I was recently working with a jobseeker client who asked, without a trace of sarcasm, if it was normal to have to agree to, and schedule, 6 phone screens prior to a first face-to-face interview at a financial company.
The short answer: of course not!
But companies have become so risk-averse when it comes to hiring, and so frequently take the time constraints of candidates for granted, that nightmare scenarios like this can emerge. A hiring process that should have taken 20 days to complete stretches to 6 months, 8 months and beyond. And here’s the kicker: rarely does any of this extra time result in a higher quality hire, or longer retention rates!
So what can you do to reach that offer stage faster?
Here are some ideas:
1) Skip the Application Process.
The moment you hit that “Apply” button for a position, you have pre-emptively agreed to the longest, most sanity-draining version of that company’s hiring process. Why? Because at the job posting stage EVERYONE is going to be vetted like an untrustworthy stranger. You will go through all of the hoops. And you will have near-zero leverage because the specter of all those you are competing with for the job is very clear in everyone’s mind.
Skip all of this. If you’re interested in working with a particular company, use LinkedIn to reach out to people who currently have jobs that are very similar to what you’re after. If an initial conversation goes well, ask to be introduced to the hiring manager. Here’s a sample message you can send:
Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain about your career and journey at [COMPANY NAME]! It’s amazing how [EXPAND UPON A PARTICULAR IDEA OR ANECDOTE SHARED DURING YOUR CONVERSATION]. I really appreciated that.
I noticed that [COMPANY NAME] is looking for a [JOB YOU’RE INTERESTED IN]. Would you happen to know the person I should connect with to get some more info about this?
2) Disrupt the Interview Process (in a Good Way).
The true barometer of success in a job interview isn’t whether you effectively answer all of their questions, but whether the discussion is getting PROGRESSIVELY MORE SPECIFIC and whether you’re getting MORE ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE about the company and the pain they’re trying to solve. Not understanding this is one of the biggest reasons highly qualified candidates find themselves running on the endless hiring hamster wheel.
-Come in with some ideas, and pitch them. Instead of sliding over your resume and waiting for them to take the lead, come in having done some research into the company and their current growth objectives, and present a few “broad strokes” ideas of how you can hit the ground running. The beauty of this approach is that whether you’re right on the mark or completely off, you’re opening the door to getting more intelligence about the real challenges they’re facing. In short, by taking the lead you move away from the general questions about you and your experience, and into the realm of a working meeting. And that’s a very good thing.
–Use every answer you give as an opportunity to ask a question in return. By doing this early and often, you are setting the stage for asking really critical questions later in the process (without facing blowback). Questions like “How close are you guys to making a final decision?” Or “What will be covering in the follow-up interview, specifically, that wasn’t covered in the last one?” Or, “Is there anything about my background or the answers I’ve given here that would make you hesitate to move me forward as a candidate of choice?”
3) Don’t Hide the Fact that You’re Pursuing Other Opportunities.
Most people don’t feel comfortable with bluffing about another job offer in order to make a hiring manager move quickly. But there are ways to create a sense of urgency that don’t require this kind of subterfuge.
Be open about the fact that you’re looking at roles across a spectrum. If they ask you whether you’re looking at other places, say yes. If you’re asked about your availability for a follow-up interview, offer specific times (NEVER say that you’re completely available, any day, any time). And if you’re concerned that a particular opportunity is stalling out, let the hiring manager know that you’re operating on a tight timeframe for securing a new role, and would need some clarity on precisely what the timeframe to a decision would look like in order to proceed.
Hiring can be a meeting amongst equals, if you’re willing to rise to the occasion. Will you?