An unfilled job can mean lost productivity and profits. So why are firms are taking so long to fill vacancies? A study conducted by review site Glassdoor (like Yelp for jobseekers) claims to have found the source of the bottleneck—an increasing number of HR departments are scrutinizing candidates more closely than before, requiring candidates to complete additional skills tests and other challenges designed to gauge their aptitude.
Work is becoming more complex, so it seems reasonable that firms would aspire to do everything they can to find the best fit. On the other hand, the researchers note, it’s probably at the expense of productivity. The study analyzed 344,250 interview reviews submitted anonymously by the site’s international user base during a six-year period ending in February this year. The study looked at nine interview methods—including background checks, group panel interviews and skills tests—and found that each one had a statistically significant effect on the length of the hiring process.
According to the study: telephone interviews add 6.8 to 8.2 days; group panel interviews add 5.6 to 6.8 days, one-on-one interviews add 4.1 to 5.3 days and background checks add 3.1 to 3.4 days. Many companies employ more than one of these screens.
The study also identified a number of other factors that are contributing to longer wait times, many of which are beyond an employer’s control, such as industry-specific norms, macroeconomic headwinds, demographics and geography. But tacking on extra tasks to gauge the abilities of applicants is one factor that’s completely within a company’s domain.
Slowing down the hiring process may lead to better matches in some cases, such as executive positions that demand “hard-to-observe skills like creativity and judgement.” For the rest, hiring delays are most likely a waste of time.
“We find larger companies take dramatically longer to hire candidates than small and mid-sized firms. Are bigger companies really getting much better job matches than their mid-sized competitors? Probably not,” the researchers wrote. More likely, the slowing hiring processes at the world’s biggest employers, particularly ones in the public sector, are the result of “creeping bureaucracy.” SMEs might be able to swoop in and steal candidates while larger competitors take their time making a decision.
The main takeaway for organizations, the researchers write, is that individual HR policies do indeed collectively impact the broader labour market—and hiring managers would do well to carefully weigh the the costs and benefits of additional screening techniques.
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