Here’s the scenario: You’re getting good traffic to your job posts and candidates are applying. But, even so, you’re losing top talent because it takes weeks—or longer—to move from application to interview to hire.

This “black hole” is common, especially with HR resources stretched. At the same time, these lags can be detrimental to finding and hiring the right candidates—62% of professionals lose interest in a role if they don’t hear from the employer within two weeks of applying. By three weeks that number jumps to 77%

While it’s understandable hiring teams want to ensure they’re identifying the most qualified and relevant candidates, dragging the search process on for too long can lead to another challenge: top talent getting scooped up by other, faster-moving companies.

The challenge, though, isn’t just losing an individual candidate. Sites like Glassdoor and Indeed welcome interviewee reviews and ratings. Many candidates who waited weeks or even months to connect on a role—or who never heard back post-interview—may have less-than-positive things to share about their candidate experience. This can have a negative impact on your employer branding and can impact recruitment even more. 

Identifying target candidates in less time

Integrating assessments or pre-screening during the initial application process can help curb at least some of this lag. By immediately eliminating less relevant candidates early on, hiring leads can focus on a tighter pool of more qualified applicants, identifying potential hires faster and easier. From here, be sure to engage top candidates as soon as you spot them—don’t wait to have a certain number of prospective interviewees identified or you could wind up with the same lengthy lags and “black hole” drop-offs.

If your team is already using candidate screeners, but is still struggling to accelerate engagement and hiring, it may be time to reconsider the type and number of questions or screener steps in your application process. Too many questions may prevent even the most qualified candidates from moving forward, while misaligned questions can impact your sorting and pre-screen capabilities.

For example, if your open role mandates a specific certification or degree, include a screener question to confirm that a candidate meets the requirement. As you filter candidates, you’ll immediately remove applicants who don’t possess these credentials. This eliminates the need to review applications that don’t meet your minimum requirements. Conversely, employers sometimes list “nice to have” qualifications as if they were essential. This can discourage otherwise qualified people from applying. To maximize hiring efficiency, job descriptions should prioritize the “must-haves” while clearly identifying the less important criteria as “nice to have.”

Also: be sure to review existing screening questions to ensure they align with the current job requirements. Asking about a candidate’s willingness to travel, for example, may not be relevant right now, and may keep qualified talent from applying. Ideally, you should streamline the screening questions to cover only what’s most critical for the role. Once applications are received, hiring managers can focus on the candidates who best sync with these initial requirements, expanding their review pool from there.

Automating the candidate experience

Integrating assessments and mandatory pre-interview screenings can help identify high-potential candidates. At the same time, though, HR and recruitment teams are, again, being stretched thin, with fewer resources and heightened demands: 98% of HR leaders say that, since the pandemic, their role has shifted. In addition to shouldering more work with fewer resources, many find themselves drafting multiple employee surveys, constantly issuing business and pandemic updates, and upgrading their organizations’ compensation packages to be more competitive. Meanwhile, TA teams have been tasked with the high-stress responsibility of mass hiring in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Balancing Active and Passive Candidates

A recent Indeed study found that recruiters spent 80% of their sourcing time manually searching passive candidates, but just 19% of these candidates turned into hires.

81% of hires came from active candidates—people searching and applying for jobs on Indeed.

Source: Indeed, Balance the Art and Science of Recruiting With Indeed Hire, March 2020.

Increasingly, HR leaders have begun integrating AI and automation to alleviate some of the heavy-lift tasks from teams’ plates. Many repeatable tasks can be turned over to a machine partner, curbing time spent and freeing HR and recruitment leads up to work on high-value tasks only they can perform. Some easily-automated HR functions include: 

Assessments and screenings 

Again, pre-interview assessments and screenings can help high-potential candidates stand out. Getting to and conducting that process, though, doesn’t have to be manual. By automating candidate screenings, teams can set parameters around who receives an assessment invite and who doesn’t. Is it all candidates? Candidates with specific job titles in their application, or specific prior experience? People with specific accreditations or certifications in their resumes? Something else? 

By setting these triggers, it’s easy to keep candidates moving forward in the process, creating a positive, productive candidate experience—and helping your teams identify potential hires in less time. 

Simplifying communications and scheduling

More than ever, coordinating candidate interviews can be a challenge. If your company requires in-person interviews, coordinating times for remote candidates to visit your location may cause significant lags. Even virtual interviews may be difficult to schedule, especially if applicants are currently working full time.

To overcome these and other challenges, and keep email exchanges to a minimum, many recruitment professionals are adopting automated scheduling tools. Instead of asking candidates for their availability (or stating recruiter availability and hoping for the best), a candidate engagement or scheduling tool provides everything job seekers need to book open time and confirm the meeting location and expectations. For example, the Indeed Interview Scheduling tool allows recruiters to:

  • Automate interview scheduling for approved candidates 
  • Receive confirmations and responses from candidates
  • View the list of upcoming interviews
  • Update or edit interview details
  • Cancel or reschedule interviews
  • Provide post-interview feedback

In addition to making it easier to connect with applicants, schedule interviews, and share feedback, the software allows candidates to respond with messages to interview invitations, thus confirming their availability and avoiding interview no-shows.

Automating the scheduling process is an immediate win from an efficiency perspective, though if implemented without forethought, it may eliminate the much-needed personal touch from the recruitment process. Moreover, if applicants aren’t clear about how to engage with the tools or are confused by unexpected requests for personal information, your team may inadvertently create a negative impression. This can impact how talent views your brand and diminish their interest in pursuing open positions any further.

If your team observes a lower-than-expected response rate from automated scheduling and outreach tools, consider quick, 10- to 15-minute calls between hiring managers and candidates. This can help your team manage expectations for the automated communications that will follow—e.g., requests for reference checks, background checks, and further scheduling.

Automating reference-check processes

Overcoming the reference-check hurdle doesn’t necessarily require added resources or budgets. By streamlining and simplifying the candidate review process, a team can expedite the identification and engagement of suitable candidates, avoiding significant time lags.

From there, consider ways to facilitate the background and reference checks. Likely, your team is already checking on final candidates before extending offers. This process, however, can take up to a week, delaying candidate engagement or an offer.

To speed this task, many recruitment teams are integrating automated processes. Online reference checks, for example, give references the opportunity to respond from anywhere, anytime, instead of having to connect live with a recruiter. 

Automating all or part of the background-check process can serve a dual purpose: keeping candidates engaged in the hiring process while eliminating a time-consuming task. By enabling candidates to initiate their own background checks via email and online forms, your team can take this chore off their plates—and still ensure the task gets done.

Be honest and direct

All of this said, be sure your job posts are honest, authentic, and portray a true “day in the life.” By including specifics about the role including clear-cut responsibilities, day-to-day needs, and other critical duties, candidates who don’t fit the desired mold will likely move on from your job post to another opportunity that’s better aligned.

Likewise, don’t be afraid to be direct. While, again, you don’t want a required qualifications list that overwhelms potential candidates, you do want to be clear on what is needed from day one. If you need a certified OB RN because they will be managing a team of nurses or will oversee the most critical cases, say so. If a digital marketer needs experience with social pay-per-click (PPC) because they’ll be overseeing millions in PPC budgets, say so—and indicate only candidates with these qualifications will be considered. 

Accelerating your recruitment processes

It’s, again, a common challenge: teams receive an influx of resumes and it takes time to sift through and identify qualified candidates. Just 4% of candidates say they typically hear back on applications within one day, while 44% say they generally hear “within a couple of weeks of applying.” 

At the same time, though, the longer the lags between candidate engagement, the more likely a company is to lose top talent. This, in turn, can require firms to devote more time and resources (including financial resources) to filling open headcounts. Significant time lags may even force a recruiting team to restart the entire hiring process weeks or months later–after the initial pool of candidates drops out.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By recognizing and taking steps to mitigate your HR “black hole,” your business can accelerate recruitment and hiring while improving the candidate experience—and bringing on even more top talent.