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Speed Up Your Candidate Screening Process or Miss Top Talent

In today's fast-paced world of recruitment, speed is everything... especially if you're looking for top-tier talent. 

This process can feel like you are constantly in a foot race trying to catch great people before they are gone.  A powerful hiring statistic indicates that the best talent is typically off the job market within 10 days. Several factors contribute to this, but the main takeaway is that speed matters when searching for great people. 

Currently, the average time to fill an open position is around 36 days, from when the job is posted to when it is filled. The largest portion of the time-to-fill number is candidate screening.  The complete screening process, from job posting to having a shortlist of screened applicants ready for the second round of interviews, takes around 16 days on average.  

These numbers highlight a significant challenge for businesses: the need to streamline and automate their recruitment process, especially the screening process, to land talent before they disappear.  

The Race Against Time

Why is there such urgency in hiring top talent? The answer lies partly in the competitive nature of the current job market.  With the growing gig economy, social media monetization, and many other outlets to make money outside of a traditional job setting, businesses are being forced to search harder and longer for talent.  When businesses do get applicants, they have built-in bottlenecks that slow down the process.  These bottlenecks are in place because of slow and antiquated methods to complete the applicant screening process.  A couple of those bottlenecks are:

ATS systems that are slowing us down by using outdated applicant filtering methods and creating an undue burden on the applicant.       


  • Keyword matching on a resume can certainly seem like a time saver.  However, the tradeoff is that we eliminate some potentially great employees because they don’t have the perfect keywords.  

  • 43% of applicants drop out before completing their application due to the drudgery of the ATS process.  No one wants to go through the whole rigamarole to apply and get ghosted.  Getting dropped into an ATS system when clicking apply now does not elicit excitement for a new job.  Instead, it creates a key dropout point for applicants that we should be trying to fix. 

Sample ATS Flow

5 of 6 steps in a standard ATS process, highlighting a process that 43% of applicants drop out of.

Manual Screening Processes can also be inefficient and ineffective.

  • Research shows that the average time a recruiter spends looking at each resume is a mere 3-5 seconds.  This is highly ineffective and can lead to missing a great culture fit.  

  • Anecdotally, after discussing with several recruiters about how this process looks in the real world.  This is the basic scenario we have gathered from them:  

“If I get a stack of 100 resumes but only need to deliver 10 solid candidates to my client.  In this case, I will start looking through the resumes until I find ten qualified candidates.  The rest of the resumes then get thrown away.  I may throw away 80+ resumes that I never even looked at.”

  • Reviewing cover letters adds another layer of complexity to the process.  A cover letter, in reality, is just a hyperbolic representation of what is found in the resume. 

  • Scrolling through an applicant's social media accounts can be a very time-consuming feat. 

  • Paying a recruiter or spending payroll hours having someone phone screen a list of applicants.

The standard process for screening applicants is fast evolving, but there are some entrenched ideologies of what works or what an organization is comfortable with.  As workers continue to shift away from a traditional 9-5 job, it will be imperative that everyone adapts by integrating new tools and techniques.  Otherwise, it will become more difficult to be competitive in finding great people.  

With the help of AI-powered HR tech tools, companies can significantly speed up these processes, and the proactive ones are quick to adopt them. As a result, slower-moving organizations risk falling behind.

Strategies to Reduce Applicant Screening Time

Reducing screening time without compromising the quality of candidates is a delicate balancing act. It is a necessary practice to continually evaluate your process so that you are finding ways to optimize.  

According to research by Robert Half, “57% of job seekers lose interest in a job if the hiring process is lengthy.”  

Actionable strategies for your screening process

  • Leverage Technology for Resume Screening: Implementing AI-driven screening tools can significantly speed up the initial stages of candidate evaluation.  What once took weeks and sometimes months to complete, can now be done in a fraction of the time. Using the example above, recruiters will no longer have to rip through resume screening quickly and hope they find good candidates.  They can now implement automated resume screening to take all 100 resumes, intelligently compare them to the job, and give a sorted list of the best candidates.  

  • Streamline Interviews: Don’t manually phone screen applicants hoping you pick the best ones.  You don’t want to create a situation where when they are sitting in front of you in your first face-to-face interview, you know that they will not be a good fit.  Outsource this step to a tool that can allow them to showcase their skills or not beforehand.  Be cautious here about what tool you choose to use.  Video interview platforms can create a biased, awkward experience for the candidate.  Focus on more candidate-centric tools that will allow the candidate to show you their true self.  This will also create goodwill for your brand by improving the candidate experience. 

  • Empower Decision-Makers: Ensure that those involved in the hiring process have the authority to make quick decisions, reducing bottlenecks.  This may require a culture shift in some organizations that do not trust managers in making these decisions.  However, this situation may have come about because the organization was initially slow to hire. Now, they do not have people they can trust because they miss out on top talent when hiring their managers.  This becomes a vicious cycle.    

  • Create an Engaging Candidate Experience: Maintain communication and transparency with candidates to keep them engaged.  Don’t be like the 75% of recruiters who are ghosting candidates.  Make sure they are always kept up to date with where they stand in the process. 

Attracting Top Candidates

To attract top talent within the 10-day window, companies must position themselves as employers of choice. This involves:

  • Competitive Offerings: Ensure your compensation packages are competitive and aligned with industry standards.  People are trading their time for money.  Make sure that money is compelling enough to make it an interesting trade. 

  • Employer Branding: Leverage your company culture and values to attract candidates who are a good fit.  If you don’t want to show off how great your company is, then maybe some underlying issues need to be resolved before you try to attract great candidates.  

  • Responsive Engagement: Engage with potential candidates promptly and effectively to maintain their interest.

  • Reimagined Job Descriptions: People want to know exactly what the job is and what is in it for them.  Don’t spend so much time telling the candidate about every detail and possible job responsibility.  Instead, focus on culture, a day in the life, pay, and benefits.  Give the candidates what they want to see. 

Where do I start?

The 10-day window for hiring top talent underscores the need for an assessment of your company's current methods now and regular check-ins to ensure your process is on point.  If you are unsure about the time cost of your applicant screening process, keep track of the time it takes.  If your screening process takes longer than a couple of days then you have room for improvement.

If your process is taking too long, we would love to talk and see if our tools can help increase your speed.  We have a suite of tools that can increase efficiencies and help you create more time to do what you do best, run your business. Please check out our screening interview suite if you are interested in kickstarting your hiring game.

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