Why Is Hiring Taking Longer?

October 19, 2015 – Hiring times in the U.S., Canada, and in many major European markets and Australia are mushrooming, according to several new research reports. Adding time to the hiring clock is putting hiring plans in disarray, setting talent acquisition professionals off to conduct more of their own search work in an effort to reduce hiring cycle times. Recruiting firms are trying to solve the problem by adding personnel who can conduct candidate due diligence and execute assignments at faster rates.

One such search outfit is Human Capital Solutions Inc., which has expanded its staff in recent months with the additions of Michael Moran as managing director, Jeff Taylor as senior vice president of business development and Evan Rhodes as director of research and process excellence.

Mr. Moran joined Human Capital Solutions after a 26-year career with Merck, where he held a series of HR roles supporting manufacturing, followed by 15 years in HR leadership supporting Merck’s U.S. commercial operations. His positions included director of talent acquisition, senior director of compensation, and senior director of HR for all U.S. sales forces. Most recently he led executive search firm Michael E. Marion and Associates. His executive search experience in the pharmaceutical space includes assignments in R&D, manufacturing, and commercial operations. Mr. Moran’s primary focus is executive search in manufacturing operations, supply chain management, commercial operations, and R&D across the pharma, biotech, and device subsectors.

Mr. Taylor has over 30 years of diversified technical and leadership experience in the healthcare, life sciences, industrial and technology sectors. In his new role he will be responsible for new client development, relationship management, and executive search & consulting across all HCS client lines. Previously, he served as vice president of technology at global technology transfer and engineering company Chemtex.

Mr. Rhodes has a history of providing targeted sourcing plans and at HCS he will be responsible for sourcing passive and active candidates using social media networking platforms. Previously he held various sales positions for Castle Branch Inc. and Sweetwater Surf Shop.

“Our managing directors have usually retired from Fortune 500 companies where they enjoyed global responsibilities, which is essential in today’s business environment,” said CEO Bo Burch.

“When our firm launches a discovery process, we are finding a couple of interesting things. The hiring executive, the HR executive and the selection committee are all not on the same page with the same criteria or desired outcome. We have found that many members on the selection committee are often unsure of their specific role, and what areas they are to cover with candidates.” The search process, he said, is far from being clearly defined.

One result, said Mr. Burch: “Searches are taking a bit longer.” He said he’s also noticed a new trend this year — companies are utilizing their internal recruiters in an effort to recruit and fill their mid- to senior-level positions prior to retaining his firm. “In several cases, the positions have been open for many, many months or even a year or so.”

Currently, Human Capital Solutions is searching for a chief human resources officer (CHRO) for a global LED lighting company in New Jersey, an SVP of global operations for a global fuel dispensing company in Texas, as well as a VP and global site head for a biopharma laboratory business in New York.

Human Capital Solutions is not the only executive search firm reporting an increased time span to conclude executive search assignments. In fact the time required for a candidate to progress through the hiring process has increased dramatically in recent years, according to a new talent report from Glassdoor Economic Research titled: “Why Is Hiring Taking Longer?”

Glassdoor’s research reveals that hiring times in the U.S., Canada, and in many major European markets and Australia are growing as employer screening methods — including background checks, drug tests, and skills & personality assessments — are rising.

“Search firms are also adding time to the hiring clock,” said Scott A. Scanlon, CEO of Hunt Scanlon Media, who said recruiters are spending more time analyzing candidates for cultural fit. Spencer Stuart and Heidrick & Struggles are two senior talent providers Hunt Scanlon looked at closely in a forthcoming search industry report. Both firms are now incorporating standardized measurement and ‘intelligence’ tools into their search models to better evaluate the competencies of top candidates.

“As a result of that more sophisticated methodology, these search providers might be extending the recruiting process where time is often a critical factor for a client company seeking a must-have executive without delay,” said Mr. Scanlon.

Egon Zehnder, a pioneer in the leadership audit and assessment field, uses a less demanding system of tests and tools, relying instead on an innovative model that focuses on leadership ‘potential.’ The firm says that many other methods used to select and develop talent have not kept pace with the changing requirements for effective leadership.

Mr. Scanlon said this is all about bringing science and data into the business of evaluating and quantifying people and their skills. “The larger executive search players seem to be using science-based methodologies as a way to differentiate themselves from their boutique specialist rivals,” said Mr. Scanlon.

Hunt Scanlon data reveals that most search firms used to report that it took less than 100 days on average to complete an assignment, with some exceptions based on the difficulty of the position specification.

“That promise is gone now,” said Mr. Scanlon. “We are now seeing searches taking upwards of double that time. It could be tied to individual recruiters taking on too much work, but we think it is more likely the result of testing and assessments and fit evaluations gone amuck.”

Mr. Scanlon said search firms are increasing hiring to stop the cycle time clock. “Whether cycle times will, in fact, be reversed is anyone’s guess. Right now, the best we can hope for is a leveling off in the time it takes to bring a search from start to finish in an agreeable period of time.”

While there has been little change over the years in most interview techniques, job candidates report a rise in several types of employer screening techniques. In the U.S., candidate background checks increased from 25 percent in 2010 to a whopping 42 percent today. You can thank the rise in social media sites for that one.

Other hiring screening techniques that have become more common include skills tests (23 percent today vs 16 percent in 2010), drug tests (23 percent vs 13 percent) and personality tests (18 percent, up from 12 percent five years ago).

Each of these additional employer “screens” added a statistically significant amount to average time required for candidates to go through the hiring process.

Jobs that take the longest for candidates to go through the hiring process were typically government, academic or senior executive positions.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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