The Trouble with Time

There’s a saying in sales that ‘time kills all deals’. And in the case of hiring, this couldn’t be truer. The fact is that many things in life rely on the right timing and for recruiters and job seekers; timing is one of the most difficult challenges they face.

Why?

Whether too much of it, or not enough of it, time is one of the most important elements to making the right hire. There’s the obvious observation that despite a fantastic job opportunity, the ideal candidate may not be on the market when the company wants them to be. Or, even if they are found by a headhunter and persuaded to come to the table, the ‘timing’ might not be right to commit to that move. Similarly, a fantastic employee may be available to work, but the right company and position may not be available at that given moment in time. Most frustratingly can be the time allocated to a decision making process – too often, far too much time.

The Time to Hire

None of us like to think we’re making the wrong decision, but this can lead to a tendency to think ‘let’s wait for that ideal candidate’ attitude. In this regrettably common example, the hiring manager finds things they value from various potential recruits, but cannot bring themselves to make the final decision quickly. Frequently, this candidate-unfriendly deliberation in the hope of finding the perfect match can backfire and genuine talent can slip through the net. There are many in the HR profession that realise recruiting on core competencies and talent leads to better outcomes than just ticking off skills/experience against a un-thought through job specification. And those with the talent and the transferable skills will not be waiting for long.

But there is an addendum to this point as well, regardless of whether a hiring manager is waiting for perfection. If you tell a candidate you will be back in touch tomorrow, or the next couple of days with feedback/a decision, please do so. Failure to manage expectations of time to decide can have a hugely negative influence on candidates. Be honest with yourselves first on how your decision-making process will work; be honest with the candidate at interview; and, be honest with the headhunter or recruiter so that you are all aligned. We all know how difficult it can be to overlap the diaries of busy executives so be realistic.

Time Creates Distance

An interview process can be likened to the classical sales funnel – but in this case a two-way sales process in which potential recruits are selling themselves to the hiring manager, and the hiring manager (should be) selling the company and the role to the potential recruit. There are steps in the process that lead to a negotiation, a successful close, and the sale (appointment) being converted to cash (starting). And the longer the hiring manager leaves it to get in touch with the candidate following the interview, the more likely they are to forget just how brilliant they were. The chemistry between candidate and hiring manager fades, and whilst they may remember the details of why the interview went well, they likely won’t remember what they were feeling. They may forget the positives, whilst the negatives become magnified. For both potential recruit and hiring manager, this is a real issue and ongoing analysis often leads to self-doubt and a failure to make an offer. In both these situations, a detrimental outcome can be significantly lessened through clear communication between potential employee and the hiring manager.

Of course, part of our job is to find out exactly where my client and the candidates stand in terms of timings. It is always a balancing act (with the externa forces of the candidates’ current employers wanting them to work their notice period – damn those employment contracts!) but it is ‘better three hours too soon than a minute too late’ as William Shakespeare once said. It is also important to ascertain the demand for a new position: is the whole management team on board with the recruitment process? If not, there’s a definite chance the process could take longer than it should, as various people are convinced of the necessity to hire.

It is simple and obvious, but it is also vital to understand the interview process from the outset, including how many times shortlisted candidates will be expected to meet and present to various members of an organisation. Having clarity and keeping to the project timescales, whilst keeping the lines of communication open, prevents surprises along the way means and more able to demand urgency when another opportunity is presented to the favoured candidate.

Charles Buxton once wrote “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it” and this is as true today as it always has been. As always, I’m interested to hear your experiences of the impact of time, whether you have been hiring or searching for a position. Please feel free to get involved.

Image: Shutterstock

This article was first published on LinkedIn on the 12th of April, 2017


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