Four Ways to Avoid Bottlenecks in the Hiring Process


HR Market Analyst,

Whatever industry you’re in, your organization relies on countless internal processes to keep things running smoothly. Unless you keep those processes fine-tuned, disruptions and delays–also known as bottlenecks–will occur. Bottlenecks in the hiring process, specifically, are more than just inconvenient; they can cause you to lose prime candidates, damage office morale, and create unnecessary tension among your staff. It’s in your best interest to smooth out bumps in the road before they turn into more serious issues. In this article, I’ll pinpoint some of the most common causes of bottlenecks in the hiring process and suggest ways to avoid them.

1. Inadequate Technology

A single online job posting can draw thousands of applicants. Without the proper technology at your disposal, the sheer volume of applications received can be difficult if not impossible to manage. This leads to delays at the onset of your recruiting process, which can be frustrating for candidates and hiring managers alike. As Sharlyn Lauby, President of ITM Group explains, “Even though accepting resumes and screening for experience and qualifications are a part of the process, until an interview takes place it can be perceived by the applicant that nothing is happening.”

Online application and screening tools help companies maintain momentum by reducing time spent in this initial stage. According to Deborah Kerr, founding partner at Affintus, “If you don’t have an applicant tracking system, you need to get one.” Having reliable tools for organizing and tracking applications and keeping candidates engaged is an important step toward minimizing bottlenecks in hiring. And although technology will certainly help, Kerr reminds us that “it’s not going to get you all the way to your end goal.”

2. Breakdowns in Communication

You see it all the time: hiring managers aren’t communicating with HR, executive leadership regularly misses emails or doesn’t respond to scheduling requests, or some other breakdown in the internal communication process occurs. These breakdowns are more than a minor frustration–they make you look bad to candidates, and they delay your ability to onboard the people your organization needs. If you’re dragging candidates along and changing the rules of engagement from one manager to the next, in the long-run it will decimate your ability to hire anyone at all. And that’s no bueno.

While you could try to force your staff to complete a course on communication skills, there’s a simpler solution: establish expectations and define your process upfront, both with candidates and hiring managers. “Years ago, I worked for a company that interviewed a lot,” Lauby recounts. “It was nothing for a candidate to have five or six interviews for a position. I told candidates on the front end how the process worked. And I explained why the company did it, so several people had a vested interest in the candidate’s success.” Hiring and recruiting is largely a collaborative effort, and establishing ground rules for everyone involved will help reduce bottlenecks from interview to hire.

3. Failure to Plan

Many organizations are stuck in a reactive hiring mode in which they attempt to quickly fill positions as they open. This sometimes results in ad hoc processes that are more conducive to hiring someone rather than the right person. When you lack a formalized process with a vision and end goal, getting from one stage to the next can be painful. “The process of hiring almost feels like an emergency,” says Kerr. “When you think it needs to be done right away, you rush through it and the process goes undefined.”

Working with leadership to create a cohesive hiring plan that’s aligned with corporate strategy will go a long way toward minimizing delays and disruptions. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to completely overhaul your process to make planning possible. George Bradt, managing director at Prime Genesis, suggests you can build corporate strategy into your process by simply asking what growth management has on their horizon for the next quarter, six months, or year. “If you start with a plan,” says Bradt, “then the variations of the plan are fewer and further between. Ad hoc hiring is going to happen, but there’s at least a unified plan to start with.”

4. Taking the Wrong Approach

Relying on the same old iterated process to meet myriad staffing needs is not only shortsighted, it’s inefficient. You post the same ad you used last time, find three candidates to interview, and hope one of them has what you’re looking for. If not, you go back to square one–you post the ad, find three candidates, and the cycle repeats. Bradt warns that this archaic style of sequential hiring leaves too much room for subjectivity and wastes more time than it saves.

By designing a hiring process that works in tandem with talent management and supports your business strategy, your recruiting efforts will be much easier to manage. “Best-in-class companies have a lot of metrics and data to guide their hiring decisions,” says Paula Soileau, another founding partner at Affintus. “The earlier in the process an organization can insert objective data, the sooner they can act on objective criteria.”

And while there’s certainly value in having established methods for, among other things, objectively gauging a candidate’s ability to succeed in your organization, the greatest value lies in having a working process. You don’t have to read every book ever written on hiring strategies, but you do need a uniform process that meets your organization’s culture, values and needs.

Best Practices: The Cure to Hiring Woes

As with any business process, hiccups and delays in hiring will happen. Strategic staffing requires the cooperation and shared effort of multiple parties, and there will always be a bit of human error. But with a sound process in place that keeps stakeholders informed and engaged, bottlenecks will be fewer and further between. By incorporating the best practices that make the most sense to your organization–and by leveraging solid technology–you’ll be better prepared to deal with any other flaws that emerge.

What part of your hiring process is most prone to bottlenecks? How have you been able to overcome this challenge?

Thumbnail image created by Laenulfean.

  • George Bradt

    Good article.  Like most things in organizations, hiring processes can be improved by aligning people, plans, and practices around a shared purpose.  If you do that, you will know what the right technology is, you will communicate, you will plan, and you will take the right approach for your organization.

  • JR Fent, THE Ruby Recruiter

    Exceptional article.  Can I reprint it on my site and give you credit back for it?  I’d like tyhe Technical recruiting community to see it.

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