By Lisa Maclaren, Senior Vice President of Client Delivery

Reducing time to hire is seen as a crucial part of the hiring process to ensure the right person is in the right place and at the right time. But of equal and sometimes greater importance, is candidate experience, hiring manager experience and ultimately employee retention. Does reducing time to hire come at these costs?  

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) partners are often tasked with reducing time to hire as part of a suite of key performance indicators (KPIs), or contractual and financial service line agreements (SLAs), but is this always the best approach? 

Many organisations benefit from a review of their end-to-end hiring processes, as part of discovery during the implementation of an RPO solution.  A fresh perspective, combined with the expertise to challenge the current state leads to process re-engineering to a future state model.   

These process and tool-based solutions often reduce days from the talent acquisition process, through reimagining process steps, introducing automation and re-structuring the delivery team. Consideration of the following points is critical to ensure those adjustments are thoughtful and productive: 

  • The candidate, hiring manager and recruiter still need to receive an excellent experience through the entire recruitment process. Reducing time to hire does not always equate to a good recruitment experience. 
  • Different regions and localities will be influenced by their local culture, language and regulations, which will have an impact on the length of the recruitment process. These factors can either elongate or shorten the process. 
  • Regions and countries will have varying macro influences such as their economy, inflation, competition & migration all having an influence on the time it takes to hire a candidate. 
  • Personal circumstances will be heavily nuanced to where a candidate resides that will have an affect on timings during the hiring process, all out of the control of the recruiter.  
  • Simplification can certainly reduce a process but try to create a balance between what is required and what is needed. Steps are there to determine if a candidate is suitable for a role but ensure that they are relevant and not just included for process’s sake.  

Targets for targets sake 

Key performance indicators (KPI’s), service line agreements (SLA’s), and managed service agreements (MSA’s) are all designed to provide structure, legal framework, protection for all parties, governance, diligence, and goals.  Yet do they limit innovation, creativity, and flexibility?   

Current market conditions require flexible hiring approaches, guided and driven by micro factors.  Often, we focus on the macro. There is unprecedented global demand for recruiters in 2022.  This is a fact.  But this can cloud our judgement and lead us to assume every candidate is open to operating at pace in our process simply because the market is hectic.   

Skilled recruiters know their markets intimately, they also understand the candidate behaviours, which are unique to that market or culture.  The pressure of achieving stringent KPI’s around reducing time to hire can drive activity that is counterproductive.  Recruiters need to be empowered to use their knowledge and insight to drive the right conversations and respect the time it takes for some candidates to reach a level of comfort to express interest and apply for a new role, particularly those who were passive and not looking when approached.   

In some Asian and European countries, relationships are king.  Candidates take time to build trust with recruiters and, only once this is achieved, will they allow the recruiter to represent and present them with a new opportunity.  This relationship building can take weeks, or months.   

In other markets, candidates expect a fast process, with any protraction or delay giving a feeling of unease, or assumption they are not successful.  We must consider the candidate, be curious and genuinely interested in their circumstances and use this to guide their journey. 

Recruiters who immerse themselves in the market, sector or skill set they specialise in can bring powerful market insights to the table, they analyse the market for you and their advice has real value.  The empirical and data driven insights gathered from conversations, research, and AI tools help Hiring Managers and HR business partners understand what is realistic in that market.  They inform hiring strategies that add real impact, not simply imparting numbers, or statistics. 

KPI’s can quash recruiter enthusiasm, put pressure on them to force a process, or worse force a candidate to make a faster decision than they are comfortable with.  For recruiters, this can lead to reduction in job satisfaction, burn-out and the opposite impact to that intended.  For candidates, it could make them withdraw from a process or a role that may be a great fit, as their decision-making time has not been respected.   

In many cultures changing jobs is a collective decision, with consultation with the wider family or mentors expected and sometimes permission required to accept.  This takes time but is an essential part that needs to be considered and incorporated to ensure there is engagement with candidates during the recruitment process. 

Should the time to hire KPI be used at all? 

Time to hire as a KPI is a way of providing clarity of expectations, driving enhanced performance in your recruiting team, achieving internal and external goals, and adding value to your business.  The point is not to remove them, but to use them with consideration and review them frequently to ensure they are fit for purpose within the changing hiring landscape. It’s also advisable to have a defined process to manage exceptions, so that recruiters are able to do what is best for their candidates and their recruitment experience without negative impact to the contractual targets. 

There are many nuances when it comes to time to hire.  It’s local, it’s personal to each candidate journey.  Their journey is their first experience of you, as a future employer.  Joining an organisation can be a life changing decision with impact way beyond an employer’s influence.  A candidate’s choice, timings and circumstances is not driven by client, or recruiter metrics.  

Listening to candidates and knowing your market deeply will inform whether the process should be slow or fast.  If you give your candidates, and sometimes hiring managers, space, and time to make their decisions, your results will be better.  From increased conversion from offer to onboarding, higher retention and better net performance indicator (NPI) scores or Glassdoor reviews, the impact is measurable.