Nearly everything in recruiting is tied to speed.
You have to move fast or you’ll miss your chance with top talent. Emergencies happen and the hiring manager needed that position filled yesterday. Companies are notoriously challenged with workforce planning, so hiring pushes seemingly come from nowhere. Candidates want to move fast, too. They want a response immediately after applying, feedback immediately after an interview, and a decision sooner rather than later.
It’s no surprise, then, that time to fill is a key metric for recruiting. Ironically, all this attention on speed can feel less like a well-oiled machine and more like chaos personified, leading to everyone to focus on task completion rather than the goal at hand: finding someone to fill a role and for everyone to be happy with the decision.
Ironically, the variable that often gets forgotten is the one everyone is focused on the most — time.
Sometimes achieving the ultimate goal of finding the right person for the right role for the right reasons means waiting until the right time. As a recruiting professional, you know that circumstances change regularly. A role for which you were sourcing is suddenly put on hold; the perfect candidate loves the opportunity but isn’t ready to move yet; the organization is building out a new function but won’t start hiring for six months. How a recruiter handles this variability directly impacts their success now and in the future.
The most successful recruiters are ones who approach the role as relational rather than transactional. Yes, you need to fill the reqs you’ve been assigned. But you also need to build your network and sourcing pool. You need to develop the relationships that build trust between you and the candidate so that when the time comes to fill that difficult role, you’ve already done the work and can move quickly. It’s a classic case of “go slow now to move fast later.”
Other things to keep in mind as you reframe the timeline of the recruiting role:
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Candidates will remember how you respond. One of the best examples I’ve seen recently was shared by a candidate who turned down the recruiter, and loved the response from the recruiter so much, she shared it on TikTok and it went viral. It’s a fantastic illustration of how losing gracefully can leave a positive impression — not just on that one candidate but on anyone who sees the story.
It’s a small world. Those of you who have recruited in niche industries know that you’ll encounter the same candidates again and again. It’s rare that someone stays at an organization their entire career. Treating everyone with respect, maintaining the relationship, and checking in now and then can pay dividends the next time you have a difficult role to fill.
Everything is cyclical. At this point, we are all well-versed in the rollercoaster that is recruiting these days. We have seen hiring pushes, hiring freezes, layoffs, battles for key talent, reorgs. You name it, it’s happened. And recruiting is in the thick of it, which is why it’s important to control what you can and keep your networking muscle working. Where there was once a hiring freeze can easily turn into a need to rapidly build a team. Where recruiting was once seen as an overhead expense will again turn into a call for strategic advisory support for hiring.
Recruiting means being able to work on two timelines simultaneously — immediate need and future opportunities. The best recruiters don’t lose sight of either.