Want to improve your candidate pipeline? Stop worrying about time-to-hire and focus on time-to-apply

As recruitment professionals, part of our job is to track the ROI of our talent acquisition strategies. We take great pride in obsessing over the numbers. This is all well and good – but how often do we stop to ask whether the numbers we’re tracking are the right ones? One commonly touted metric is ‘time-to-hire’, which is how long it takes from when someone applies to when they get the job.  But what if I told you that the secret to enhancing your candidate pipeline lies not in how quickly candidates get to the finish line, but in how fast you can get them to hit the “apply” button?

Rethinking “Time to Fill”

‘Time to fill’ has long been a north star among TA tech leaders. And there’s good reason to care about it: as a measure of the journey from job posting to job acceptance, it gives us important insights into the speed and efficiency of our hiring cycles. There’s just one problem: over-indexing on this endpoint makes us miss something that’s arguably even more important: capturing candidate interest at the outset.

Why is this initial timeframe so crucial, and how does optimizing it improve the quality of candidates?

The Overlooked Power of “Time to Apply”

The period between a candidate discovering a job opening and deciding to apply is perhaps the most telling indicator of both the role’s appeal and the efficiency of your outreach. Fast ‘time-to-apply’ metrics suggest that your job listing is not only reaching the right candidates but also resonating with them immediately. There are three reasons why this immediacy is key:

1. It signals engagement. Candidates who apply quickly are often those most excited about the opportunity. Their swift action indicates strong interest and a readiness to change, traits indicative of high-quality candidates.

2. It’s more competitive. In today’s job market, top talent is in high demand. A streamlined ‘time-to-apply’ means you’re more likely to engage and capture the interest of the best candidates before they move on to other opportunities.

3. It’s a better candidate experience. Having a quick and straightforward application process reflects positively on your organization, suggesting an efficient and candidate-friendly environment.

What This Means for Your Recruitment Strategy

It should be clear now that time to apply is a litmus test for our initial appeal to candidates. It tells us our efficiency in turning passive interest into active engagement. And it’s not just a mindset shift – it has tangible effects on our strategies. It compels us to enhance our job postings, streamline application processes, and ensure our roles are visible and attractive to the right audience. 

It’s a proactive approach that values the candidate’s experience from the very first interaction, striving not just for speed but for meaningful engagement that encourages swift application. 

Now that you’re sold, you’re probably wondering: how do I make the change? It’s a fair question. Adapting your focus may seem daunting, but it’s well worth the effort. Let’s dive into some concrete steps you can take to switch things up and reap the benefits.

Strategies to Focus on ‘Time-to-Apply’

Here are some actionable ways to shift your recruitment strategy towards improving “time-to-apply”:

Adapt your job listings. A well-crafted job listing is your first touchpoint with potential candidates. It should be clear, informative, and engaging while reflecting what makes your organization unique. Highlight your company culture, values, and the benefits of joining your team. Use language that resonates with your ideal candidate’s ambitions and desires. By making your job ads relatable and aspirational, you’re more likely to attract candidates who are not just qualified but also enthusiastic about what you stand for. This direct approach helps reduce time-to-apply by immediately engaging potential applicants who see themselves as a good fit.

Simplify your application process. Complicated application processes can deter even the most talented individuals. Look critically at your current process and ask yourself: Are all these steps necessary? Could some parts be streamlined or removed altogether? Simplifying the application process can make it significantly easier for interested candidates to throw their hats in the ring. Remember, every additional form field or unnecessary step increases the chance of candidate drop-off. Your goal is to make applying as frictionless as possible, welcoming more high-quality applications.

Leverage social media and your employees’ networks. Never underestimate the importance of social media and personal networks in talent acquisition. Your candidates are likely to be active on specific platforms, and your recruitment strategy should reflect that. Post your job openings where they’re most likely to be seen by your target demographic. Moreover, empower your employees to act as brand ambassadors on those networks. Encourage them to share job openings. Personal referrals help your company’s reputation – and thanks to the personal connection, they often attract candidates who apply quicker and are more engaged.

Make data your recruitment ally. Using data smartly in today’s recruitment world just makes sense. Assess your job ads’ performance across different channels—where are candidates jumping in quickly to apply? Diving into this can give you a real edge, showing you where to focus your energy for the best results. The good news: the right job advertising solution  will make this much easier and have data analytics baked in.

Act fast when candidates show interest: When someone applies for a job, how quickly you respond matters—a lot. A swift follow-up shows you’re on the ball and genuinely interested in them. This quick touch can make a huge difference, especially in a market where the best talent often has multiple options. Acting fast shows that you’re enthusiastic and ready to bring in fresh talent. This makes a strong impression right when it counts, setting the stage for a great relationship with potential new team members.

Time to Apply: Love at First Click

In conclusion, moving our focus from ‘time-to-hire’ to ‘time-to-apply’ does more than just speed up our recruitment process. It changes how we connect with potential candidates, ensuring we attract passionate, driven individuals who are ready to make an immediate impact on our organization. Who doesn’t want to go beyond filling positions faster to having stronger, more engaged teams?

As recruitment professionals, we should define our metrics for success in ways that emphasize meaningful interactions. It’s time for us to focus on attracting the best instead of filling roles to meet quantitative benchmarks. What better place to start than with the first click?

Author: Joe Stubblebine from Lensa

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