The setting: the years 2020-2021 in a hyped European capital amid a tech bubble.
The vehicle: a growing start-up with little employer brand recognition and constantly changing hiring processes.
The impossible ask: hire great tech talent on budget and fast.
At the time, I was working in a high-growth tech start-up. I was the lead responsible for the customer-facing applications. As any VC backed company, we had high pressure to grow and do “more”. Make it or break it. Build new features, support more clients, be faster. Our team of 4 needed to grow.
The local (and global) market was in a frenzy. We had the perfect recipe of economic conditions that made talents highly sought after. More and more start-up popping up. Companies with an inflated amount of capital to spend. Remote work bringing more companies competing for “your” local talent, etc. And there it was us, trying to hire our next colleagues.
Off we went, after publishing our job post, applications started to roll in. The HR responsible would vet the applications and surface the more relevant ones. I would then select the ones to invite for the first call once or twice a week. Then if the call had a good outcome, they would be funnelled into our recruiting process. For technical roles that would mean a take-home assignment, a 3-hour marathon of interviews (technical and behavioural) and a final 1-hour call with one of the founders. That’s not ideal, but also not the worse I've seen.
Let’s try to be metrics-driven now. As any good Product person should. The time to the first interview would take on average 2-3 weeks. After the first interview, it would take another 2 weeks for the second round. Then for the final round it would take on average 1-2 weeks. So, 1 month and 1 week from start to offer. Not the worse I’ve seen or lived through, but not what you need competitiveness.
As I mentioned the market was being hyper competitive. I was hearing of other companies’ hiring processes. Most taking 4 weeks. A famous local company taking 3 weeks and trying to lower the time, another company 2 weeks, etc. This was faster than us, made me think hard about what we were doing. If you are not an employer with high status and brand you can’t afford taking long. Candidates are going to pass you up. If they are interviewing with other companies, and great candidates are, they are not going to risk an offer to wait for you. Especially if that company showed care and prioritised the candidate by giving them a smooth and fast experience.
On the other side, I went through interview processes that took 1 week. So fast that it put me off. It boiled down to two things. It was so different than all the ones I’ve done before. An internal alarmed rang. “If they are this different something, anything, must be off”. And the classic impostor syndrome and feeling of inadequacy came in. “Are they making a mistake? They need more time”. I don’t think I’m alone. Being too fast can generate doubts: “If they hire this fast, they fire fast too”.
If I would have to design now a recruiting funnel from scratch, I would aim to have the offer sent no more than 2-3 weeks from the moment you receive the application. You need to show that you are competitive and care about hiring. That you prioritise it and you care about the applicants. If you show care to the applicants, this reflects positively on the company. How the company treats its employees. At the same time, you don’t want to appear as rushing and you want to have standards for who you get on board. You want to be seen doing reasoned decisions. You want to be Fast, but not so Furious.