Hiring new staff? Don’t keep them waiting

Hiring new staff? Don't keep them waiting
Image: Pixabay.com

“Picking the right boss is far more important than picking the right job” (anonymous)

I once applied for the position of GP liaison officer at a public hospital, a part-time job for a couple of days per week. My main motivation was to improve communication between the hospital tribes and the community tribes. I didn’t get the job but learned a lot about the do’s & dont’s of a selection process.

After reading the advertisement online I thought it would be a good idea to give the HR department a call to ask some questions about the nature of the job. When I rang nobody seemed to know about the position. One person said: “GP liaison offer? We already have someone doing that.” I was transferred several times and was eventually told someone would get in touch with me.

Two days after the application deadline – I had sent my letter nevertheless – I received a call, which was nice but I would have preferred this before putting in the application.

At this stage I was wondering what was going on in the organisation and if a liaison person could achieve anything. On the other hand, it definitely looked like they needed such a person. As I had posted my letter and CV, I thought I’d wait for their response in the weeks to come.

Nothing happened. When I called two months later it was like a Déjà vu: Nobody could give me any information.

A chaotic selection process where candidates are kept waiting too long sends out unwanted messages that are not doing the organisation any good – for example:

  1. Internal systems and procedures are chaotic
  2. The organisation is too busy, understaffed or inefficient
  3. Communication is not a priority
  4. The organisation doesn’t care about (future) employees

Eventually, four months after the deadline, I was invited for an interview. In all fairness, during the face-to-face interview apologies were made for the delay. The interview was done in a friendly and professional manner and I left with a positive impression and prepared to forget the poor communication and waiting times.

Until… the waiting game started again: It took a further two months before I was invited for a second interview. At this stage my motivation for the job had plummeted, and after another couple of months I finally decided to send an email explaining I couldn’t wait any longer. The same-day reply to that email contained a scanned letter (addressed to the wrong address) informing me I was not selected.

I’ve seen many blog posts about job interviews; how to select the best candidate, what questions to ask, who should be on the interview panel, even what tasks to give potential candidates during the selection process. But I haven’t read much about how to make a good impression on candidates.

Everything an organisation does during a selection procedure contributes to their brand image. Looking after the candidates is important, even if the market is in favour of an organisation (many candidates, few positions), as candidates will go away without a job offer but with an experience that says a lot about the organisation or company.

Just like my patients get grumpy when they have to wait for me without knowing why, potential candidates may become frustrated about their future boss or organisation if they have been kept waiting too long. Here are some tips to run a smooth selection process, based on my personal experience:


  1. Plan ahead: have a panel ready, set a timeline and schedule some preliminary dates for interviews
  2. Have a fall back position in case one of the panel members becomes unavailable or a candidate can’t make a certain deadline
  3. Inform staff about the vacancy and have a contact person ready to answer questions from applicants
  4. Respond to application letters within two weeks and explain the procedure and expected time frame
  5. Consider phone or one-on-one screening interviews to make a first selection (in case there are many applicants)
  6. Tell the candidates when you will get back to them after the interview and contact them in case of delays
  7. Offer the non-successful candidates personal feedback if desired.

I remain committed to improving communication with the hospital.

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