How to Balance Hiring Well and Hiring Fast

by Ali Gordon


Hiring is one of the most challenging parts of building a successful business, but too many companies don’t know how to navigate it well. This is partly because so few companies track their employment processes and don’t know how to balance competing needs like efficiency and excellence.  

Peter Capelli, professor of management at the Wharton School of business says,Only about a third of U.S. companies report that they monitor whether their hiring practices lead to good employees; few of them do so carefully, and only a minority even track cost per hire and time to hire.” Companies with strong hiring practices will plan, record, analyze, and adapt their processes to refine the balance they need to hire skillfully. 

Outline Expectations Early for Proactive Hiring

Communicating expectations and planning logistics are critical for faster, better hiring. If this is missing from a hiring process, the most competitive candidates may move on to another opportunity. It may also slow the process down. Companies can get ahead of this by outlining expectations and running through their logistical process early on. 

For example, hiring teams should budget enough time to hire at a reasonable pace -- don’t let long amounts of time go between interviews or have different process times for different candidates. Hiring teams should try to streamline as much as they can by building a target timeline goal for each phase of hiring; the goals may need to adapt, but a thoughtfully planned process will be easier to communicate and allow the hiring team to focus more on candidate fit. 

Managers should also analyze the industry to see what others are offering for similar roles and consider what candidates should expect in this broader industry context. Companies can get ahead of the curve and stand out to stronger candidates by creating meaningful job descriptions. This also speeds up the process by more naturally weeding out candidates who won’t fill a company’s precise needs.

The job description should be analyzed carefully to determine exactly what a company is looking for, and that should evolve if hiring for a role with a more lengthy process. Even if the process for a high level role takes longer, ultimately the right job description will help a company avoid wasting time with mismatched candidates.

Gigi Levy-Weiss is a general partner at NFX, a seed-stage venture firm with significant experience supporting startups. Levy-Weiss explains that writing and adapting a job description is one of the most important parts of skillful hiring: 

“Make writing a clearly-defined job description your initial priority. Consult with your team, board, advisors, and fellow Founders to find the right answers to all the open questions. Also, it’s worth pre-defining the range of compensation you can/are willing to pay, as there’s no point in interviewing someone who is expecting a salary that is triple what you can afford. If the process of recruiting takes a long time, make sure you update your job description as you proceed.”

Companies who hire with speed and excellence will scan the industry context to craft excellent job descriptions seeking exactly what they want and budget enough time to set expectations, adapt, and review candidates in a planned way. 

Include the Team... and Regularly Look for New Teammates

All companies should streamline the staffing process by preparing for each phase of hiring in advance, but even with all the planning in the world, nothing replaces the investment a company has already made in its own team. To hire well--and move more quickly--look to current employees.

From the recruitment to interview stages, current employees should be part of hiring. This saves time and increases quality by inviting multiple perspectives that already understand the inner workings of teams, the brand, and the overall company. Current employees can accelerate the process by recommending recruits from their own networks. They will already know what to look for to be successful on the current team or within the company. 

Company founders and hiring managers should also always be proactively looking and listening for new talent beyond their current employee networks. Don’t just wait for candidates to find the company! Even if a position isn’t open yet, building the kinds of relationships to find high caliber people will benefit the company in the long run. 

Staffing experts at Monster suggest small businesses should be especially mindful about conducting ongoing talent searches within their industry -- and do as much as they can early: “Small businesses can’t afford to be caught off guard with a hiring gap or shortage…[An] open position can mean a weeks- or even months-long vacancy while a company locates and screens candidates...If you have a process that requires candidates to be vetted before they can be hired, do it before you need to hire them.”

This means if a company sees a likely candidate, they should find ways to connect with that individual even prior to posting an open position. Hiring managers can invite interviews and conduct screenings actively. These steps to build a relationship with a prospect can lay the groundwork for a job offer should the company carve out a role or find an appropriate position for talented people. 

If a company finds a prospective candidate, they should proactively build a relationship, perhaps asking for an informal interview or a sample of their work. Requesting reference checks earlier can also help hiring teams or business founders build a list of high caliber prospects. Small businesses should use pre-screen background checks to consider foreground and connect with personal references, building a pool of pre-screened candidates they can draw from when need arises. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania told the New York Times that nothing replaces a sound recommendation: “References, and what somebody has done, are more important than what somebody tells you in an interview. Well done is better than well said, and there’s no substitute for good referencing.” 

A company will make fitting and faster hiring decisions that translate into brand success when they prioritize hiring as much -- if not more -- than their business strategy. Planning may build a business, but it’s quality people who build a truly memorable brand. 

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