RSS icon

Top Stories


Dear Workforce What Can We Do to Speed Up Hiring Time in a Government Agency

On average, how long does it take a private organization with 2,000 to 2,500 employees to fill vacancies? As a government agency that is bound to a civil-service process, we constantly hear complaints from our managers that it takes too long to fill a position. We are also told that we need to be more like the private sector. We are all for innovative procedures and systems to help us hire qualified individuals within a shorter period of time. However, it is hard for us to believe that hiring in the private sector is as easy and quick as many of our managers would like to think.
August 17, 2005
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Dear Workforce
Dear Fixes:

Conclusive data on time-to-hire is tough to come by. Hiring times can vary dramatically according to type of organization, type of position, location of job, labor market conditions, organizational policies and culture, and even how responsive the hiring manager is in doing his job. One private-sector estimate is that time-to-hire ranges from 4 to 15 weeks, depending on the position. The U.S. government has set a time-to-hire goal of 45 days.
So, on average, do private-sector firms hire faster than the government? The answer is almost certainly yes. But the public sector has done a much better job of hiring a diverse workforce and retaining employees. Filling positions in the private sector can also take time. One private-sector expert's advice is to "hire slow and fire fast" to make sure the right people are hired. Despite the constant buzz about hiring speed, a fast hire is not necessarily a good hire.
Although some approaches may require new laws or regulations, others can be put in place under existing conditions. Many of these are documented through the "best practices" research sponsored by the International Public Management Association. Some examples:
  • Aggressively recruiting to ensure that enough qualified candidates apply. This minimizes the possibility (and delays) of having to re-recruit.
  • Decentralizing hiring so that hiring managers can issue vacancy announcements, as well as screen and interview candidates. This approach, in place of centralized application and hiring registers, lets the supervisor manage the hiring process (and influence hiring speed).
  • Eliminating residency requirements to help recruit qualified applicants quickly.
  • Eliminating arbitrary restrictions on the number of qualified candidates who can be interviewed--in other words, getting rid of the "rule of three," the "rule of five," etc. These restrictions necessitate lengthy processes to rate and rank all candidates. Why continue to use these time-consuming barriers if larger numbers of candidates qualify to be interviewed?
  • Limiting the use of traditional "paper and pencil" civil-service exams that must be scheduled in advance (sometimes far in advance), administered in a central location(s) and then scored. This takes far more time than reviewing résumés or training-and-experience questionnaires.
Some public organizations are making immediate job offers at job fairs, on college campuses, etc. These jurisdictions use questionnaire-based assessments that can be administered right on the spot. The qualified candidates then can be interviewed and even offered a job, usually contingent on reference and other background checks.
Online application/testing offers unprecedented speed and cost efficiency. Enabling candidates to apply online and then giving them immediate feedback reduces time-to-hire from months to weeks.
Similarly, computerized skills inventories allow candidates to assess their capabilities online and also give hiring managers the ability to "order" candidates online according to job needs. This can be done in real time.
In some cases, shorter application periods improve hiring speed, particularly for jobs that always attract enough qualified applicants. There's no practical reason to accept applications for a month or more when you have already attracted enough qualified candidates.
The other end of the spectrum is continuous application, for high-volume and tough-to-fill jobs. With this approach, candidates apply continuously, without deadlines. This ensures a fresh stream of candidates and eliminates the need to go through a new announcement process for every vacancy.
Another approach for high-volume hiring is to hire before vacancies occur. This creates a pool of employees who can augment your workforce until they are assigned to permanent jobs.
Of course, there's no silver bullet to solve hiring problems. Timely hiring will become an even more critical issue as the nation's demographics continue to shift, resulting in more vacancies and fewer candidates to fill them. This will dramatically escalate the war for talent.
Two final notes: First, organizations that want to upgrade their hiring processes should carefully review them to identify needed improvements. Attractive solutions like online applications can work well, but technology can't overcome fundamentally flawed processes.
Finally, in addition to improving the hiring process, it's critical to communicate often and effectively with hiring managers to keep them informed about how the recruiting and hiring processes are proceeding. This eliminates misunderstandings and frustration, and helps managers speed up their part of the hiring process.
SOURCE: Bob Lavigna, senior manager for client services,CPS Human Resource Services, Madison, Wisconsin, October 11, 2004.
LEARN MORE: An HR Audit used by the commonwealth of Virginia.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
Ask a Question
Dear Workforce Newsletter

 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

If you have any questions or concerns about, please email or call 312-676-9900.

The Workforce fax number is 312-676-9901.

Sign up for Dear Workforce e-newsletters!

Comments powered by Disqus