Imagine this: two hiring managers approach you about new IT positions. One says the process will move quickly: three rounds with a final decision in just a few weeks. The other hiring manager says you’ll need to go through four rounds of interviews over two months– sometimes going weeks between rounds without any feedback. If you didn’t know anything else about the companies, which would you rather work for?

Candidates are increasingly using their front-end hiring experience as a deciding factor when evaluating job offers. Although not always mutually exclusive, the way an organization treats their applicants on the front can be an indicator of how they will treat their employees once hired. For example, a long drawn out hiring process may signal a company with internal conflict or institutional barriers to decision-making, two problems top IT talent wants to avoid.

IT unemployment rates are at historic lows and companies are struggling to source specialized talent. In this competitive marketplace, the front-end hiring experience can make or break your company’s chances to snag your top-choice hire. These tips will help you improve your hiring process and strengthen your employer brand in the process:

  1. Set clear expectations. Do candidates know what to expect up front? If the process is going to be long, be transparent about this. From my experience, some candidates may be okay with longer hiring processes as long as they’re in the loop from the beginning. Still, I advise companies to move as efficiently and quickly as possible during the hiring process. That’s because slow processes don’t improve hiring quality. The opposite is true: top candidates drop out because they either receive offers from other firms or fear the company culture won’t be the right fit due to perceived institutional barriers. If your company wants to build a reputation as a cutting-edge firm, your hiring process needs to support this goal.
  2. Build positive buzz. Let’s face it: job applicants are going to talk with colleagues about your hiring process– are they saying positive or negative things about your company? Strive to make a positive impression on all candidates who move through your hiring process, whether or not you ultimately extend an offer. Applicants who have a positive experience will keep the marketplace buzzing about their desire to work with a company like yours.
  3. Keep the momentum going. IT companies are most likely to lose top candidates at the end of the hiring process. These candidates are in demand and if a company doesn’t move quickly enough, another firm will make an offer. Extending an offer earlier in the process will not only help your firm land top talent but could also favorably position your company during salary negotiations and avoid a “bidding war” for your top candidate. Even if your top candidate ends up choosing another your offer, you still want them to walk away from the process saying, “Wow! That company knew what they wanted and went for it– I respect a company with that kind of drive, vision, and energy.”

An extended hiring process can raise “hidden” costs by requiring hiring managers and employees to spend unnecessary time on low-value aspects of recruiting, like redundant interviews. Worse, a negative hiring process hurts your company’s employer brand, which can diminish future candidate quality.

Questions about how your company can best streamline its hiring process? I invite you to post your questions in the comments below or contact me directly: