HR: Timing Is Everything in the War for IT Talent

In order to attract top IT performers in today's tight labor market, companies need to extend offers to candidates within one day of an interview. Otherwise, the prospect will go elsewhere, warned human resources professionals.

At the International Quality & Productivity Center's Recruiting and Staffing Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month, much of the discussion on the war for talent revolved around not how to find the best job candidates, but rather how to hire job seekers as soon as possible after the interview.

During his keynote presentation, John Sullivan, professor of human resources management at San Francisco State University, said candidates will reject an offer if they feel they are "jerked around in the interview process."

Patricia Schulz, director of human resources at Associated Banc-Corp. in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said her firm would like to shorten the hiring cycle to a day or even a week, but it has to allow for enough time to check candidates' references and wait on the results of drug tests. In addition, some managers who don't realize how difficult recruiting is want to interview eight or nine candidates before extending an offer to anyone, said Schulz.

But Teresa Matzkin, lead recruiter at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Maryland, has helped galvanize the company's recruiting efforts to shorten the hiring cycle to just one day. Prior to the interview, candidates are given a Web address where they can download applications to fill out on their own time. A copy of the candidates' résumé is also posted on the company's intranet at least two days before the interview so hiring managers can prescreen potential hires.

Howard Rubin, a research fellow at Stamford, Connecticut-based Meta Group Inc., said he agreed that taking too long to make offers can affect a worker's decision. Companies can lose roughly one-third of their candidates that way, said Rubin, who conducted interviews with 40 IT managers in September.

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