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They Who Strike First, Win

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…your Company had an amazing candidate come through – either by applying or from an outside source – and everyone was excited! The candidate checked all the boxes, it’s a no-brainer, they are perfect and interested in your Company. Let’s do this!

The candidate’s resume and info were promptly sent to the Hiring Manager and…well, nothing happened for a few days. But it was fine though, the Manager did get back and asked for an interview the following week, five business days later, and the candidate obliged. After the final interview - which went amazing by the way - there were some internal conversations that happened, a few approvals needed to be signed off, got thumbs up for everyone once they were back from vacation, and the offer went out the following week.

A surprise to no one involved in recruiting for more than five minutes, the offer was declined because the candidate accepted a different offer already. In fact, she starts at the other company Monday.

Those few days for that Hiring Manager:

Important clerical issues, new release meetings, performance reviews, budget review meetings, etc – boss stuff.

Those few days for that perfect candidate:

Calls introducing reasons why they should not join your company, in the form of opportunity inundation – perfect candidate stuff.

Yes, that candidate that said they’ve always wanted to work at a company like yours. Yes, that candidate that said they had no other opportunities.

Yes, that candidate that said they just started looking and really don’t want to make a move right now.

That candidate.

A few fun stats from the American Staffing Association, Department of Labor and the Census Bureau:

  • 85% of technical candidates have an average of 3 opportunities when ‘active’

  • 56% of technical candidates will receive multiple offers

  • 45% of ‘active’ technical candidates receive an average of 5 calls per day (including your secret passive candidates)

  • The current National Unemployment Rate for technical professionals is 3.5%

  • There are over 20,000 registered staffing and recruiting firms in the US and over 16,000 companies classified as ‘Large’ by the Census Bureau

Your Company is competing against all of this. But what’s a couple days?

The simple undeniable fact is this current market is ‘They who strike first, win’. The companies with the ability to speed and prioritize their evaluation, interview, decision-making and most importantly FEEDBACK processes win on the candidates they want more often than those who do not.

Here are a few tips on hiring process that I advise companies to employ:

  • Analyze your current process – not in terms of end result (‘We hired them, so it worked…), but in terms of the duration of time between the steps.

o How long does a Hiring Manager take to decide to interview?

o How many days elapse between that decision and when the interview is scheduled and executed?

o How is feedback gathered post-interview and how quickly is a ‘next-step’ determined?

o How long after a final interview is a decision made, and how many days elapse before the candidate receives a formal offer in their inbox?

Note: The most critical amount of time, in my opinion, is between the submission to the Hiring Manager and the execution of the first interview. Explained a bit further below.

  • Try to reduce the number of decision-makers (not interviewers necessarily) that are involved in hiring decisions. HINT – if Susan in Purchasing must sign off, and the CFO has to review…those are decision makers.

  • Someone, typically Talent Acquisition, a Recruiter, HR…someone should own the quick feedback process for the candidate/position. When this does not occur, usually the recruiting firm or agency rep will own it, unsolicited of course, which usually does not add sparkle to their reputation internally.

  • The Prioritization and Urgency of hiring great candidates when they are available and interested needs to come from the top. The Hiring Managers will naturally want to focus only on their jobs unless given a reason not to by leadership, some do not fully realize it is their job.

  • Understand it takes time to get it right and it will never be perfect. Your company will win some, lose some, and will journey on. The problem is most companies feel they are already at this place, and they are not even close.

When working with a new Company or Hiring Manager, my only real disclaimer is understanding the feedback commitment. I ask what they can commit to based on their current process, and how quickly from a practical standpoint they can make decisions. And I hold them to it. I have customers that text or call right after submittals and/or interviews, and customers that let the email drop and do not respond for a day or two.

I don’t suppose you have to guess which kind gets the best candidates we find.

Think about it from a candidate perspective, through their experience, for a moment. The position at your Company is great for them, the Recruiter gets them fired up and they are excited about it. After a few days of speaking to the recruiter, and no word, they begin to think is it real? Did they hire someone? Was I really as qualified as I thought I was? Then other calls start coming in and other great companies and opportunities want to talk to them today, clearly expressing their interest with urgency in scheduling.

This happens while your Company sends an email asking for next week’s availability and a link to a Calendly schedule.

Which would you be more excited about?

The candidates most Companies want are popular people. They are in demand. Each day that passes waiting on feedback or decisions or paperwork increases the odds that they will not be a future employee of your Company. But there are real, actionable steps that Companies can employ to reduce the bottlenecks, encourage decisiveness, and capture those perfect candidates – and I’m always here to help if you need ideas.

I once had a boss who said ‘The best answer is yes, next best is no. The worst answer is I don’t know yet’. That’s truer now more than ever.

About the Author:

Mike Nicholas is the founder of Davis Laine, LLC, an expert advisory firm specializing in solving talent acquisition headaches through TA setup advisory, specialized recruiter skills training, and RPO Recruiting services.

For more helpful information, visit

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