/ / best practices, interviewing, recruiting process

John and I talk a lot as you would expect.  And our conversations are generally really interesting, given our backgrounds. It's actually one of the things I like best about working together is we both have done very similar big global recruiting jobs, but at very different companies, so it's fun to talk shop and compare insights, perspectives, and related points of view.

Last week we had a conversation about when Google opened an office in the Seattle market.... and how Amazon was out-executing Google with candidates that both companies were competing for.  In fact, he shared a story about one particular candidate that started the recruiting process with Google, and then got engaged with the recruiting department at Amazon, and Amazon engaged, interviewed, selected him, made him an offer and closed him before Google even launched their interview process. In fact, the candidate was still waiting to hear back from Google after he started as an employee at Amazon.

I shared that back in the day (circa 1998.... dot.com bubble age, Y2K Preparedness Era, etc, etc) when I ran recruiting for the small Oracle-technology consulting company that was acquired by CSC, we used to invite people to interview on site, with the intention of giving successful candidates an offer before they left our office.  We prepped candidates to expect it, and we beat our competition as a result.   In fact, as part of the M&A deal with CSC, I was given the opportunity to present to the CSC M&A team because they didn't understand how we could be so effective at recruiting.  But I digress.

Now, this post is not about Google or Amazon or CSC, but it is a good anecdote, given the competitive landscape unfolding in the talent marketplace, to illustrate an important point:  Speed is a competitive advantage, and should strongly be considered.  In fact, speed is one of 3 Big Variables inherent in most recruiting efforts that are interdependent:  Speed / Time; Cost, and Quality.  Generally speaking, one can only optimize for two of these factors and the third will remain suboptimal.    The classic example is using search firms:  generally they produce fast, high quality results, but it costs more.  Similarly, if organizations want to hire high quality talent but also want to be fiscally conservative, then recruiting efforts will take longer.   It's all a big never ending trade off.

So here's the main point: Although few corporate recruiting organizations choose this, I would argue that focusing on speed is a great strategy in today's market.   One reason is the financial cost is low... with operational discipline, recruiting organizations can (relatively) easily impact the speed of their process.  And that will lead to greater recruiting yields.  And it will also reduce the average net 'candidate processing effort' required per hire.  Which preserves capacity.  So getting candidates through your process quickly is a great area of focus as we head into a more competitive talent marketplace, while recruiting departments are being rebuilt and are currently really stressed.

Here's a few ideas to consider when optimizing for speed:

  • Pre-schedule interview days for hiring teams at the onset of the search.  This saves cycle time and allows you to execute more quickly.  In other words, set the interview days at the launch of the search, and cancel if you don't have candidates.
  • Pre-close candidates before you invite them on site.  Ask them, "If we made you an offer at the end of your interview day, what questions would you have to have answered in order to say yes?"  And then answer their questions.
  • Prep your hiring teams that speed matters.  Pilot a speed-recruitment process with candidates that have exploding offers or related competitive pressures.
  • Limit the number of interviews for candidates.  More interviews, beyond a reasonable number, simply doesn't correlate to improved hiring quality.  I recommend less than 8 interviews.
  • If you aren't using videoconferencing for interviews of non-local candidates, you are negatively impacting speed (and cost!).  Most VC technology is now so effective that it won't negatively affect interview and related assessments.  You should be scheduling candidates for interviews via VC and executing the interview process before you could even get a flight booked.  If you don't believe me, you should experiment with the technology.