When it Comes to Hiring, the Fastest One Wins

By Karen Antrim

Jan 31, 2023

We all engage in activities on a daily basis that require speed and quick reaction times for success. From sports to video games to more serious endeavors like emergency services and medical diagnoses, it’s clear that moving fast can make a critical difference across many facets of life. As it turns out, the old adage “you snooze, you lose” applies to the increasingly competitive world of recruiting and hiring as well.

In today’s challenging labor market, employers can’t afford to move slowly when recruiting and interviewing candidates. With a (seeming) shortage of qualified candidates for many hard-to-fill positions, it is critically important that recruiters and talent acquisition teams act quickly and decisively when engaging applicants or else risk losing out on valuable talent altogether.

A Crowded Landscape

Studies show that a candidate applying for any given position is also applying for 10-15 additional openings per week while undergoing a job search. Beyond the opportunities they’re actively pursuing, the average job seeker is also bombarded on a daily basis with ads, emails, and other aggressive overtures from companies looking to fill open positions. In fact, these efforts are more widespread than ever before, with one in three companies reporting that they increased their recruitment marketing budgets last year. 

These data points serve to underscore the fact that, while it’s arguably never been a better time to be a job seeker, employers are facing significant competitive challenges when trying to reach potential candidates, which makes speedy response times even more important. 

Don’t Leave Them Hanging

The first and most important rule to remember for recruiters looking to find a competitive advantage is simple—Don’t make the candidate wait. The quicker you can respond to a candidate’s application, the more likely you are to engage that candidate and move the process along. A recent survey reported that 80% of respondents wanted faster response time from employers, while only 19% said they were hearing back from recruiters within 24 hours. For an optimal outcome, employers should aim to get a first response out to an applicant within 12 hours in order to break through the noise and move the process forward.

That’s not to say that every application rates a personal, immediate response, regardless of the quality of the candidate. Talent acquisition professionals only have so much bandwidth, after all, and can’t afford to spend all their time composing emails to applicants who have a low likelihood of panning out. Instead, consider creating an automated response that uses a standard template to let each candidate know their application has been received and outlining possible next steps. Simply telling a job seeker that you will reach out in X number of days if you see a possible fit can go a long way toward keeping interest alive, and also allow them to move on to other opportunities if that timeframe passes without further contact.

Above all else, avoid “ghosting” candidates, ie. going completely silent once an applicant has been engaged. As many as 77% of employees say that they’ve been ghosted by employers according to some reports, a practice that can severely damage an employer’s brand and discourage future applicants once word (inevitably) gets out.

Shorten the Candidate Experience

Beyond slow (or non-existent) response times, another area where time is of the essence involves the candidate application and interview process. If you make a candidate jump through too many hoops, or spend too much time jumping through any one particular hoop, you’re likely to lose out on some very promising applicants. 

According to Career Builder, 76% of candidates want to know how long it will take to fill out an application before they apply, and 60% will abandon an application midway through if they find it to be too time consuming. In other works, keep it simple! Like everyone else, job seekers are protective of their time, and with so many potential opportunities in front of them they can afford to be selective about where they choose to alot that time.

This point is especially important to consider for employers who utilize third party tools to help assess the suitability of candidates for open positions. Many assessment solutions that purport to analyze “fit” can be unwieldy and time consuming, sometimes taking as long as an hour or more for an applicant to answer hundreds of often repetitive questions. Alternatively, look for products like Arena’s Retention Prediction Solution which requires less than five minutes of an applicant's time to fill out a simple questionnaire that, along with hundreds of additional data points, can indicate a candidate’s likelihood to be retained.


A myriad of factors work together to determine the success of an organization’s recruiting efforts, but it's obvious that speed and timeliness are at the top of the list. Seemingly simple steps like increasing response time, setting clear expectations, and creating a simple and expeditious candidate experience can go a long way toward increasing the likelihood of hiring success in a historically tight labor market. Speed is your friend!

Karen Antrim

VP, Client Success & Talent Services