Why taking too long to hire is a big mistake

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Posted: Nov 2021

The pandemic has been hard on businesses in a multitude of ways – redundancies, furloughs, pay cuts and freezes, supply chain disruptions, income losses… the list is long. Now employers are facing what might be the biggest obstacle of all – global labour shortages. We have been hearing for months how turnover in corporate comms agencies is high, how they are reporting strong financial results with the steadying of the economy, and how they are desperate to fill roles.

While many employees chose to ‘sit tight’ throughout 2020, their confidence is back with a bang; the pandemic has been a catalyst for people moving outside cities, changing jobs, throwing caution to the wind and pursuing that lifelong dream to set up their own venture, or even simply dealing with concerns like childcare and health risks, to re-evaluate what they want in terms of schedule, salary, benefits and work-life balance – and all very much on their terms.

We haven’t seen a market quite like this one. Competitive may be an understatement. So, how do you attract great employees in this ‘hot’ market? A good place to start is by taking a look at your hiring process. The longer you take to complete your hiring process, the greater the odds are that a competitor will scoop up your favourite candidate. As an employer, you can’t expect to attract talent with the same old hiring strategy that worked in the past. It’s time to shift your mindset. Here’s our take on how to deliver a smarter, more user-friendly candidate experience.

Tighten up the timetable

A swift hiring process gives insight into the attitude and values of a company, helping to secure candidate buy-in from the very beginning. To achieve this, it’s vital that all your decision makers have bought into a pre-defined recruitment timetable. Greater accommodation of the candidate’s needs, such as flexibility around interview times, will also help to sell your company. We speak from experience – companies that fail to reduce the time from interview to offer are already losing out to more flexible competitors.

We have recently completed an in-house search which started 6 months ago with several interviews. It's really thanks to video calls that we managed to keep the process alive and the candidates engaged. While this isn't a common scenario, it is worth underlining that long, drawn-out processes mean we can lose the candidates along the way, they can change their minds about moving, they get pay increases, or, at this time of year, stop wanting to move because of bonus pay-outs.

Agility is your best friend

Our Salary Guide 2021 revealed that 69% of respondents would look for an in-house role in their next job move compared to 11% who would consider an agency role – these figures are a probably the biggest point of pain for agencies right now. One thing in agencies’ favour however is that they are traditionally more agile when it comes to interviewing and can complete a hiring process in a month. Great! However, there are still too many agencies undertaking up to four or five interviews, and they are often covering the same ground at each stage. Too many, we cry! When you face a huge shortage of people to interview, having too many interviews can be off-putting. Professionals with sought-after experience are often getting multiple offers (and potentially counter-offers from their current employer) so your slick process counts. More than anything! Get to the finish line on time!

Our three-step guide – make each one count!

Go into each step fully armed with set questions for each stage, a finely tuned ‘pitch’ for your business and the role; know exactly what you want to cover in each stage.

  1. Two mid-senior people to interview (depending on the level of the interviewee); set questions that look for evidence of performance and fit with your values. Grade answers – having a pass mark takes out some of the subjectivity of decision making.
  2. Two senior people to interview; different set questions that look at performance as evidence is a great way to assess if they are a high performer. Grade answers.
  3. Interviewee to meet one or two members of the team for an informal chat (ideally not in an office setting); good for getting to know a person in a relaxed setting and checking for cultural fit.

If you would like to add in a timed writing test, it’s best to arrange it after second interview and interviewees can easily undertake this at home. For senior hires, you may want them to respond to a brief and present back to senior people. This will doubtless add in an extra stage so make sure it’s after two meetings and that you’re certain of a great fit.

To sum up

A successful hiring process starts with acknowledging that you won’t solve your current hiring challenges by applying the solutions of the past. This is the time to revisit your previous underlying assumptions, stress-testing them one by one. Agility and slick, shorter processes are your friend right now.

To read our full Salary Guide, click here

The Works Search a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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