If you’ve applied for a job recently, you know the drill: send in your resumé, wait. Interview, wait. Interview again, wait some more.
Recent research from Glassdoor confirms it’s not just your imagination — the hiring process is taking longer than ever. In the US, average hiring times — that is, the gap between when a candidate applies online and when they get an offer or rejection — grew form 12.6 days in 2010 to a snail-like 22.9 days in 2014.
A small comfort: That’s actually quicker than much of the rest of the world. The US may be slow, but France, Germany, Australia, and the UK are even slower. In France, the average process takes a full 31.9 days. (Canada, meanwhile, is slightly quicker, clocking in at 22.1 days per hire.)
Of course, the global economy has changed since 2010. Economies have grown. Industries have shifted. But even if you control for those factors, there’s there’s still a statistically significant increase in hiring times. In other words, something about the hiring process has actually changed.
Specifically, screening. Companies are screening candidates more than ever before — not just through multiple interviews, but through various kinds of tests. Background checks, skill tests, drug tests, and personality tests are all more common than they were five years ago, Glassdoor reports.
On some level, that’s just practical. “Companies are screening more, because jobs are getting more technical,” Glassdoor’s chief economist Andrew Chamberlain tells Business Insider. “And you have to spend more time finding a good fit for those jobs.”
There’s also more sensitive data inside companies than ever before, he says — a fact that seems to justify the background checks. “Twenty five years ago, not as many companies had digitised data that was easy to access and easy to share,” Chamberlain points out. As that’s become more common, it’s become increasingly important to (try to) ensure that the people who have access to that data are trustworthy.
By that logic, it’s no surprise that the jobs that take the longest to hire are government jobs (almost always highly regulated), followed by aerospace and defence jobs, mining and gas jobs, and non-profit and education jobs.
Nor is it shocking that the cities where hiring takes the longest — Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, San Jose, and San Francisco — are either government or tech hubs. To some extent, there’s a justifiable method to the madness.
But not all the reasons for the slowdown are quite so compelling.
For example, big companies almost always take longer to hire than small companies — even when they’re hiring for entirely equivalent positions, in entirely equivalent fields. But Chamberlain isn’t convinced that means they’re getting notably better matches for that extra time. “I think a lot of that is just bureaucratic hurdles,” he says. “It’s wasteful.”
For employers, it’s a balancing act. Every additional screening costs time and money, but — theoretically, at least — every additional screening also leads to better-suited hires. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems like it’s a balancing act in progress.
“I get messages all the time from HR professionals in the field,” Chamberlain says, “and they typically look at our data and say, ‘yeah, I’m seeing the same thing at my company, we’re now doing more and more of these screens, because we have systems that are just set up to do it, and no one’s really evaluating whether it working or not.'”
Employers are still figuring it out, Chamberlain says. “Fads in hiring go through cycles,” he observes. “They may dial back when they realise how much of a delay each of these things cause. I don’t think most people realise.”
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