Over the past several months, I have been watching and commiserating with a good friend of mine who is currently looking for a job in the auto industry. He has moved around a bit in the last couple of years and of the early-50s vintage. Let’s face it, he isn’t the new face on the block, but he has a career full of solid experience and a desire to go to work. He has been experiencing an alarming trend recently, the hiring process is far longer and more complicated than he has ever been exposed to. What usually took a week, is now stretching out to four or more weeks before decisions are made. This led me to think about the hiring practices of the wholesale distribution clients I serve. Are the new hiring processes we subject candidates to driving them to other opportunities?
Although my friend is focused on the retail auto industry, his story is telling of a hiring process that appears to have gone unchecked by cooler heads. To illustrate this point, let me describe his latest encounter with HR red tape. A few weeks ago, he introduced himself to the sales manager at a local dealership. After a very productive discussion, the sales manager invited him to come back the next day to meet the general manager and a couple of the other sales people. Everything was going great and all indications were that they would be extending an offer. During these interviews, the general manager and others warned him that the hiring process took a long time and it may take a few weeks for final approval. If it was up to the general manager, he would be out on the sales floor next week. After filling out several lengthy forms, submitting to a background check and going through a drug screen, he was sent an email from HR welcoming him to the company and anticipating a start date the following week once the background check was received. Now three weeks later and still no start date in sight, my friend and the local staff are frustrated with this limbo status. Every interaction with the HR department is met with, “We are just waiting for this to come back. It should only be another day or two.” My friend has moved on to other opportunities, but he really wished this one would have come through.
In a 2015 study, the hiring site Glassdoor.com concluded that the hiring process had almost doubled since 2010. Going from an average of 13 days to 23 days, I can only imagine where this daily average is now. I understand the legal system has forced business owners to protect themselves from less than savory employees and their pit bull attorneys. No offense to the legitimate legal community, or pit bulls for that matter, but I am getting tired of small business getting bogged down by the fear of lawsuits. Since when did human resources move from offense to defense? I always viewed this department as the fillers of the employee pipeline. Weren’t they supposed to be out there competing against others in the market for the best candidates? While our salespeople are out pushing a service based value proposition to our customers, I sincerely believed that this HR department was supposed to be driving a candidate focused value proposition to a pool of potential employees. What happened to that?
As some of you know, I teach branch management workshops in a few vertical markets. During the course, we discuss hiring and recruiting practices. Over the last few years, I have been noticing a brewing frustration with the slow nature of corporate hiring practices. Small entities, less than five locations, tend to be able to bring candidates through the process in relatively short order. Once companies become a bit larger, a shift in process seems to occur. There is less trust in having the vetting process carried out by the local manager. Apparently, someone in a corporate office, who has never worked in the branch warehouse, is somehow more qualified to pass judgement on candidat’s qualifications. Perhaps you can hear my bias, but I echo the comments of my students. A barrier has been placed in front of them and it needs to be removed.
In one of my recent classes, a participant shared an experience he had a few years back. He was going through the hiring process of a larger organization and the experience dragged on for several weeks. After two months, he received a call from the company asking him to start the following Monday. He politely told them that he had already started with another company, but the resentment was cemented in his head. And, he wasn’t afraid to share his story. This is where employers need to be really careful. Like it or not, social media has given everyone a platform to voice their frustrations. Do you really want a disgruntled candidate to talk about your ridiculously complicated hiring process?
Be respectful to candidates in the hiring process. If you are not going to hire someone for whatever reason, quickly cut them loose. Too many candidates hold out hope through a long, non-communicative hiring cycle only to miss out on other opportunities. Not only does it show a lack of respect, but it may also signal a lack of organization in your company. Don’t let this perception bleed over to the customer relationships you have worked so hard to cultivate.
I am sure that I have ruffled the feathers of several human resources professionals. I simply ask you to do some self-examination. As a good friend, and retired business advisor, used to tell me, “So many great business opportunities have been killed when we let the attorneys get involved.” In these highly competitive times, we need to be sure that we are not letting an over protective department kill the candidate pipeline. Ask yourself one simple question: “Would you be willing to go through the same hiring process that you are subjecting candidates to?” If not, perhaps it is time to cut the red tape.