Why Time-to-Hire is So Important, and How to Reduce It

by Mike Tannian on May 10, 2022

Feel like your hiring process takes forever? Find out how to reduce time to hire in public sector and educational orgs so you stop losing quality candidates.

Article Highlights

After weeks or even months of reviewing applications and interviewing candidates, you’ve finally found “the one.” Not only does she more than exceed your minimum requirements for the position, but she also hit it off with every single one of the people she interviewed with. 

The only problem? She just took another job offer. 

Your organization isn’t alone in feeling like people are dropping out of the hiring process more frequently than ever before. Over the past few years, there’s been a 20% increase in the number of job seekers who bow out before you get the chance to draft an offer letter. 

You need to act fast if you want to secure the best talent for your organization. In this post, we’ll explain why time to hire is so important. Then, we’ll share some specific ways to reduce recruitment turnaround time so you can catch those quality candidates while they’re still on the market.  

Let’s get to it.

What is Time to Hire?

Before we dive too deeply into discussing how you can reduce your time to hire, a few definitions are in order. To start, what is time to hire? What does it actually measure? 

Time to hire is one of many recruitment metrics that help businesses assess their turnaround time for the recruitment process. This metric helps HR professionals identify how long it takes to move an applicant through their hiring process from start to finish. 

More specifically, organizations start measuring time to hire when a candidate first applies to work for the organization. Time to hire is the time period between receiving this candidate’s application and obtaining their signed offer letter (should they accept the job). 

It’s a win-win for everyone if you have a short time to hire. It means you spend less time reviewing applications, scheduling interviews, deliberating on who to hire, and drafting offer letters. We’ll discuss the benefits of a short time to hire later in this post. 

But before we do, one more definition is in order. 

Time to hire vs time to fill

Time to hire isn’t the only way to assess your organization’s efficiency in filling vacancies. Another useful metric, frequently confounded with time to hire, is known as time to fill. 

It may be helpful to think of time to fill as the larger umbrella when it comes to assessing recruitment turnaround time. Time to fill starts from the moment you decide to hire for a position — that is, the moment you create a job requisition.

In other words, you start measuring time to fill before time to hire. Time to fill includes the hours you spend refining job duties for a position, writing a job description, assembling a recruiting team, and posting a recruitment ad to job boards. 

But time to fill and time to hire have the same endpoint: the moment a candidate formally accepts a job offer from your organization. Time to hire thus falls within the lengthier timeline of time to fill. 

Each of these recruiting metrics provides valuable information about your entire hiring process. Measuring time to fill can help your organization assess processes and procedures that create bottlenecks before a candidate even enters the picture. Time to fill also provides additional insights, including how your processes impact candidate experience.

Importance of a Good Time to Hire Metric

A short time to hire is key to securing top talent for your organization. That’s because a quick recruitment turnaround time reduces the likelihood that a qualified candidate will accept a job offer at another organization before your recruiting process is complete. It also improves candidate experience (no one wants to go through five rounds of interviews!) and showcases your company culture. 

So, what is a good time to hire metric? Forgive us for being vague, but a good time to hire metric is simply the shortest amount of time it takes your organization to find a quality candidate. 

Let us explain. 

It doesn’t do you any good to rush a hiring process if it only leads to a dud quality of hire. Your organization needs to find the right balance between:

  1. Completing your due diligence to find the best candidate for the job; and
  2. Keeping the recruiting process moving forward (not waiting for that one ideal candidate).  

Using NEOGOV’s time to hire report, we can provide some quantitative averages for time to fill. Keep in mind that these numbers will be a bit higher than time to hire since they include the administrative tasks that take place before individuals can apply to your organization. That said, they provide some industry benchmarks with which to compare your organization.  

  • Local government time to fill average: 130 days
  • State government time to fill average: 96 days
  • Educational institution time to fill average: 119 days

To put these numbers into perspective with some other industry averages, the private sector averages 36 days for time to fill. In other words, public sector hiring processes take three times longer than the private sector on average.

As such, public organizations need to carefully consider how they can reduce time to hire if they want to compete for the same talent as private institutions. Let’s find out how to do that next.

5 Ways to Improve Time to Hire

Improving your time to hire is fundamental to securing the best talent for your organization, especially in today’s competitive job market. Job seekers want to move quickly through the recruiting process so they can get to work at their new job. 

Below, we provided five actionable tips to help you begin cultivating an efficient recruiting strategy to win that top talent. Learn how to reduce the time to hire below. 

1. Track metrics 

First and foremost, you need to know how long your current hiring process takes before you can make improvements. You can’t reduce applicant turnaround times if you don’t know where your organization faces bottlenecks. 

If you aren’t already mapping your entire hiring process, now is the time to start. Consider the key phases of the process and identify how much time you’re spending in each stage. This includes analyzing how much time it takes you to: 

  • Review applications 
  • Choose candidates you’d like to interview 
  • Schedule interviews with job applicants
  • Host interviews and conduct assessments 
  • Deliberate with your recruitment team
  • Draft an offer letter 

Bottlenecks will be unique to your specific organizational process. The key here is to thoroughly assess what challenges exist so you can begin to improve them. For example, after analyzing your processes, you might realize that you delay reviewing applications and screening candidates until a specific amount of time has passed.

Since the public sector on average needs about 25 applications to find enough qualified applicants to interview, you might decide to begin reviewing applications as soon as you receive 25, rather than waiting for that arbitrary deadline to come. 

2. Conduct ongoing candidate sourcing

Building a talent pipeline that you can return to when positions open up is a great way to reduce time to hire. Having a pool of qualified candidates means you can spend less time vetting and ranking applications and more time connecting with potential employees. 

If you already have a pretty good idea about who might be a great fit for a job opening, you can hold fewer interviews and narrow down your decision that much faster. A robust candidate pool also means that you have a greater number of qualified candidates to choose from, leading to more quality hires. 

Some methods you might use for sourcing suitable candidates and building a talent pipeline include: 

  • Hosting career fairs 
  • Creating an employee referral program 
  • Staying in touch with qualified candidates from previous recruitment cycles 

Since the worst time to start sourcing candidates is when you’re in an active recruitment stage, make connecting with professionals in your field a regular part of your work life.  

3. Revisit your interview process

Job interviews provide valuable insights into the way a candidate might behave on the job. But if you find that you’re using interviews to “kick the can down the road” while you decide who to hire, rather than gaining new information about candidates, it may be time to revisit your process. 

This is particularly important given that the average length of the interview process in government is 53.8 days. The second-longest interview process averages a full 20 days shorter, in the Aerospace and Defense industry. In other words, it takes less time on average to interview candidates involved in national security than it does to hire a local government employee. 

Consider practices you can implement to reduce the length of your interview process. This might include doing things like: 

  • Reducing the number of interviews you hold with job applicants
  • Asking supplemental questions in the application process to weed out candidates before the interview process starts
  • Conducting written assessments on the same day as interviews

In short, keep those processes that supply you with must-have information about a prospective candidate and nix the rest. 

4. Use a talent management system

Another excellent way to reduce time to hire is making use of a talent management system, especially industry-specific systems like NEOGOV’s Insight for government organizations or NEOED’s Insight for educational institutions.

A talent management system provides key analytics to help you assess your recruitment process, including the time it takes you to move through each stage. Talent management systems can also help speed up your selection process by pre-screening and auto-scoring candidates, so you can quickly schedule interviews with the best ones.

Speaking of which, NEOGOV’s talent management system includes a self-service portal that enables individuals to self-schedule interviews. This saves you even more time because you no longer have to play phone tag with candidates, look at multiple calendars, or communicate interview scheduling needs with the job candidate, HR, and the hiring manager. 

Taken in whole, these components each reduce turnaround time for the recruitment process  — all while providing tangible benefits to both job seekers and organizations alike. 

5. Regularly communicate with your hiring manager 

Without clear and consistent communication with your hiring manager, all of these recruitment efforts will be in vain. One of the biggest roadblocks to a successful partnership between human resources and recruiters is a misalignment of expectations.  

Establishing clear expectations from the beginning is fundamental to tightening your time to hire. This includes getting clear on things like: 

  • Roles and responsibilities of the position you’re hiring for 
  • Minimum qualifications for the role 
  • Overarching recruiting timeline 

Getting halfway through a recruiting process only to realize your recruitment ad doesn’t accurately describe a role means you need to spend time rewriting the recruitment ad, reviewing applications, and inviting more people to interviews. Not only does this hurt your organization, but it also leaves candidates in limbo, wondering why a job has been reposted. 

Avoid this confusion by setting up a time to speak with the hiring manager long before you post a recruitment ad. While it may take a few extra meetings early in your recruiting process to get on the same page, time spent now pays dividends with a shorter time in the recruitment cycle as a whole.

Final Thoughts

The last thing you want is to lose out on qualified candidates because your recruiting process takes too long. Fortunately, there are straightforward steps you can take to reduce your time to hire, from tracking metrics to using a talent management system and more. 

If you’re wondering what other ways you can take to enhance your recruitment efforts and increase job offer acceptance rates, you’re in luck. Learn how to automate your recruitment process and more on our blog.

Mike Tannian

Mike Tannian is the Director of Content Marketing at NEOGOV. With a talented team of writers by his side, he aims to produce content that delivers real value to public sector HR professionals at every stage in the buying journey.

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