A need for speed? For and against the 48-hour hire

Can a speedy hiring process be effective? Can an effective hiring process be speedy? The debate is on
Red alarm clock on red background

Filling a senior-level vacancy in 48 hours sounds too good to be true, but that’s what AI-enabled recruitment platform Vervoe claims to have done when it appointed a new VP of sales in February. Using its own 10-question assessment of key skills, the Melbourne-based firm believes that it secured the best candidate in the most efficient way.

But is speed really that important when it comes to hiring? Efficiency doesn’t necessarily translate to effectiveness, after all. Is a great candidate always someone with all the requisite skills, or is the AI-dependent recruiter missing out on vital elements of a good employee by disregarding some of the key factors – cultural fit, for instance – that the algorithms can’t rate?

Let’s find out what those for and against accelerating the hiring process have to say.

For: move quickly or risk losing talent

Naturally, Vervoe’s co-founder and CEO, Omer Molad, believes that speed is essential, given that the most talented and capable people are rarely on the jobs market for long before getting snapped up.

“The best candidates have options and aren’t willing to wait around,” he says, adding that most of his clients are taking just a few days to recruit at most levels. 

Probe Group, a provider of call-centre services, has cut its time to hire for front-line jobs from four weeks to a mere 24 hours, for instance, while marketing agency KlientBoost has filled management roles within 72 hours.

G4S has been able to reduce its recruitment process for security guards and correctional officers from 20 to 15 weeks. This has created significant resource savings for its head of talent, Richard Rushton, whose team was manually reviewing up to 600 applications at a time. AI assessments have also increased the quality and diversity of applicants, he reports. 

The best candidates have options and aren’t willing to wait around

“It takes unconscious bias out of the equation, because a recruiter can still look at a CV and make a judgment based on someone’s name and location before they’ve even tested the candidate’s skills,” Rushton says. 

While G4S is benefiting most from AI in high-volume hiring at present, he feels that it would be possible to cut stages from the process at the professional level to achieve 48-hour recruitment – providing that the right groundwork is done beforehand.

“If you can build the assessment quickly enough and you’ve got the desire to run things through that quickly, you could do that,” Rushton says. “A 48-hour hire would be a nice thing, although I’d probably want a bit more diligence and work to be done on candidate sourcing. If you took out the sourcing aspect, you could push things through quickly enough to get to that point.” 

Indeed, the candidate that Vervoe successfully hired in 48 hours was initially referred by a well-connected contact in the CEO’s network. 

Katrina Collier, an expert in candidate engagement and the author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter, echoes Rushton’s views about the preparatory work required to enable a short hiring process.

“A long-winded hiring process will prevent you from hiring the right people. But, before you post your advert or seek referrals, invest time in understanding whom you really need to hire,” she advises. “What problem will they be solving? Where will they develop and grow?” 

Collier continues: “Assess what is missing from your current team too. This will ensure that you don’t hire someone because they’re like you when you need the opposite. Once this is done, you can go out to market and keep the process short – even 48 hours if you want. But be wary of being overly reliant on AI to make the decision.”

Against: a machine cannot judge culture fit

Big companies such as Xero and Experian acknowledge the benefits of AI in the early stages of the hiring process, but strongly believe that more detailed tasks should be handled by people. 

Humans are better able to identify candidates with the right cultural fit and eliminate any bias that algorithms can inherit from programmers or existing data sets, according to Nicole Reid, Xero’s chief people officer. 

“We hire for cultural fit first. AI won’t pick that up in the way it could pick up a particular skill,” she says. “As much as we’re interviewing a candidate, they’re interviewing us, so they know what they’re coming in for, what we value and what we expect of new recruits. Those are key factors for us, so we won’t change our human approach.”

Experian is similarly reluctant to use AI in shortlisting and selection, as it feels that there’s too much risk of algorithm bias.

Its chief HR officer, Justin Hastings, explains: “We continue to train our hiring managers and talent acquisition teams to recognise and reduce bias in our selection processes – and we’d set the same bar for any AI tools we might adopt. AI is about improving the quality of the hiring process and helping us source and identify diverse and highly skilled people. But we still need to bring talent into our organisation based on human-to-human interaction.” 

While G4S has attracted a more diverse range of successful job candidates when using AI, behavioural scientist Diarmuid Harvey observes that employers need a substantial data set to achieve this. The shorter the time frame, the smaller the opportunity to attract a sufficiently diverse pool of talent, he notes. 

We hire for cultural fit first. AI won’t pick that up in the way it could pick up a particular skill

“If your process has come down to days, do you have a large enough pool to enable you to test whether or not your model is biased?” says Harvey, who is head of science for the Chemistry Group, a talent strategy consultancy. “It would take massive amounts of data to support an approach like this.” 

He adds: “Even if you did test this on very large data sets, it doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s a lot of upfront work required in identifying the role’s competencies. And, if you’re going to assess someone’s intellect – their personality, motivations and behavioural competencies – all of that requires some interaction with the individual.”

Speed, Harvey concludes, is clearly an important factor for recruiters, but it should be secondary to ensuring a fair selection process. “The question should be: ‘how effective is this speedy process?’ As opposed to: ‘how speedy is this process?’”