Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why It Often Takes So Long To Interview And Get A Job Offer


Sometimes we get assignments and they go on and on and on.  Simple mid-level hires can take weeks to complete.  Some senior hires go on for months and months. I have observed companies that spend so long hiring a CEO that, in the meanwhile, the company almost goes out of business for lack of management (This actually happened with a small but highly regarded agency during the mid-1990’s.)

 My observations as to why this happens follow.

1) Companies fail to define the issues and problems
The delay happens because the company has to see too many candidates before they can figure out who is right for the job.

To me, this is the number one reason that it takes too long to make a new hire.  If jobs are not properly specified and defined, if issues are not spelled out, it is virtually impossible to know who the right candidate is.  I have actually had management tell me to send a variety of people because when they meet the right person they will know him or her.

This is no way to hire. And it often results in a bad hire.

Creating Proper job specs is essential.  Sadly, most companies don’t know how to write a job spec. The bottom line is that once written, if a candidate is rejected for any reason and that reason is not part of the job description, then the spec needs to be rewritten.  

2) Too many people are interviewed
Hiring managers ought to have the confidence to know the right candidate when they meet him or her.  They need to trust their recruiters and their human resources professionals to send them appropriate people. Seeing too many candidates makes for confusion and delays the process, often necessitating the candidates seen early in the process to have to be re-interviewed.  Worse, the process may take so long that interested candidates continue to interview and  often get other job offers.  This means the original company has to start all over again.

3) The job gets over intellectualized
Over thinking leads to paralysis. 

Sometimes hiring managers get too caught up on the wrong issues.  Over thinking the job creates its own confusion.  There is one simple and overriding issue: Can a candidate do the job?  
Sometimes hiring managers who do not know how to interview or judge candidates really get caught up in their underwear. They raise issues which may or not be evident or relevant: will the candidate stay for several years (is that required to actually do the job?); is this job a stepping-stone to something else (does it matter?); will the candidate's family life take precedence over work (should this really be an issue?).  

Many issues can be answered if references are asked appropriate and probing questions.

4) Lack of proper hiring procedures
Few companies formalize the way they interview.  If a candidate has to meet three managers plus human resources, those people should discuss the candidate prior to each interview.  Mostly, what happens is that all three managers will simply meet the candidate and ask their own questions based on their individual perceptions of the job.

Instead, each interview should have a syllabus and agenda.  Issues raised in one interview should be covered again in other interviews.  Each person along the way should know what they are looking for and what the possible issues are.  And again, everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to what they are looking for.

The president of a great agency properly rejected an account director candidate because that candidate did not have enough gravitas to fill in for the group account director if that person was unavailable for an important meeting.  I thought that was very fair criteria.  Sadly, no one in the interviewing stream knew that was what they should be looking for.  It resulted in a lot of wasted time.
5) Agencies and/or holding companies have set up complicated and bureaucratic hiring procedures
Often, even CEO’s don’t have the full authority to hire even very junior people – they have to get approval from their CFO’s or, if the job is senior enough, from their holding company.  I have seen it take two to three weeks to get approval to hire once a candidate has been chosen.

At one agency, it takes six approvals just to start looking to hire; once a candidate has been identified, it takes the same six people to approve the hire.  If the candidate is very senior (over $200k) it may take an additional number of people at the holding company level to approve.  This pre and post process can add as much  as eight to ten weeks to the process.  I have one friend at a well known agency who told me that even the simplest, most junior hires can take as much as four months.

If you are a candidate and expect to be hired, it can take days or weeks to get the final sign-offs to make the offer.

Some delay can be intentional.  Remember – a $120,000 a year employee costs the company $10,000 per month plus benefits.  Delaying the hiring decision by even a month can put tens of thousands of dollars right to the bottom line.


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  2. Hi! I'm now waiting 3 months for official job offer.. My last interview was in October 2014 and I was informed of the preliminary offer on the phone 2 weeks after that. Is it still ok to wait that long? I'm not sure I should consider this company as a good employer right now... Thanks!

    1. I could give you better perspective if you called or emailed me directly to provide more information. However, this doesn't sound very hopeful. If the company has given you no details about what the delay is about, I would write them off.

    2. Dear Paul, thank you for your reply! I'm based in Poland and the case is related to one of the Fortune 500 companies. Is there an e-mail address I could write to? Thank you!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hello I was wondering what is the current average holding company $ threshold for exec new hire salary approvals at their subsidiaries?

  4. @Fan in the US it is mostly $150k.

  5. Tks very much for your post.

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