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Fill vacancies quickly by clearing bottlenecks, engaging in workforce planning, improving processes and using metrics.
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Recruiters find that an efficient hiring system looks a lot more like a game of dominoes than like the detours and setbacks of Chutes and Ladders. Those who match up all the pieces—thereby streamlining hiring processes—can increase corporate profits, improve customer service and employee morale, and advance other company goals.
The average time to fill job vacancies was 34 days, according to the 2011 Society for Human Resource Management Customized Benchmarking Service report. Knowledge-based industries such as finance, high-technology and health care tend to have longer time-to-fill averages, says John S. Dooney, SPHR, SHRM's manager of workforce analytics. So do larger companies with layers of managers. The average time-to-fill for companies of 1,000 employees and more is 43 days, compared with 29 days for companies having fewer employees. The report is based on a survey of more than 1,000 HR professionals at organizations of all sizes and across industries.
Beating those averages can mean better hires, says Tom Wimer, chief executive officer of Axeo Human Capital Consulting, based in Reston, Va. "If your candidate sits in the pile for days instead of hours, you run the risk of losing good people," he notes.
Look for Bottlenecks
Modern recruiting technology has been a boon for streamlining hiring. Many HR departments have increased efficiencies and cut hiring costs as they cull thousands of applications electronically, interview candidates via Skype or use LinkedIn to find candidates.
"Now a person can hit a few keystrokes and sift through thousands of pages in minutes," Wimer says.
Yet even with this technology, applicants can face long delays. Outside vendors such as reference checkers can slow down the process, as can hiring managers and HR professionals.
For Centris Federal Credit Union in Omaha, with 236 employees and a five-person HR department, background checks create a real bottleneck. Chrissy A. Cacioppo, PHR, benefits administrator, says her team is sometimes overwhelmed by getting fingerprints and checking references and education. Its solution: Make offers earlier, contingent on passing such background checks.
Sometimes the problem is closer to home. "We can get in our own way," Wimer says. Better screening upfront means HR professionals can pass along two or three fully qualified candidates to hiring managers instead of 10, he says.
But hiring managers can easily create bottlenecks, too. HR professionals can help by training managers on how to interview and what to look for in candidates. Even experienced managers can benefit from yearly refresher courses. "If you don't practice it, you lose the skill," Wimer points out.
Other delays occur when hiring managers are difficult to schedule for interviews and when they dither over whom to hire.
Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, an HR consulting firm in Fremont, Calif., sees delays when managers write vague job descriptions and have starry-eyed expectations. Instead of focusing on a few essential skills, such job descriptions look "like a little kid's Christmas list," he says.
Know Workforce Needs
Other broader strategies to speed and enhance results include engaging in workforce planning, improving processes and using metrics.
Workforce planning starts with understanding future workforce needs.
‘Recruiting is not a faucet you turn off and on. You have to have an engine in place.’
Stay ahead on your workforce projections.
Build a solid pipeline of potential candidates.
Partner with outside groups.
Build relationships with hiring managers.
At Starbucks Coffee Co., with 137,000 employees, Susan Jayne, SPHR, senior recruiter of talent acquisition, presses hiring managers to block off time each quarter to interview candidates. Having this time already allocated means interviews can be scheduled more quickly.
Provide temporary labor to fill open positions in the short term.
A Better Mousetrap
To improve hiring processes, focus on an array of strategies.
Develop a brand name.
Know exactly where to find the best candidates.
At Starbucks, Jayne constantly builds her network of potential hires by searching LinkedIn for workers with store management experience, joining interest groups and tweeting. While looking for a Salt Lake City district manager, she tapped into a retail group for the region. Now several candidates from that group are going through the hiring process.
Test for skills.
Test for cultural fit.
At Scripps, an online personality assessment ranks applicants for fit with the corporate culture. Zaman and her colleagues look carefully at whether someone can work well in a team environment.
At Virtua, an 8,400-employee New Jersey hospital system where applicant tracking systems handle more than 60,000 resumes a year, an extra layer of interviews was added to focus on fit, says Michael Pepe, chief human resource officer. Panels of employees have been trained in behavioral interviewing. When their departments have openings, panel members look at whether the applicant fits into that unit.
"It has paid off," Pepe says. "The wrong hiring decision can cost you one to two times the cost of the person's salary."
Reorganize recruiting staff.
Time-to-fill averages were 39 days for recruiters assigned by business unit, but just 28 for those who specialized in a particular job specialty or function, according to the latest available figures from the 2011 SHRM Customized Benchmarking Service report.
Cost per hire, which averaged $2,427, also was lower by nearly $1,000 at businesses with recruiters who specialize by function.
Tweak the interview process.
Cacioppo added core questions to the interview process, with points awarded for ideal answers. In the past, managers didn't have consistent questions for comparing candidates and often remembered the last candidates interviewed better than earlier ones. "We are treating everyone the same, and we're only selecting the best people," Cacioppo says.
Commit to speedy hiring.
When Cacioppo first changed the hiring process at Centris, she got pushback from managers who didn't want to take notes, score points and ask set questions. But she had the advantage of working in a small company where she has direct access to senior leaders. She won their backing.
"It's really a shared accountability," Pepe says. "If positions are not getting filled in a timely fashion, you don't just point your finger at the recruiter. You look at the whole process."
A variety of measures beyond time-to-fill and cost-per-hire can help make hiring systems more efficient. Here are some metrics to keep an eye on:
View departmental data. Look at employee surveys, customer satisfaction polls and financial performance data. At Centris, Cacioppo looks at teller wait times. In branches where lines move slowly, she uses that data to encourage managers to fill jobs quickly.
Zaman at Scripps says, "If we see anything going awry … we refocus on a more aggressive approach to getting talent."
Track external data. Pepe at Virtua keeps tabs on the state labor pool's average age, education levels and language skills. He also looks at the primary language of patients so that the organization hires employees who can communicate with them, and he assesses the types of skills his staff will need in the future. For instance, as the medical industry moves toward team approaches to patient care, medical staff will need skills related to electronic record keeping.
Anticipate retirements. Scripps offers a staged retirement program that lets workers continue to work part time while drawing some retirement income, so fewer leave and fewer need to be replaced.
The author is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.
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