When You Know, You Know…

How long does it take you to hire someone? Or – let me rephrase that – how long does it take you to know that you want to hire a specific person?

The two are different measures, and we tend – rather inaccurately – to measure the first question. We can look from brief to start date and create a measurement to say – oh look, our ‘time to hire’ is 6 weeks, 8 weeks or 8 months.

But this metric can be heavily influenced by external factors. Calendars might not align. Notice periods might be long. Stakeholders might be absent.

So let’s ask ourselves instead – how long does it take us to go from ‘I want to hire someone’ to ‘I want to hire this specific person‘?

Because ALL OF THIS is entirely manageable.

Your Process

You might have a rigorous six-stage interview process, including a test and a presentation. And your rigour should be applauded, as should your candidates’ perseverence, should they last the process.

Whether those candidates were active in the market before the process or not barely matters. Inactive candidates can be reactivated and can find themselves applying for other roles that move along more quickly – your active candidates will likely last even less time. We’ve seen plenty of examples of candidates pulling out halfway through overly lengthy processes.

You might have a standard two-stage interview process with your first interview acting as a ‘filter’ from the HR team or the hiring manager, and the second interview acting as a more stringent, structured interview.

Here’s a fact – if your hiring process is long, someone else’s will always be shorter.

And if your hiring process is too short, are you making hasty decisions?

Going with your gut

Whenever I’ve hired for my own teams in the past, I’ve always had a gut feel about candidates. In many cases, I’ve hired without advertising because I’ve known the person I wanted simply from having spoken to them.

Your gut feel is more important in hiring than you think. Many say that you know within 6 seconds whether this person is going to work out or not, and you spend the whole interview process either confirming or denying your gut feel.

This is why you need:

  • More than one interview
  • More than one interviewer
  • More than one candidate

And you also need:

  • An awareness that your ‘gut feel’ can be influenced, and can be wrong

It’s only natural to have a preference for a candidate with, for instance:

  • A strong handshake
  • A preference for the same colour tea as yourself
  • The same educational background
  • Stuffed parathas for the interviewer (oh my God this actually worked though, aside from the fact she was a brilliant employee)
  • A nice tie
  • … whatever

But you have to override your gut feel and follow a process so that you’re being fair to everyone. Sometimes, a candidate can turn up late, look a bit scruffy and stumble over their words, only to turn out by the second interview to be the best you’ve ever met.

A balance between rigour and speed

This is your holy grail. Before you start hiring anyone, work out what you need to do in order to make a decision quickly and make the right decision.

This will inevitably involve multiple stakeholders – and if you think it’s just yourself, try to get a second opinion at least. And make sure that all stakeholders are available, and committed to providing feedback within 24 hours of an interview or a test taking place.

Start by putting strict timeline windows in place.

  • When do you send your brief to a recruiter (only one, please, never multiple)
  • When does the recruiter expect to send you their shortlist?
  • When are you all free for first interviews?
  • When are you all free for second interviews?
  • When are you all free to get together to make that decision?

Too often, businesses don’t set out timescales and don’t fully involve stakeholders in the setting out of the process. And that’s very often the reason why things lapse – because such-and-such-a-person is unavailable for a whole week. Etcetera.

Testing times

And then we have the testing question of tests and tasks.

I’m an advocate. I like to see how people think when given space and time to do so. I like to see how people present things back, when given space and time to prepare.

You’re looking for one of two things:

  1. That the candidate understands the challenges you face
  2. That the candidate has the aptitude to succeed in these challenges

To help you make your decision – you need to decide which of these is most important to you. And that may be both.

We’ve had growth marketers, for instance, who flunked simple maths questions, failing the second element completely.

We’ve had social media marketers who have surprised us with how brilliantly they succeeded at understanding our clients’ challenges.

Frequently, these tests have eliminated candidates who passed the gut feel test and have brought out candidates who failed it, but were given a chance.

Deciding not to hire

You could, of course, be stuck in an eternal doom loop of selecting candidates and rejecting them because they don’t meet an ideal candidate profile that you have in mind.

In this case, your job becomes recruitment, and there will come a point at which you have to question whether this person exists.

And if you do reach that point, you have to consider what parts of the ideal candidate profile you’re willing to forego, and whether you can train candidates to become that ideal profile that you’re seeking.

Deciding not to hire after a long period of interviewing candidates often results in a poor employer brand, as word gets around the candidate base more than you imagine. So try to nail down precisely where you can compromise, and where you can’t.




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