The Impact of Timing During The Hiring Process

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Our personal and professional lives are all about rhythm. No matter who you are or what you do, we all understand the importance of timing and how satisfying it is when things fall into place. When things go wrong and, if we’re self-aware, when they go right, we consider the moving pieces of our life and how they influenced our situation. Have you had a big presentation scheduled then woke up to a sick child and no available babysitter? Maybe you’re searching for a new leader for your company and enthusiastically head to the interview, only to find that the candidate won’t be in due to a conflict. Or, conversely, perhaps you’ve made an offer to a top candidate and the week before they arrive, they call to tell you they’ve changed their mind, accepted a counter, recieved an unexpected bonus check and or promotion, a family illness or death, etcetera, etcetera.

Have you ever tried to hire a leader from a competitor but were unable to due to unforeseen circumstances? If this leader suddenly became available would you be able to attract and hire them? Have you ever spent months interviewing prospects for a leadership role only to realize your company really doesn’t need anyone or isn’t “ready” to bring in a new leader?

Timing is Powerful, and it Influences Many Aspects of the Hiring Process

All of these examples plus many more will happen to both the hiring company and the candidate during the hiring process. That’s because the hiring process has its own rhythm. During my 25 years of executive search experience I can assure you that every good search is a combination of hard work, planning, good process (rhythm), and most importantly fortuitous timing. We can control the hard work, the planning and process, and with focused effort, some of the timing as well.

Timing, when viewed from a hiring perspective, is important for many reasons. When a company is trying to improve their team by bringing in new talent, they need to find a strong candidate and wait accordingly. Then, hopefully, everything will fall into place for a successful hire. Sometimes that perfect candidate is simply not available, other times they may be. It’s all about timing!

In this “war for talent”economy waiting too long can push your candidate into the arms of your competition—multiple offers and counter offers, even for “passive candidates”, are now the norm. On the other hand, if you act too quickly, you might rush your candidate into making a decision before they have the time they need to truly evaluate your company and the opportunity. If you don’t give them enough time to be confident in their decision, they may feel rushed, not take it seriously, turn it down, or even take a counter offer.

Similarly, you have to have enough time to properly evaluate your candidate. Otherwise, you may potentially be stuck with a bad hire. You need to make sure that your hiring process is structured and that all decision makers are engaged and available for a decision.

For a candidate to make sure they’re accepting an opportunity that’s right for them, they need to understand the big picture, including any problems they will likely face. The hiring authority may give them a deadline to accept an offer, but the important part of their process is evaluating the opportunity, pros and cons and the company culture. If a candidate feels pressured to make a decision or does not have adequate information then turn downs and counter offers will increase. Remember the hiring process has its own rhythm.

What Can We Control During the Hiring Process?

While no one can control the multitude of issues that affect timing, there are ways to hedge against unfortunate timing having a negative influence in your hiring process. Try asking yourself these questions:

*Is this the right time to hire someone? Is your company set up to attract, then support and onboard a new hire? Are you willing to devote the necessary time to attract, interview, vet and make an attractive offer to a candidate that may be looking at multiple opportunities?

*Have you gone beyond a typical job description and visualized what your ideal candidate looks like: where they will come from, why they would consider an opportunity with your firm, and how you and your team will support them when they join?

*Have you created a process that allows you to quickly and effectively evaluate your candidates? If you find someone you’re interested in and know you want to move forward with the offer, quickly put them through the process you’ve established and make a decision. Depending on your hiring process, the time frame for candidate evaluation will vary, but it’s important to be consistent and make decisions quickly when dealing with each candidate. Once you’ve made a decision, make the offer. Waiting for a better candidate is never a good idea. If the time is right and everything has been done internally and during the interview process then, the time is right is to make the offer!


In the current “war for talent”, timing has never been more important. The influence of timing is crucial and shouldn’t be overlooked. The next time you need a new hire, or you’re trying to move forward in your career search, have a plan and understand that timing will affect the hiring process in many ways. Use it to your advantage