The life of a recruiter is bound by deadlines.
We make promises to our stakeholders and we work hard to keep them. To deliver candidates ‘on time’. To keep ‘time to hire’ at a minimum.
But isn’t it strange that the only promise we invariably make is the one about when?
Not who. Or even how.
The results of our recent LinkedIn survey of talent acquisition professionals shows that recruiters are overworked. When asked about how they spent their week it broke down as follows:
This all seemed fair enough until you realise that this adds up to 52 hours, 12 more hours than the 40-hour working week.
When rushed to hit a deadline, recruiters inevitably cut corners. We rely on inherent biases. We don’t see the full picture. We hire the familiar.
Bad metrics create bad cultures
According to Jibe, the top 3 metrics recruiters measure are source of hire (57%), time to hire (50%), and applicants per hire (42%).
With the amount of time burnt on the day to day task of recruiting, it’s not surprising that hiring initiatives such as inclusivity and bias mitigation aren’t high on the agenda.
Stranger still, we don’t promise that the candidate we find will be the best available person to do the job. Or that the selection process will be fair and consistent. Or deliver a candidate experience that wins you brand loyalty. Those things are fuzzy. Hard to measure.
And if we aim for these things at all (most don’t), we put them under ‘goals’ but not ‘promises’.
We only promise we will find people quickly.
It seems that all we recruiters want to be able to say is that we delivered on time and on budget. What we delivered is a distant second.
Think about that for a moment. I will too.
It’s insane, right?
In fact, it’s an obsessive-compulsive treadmill of crazy.
Because, once the person has been hired—not a single person gives a jot about the fact that it was done on time. We’re already on to the next vacancy. The next deadline.
On the list of things managers want from new employees, ‘time to hire’ is not one of them. Yet it’s still the one things we all agree to measure and track – invariably at the expense of all the other things.
Deadlines are bad for diversity
Our deadline obsession is an unsurprising by-product of the world of accountability, recruitment budgets and resourcing calendars. Those are good things.
But surely we can see that over-indexing on time to hire virtually guarantees that even great, talented, motivated recruitment teams will achieve mediocrity far more often than greatness. On-time mediocrity. But still mediocrity.
The challenge facing every recruitment team is clear: to carve out time for thoughtful, detailed, and dare I say it, great recruiting in our deadline-obsessed world.
To protect critical hires from the deadening hand of the deadline, letting it take as long as it takes to unturn each stone, and to get the right person. To ensure our hiring process is fair and that each and every candidate has a fair shot at landing the job.
Let’s not blame our stakeholders here. It’s not their fault. Of course, they want on-time delivery. But would they want it every time if they knew that it would—with certainty—come at the expense of quality or fairness?
And wouldn’t they accept a later deadline if the result led to more impact? If we did give our stakeholders a choice, they might choose quality over timeliness at least a few times.
“We can find you a shortlist by March 8th and it will be good. Or we can make it great and it will take longer. I’m not even sure how much longer, right now. But it will be much, much better. Your call.”
That’s a rare conversation but not a crazy one. So why aren’t we doing it already?
Because deadlines are such clear milestones. They’re far easier to measure than the quality of hire. There’s zero subjectivity to a deadline.
But that’s not the only reason.
The other reason we don’t fight for more time is that we’re not confident about how we’ll turn that added time into a better candidate. We’re not sure it will be better.
Why? Because we’ve never tried it.
We’ve never given ourselves the time to discover the value of time. And no one wants to fight for that extra week or month only to bring back the same, tired candidate shortlist.
Slow recruiting: time to kill a deadline
Maybe it’s time to find out how much better recruiters can be when we give ourselves the time to apply the full talents of our recruitment teams.
To stop complaining about time pressure and call our own bluff.
To give the recruiter an extra week to conduct six more interviews.
To give the resourcer the time to explore new possibilities, research different, more diverse sourcing channels and come back with something they’re genuinely excited about.
To let the whole team press ‘pause’ because the shortlist just doesn’t feel exciting or different or fresh.
To kill a thing we promised to deliver, going back to the stakeholders to explain why (why Plan B will be later… but better).
As a former recruiter, I was trapped in the same deadline cycles as everyone else. I did not crack this. But every once in a while, I saw the value of the relaxed or non-existent deadline. The value of time.
And the evidence is strong: the relationship between time and quality may not be strictly linear, but it’s damn close.
As recruiters, our collective challenge is to find ways to slow down the clock on at least a few, important projects. To argue for more time and to use that time well. To prove to ourselves and our stakeholders that time, invested in the service of the candidate, will pay dividends.
And that, while making our deadlines is important, making our deadlines at all costs… is far too high a price.