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A never-ending process is unwieldy for you as an employer and burns out prospective candidates. In addition, emerging evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic period shows women may choose to leave the workforce rather than endure unpredictable job searches that may or may not result in hiring for positions that are under-compensated and undervalued.

A national study of job seekers in 2016 showed that nearly 60% of job seekers felt that the single most frustrating part of the job search process was waiting to hear back about whether or not they got the position after moving through an interview process. But what is too long? Before reading further, answer this question for yourself. Then consider that according to this data, approximately 25% lose interest in a position if they haven’t heard from a prospective employer within a week after an initial interview. Close to 50% lose interest if they don’t have a status update within two weeks after their initial interview. Employers lose out on excellent candidates by delaying. Overall, approximately 40% report that lengthy hiring processes cause them to lose interest and move on to other job opportunities. Recall that very rarely are we as employers the only offer, the only option or the only position a candidate is looking at. The longer we wait to interview, be in touch, or even to make a job offer, the more likely it is that an excellent candidate will hear from another organization and accept that position first. (And see this compelling data from 2020 with some helpful geographic data)

One way to support more effective communication and streamline the process is to set up autoresponders. This helps to prevent bottlenecks that might occur if you attempt to manually respond to every applicant, and relieves additional burdens on you and your team. Autoresponses could notify candidates when their application is received, when they should expect to hear about next steps, when to schedule an interview, when to submit more information, and other steps along the way. And simply because these are automated does not mean that they are impersonal: it is possible to craft them in ways that are thoughtful, creative and respectful.

So don’t just let folks know what to expect. Make the process efficient and effective, and model the practice of streamlined decision-making. When you’re indecisive and wait for a “better” candidate to come along, this offers your current candidate pool meaningful insights into how your organization makes decisions, or doesn’t. Don’t allow your best candidate to go elsewhere for another job.

Don’t make the mistake of not checking references. Yes, this does happen, and it happens far more frequently than we are willing to admit. Many of us want to “go with our gut” and as we shared above, tap our networks for information about candidates. This has the potential to end in disaster, or at the very least, to lead to a bad match.

What kinds of references do you want? Many employers allow candidates to share their own lists of recommendations. While you cannot require a candidate to offer specific individuals as recommendations, you’re welcome to specify which categories you would like to hear from. Consider inviting recommendations from former or current supervisors, peers, subordinates, laypeople, students, and other colleagues. You may not get the exact list you’d like, but you will have a well-rounded picture of a prospective employee’s experience over the last number of years while not compromising what might be a private or confidential job search.

Reach out to the list of references offered by candidates and invite them to respond to a set of questions about the candidates. Make sure you’re asking the same set of questions of all recommendations for all candidates so that you can compare your data effectively. Ask great questions, questions that invite storytelling and that help you to develop a comprehensive picture of the candidate at work. Questions that begin with “tell me about….” are always helpful. Questions that elicit a yes or no response won’t glean much information. And be ready to follow up with “tell me more….”

When doing your due diligence, ask all the questions. We want to ask as many possible questions upfront so that when the time comes, we have fewer surprises. Many surprises that could have been posed as questions in advance lead to uncomfortable conversations and have been known even to contribute to rescinded offers. Make sure that you do this due diligence promptly, not waiting until the end of your process after a series of interviews after you’ve developed a relationship with a candidate. Waiting to do due diligence will likely trip you up and add unintended delays to the process.

We often think of due diligence as the reasonable yet thorough investigation into an individual’s background and experience that an organization will take on prior to entering into a professional relationship. You do your due diligence to vet candidates, and prospective employees do the same for your organization as well. In other words, ask good questions.

What information do you need, and when do you need it? Many employers seek recommendations to add to the portfolio that a prospective employee offers. Remember that previous employers are only required to verify employment. Job seekers will offer recommendations from those who they have chosen to share the best perspective on their work, and who they have asked to serve as recommenders. Speak with these individuals; it is from these references that you should draw your impressions, and ask questions that help you to assess their qualifications.

Don’t use your network to gather extra information that may get the “back story” on a candidate, or that may expose someone’s private job search to their employer. Even more so, leveraging your connections opens up a wide variety of implicit biases that you can otherwise avoid. As you tap into your network, you shift a candidate from outsider to a member of your circle, inside your orbit. This happens by seeking out connections or gathering impressions from those other than references chosen by your candidate. Searching the social media life of your candidate permits you an uncurated look into their lives which they did not sanction, and will inappropriately and unnecessarily shift your perspective.

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