Average U.S. Hiring Time Increased by 10 Days Since 2010

By Roy Maurer Jul 7, 2015
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The time it takes to hire has grown dramatically in recent years, according to new research.

Glassdoor Economic Research found that the process of getting hired in the United States took almost twice as long in 2014 (an average of 22.9 days) as it did in 2010 (12.6 days).

Glassdoor conducted interviews with 344,250 employees across six countries, in which users were asked to respond to the question, “How long was the entire [interview] process?”

“Most economic research on hiring times has been focused on the employer’s perspective—so-called vacancy durations that measure how long it takes a company to fill an open job. There has been surprisingly little research on interview durations from the job seeker’s perspective, and how company HR policies influence delays in job matching throughout the economy,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for Glassdoor and the author of the research report.

So why is the hiring process taking longer? “The big-picture reason is because of the economywide shift toward higher-skilled jobs that require more judgment and creativity and the decline in routine jobs that are easy to automate. You have to more carefully screen employees,” he said.

Glassdoor found little change in interview methods in recent years. The most commonly reported method in the U.S. was one-on-one interviews (68 percent), followed by telephone interviews (56 percent), both of which showed little change since 2010. The least commonly reported interview screens were IQ intelligence tests (6 percent) and candidate presentations (7 percent), which also have held steady since 2010.

However, candidate background screening has grown significantly. The percentage of job seekers reporting that they were subjected to background checks has grown from 25 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2014. Other prehire screening methods that have grown include skills tests (from 16 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2014), drug tests (from 13 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2014), and personality tests (from 12 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2014).

The results highlight a well-known tradeoff faced by hiring managers. “Longer interview processes may lead to more carefully screened candidates, but only at the cost of foregone productivity due to vacant positions,” Chamberlain said. “As employers balance this tradeoff between screening and hiring delays, our results help quantify the impact of today’s hiring policies on the time required for successful job matching.”

The length of the hiring process varies depending on the type and size of employer and the position being advertised, according to the research. The longest hiring times were found for public-sector employers (60 days), while the shortest times were found at franchise employers such as retail and fast food establishments (10 days). Hospitals’ hiring times were generally just over 30 days, nonprofits’ hiring times were just under 30 days and private-sector employers in general hired people in just under 20 days’ time.

“Government employers face strict legal and regulatory requirements on hiring processes that make them notoriously slow to hire,” Chamberlain noted.

Washington, D.C., had the longest hiring time of any U.S. city (34.4 days) due to the high percentage of public-sector jobs. After the nation’s capital, the major U.S. cities with the longest hiring times included technology hubs like Portland, Ore. (25.3 days); Seattle (25.0 days); San Jose, Calif. (24.8 days); and San Francisco (23.7). The shortest hiring duration was found in Miami (18.6 days), followed by Phoenix (19.1 days); Orlando, Fla. (19.3 days); Austin, Texas (19.6 days); and Tampa, Fla. (20.2 days).

“These patterns reflect a well-known fact about job matching: High-skilled jobs that require judgment, creativity and technical skills generally require longer, more intense job-screening processes,” Chamberlain said. “By contrast, lower-skilled, more routine jobs typically require little screening by employers, allowing for faster hiring processes.”

Small companies tend to hire the quickest, and the hiring duration steadily lengthens for larger employers. On average, hiring durations were shortest at companies with fewer than 10 employees (16 days) and longest at companies with between 10,000 to 99,999 employees (26 days).

According to Chamberlain, the sharper division of labor and the need for more specialized and technical workers at large companies typically result in more careful applicant screening. Then there’s bureaucracy. “Larger organizations typically have more administrative layers of candidate review and approval, markedly slowing down hiring decisions,” he said.

Hiring processes also vary dramatically by job title. “This isn’t surprising, as screening a new medical doctor or police officer shares little in common with interviewing for retail clerks or restaurant servers,” he said. “In general, the more complex the job, the more it requires intense screening of applicants.”

Government, academic and senior executive positions were the job titles associated with the longest hiring processes, the research found. Police officers reported the longest average duration (127.6 days), followed by patent examiners (87.6 days), assistant professors (58.7 days), senior vice presidents (55.5 days) and program analysts (51.8 days).

By contrast, the shortest job hiring times were typically found for entry-level marketing jobs (3.9 days), followed by entry-level sales (5.4 days), servers and bartenders (5.7 days), entry-level account managers (5.9 days), and dishwashers (6.9 days).

Notably, the characteristics of individual job seekers—gender, education, age—did not show any bearing on hiring times.

Despite the escalation of hiring times in the United States, the duration from interview to hire was even longer in most of the other countries surveyed. Hiring in Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom takes an average of four to nine days longer than it does in the U.S. A slightly shorter process was found in Canada, however, with an average 22.1 day hiring cycle.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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