings, Tuesday was the most popular day of the week for employers to extend job offers.

“Mondays are busy and tend to get away from people before they have a chance to extend offers,” said Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters.

The most popular time of day for extending an offer is 11 a.m. It is considered to be late enough in the morning that most people are awake and alert. It is also before lunch, giving offer recipients a likely opportunity to respond to the offer.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Allison Grillo
Allison Grillo
Contributing Writer
Alison Grillo is based in New York City. A native of New Jersey, Alison earned a BA in economics from Drew University before working as a daily newspaper reporter. She has since contributed to many business publications, including The Business Journal and Milwaukee. She has taught expository writing at Rutgers University, Pace University and the University of San Francisco. Her love is reading great literature – and trying to create some of it herself. An inveterate Anglophile, she was once thrilled and flattered to have spoken at the University of Cambridge in England.