Business People Are Getting Bored While Sitting On Chair Waiting For Job Interview In Office

By Michael McCareins, Content Marketing Associate at altLINE by The Southern Bank Company

For staffing and recruiting professionals, it’s crucial to gain an understanding of what job seekers are thinking and to be cognizant of their perspectives and habits when it comes to your own hiring process. Remembering their points of view and operating accordingly will further maximize your chances of filling roles, appeasing clients, and boosting your reputation as a staffing agency.

So what do candidates who use staffing agencies prioritize? How are they behaving, and how can staffing professionals adjust accordingly? We will answer each of these questions throughout this article.

Slow hiring processes: #1 culprit for pushing candidates away

You could have all of the highest-paying clients in the world, but if you operate inefficiently off the bat, it will most likely be felt by candidates and rub them the wrong way, leading to consistent challenges in hiring for your clients. This is evidenced by long hiring processes being the #1 reason candidates bail on their staffing agencies. 

Gen Z candidates in particular are frustrated with the modern job placement process — 85% of Gen Z respondents believe processes are outdated and take too long.

Reasons for hiring delays include factors in recruiters’ control, such as disorganized hiring procedures, lack of communication, and poorly-written job descriptions, along with factors out of recruiters’ control, such as painstakingly niche position requirements for certain positions and client indecisiveness when making a final decision. 

How long should the hiring process take?

Studies revealed that in 2023, the highest-performing staffing agencies saw an average time-to-place of 10 to 19 days, with 65% of those top agencies placing candidates within 19 days or less. Agencies can find success with an average time-to-place of 1 to 9 days or even 20 to 29, but very few firms that filled roles in 30 days or longer saw increased revenue.

How staffing agencies are responding

For staffing firms, there’s no better way to combat the prolonged time-to-place issue than by ensuring processes are digital and automated, when possible, to accelerate the hiring process.

And yet, while candidate experience was one of the top priorities for agencies entering 2024 — revealing that this is a known issue in the industry — only 28% of staffing agencies were in the advanced stages of digital transformation in the previous year, while less than half were in the earliest stages of digital transformation. 

Further, less than half of staffing agencies nationwide automated each of the following processes:

  • Payroll and billing processes (42%)
  • Sourcing processes (41%)
  • Screening processes (34%)
  • Onboarding processes (33%)

To achieve full automation, most staffing agencies have turned to talent acquisition software (73%) and begun using AI (75%).

Tips to speed up the hiring process and avoid losing candidates

Some of the best ways to prevent your staffing agency from losing candidates due to the length of the hiring process include investing in automation, having a well-thought out application process, getting reference checks out of the way early, and being transparent with candidates.

Include “must-haves” on job postings

There are many reasons why a must-have list of requirements on a job posting can be beneficial. When it comes to speeding up the hiring process, this tactic can help by immediately narrowing your focus and vastly reducing the number of unqualified candidates you otherwise would have to devote time to following-up with or managing.

Prioritize automation

Automation has played, and will continue to play, a major role in the world of recruiting. Make sure you’re using recruitment technology that provides tools that allow you to accomplish tasks much more efficiently, such as candidate-driven interview scheduling, automated messaging to candidates, and one-way video interviews. Studies have shown that AI chatbots, armed with the ability to ask a consistent set of relevant questions based on the available role in a structured manner, can both reduce biases and stereotypes pertaining to race, age, and gender, and speed up the hiring process.

Properly evaluate the application process

An unnecessarily grueling application can be enough to turn candidates away from a role before they even press submit. Contrarily, an application that’s far too basic can lead to a plethora of unqualified candidates who end up wasting your time. 

A standardized application process can save time on your end, but in the long run, it can decrease effectiveness. Implementing some manual work on the front end can enhance the overall experience for all parties. A simple example is tailoring open-ended essay questions in an application to each specific role or perhaps encouraging your client to do so.

Check references early

It’s a simple tip, but make sure you’re completing reference checks at the appropriate stage of the hiring process. This doesn’t mean you should rush to reach out to references before even speaking with candidates. However, you might want to do so once you have a good idea of who’s going to top your list for a role following the first round of interviews. 

If you wait until one of the final phases to reach out to former employers and a former manager’s negative reviews of the candidate are convincing enough to disqualify them for the role, that’s a lot of wasted time in the bank. 

Routine candidate communication is key

Regular, open communication with candidates is widely considered the most important element of the hiring process for staffing agencies. In fact, 81% of job seekers say that their experiences would greatly improve with more regular status updates than they receive on average.

Sometimes staffing agencies have no control over the length of a hiring process, perhaps due to a client demanding extensive, meticulous interviews for a niche role or senior position. To combat this, check-in with candidates just so they know you haven’t forgotten about them. Studies show that if you shift from communicating with interviewees biweekly to more than once a week, for example, the likelihood that a candidate would want to work with your agency would soar from 63% to 84%.

Therefore, transparency is ever-important. And that doesn’t just go for your top candidates. 

Imagine you have twenty five applicants for an open position. You interview eight candidates, and immediately identify one who sparks your interest, so you focus your communications solely on that one person while largely disregarding the others. Suddenly, the candidate informs you late in the process that they’ve accepted a position with a different company. You’re then in a difficult spot where you need to target one of the other candidates for the role. However, your top options were rubbed the wrong way by your lack of communication, and they ended up ghosting you. Now, you’re in an awkward, strenuous position.

This exemplifies the importance of treating each candidate with the same amount of respect, devoting equal attention no matter their status, which includes regularly updating them on where they stand.

Ask for candidate feedback

Consider once more the importance of seeing things from your candidates’ perspectives. You’ll never know what the experience is truly like if you don’t ask those who are actually going through the process. Develop brief surveys and send them to candidates you’ve hired to gauge their thoughts on their experiences working with your staffing agency.

Use an effective applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is pivotal in this day and age to maximize efficiency. They allow recruiters to more easily track progress from start to finish and can automate communications, whenever necessary.

Furthermore, most applicant tracking systems provide a large amount of valuable data to recruiters and staffing agencies. This data can, for instance, uncover which methods are most effective when it comes to where your candidates are coming from, whether it be via your website, job boards, or social media.

Don’t forget about your onboarding process

If you’ve successfully matched a candidate with a position, your job is not yet finished. Staffing professionals must recognize that brand reputation is important, particularly given that a lot of your business can come from candidate referrals, client referrals, and online reviews.

Your onboarding procedures, therefore, should be just as efficient as the processes that occur prior to placement. A few tips to make sure candidates and clients are equally satisfied with your onboarding systems include:

  • Set and manage expectations with both clients and candidates
  • Limit your client’s involvement as much as possible
  • Maximize your staff collaboration and teamwork
  • Invest in onboarding software and automate workflow processes
  • Pre-fill documents as much as possible
  • Streamline pre-employment screening by integrating onboarding with background check companies

Final thoughts

Owners, higher-ups, and other decision-makers at staffing agencies can easily get caught up in focusing on attracting top-notch clients with high-value positions, neglecting the fact that candidate experiences can impact the firm’s brand reputation and value just as much as winning a contract.

Optimizing the candidate experience first requires all employees to realize the importance of this issue, particularly in this day and age where Gen Z candidates are especially quick to ghost agencies. If everyone is on the same page and knows what’s at stake, results are bound to improve.

Michael McCareins is the Content Marketing Associate at altLINE, the invoice factoring branch of The Southern Bank Company. Since joining altLINE, Michael has dedicated his efforts toward creating and managing optimal content for small business owners, particularly staffing agency owners, who are in need of alternative financing.