Reducing the time to hire is therefore of huge importance. The longer a job vacancy remains unfilled, the steeper the cost per hire, and the bigger the risk of losing high quality candidates – especially in a fast-moving industry such as property. What’s more, an extended hiring time can lead to significant disruption within a company, from understaffing issues to low morale among the current workforce, and it can even seriously impact on sales, revenues or your client experience.
At Deverell Smith, 34% of the property employers we work with are able to hire within 30 days; 27% are taking 1 to 3 months, and 39% are taking over 3 months. Surprisingly, the employers in skill short markets who are most at risk of the opportunity cost from time to hire are taking the longest to recruit. Often long-winded internal processes or existing teams being overworked and unable to allocate sufficient time to the hiring process are to blame for delays. However, taking a candid look at your approach and identifying potential bottlenecks can be the key to streamlining and speeding up your recruitment process.
It may be a cliché, but the adage of ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is still very apt, especially when it comes to recruitment. A proactive rather than a reactive approach will allow you to determine your staffing needs early and make provisions for potential shortfalls in the future. This is particularly important in sectors where demand outstrips supply of quality candidates, such as news homes sales.
Forward-planning is key. Walk yourself through a possible scenario where three of your top team members leave. This will help identify and anticipate issues and prevent potential repercussions.
Make sure you have a plan in place for these scenarios to ensure you are ready with job specifications and even a pipeline of quality candidates for relevant future opportunities that you can draw on. This will save time, increase efficiency and but you that extra time need to be more selective.
Equally, analysing and staying ahead of employment trends within your organisation as well as market fluctuations will further help plan ahead and anticipate upcoming hiring needs. Define when your sector’s / company’s busy periods may be or whether there are key developments that may necessitate staff recruitment and put measures in place early. Remember, having a contingency plan is always better than fire-fighting.
Having a clear, defined and targeted job spec is the single most important step in the hiring process. It will help you screen for top talent and ensure you attract relevant candidates from the get-go, saving both time and money along the way. Be specific about the kind of skills, experience and qualifications you are looking for, so potential applicants know instantly whether they meet the requirements.
A clear job description is often an after-thought, but in fact, any HR department or recruiter should have a job spec for every single person within that company to hand at any given time – whether that’s an office junior or senior management. That way, you should be able to instruct a recruiter and advertise for a vacancy within 24 hours should the need arise.
The recruitment process can involve a lot of stakeholders and finding the time for them to all meet a candidate can result in them returning to an interview multiple times over weeks, sometimes months. This may mean losing out on your top choices, who can become frustrated with long-winded hiring processes and accept your competitor’s offer instead.
Before you begin the recruitment process, it’s worth getting everyone involved together to agree on a timeframe and work out exactly who needs to be engaged at which stage, as well as their availability. It’s one thing to find the right candidate; however, accelerating the interviewing and decision-making process is just as vital. Ensure good lines of communication between everyone at every stage and that you are on the same page in terms of job spec, calibre of candidates and any other factors or logistics that may play a part or could cause a delay.
Consider phone / skype meetings for initial contact and screening to ensure no one’s time is wasted with initial face to face interviews. Put time aside in advance for group interviews with decision-makers and if they are not available, be flexible, arrange to meet them for a coffee on their terms.
Group interviews can significantly reduce the time it takes to interview candidates, often from several days’ worth to just a few hours, and are ideal for the preliminary selection process.
Put in place steps to capture detailed interview notes for review and group meetings for follow ups where decisions and feedback can be made and given. At Deverell Smith, we have a 48-hour rule, which we apply to everything we do – we have to follow up on everything within this timeframe. It means we don’t leave candidates hanging, and it also allows us to tick things off our list swiftly, so we can move on to the next candidate / job on our agenda.
Not having a structured hiring process can cause unnecessary and costly delays. But even if you do have processes in place, try to look at it from a candidate’s point of view. From start to finish, how long does it take, and ultimately, how is the candidate experience? Can any steps be eliminated or improved?
Take stock regularly, analyse your metrics and processes and review your recruitment focus periodically, and you’ll be well on your way to securing your top pick.
In a rapidly developing and vastly competitive sector such as property, demand for first-class professionals is high. However, many employers are finding that traditional talent pools are unable to provide a sufficient supply of candidates that meet their requirements. According to Carly Wardley, Head of Residential Development at Deverell Smith, looking at alternative sectors or roles can be a good way of addressing a staff and skills shortage.
Carly advises: “The property market is becoming quite tight, and there is a real shortfall in talent across many divisions. You can’t fill the gap without looking outside of the box. We are finding that increasingly residential employers are having to recruit from the commercial property sector and vice versa. For instance, we are currently experiencing a lack of land buyers, and we need people who are able to secure and negotiate big deals. So, we are increasingly looking at estate agents and candidates from residential backgrounds to fill the gap in the commercial sector.”
Up-skilling current employees can be a quicker and more effective avenue to source the right candidate than traditional recruitment drives.
“The advantages of upskilling are that you get candidates who already have a good understanding of the business or wider sector and often have many transferable and buildable skills. This is also a good retention tool for candidates, as promoting from within creates loyalty and they are less likely to look elsewhere and leave,” says Wardley.
Successful onboarding, however, is key. Wardley advocates that increasing on-boarding budgets will help broaden the talent pool to flexible skill sets, and the cost off-sets the repercussions of skills gaps in teams.
“Successful onboarding is crucial for easy transition, it’s the first piece of the puzzle. Get this right, especially in terms of cultural fit into a company, and you will quickly reap the rewards,” she says.
Recruiting from alternative talent pools can push your business forward in more than just staff head count – it will diversify your workforce and strengthen it. As Wardley puts it:
“The advantages are that it opens both employers’ and candidates’ minds, and brings additional skills, new ideas and innovation to a business.”
Interviewing isn’t simply just about asking a candidate some questions about their CV. It’s a critical stage in the recruitment process, so make sure you give hiring managers the tools to evaluate a candidate effectively.
Invest in training your management in interview techniques, introducing real life situations and avoiding cookie cutter methods which might leave you none the wiser about the fit of a candidate into your team. Even experienced interviewers can benefit from periodical interview skills coaching. Often managers are highly trained in their field of expertise but having to interview for new team members leaves them feeling out of their depth, which in turn can mean they put it off. Have managers practice mock-interviews and build their confidence. Targeted interview training will ensure that your hiring manager will feel well equipped to make an informed candidate selection, which should result in reduced time to hire.
Searching for a top calibre candidate takes time, especially when it comes to filling senior-level roles, where the gap between interview, offer, notice period and start date can often take 3 to 9 months. If not planned for carefully, this can have critical bearing on a company’s performance.
That’s where temporary workers or contractors can make a huge difference, offering employers the flexibility to search for a permanent candidate whilst the position is filled and the standard of work maintained in the interim, minimising disruption and preventing the recruitment process from being rushed. Although the short-term cost may be higher, the benefits far outweigh the costs of making the wrong hire and taking on a new employee that turns out not to be the right fit for your business.
And, in contrast to common misconceptions, contractors and temporary staff are highly skilled and experts in their field, as Julian Muray, Head of Contract and Interim Recruitment at Deverell Smith, explains:
“Most contractors are specialists with often very niche expertise. It’s a far cry from the common image of the ‘temp’ on reception or just an admin role,” he says.
“There are many advantages to hiring a contractor or temporary worker. It takes the pressure off hiring a permanent candidate and rushing into a potentially wrong decision. It gives employers the chance to find the best person for the job, not just the next person. Generally, contractors have short notice periods and can be available ad hoc, which significantly reduces the time to hire, and because they are used to jumping from different companies, they pick up processes and adapt very quickly,” he adds.
What’s more, taking on temporary or fixed term contractors can also be an effective strategy to evaluate a candidate without risk and commitment before offering them a permanent position – think of it as ‘try before you buy’ or an extended interview process. According to Murray, around 1 in 5 contractors end up being taken on full-time.
“Bringing in a contractor can be an effective way of finding your ideal next permanent hire. For example, we were recently called on to find a project-director for a £6bn residential project. A high level of skill was required at very short notice. We were able to find a suitable candidate within ten days and he started within four weeks. On the other end of the scale, we were approached by a client from a large residential PRS site, who after launching their marketing received an overwhelming response and needed to boost their sales staff by 20 per cent very quickly. We were able to place four rental negotiators and an administrator role within a week, and three of these were subsequently offered a permanent position,” says Murray.
In short, employing temporary or contract workers is a cost-effective and efficient way to recruit and test candidates within your company setting and the framework of the role, before signing them full-time. It can also speed up the hiring process whilst ensuring the performance of your business is maintained.
The right staff can add huge value to a company, but get it wrong, and it can have the opposite effect. Working with an experienced recruiter or agency who understands the role you are looking to fill as well as your brand and company culture can eliminate costly mistakes and speed up the process of finding the right candidate for a role. As the saying goes “time is money” – and a long time to hire is bad for business.