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Hiring process FAQ: A guide to structured recruitment

The hiring process comprises several stages, from identifying the need for a role to the acceptance of a job offer by a candidate. It involves planning, attracting candidates, selecting candidates, and offering the job.

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

The hiring process involves various stakeholders, methods, tools and metrics. Understanding how it works is the first step toward hiring great employees.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the hiring process and tips on how to make your hiring more effective:

Structuring the hiring process

  • What are the typical steps in the recruiting process?
  • How should we manage hiring process workflow?
  • What is a hiring process flow chart?
  • Should I customize the hiring process for specific roles?
  • What are the steps in the job offer process?
  • How many candidates should I have in the candidate pipeline?

Hiring timeline

  • What is the average time to fill?
  • How long should the hiring process be?
  • How long are candidates typically on the market?

Hiring teams

  • Who should be involved in the hiring process?
  • Who should manage the hiring process?
  • What steps in the hiring process do recruiters manage?
  • What steps in the hiring process do hiring managers oversee?
  • What steps in the hiring process does HR manage?

Hiring process costs

  • What is the average cost per hire?
  • What is the cost of unfilled positions?
  • What is the cost of a bad hire?

Rejecting candidates

  • What is the best way to reject a job applicant?
  • What is the best way to reject a job candidate after an interview?

Effective hiring tools

  • What tools can I use to evaluate candidates?
  • What tools can I use for interview assessments?

Improving the hiring process

  • What are some ways to make the hiring process more efficient?
  • What tools can I use to improve the hiring process?
  • How can I build a more effective hiring process?

Candidate experience

  • How does the hiring process impact candidate experience?
  • What is a good benchmark for application process length?
  • What is a good benchmark for average interview process length?
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Structuring the hiring process

What are the typical steps in the recruiting process?

The hiring process begins when a company identifies the need to fill a position and ends when a candidate accepts a job offer. The typical steps of the recruitment and selection process vary depending on the role and company. But, most hiring teams build their hiring process around these four stages:

  1. Planning. Hiring managers usually need to get the job opening approved as part of a hiring plan before posting the job ad. They should also discuss the recruiting budget for their position, prepare the job description and assemble their hiring team.
  2. Attracting candidates. This stage involves any action hiring teams take to fill their hiring pipeline with qualified candidates (e.g. candidate sourcing, job advertising and asking for referrals.)
  3. Selecting candidates. The most important part of a candidate screening phase is the interview. Screening calls, job application reviews and pre-employment tests help ensure that hiring teams interview the best candidates.
  4. Offering the job. If all goes well, this process involves drafting and sending a job offer email to your desired candidate, who accepts it. Sometimes though, candidates may choose to negotiate their offers or reject them outright.

Learn more about codifying the basics of your hiring process in our employee handbook template.

How should we manage hiring process workflow?

Using emails and spreadsheets to manage all aspects of the hiring process isn’t efficient. If you hire in low volumes, then project management tools are a good option. For example, tools like Trello help you see the hiring workflow as a series of steps and assign tasks to your hiring team.

If you hire often and manage multiple hiring teams, consider investing in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS.) An ATS gives you a full view of every step of the process and each team member’s actions and feedback.

RelatedHow to maximize user adoption of your ATS

What is a hiring process flow chart?

A hiring process flowchart is a visualization of recruiting steps and how they connect. A flowchart is a good way to communicate your recruitment policy in a concrete and memorable way to both hiring teams and candidates. For example, you could use a flowchart to present recruiting steps to hiring managers. Here’s a basic example of a snapshot of the hiring process:

Hiring flowcharts can get more complex if you add more actions, decisions and phases, as well as different stakeholders (e.g. recruiters, candidates) and recruiting tactics (e.g. internal hiring.)

Should I customize the hiring process for specific roles?

Different roles require different hiring stages. Candidates for senior positions face multiple interviews and tests before getting hired, while entry-level candidates usually face much simpler hiring processes.

Yet, customizing shouldn’t be overly flexible, since:

  • Most hiring processes share some elements. Asking hiring managers to create their own processes from scratch may be counterproductive.
  • Recruiters who are involved in multiple hiring pipelines may have trouble keeping track of all the different steps, if there’s no consistency between roles.
  • Recruiters can find it challenging to consolidate metrics from lots of different hiring processes.

Try to find the balance. Give hiring teams a set of general steps and workflows to choose from for specific roles or types of roles (senior, junior, developers etc.) A recruitment policy or hiring flowcharts can be useful. If you’re using an ATS, you will already have a basic pipeline in place that your hiring teams can modify when needed.

What are the steps in the job offer process?

When you find your best candidate, it’s time to make them an offer they will want to accept. As a best practice, ask HR about a position’s salary range and benefits before you start advertising the role. To extend a job offer:

  1. Call the candidate to extend a verbal job offer. This step isn’t always necessary. But, it leaves a positive impression on candidates and may save you time on crafting an offer letter, if they reject your offer. Keep the call brief and then follow up with the formal offer letter through email.
  2. Craft a job offer letter. The job offer letter includes salary and benefits, but also important elements of the position (e.g. official title, start date, who the person in this position reports to and where it’s located.)
  3. Address candidate concerns and negotiation conversations. If candidates have last-minute concerns about the role, answer their questions. If candidates want to negotiate, arrange a meeting with HR and your hiring team to discuss. While it’s preferable to make your best job offer right from the start, you may still have some room to offer more to your best candidate.
  4. Begin the post-offer process. Ask candidates who have accepted your job offer to send personal details to HR so they can prepare the candidate’s contract. Create an onboarding plan to welcome your new hire properly. If your new hire’s start date is months away, create a plan to keep in touch. Send a New employee welcome email.

How many candidates should I have in the candidate pipeline?

To determine how many candidates you should have in your candidate pipeline, track your qualified candidates per hire metric. This metric shows the number of candidates who make it past the first stage of your hiring process. If you don’t have enough of your own data yet, use your industry’s benchmarks to determine whether you receive enough candidates:

Qualified per hire (job function) US average UK & Ireland Rest of Europe Rest of world
Customer Service 24 23 17 20
Engineering 40 26 29 49
Healthcare 15 14 7 15
Human Resources 63 50 30 42
Information Technology 40 28 32 41
Marketing 53 39 40 46
Product Management 55 46 40 56
Sales 35 32 32 25
Other 26 25 28 26

Recruitment benchmark data on qualified candidates per hire via Workable.

Hiring timeline

What is the average time to fill?

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports an average time to fill (the time it takes to make a hire after a position opens) at 42 days across industries. Workable’s Benchmark tool, which gathers data from thousands of customers, presents time to fill information categorized by industry and location. For example, the average global time to fill in Engineering is 59 days.

Keep in mind that other companies may not calculate time to fill the same way as you do. Also, having a higher time to fill than other companies doesn’t necessarily mean that their recruiting process is more effective. Track time to fill internally and compare over time for better benchmarking.

How long should the hiring process be?

The average hiring process is 42 days long, according to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM.) Other studies report an average of 27 working days. Your industry’s average time to fill is a good benchmark for your hiring process timeline. If you take less time to fill a position than your competition, it could mean you reach the best candidates first. Go to lengths to make your hiring process more efficient, but don’t rush your hiring process or give in to “panic hiring.”

How long are candidates typically on the market?

The most qualified candidates are usually off the market in 10 days. An executive candidate, who’s more likely to be sourced or receive multiple offers, may be on the market for even fewer than 10 days.

Keep in mind though that passive candidates, who are usually already employed, are a huge portion of the market. By reaching out to them and building relationships, you will fill some positions faster. And according to LinkedIn’s recent survey, almost all of them want to hear from a recruiter.

Hiring teams

Who should be involved in the hiring process?

The main players in the hiring process are the hiring manager and his/her recruiter. They make most decisions and should have a good working relationship. But, other stakeholders also offer valuable input:

  • Team members. The hiring manager’s team may participate in some stages of the process (e.g. as members of an interviewing panel.) Team members can both evaluate candidates for culture fit and can show candidates your company’s collaborative environment firsthand.
  • Talent Acquisition team. Employing sourcers or recruiting coordinators helps make the hiring process more efficient. These professionals free up a recruiter’s time to dedicate to building relationships with candidates and communicating with hiring managers.
  • External recruitment firms. In some cases, hiring a recruitment agency to take up a few stages of the hiring process or bring in qualified candidates may be worthwhile.
  • Senior management. Senior executives could talk to candidates during the final interview. They may spot an issue that eluded the hiring team, or help select the best among the finalists.

Who should manage the hiring process?

Hiring managers direct the hiring process as they are the ones to:

  • Set requirements.
  • Evaluate candidates.
  • Make the final hiring decision.

Recruiters are the coordinators of the hiring process and undertake tasks hiring managers may not have time for. But most importantly, they are there to move the process along and advise hiring managers when they need help making a decision.

What steps in the hiring process do recruiters manage?


  • Review and post job ads.
  • Source candidates (e.g. social media recruiting.)
  • Take up administrative tasks (e.g. scheduling interviews.)
  • Conduct preliminary screenings (e.g. screening call.)
  • Close candidates (e.g. begin the job offer process.)

Though these are typical recruiter responsibilities, a good recruiter takes their role a step further. They act as advisors to hiring managers, track metrics to improve the hiring process and “own” the candidate experience.

What steps do hiring managers oversee in the hiring process?

Hiring managers are in charge of every step directly related to the role. They may:

  • Screen resumes. Often, recruiters don’t have enough specialized knowledge to screen candidate applications. For example, a generalist recruiter is probably less effective at screening developers than a hiring manager with coding experience.
  • Interview candidates. Hiring managers conduct main interviews and they assemble an interview panel when necessary.
  • Prepare and review assignments. Hiring managers may choose to give candidates work assignments (e.g. coding or writing exercises.) They also review and evaluate candidates’ work.

Hiring managers should have complete visibility into each step of the hiring process.

What steps in the hiring process does HR manage?

HR employees:

  • Review and approve vacancies. Approving requisitions may be the job of an executive or a finance director in companies that don’t have dedicated HR departments.
  • Check and confirm job offers. Hiring teams check with HR about compensation and benefits they plan to offer new hires. HR also prepares contracts and keeps new employee records.

Hiring process costs

What is the average cost per hire?

A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the average cost per hire is about $4,100.

However, several factors may affect each company’s individual average. For example, cost per hire depends on hiring volume. The more people you hire, the lower your cost per hire will be. This is because some fixed costs can be spread out over a larger number of hires. Also, some roles and industries (e.g. engineering) have longer time to fill and the accumulated costs result in higher cost per hire.

Depending on the size of company and industry, a good benchmark is anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

What is the cost of unfilled positions?

An open position represents both actual costs and lost revenue. Costs may pile up if you hire a freelancer to do the job or pay overtime to hourly employees to cover extra work. Each position generates revenue. If it remains vacant, the company misses out on that revenue.

There are ways to do complex calculations of the cost of unfilled positions, depending on the role. If you have enough data, liaise with the finance department to settle on how to calculate costs of unfilled positions.

Keep in mind that a vacant position has significant intangible costs too (e.g. lost productivity or reduced quality of customer service.)

What is the cost of a bad hire?

One bad hire costs companies $17,000 on average, according to a Careerbuilder survey. To determine how a particular bad hire affects your company, look into:

  • Compensation costs of your bad hire until they leave your company.
  • Recruiting costs associated with this hire (e.g. background checks, job postings, screening tests.)
  • Training and onboarding costs for this hire and their replacement.
  • HR costs (e.g. relocation expenses, severance pay.)
  • Time lost to correct issues with your hire’s work.
  • Lost productivity and reduced team morale.
  • Potential customer complaints.
  • Lost revenue.

Also, bad hires in executive positions can affect your company’s overall strategy and operations, resulting in long-term business costs and lost revenue. To avoid bad hires, invest in improving your recruiting process.

Rejecting candidates

What is the best way to reject a job applicant?

Sending a message to acknowledge a candidate’s application is good practice. And you can easily send a short bulk rejection email to all job applicants you disqualify using your Applicant Tracking System’s in-built email templates.

Before applicants meet the hiring manager for a formal interview, their interaction with the hiring team is limited. So, you probably don’t need to personalize your rejection message. Send a simple email to let them know they won’t be moving forward. Tell them how long you will keep their resume on file and encourage them to apply to future open positions. Customize a template to save time or use your ATS’s default emails.

What is the best way to reject a job candidate after an interview?

Candidates who interviewed with your hiring team and met you in person expect a personalized and considerate rejection message. Since people may feel uncomfortable being rejected over the phone, email is a good choice. Use a template to save time but make sure you craft a highly-personalized email. Here are some tips:

  • Be brief and direct. Write one sentence at the beginning of your email to let candidates know you won’t be hiring them. Make sure your email won’t be misunderstood.
  • Adopt a positive tone. Don’t use negative phrases like “you were so close” or “you’re not a good fit.” If possible, add a sentence or two about what you liked about the candidate in general.
  • Offer to give feedback. Most candidates want to know how they did during an interview, so offer to give them more specific feedback. There are a few simple rules for offering constructive feedback that won’t jeopardize your employer brand or invite legal trouble.

Effective hiring tools

What tools can I use to evaluate candidates?

Depending on the position, here’s a selection of tools to evaluate candidates:

What tools can I use for interview assessments?

Use effective tools when interviewing candidates to help you make faster and better hiring decisions. These tools could take the form of software, useful techniques or resources. Here are examples:

Interviewing tool Benefits
Video interviewing software
  • Lets you interview remote candidates without having to fly them in.
  • Can record interviews for reference later in the process.

Example tools: HireVue, SparkHire, InterviewStream

Structured interviews
  • Are more objective than unstructured interviews.
  • Help hiring teams combat biases.

Tools to structure interviews: interview scorecards, behavioral interview questions

Interview question templates
  • Help you avoid asking leading questions.
  • Assist in crafting questions appropriate to the skills and role you’re hiring for and the hiring stage you’re in.

Sample interview questions: leadership interview questions, third-round interview questions, interview questions for Ruby Developers

Improving the hiring process

What are some ways to make the hiring process more efficient?

A more efficient hiring process moves candidates through the pipeline faster. Here are a few ideas to streamline your recruiting:

  • Use software to your advantage. Software helps you organize and oversee your hiring process with less effort. Recruiting software keeps your candidate database updated and organized, makes administrative tasks easier and facilitates collaboration within hiring teams. Other software, like video interviewing (e.g. HireVue) or testing platforms (e.g. Codility) help you evaluate candidates.
  • Build up your recruiting team. If your company’s sole recruiter has too much on their plate, your hiring process is probably more time-consuming and cumbersome than it should be. Consider hiring more recruiters, a recruiting coordinator or an external recruiting service.
  • Discuss details before you advertise a job. Often, time is lost during the hiring process clarifying important details about the role. To avoid this, discuss the job duties, requirements, salary ranges and hiring stages right from the start.
  • Create a candidate database. Relying solely on new applications may slow down your hiring process and give your hiring teams extra work. Before you advertise, consider candidates you interviewed in the past and search for them in your candidate database.

What tools can I use to improve the hiring process?

The right tools can help you build a more effective hiring process. These tools (whether they are technology, methods or resources) may save you time, help you evaluate candidates better and enhance candidate experience. Here are a few examples:

  • Software. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) keep all data and hiring steps in one place. Other useful tools are project management software (e.g. Trello), assessment platforms (e.g. HackerRank), interviewing tools (e.g. HireVue) and blind hiring software (e.g. GapJumpers.)
  • Templates. Personalizing your messages to candidates is effective, but your don’t have to start from scratch. Modify templates to reach out to passive candidates, schedule interviews and send job offers.
  • Checklists. Checklists are concrete and easy to manage. They help your hiring team prepare for the entire hiring process or one stage (e.g. interview, onboarding.) By using checklists, you will remember important steps.
  • Surveys. Craft surveys asking candidates and hiring teams for feedback on their experience of your hiring process. That way you can discover where to improve. You can use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to create effective surveys.

How can I build a more effective hiring process?

Use tools and methods to make the process more efficient and attract qualified candidates. Here are a few ways to revamp your hiring process:

  • Revise your job descriptions. Job descriptions are your first official communication with job applicants. Simple, concrete and attractive job ads encourage qualified candidates to apply to your jobs.
  • Draft a recruitment policy. Companies often leave the mechanics of the hiring process up to each individual manager. This translates into time lost when recruiters and hiring managers try to organize their hiring. Draft a recruitment policy to clarify details of your hiring process and provide advice.
  • Shift to structured interviews. Structured interviews are more effective than unstructured interviews. They are a good way to avoid bias and confusion in the hiring process.
  • Track the right metrics. Data can help you make the hiring process more efficient. Extract quantifiable insight from your recruiting process (e.g. time to fill, candidate experience scores, cost per hire) to identify weaknesses.
  • Train hiring teams. Even experienced managers will benefit from interview training. Arrange for in-house seminars, workshops or other educational options to build managers’ interviewing skills.
  • Build your employer brand. Your employer brand plays a big role in attracting qualified candidates. For example, a well-designed careers page can persuade candidates to apply to your job openings.

Candidate experience

How does the hiring process impact candidate experience?

The hiring process is important in shaping candidates’ impressions of your company. Candidate experience involves various elements:

  • Communicating with candidates. One common candidate complaint is that they never hear back from companies they applied to or interviewed with. Candidates want to stay informed about the status of their application and the hiring process.
  • Being consistent about the role. Often, candidates advance through the hiring process only to find out the position differs from what was advertised. Companies should represent the position accurately in a job ad (e.g. location, title.)
  • Treating candidates well. Candidates appreciate small details: like short wait times in a company’s lobby, clear building access directions and being offered a glass of water before their interview starts.
  • Providing a glimpse into life at your company. During the hiring process, candidates are evaluating your company. They want to meet hiring managers and recruiters who are knowledgeable, pleasant and present a positive image of their workplace. Address all these elements to ensure candidates are happy with their experience applying to your company.

What is a good benchmark for application process length?

Applications that can be filled out in less than five minutes attract more applicants. Sixty percent of candidates will abandon lengthy applications and thirty percent of candidates won’t spend more than 15 minutes filling out forms. Let candidates upload their resume and cover letter and ask them to answer only a few qualifying questions.

What is a good benchmark for average interview process length?

Interviews may last from 15 minutes (screening call with recruiter) to several hours (e.g. group interviews) depending on the format and role. A typical interview takes around 45 minutes to an hour. But several factors influence interview length. For example, the length of unstructured interviews may vary because interviewers might ask each candidate a different number of questions.

Try to keep your interview process about an hour long. If you’re hiring for more senior roles, it can be fruitful to exceed this limit to discuss important issues. But, no matter the length of an interview, make sure you ask effective questions and make your candidates feel comfortable.

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