The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

So How Do They Make A Hiring Decision?

Posted by jamesseetoo on July 23, 2009


OK, you went through a bunch of interviews and they all seemed to go well.  Everyone was all smiles and the Hiring Manager says we’ll have an answer for you in a few days. And then a few weeks go by with no word.

You call and either the recruiter or the hiring manager says that there hasn’t been a decision made yet but that you’re a finalist.

And then a few more weeks go by.

So What’s going on?

Back in the day (well almost five years ago) when I was in retained search, I always used to wonder just how did our clients go about making hiring decisions. We would present candidates, really great ones – really. And we would write a profile explaining their strengths and weaknesses and show how they would be successful for our clients.

Naturally, we had candidates we thought were stronger than others but companies would often choose a candidate we thought were qualified but not the most qualified.

There never seemed to be a rational reason.

So when I went into Corporate Recruiting, one of the things I wanted to know was how does a company make a hiring decision.  And I did.  Guess what, there never seemed to be a rational reason. Hiring Managers and interviewers have pet peeves and sometimes conflicting agendas.  It often comes down to liking the person (please see my “It’s Not Who You Know” postings).  And that happens in any organization.

But there were structural issues that I had never known about and here are three that have a profound effect on hiring decisions.

1) Budget – usually new positions are worked into the budget during the budget planning process. But because a company adjusts its budget depending on quarterly results a position that’s opened in one quarter may be put on hold until the next quarter or later. Many times, a company won’t say if a position is on hold because the hiring manager believes he can get the position hired if he has “the right person”.  And companies never let people know that there’s a “hiring freeze” because it makes them look like they’re in trouble.

2) Group Decisions – many companies are “matrixed” organizations to a greater or lesser degree. When that happens there’s a drive to make hiring decisions on a consensus basis. So if you’re interviewing with fifteen or twenty people, that’s a sure sign that either the hiring manager or the company wants to make a consensus driven decision. Naturally one of two things happen in consensus decisions: Greatest Common Factor or Lowest Common Denominator and it’s usually Lowest Common Denominator – someone who is totally inoffensive that everyone can live with.

And there’s a reason why armies have commanding officers. It takes a long time to get consensus from a large group. Which is why forward thinking, talent based organizations will win the war for talent. These companies will also be on the lookout for great talent in these troubled times.

3) Companies don’t know what they want – usually they start out thinking they know what they want but as hiring managers see resumes and interview people the search often takes on a life of its own. Good hiring managers let this happen within bounds because they all want great people. But sometimes there’s too much choice and they fall victim to paralysis by analysis.

So how can you avoid these delays? Sometimes you can’t. Some companies are institutionally slow. But the best thing you can do is make sure that you identify the key decision makers when you interview. Obviously the Hiring Manager is one but you can also ask the interviewers about the company’s culture and find out who else is a key decision maker like HR and Internal Clients.

But the most important thing you can do is to make sure you stick to your guns and be yourself. You must continue to believe that you’re the right person for any job you’re interviewing for. Make sure that you get all the interviewers’ contact information and add them to your network and follow up with them quickly with individual emails.

Some people will tell you to send notes but that might take too long and you want to try to influence interviewers. Sometimes debrief sessions will take place a day or two later due to scheduling conflicts and you want to be fresh in their minds. Try to build a fan base among your interviewers. Sometimes when an organization is on the fence all it takes is one person championing you to move the decision in your direction.

And if a company takes too long, don’t despair. It might not be the right organization for you. Imagine how frustrated you would be if you were inside the organization rather than outside.

Please feel free to comment or send questions. Let me hear about your experiences.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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9 Responses to “So How Do They Make A Hiring Decision?”

  1. mrbrucebennett said

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  7. Bill Skerrett said

    I have had two interviews with this company. The first was in Oct. 08 with the GM of the local branch here in Buffalo, NY. The position was then put on hold because of the economy, so I took another position with a company totally unrelated business. In Dec. of 09 I was contacted by this company again for another interview this time in Rochester, NY with the VP of Sales, the Sales Manager, and the GM of the Buffalo plant. Had the interview in early Jan 10 and they still have not made a decision on hiring. They had me take a sales assessment test about a month ago and I completed that. I have sent a few e-mails to follow up but they said they still haven’t made a decision yet and that no one has been hired. My question is should I still pursue this or just concentrate on going after another position? I am actively looking also and have had a few interviews with nothing clicking as yet. Any suggestions as to what I should do? Thanks very much.

    • jamesseetoo said

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for contacting me. There are several reasons a company will take a long time making a decision and sometimes it has to do with market conditions and other times there is an incumbent in the position that the company is managing out but for one reason or another they have to go through a performance management process prior to removing someone from a position. And sometimes it’s political infighting around that position.

      Now, the good news is that the company you’ve been interviewing with seems to be very interested in you and you’ve clearly made a positive impression to get that far. So I would continue to express your interest in working with that company and use the contacts you’ve made there (the people you’ve been interviewing with) to stay on their radar while going after other jobs. At the very least you’ve had some very good experience interviewing and you can honestly tell other companies that you’ve been interviewing with other companies.

      I always like to keep and cultivate these connections so even if you don’t get the job you’ve interviewed for, you might get a call for something else that opens up that would be even better.

      Best,
      James

  8. Jess said

    Thank you so much for posting this!! I am going through a horrible waiting process and this was very helpful.

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