Hiring with Speed vs. Certainty

One early question we ask clients prior to launching a search project is “do you need this search filled quickly, or do you need to be certain all appropriate candidates have been identified and engaged?” They are two very different search approaches and, while the answer to that question can lead to vastly different results, it won’t alter our approach as significantly as you might expect. Let’s explore why.

When Certainty is Required: Working Towards a Shortlist

Mapping and targeting an entire field of candidates that fit the search criteria and then making multiple attempts to engage that candidate pool takes significant resources. This approach is often the first to get kicked to the curb due to the time and effort required — but this process always gets results. Committing to this kind of persistent, deep-dive approach to searches is the best way to hire with the highest degree of certainty. Going deep and making multiple communication attempts will produce the most diverse and compelling candidate pool, as it gives the hiring team the greatest number of choices from the available and open candidates at the time of your search. 

In this kind of thorough search, known and referral candidates are typically given the same consideration as the mapped and targeted candidates. A longlist of potential good-fit candidates emerges from the different sources (mapped, known, referral, internal referral). This longlist is then winnowed down to a shortlist of candidates. The shortlist will go through the interview process. The top candidate from the shortlist will get the job. The hire is finally made with the organization confident that everyone who could do the job well was considered and approached.  

Fast Track: The Need for Speed

When hiring timing is critical, a fast track approach is deployed. Front loading the search with known and referral candidates is key to this type of search approach, and provides the best probability of getting to a successful hire quickly. Although the effort will be backed-up with the deep-dive, multiple attempt effort defined above, the early days of the search are focused on the known candidate pool. If strong candidates emerge from these efforts, the hire can be made quickly. Knowing that there is a deep-dive effort running in the background provides the organization with peace of mind that, if the fast track efforts fail to surface viable candidates, the deep-dive efforts most certainly will. 

In this approach, strong candidates are interviewed as soon as they surface and move along the interview process at a normal or even enhanced rate. An offer may be extended to a strong candidate even as other strong candidates are still emerging. The hire is made knowing that the candidate can do the job well and can assume the position quickly, but without the certainty that all options have been exhausted and the absolute best available candidate has been identified.   

What’s the difference?

Both approaches are similar from a candidate sourcing perspective; the timing is what sets them apart. Working thoroughly towards a shortlist will take several weeks longer, making room for late entrants to be seriously considered. There is a scheduled cadance to this process which provides extra time to let the process unfold fully. The shortlist approach is good for leadership positions where the outcome of the hire has a significant impact on the organization.

The fast track works well for interim leadership, client service, creative, production, sales and strategic positions where a prolonged search would have negative impacts on the organization.

Although the Fast Track approach can feel like a compromise, the process is practically the same as the shortlist approach. There is simply re-ordering of focus. The deep-dive research serves as a back-up while the approach’s speed is driven by the recruiter’s knowledge of that niche talent market.

Potential Pitfalls

Perfection: We have all heard the saying “don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” In search, certainty does not have to equal perfection. In fact, perfection is actually a difficult standard to define, and the drive for perfection often gets in the way of good outcomes and good candidates. Instead of questing for “perfection” focus on the assessment. If candidates are aligning on a large percentage of behavioral and competency requirements and you have multiple strong choices, then your instincts as a hiring manager can guide you the rest of the way. But don’t let the need for everything to be absolutely perfect create paralysis. That said, if your entire shortlist candidate pool feels off and you have a robust recruiting engagement process feeding your candidate pipeline, perhaps your expectations as a hiring manager need to be re-examined. Work with your recruiting partner to right-size the talent pool to your expectations. 

Stick to the Process: Say you have two great candidates that emerge within days of launching your search. As a hiring manager, you are feeling pretty confident that you have your preferred candidate AND a back-up to boot! You decide to save resources and call off the deep-dive process. Six weeks later your top candidate negotiates tough, which takes another week, and then accepts a counter-offer at their current employer a week later. You call your back-up candidate immediately, but it takes another week for them to call you back and let you know they’ve accepted another position at your competitor. Now you are 10 weeks into the search with no candidates. 

This scenario has actually become the norm for many challenging hires. No matter how confident you are in your candidate pool, keep your deep-dive outreach process going in the background until you have a butt in the seat.  

As always, I would be delighted to discuss your hiring processes. Drop me a line or give me a call.  

Phone: 218.590.4448

Email: [email protected] 

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash



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Ciera is a born-and-raised Duluthian who recently graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. When she isn’t designing the Salmela website or sending emails, she doubles as an actress! With over 15 years of acting experience, Ciera brings her creative artistry and understanding of people to her work at Salmela.

Madison is a marketing maven with a mastery of magnificent messaging. She brightens every room with her positive attitude and joins Salmela to explore the digital corners on every search. If you’re having a first conversation with one of us, Madison is probably the reason why!

Ryan is an Emmy-award winning news producer with a strong history in the performing arts. Funny and outgoing, he’ll meet you with a journalist’s curiosity and actor’s joie de vivre.

Meghan brings her previous advertising agency experience to Salmela. She is a natural-born conversationalist and delights in every interaction with candidates and clients alike. Meghan can find something in common or a shared interest with just about anyone. (No really, it’s AMAZING.) She is also a foodie, loves cooking, and is always looking for the next opportunity to try an adventurous recipe.

Kate joins Salmela after a decade of non-profit arts leadership, where she shared her passion for building community, education, inclusiveness, and arts access. Her superpower is helping professionals identify their strengths and set them on a course for greater success. After work, she can be found reading Shakespeare, doing yoga, or prepping the next generation of theatre stars for college.

Cory spends his day advising senior leaders on talent acquisition strategy. He is happiest on his bike, skis, or helping his daughters rehearse lines. He began his career as a National Team Coach for the U.S. Ski Biathlon Team, followed by experience in pharma sales. In 2005, he founded Salmela. Today, Salmela places leaders across the healthcare industry. Salmela is the go-to vendor across marcomm disciplines in healthcare and beyond.

Chief Financial Officer, Olympian, and Health Coach, what can’t she do? When Kara is not managing the Salmela Financials, she spends her days educating and supporting people as a health coach. If that wasn’t cool enough, she also competed as an American biathlete at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

Megan focuses on individual career wellness and team development for the healthcare advertising industry. As a natural networker, and with a career background in health/wellness and international corporate project management, Megan has the experience necessary to understand your needs. She enjoys being outside with her family, volunteering in the community, trail running and practicing yoga.

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