Creating a synchronous hiring process

I sent a mail to a client today that looked like this.

Here’s why.

One topic I always cover with potential new clients is “what does your interviewing process look like.” Here’s how this conversation often goes:

Client: “Send us the resume, I’ll send it to the hiring manager. If she likes it, we’ll schedule a phone screen. If that goes well, we’ll do another phone screen, and then bring him in for a set of interviews, usually with 3-4 people. Then we can make a decision.”

Me: “Great, that makes sense. How long does that take?”

Client: “Well, it depends.  The hiring manager’s really busy, so it can take her a few days to get back to me. Then I have to find a spot on an engineer’s calendar, then I need to review the feedback with him and sometimes the manager, then schedule a second one. Then our admin will help coordinate an interview day. I don’t really know.”

This is a common answer, an understandable answer, and a terrible answer. In engineer-speak, it’s taking something that’s time-critical enough to be synchronous and making it asynchronous. In human-speak,  it’s allowing all kinds of delays in a process where you lose if you are slow.

Your process needs to be fast, and making it fast means putting it all in sync. This includes things like

  • Expect fast turnaround from your managers. If recruiting is really Job #1 for your company right now, then the internal admin/HR/recruiter person should be able to walk up to the manager at any free moment, have her spend 90 seconds reading the resume, and then make a decision on next steps. Sitting in an inbox (or printed on a desk) is time wasted.
  • Every interviewer knows and can act on the next step in the process. Phone screen goes well, you want another one? Great. When you’re talking to the candidate, ask him his availability; jump on Outlook or Google Calendar, see the free/busy times for the engineer you want to schedule, and book the appointment while you’re on the phone. Boom, you just skipped another runaround and another few days’ worth of delay. You think the candidate is ready to be brought in to interview? Great, you’re empowered to find a day when talking to her and then get someone to actually schedule the right interviewers, and you can even book the conference room (the one with the whiteboard, close to the bathrooms). This means HR and mgmt needs to inform interviewers of the process and empower them to make the next decision (if it’s a positive one).
  • Set an SLA of <48 hrs between steps. There should be a reportable reason why the next step in the process takes more than 2d in every case. Try to keep it to 1. Look for ways around artificial constraints (the “right” interviewer is out of town? Can you find another one? etc.)
  • If you’re going to want something else, ask for it in advance. If you want a coding or test plan sample, ask the candidate to bring it with her on interview day. Have that ready for you.
  • Debrief always happen the day of interview. Scheduling an interview should always include scheduling the debrief (however your company does it), and it should always happen on the day of the interview, so that there’s a consistent practice. (There may be advantages to a day’s delay to allow folks to cogitate – I haven’t seen that be true in general – but let that be the exception, not the rule, and then schedule a second debrief – again, while you’re in the first one.)

Note that being fast and being thorough are not in conflict. You can have as many steps as you need, as long as you keep them close together. We’ve had two candidates join teams in the last month, both at companies with a four-step, ~8hr process, both which made it happen in four days. It’s the delays, not the steps, that kill momentum and lose candidates. (Ideas on evaluating your steps will come in a later post.)

Oh, and the email? The number of days from Step 1 to Step 4 for a candidate at one client. Does that seem like a large number? Check your own stats.