The hiring process is often a lengthy and intricate affair for both the employers and job applicants. It requires a lot of work—and patience—for both parties involved. So, what are the steps in the recruitment process? And how long does the hiring process usually take?
From the candidate’s perspective
1. Application or recruitment
Initially, you will see a job advertised on a job board, the company website, or social media. In some cases, a recruiter will contact you and ask you to submit your resume. In the latter case, you probably won’t need to submit a formal application and cover letter.
It may take weeks or even months to hear back from the employer, so if you’re actively searching, don’t wait to hear back; keep submitting! Check out our cover letter and resume guides to make sure your applications are up to snuff.
2. Phone/screening interview
The next step is usually a phone interview, also known as a screening interview. Some companies use video-interview software at this stage, too. Employers will select a smaller pool of candidates from all the applications they received to determine to whom they want to extend face-to-face interviews.
Make sure to research the company and prepare for this interview just as thoroughly as you would for a face-to-face interview because doing so will maximize your odds of reaching the crucial next stage. Here are some common phone interview questions to help you prepare.
Also, follow up with a thank-you note expressing your interest in the position and thanking the interviewer for her time.
3. Face-to-face interviews
It may be several more weeks before the business offers you an in-person interview, so be patient. For this interview, you will go into the office where the organization is located and meet with one or more people, such as the HR representative, the hiring manager, and key employees with whom you will be working. You might meet with several people at once or each person individually.
In most cases, organizations will keep narrowing down the pool of candidates after every interview, so you may need to go through several rounds of interviews. Don’t be frustrated; this is a sign that the employer is seriously considering you for the role.
Check out these common interview questions—and, of course, research the company, your interviewers, and the position thoroughly—to help you prepare. Remember to follow up with a thank-you note to every person with whom you spoke after each interview round.
4. Follow up
It’s a good idea to ask for a timeline for the hiring process during your interview. That way, you know what to expect—and when to follow up if need be. Unless the interviewer gave you a different picture of the timeline or you haven’t received any indication of when the next stage might occur, wait at least a week after your thank-you note before following up with a quick email asking when you might expect to hear about the position.
It’s best to follow up no more than two times at least one week apart after the interview; otherwise, you could come off as overly aggressive. Read advice from the Fairygodboss community about best practices for following up and when to do it.
5. Job offer or notification of rejection
This is when you receive the final word: an offer or a rejection. The timeline can vary considering on a company-by-company basis, so try to be patient and get through it. The news may come by email or phone call—it depends on the company.
If it’s good news, read the offer in full before responding. You may want to negotiate and/or ask questions about the offer. Check out our advice for negotiating in different situations. Remember to avoid lowballing yourself, while avoiding being outrageous in your request.
7. Acceptance or refusal of the offer
After salary negotiations, you’ll make a decision to accept or refuse the offer. Submit this notification to the hiring manager in writing and request a confirmation of receipt from the employer. Make sure to outline any terms you’ve discussed.
Congratulations! You’ve made it.
Hiring process checklist for applicants
1. Submit your resume and application.
2. Complete phone interview.
3. Send a thank-you note.
4. Complete in-person interviews.
5. Send thank-you notes after each interview.
6. Follow up after one week.
7. Receive notification.
8. Accept or reject the offer.
From the employer’s perspective
1. Identification of the hiring need
Perhaps an employee just resigned, or maybe your organization has expanded such that you need a specific service or skill set. Identifying the needs or your organization and what positions might address this need are the first stages of the hiring process.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking to fill a vacant position, the odds are good that the old job description you used previously isn’t up to date. Your former employee likely took on additional tasks, or the role simply evolved over time. Make sure to revise the description accordingly based on your needs as an organization and your expectations for the role.
2. Recruitment and job listing
You’ll need to use several different tools to recruit applicants. Posting the job to your own site and job search sites is a must. You may want to hire an outside recruiter or task an internal recruiter with the job of searching for viable candidates as well. (Much of your strategy, of course, will depend on your budget for the role.)
3. Identification of candidates to screen
Depending on the position and organization, you’ll likely receive plenty of applications. So, how do you sift through them to identify potentially qualified candidates?
Many organizations use applicant tracking systems (ATS), which screen resumes based on keywords and relevant experience, to help organizations narrow down the pool. They also facilitate easy job posting and break down candidates’ information into easy-to-read formats to assist the recruiter.
4. Phone/screening interview
Once you’ve identified candidates you want to interview over the phone, extend invitations to these applicants. (Some ATS software can do this automatically.) This will be a larger pool than those you interview in person, so try to make these interviews as concise as possible when you conduct them.
Develop these questions in advance, determining what key information and experiences you hoping to glean from the phone interview. Remember that this is a screening tool to narrow down the pool, not a decision about the best person for the role.
5. Evaluation of candidates
Evaluate the screening-interview candidates. Narrow down this pool to the number of applicants you’d like to meet in person. It’s polite to notify the candidates you don’t choose to move onto the next round of interviews that they haven’t been selected. Extend invitations to candidates you have selected for the next round.
6. Face-to-face interviews
Develop a strategy for interviewing candidates in person, determining key personnel who will be involved, how many interviews you’d like to conduct before reaching a decision, questions you’d like to ask, and key traits you’re looking for in candidates. If multiple employees will be involved (as they likely will be), plan out everyone’s role and which questions they’ll ask beforehand to avoid too much repetition.
Read Dear Hiring Managers: These 10 Behaviors Are Scaring Your Interviewees Off for advice on bringing your A game to the interview—as the interviewer!
7. Evaluation of candidates
After you’ve conducted each interview, you should narrow down the pool further and further until you’re left with just a handful of candidates. After the final interview, you should have a clear idea of at least your top three candidates. You should make these decisions as a team with everyone who has been involved in the hiring process.
Don’t forget to notify candidates who haven’t been selected for another interview at every stage.
8. Background and reference check
Ask your top 2-3 candidates to provide a list of references. For the sake of time, you’ll probably only contact 2-3 of each candidates’ references, though it’s a good idea to ask for at least four in case someone doesn’t respond.
You may also want to conduct a background check, depending on the nature of the industry.
Extend an offer to the candidate of your choosing. State the salary, title, and duties for the position in your offer letter. The prospective employee may respond with questions and/or want to negotiate her salary, so be prepared with information about the role and how much you’re willing to negotiate. You should also give her a deadline for when she can accept or decline the job offer.
Make sure to have a backup candidate or two in case your first choice declines. Repeat the same process if this occurs.
You should have a set budget for the role as well as a limit for the salary you’re willing to offer before you actually “hire” the new employee. Once you’ve agreed on a salary, draw up the paperwork and send it over to sign with a final offer letter that has been edited with the final title, salary, and other terms for the position.
Hiring process checklist for employers
1. Identify the need for the position.
2. Develop a recruitment strategy.
a. Post listing on your website and job boards.
b. Hiring recruiters.
3. Screen candidates.
4. Extend phone interview offers to selected candidates.
5. Conduct phone interviews.
6. Narrow down the pool of candidates
7. Extend face-to-face interview offers.
8. Conduct face-to-face interviews.
9. Narrow down the pool of candidates to 2-3 finalists.
10. Conduct background and reference checks.
12. Extend job offer.
13. If the initial applicant declines, extend the offer to your second-choice candidate.
14. Draw up the contracts.
How can I improve my hiring process?
As an employee, it can be frustrating and time-consuming to wait for each stage in the interview process, so the only real step you can take to improve the hiring process from your perspective is to exercise patience. Try not to hound the hiring manager with questions, since this is more likely to reflect negatively than positively on you and your application.
As an employer, it’s important to be clear on the needs for the position early on. It will be frustrating for everyone involved if you change your mind or identify new needs for the position deep into the hiring process. You should also be realistic about your expectations about the role. Understand what it within the realm of possibility for a role like this so you’re not aiming for the impossible. If this is a vacant position, it’s a good idea to use the previous employee’s exit interview to inform your expectations or even ask her upfront what she would change about the role.
You should also be as candid as possible with candidates and keep them informed about the status of their applications. An applicant will much prefer knowing where she stands than being left hanging, even if you’re not moving forward with her in the hiring process. (Check out How to Write a Job Rejection Letter Candidates Will Appreciate Receiving for tips for rejecting...well...kindly.)