Hiring That Takes Forever

As the job market tightens, candidates are complaining about slow responses and bumpy hiring processes. How can firms best adjust?

Remember when recruiters promptly returned emails? And hiring processes lasted as little as two or three days? That was then.

This, many candidates (and even HR officials) privately say, is now: hiring processes that can stretch on for months, terse replies, long delays for updates, and even ghosting. Call it “impolite hiring” or “rude recruiting,” but experts say it’s mostly a reflection of economic priorities and a new job-market reality. When the economy slowed, one of the first departments to face the ax was talent acquisition. Surviving staff inherited unmanageable workloads. Meanwhile, technology to apply for jobs greatly improved, exploding the number of candidates racing for new jobs.

The result: hiring managers find themselves swamped. By necessity, they are prioritizing the most critical roles and the top candidates for them. Other roles and applicants may be ignored or treated curtly. “We’ve got leaner staff,” says Ron Porter, a senior client partner in the Human Resources Center of Expertise at Korn Ferry. “It’s human nature to be short with people and less concerned with follow-up.”

Some firms and recruiting outfits have managed amid these tough conditions by using artificial intelligence or pulling down job postings earlier than usual. But experts say many organizations are struggling—and that they risk losing much of the goodwill they earned from improving recruiting processes both before and during the pandemic.

Even in this tough economy, firms around the world are maintaining robust hiring levels. In particular, experts say, global companies with 100,000+ employees are receiving as many as one million job applications annually—many of which are ignored. “It damages the brand,” says David Ellis, vice president for global TA transformation in North America at Korn Ferry. “The applicants are also our customers. Knowing the commercial impact downstream, do you really want to annoy them?”

Experts say that devising ways to maintain direct communications with as many applicants as possible is essential. Though it has some drawbacks, tracking of candidates through artificial intelligence can help provide them with updates. “The tech exists. There’s no excuse for not responding to people,” says Ellis. For his part, Porter says technology can help but “there still should be some human touch somewhere.”

Polite behavior is essential with young applicants who already may be skeptical about working in the corporate world. The experience of being ignored, especially after promising early interactions or interviews, reinforces the stereotype that corporations do not care about workers as individuals. “It risks alienating the best talent, because great candidates have many opportunities,” says Jacob Zabkowicz, vice president and general manager for global RPO at Korn Ferry.


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