Candidate Submission Response Time: The Roadkill of ATSs

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Ask almost any recruiter what the most frustrating part of their job is, and they will likely tell you it is waiting for the hiring authority to get back to them with a decision on a candidate submission. As applicant tracking systems (ATSs), job boards, and other software solutions have automated more and more of the submission process, the greatest casualty has been the direct connection recruiters once had with hiring authorities. The cost of this loss is high.

Like everyone, hiring authorities are inundated by hundreds of emails daily. They are also focused on trying to do their own jobs, manage their employees, meet their goals, and put out fires. The reason why they don’t get back to recruiters quickly is often simple: They are just too busy. Recruiters need to recognize this and understand the lack of response is nothing personal.

Simultaneously, recruiters should be looking for ways to change this behavior. Expediting submission response times is essential to recruiting success.

Why Candidate Submission Response Time Matters

There are many reasons why it is in the hiring authority’s — and the recruiter’s — best interest to respond quickly to candidate submissions:

  1. Great candidates don’t last forever: In this historically tight job market, this fact cannot be emphasized enough. Excellent talent is hard to come by, and it disappears fast. If you want to get the best talent, you have to act quickly.
  2. Submission responses provide valuable feedback to your recruiter: When a hiring authority accepts or rejects a candidate submission, they are letting the recruiter know what types of candidates do and do not meet their expectations. The faster this response is provided, the less time the recruiter will waste submitting candidates who don’t make the cut. Using the hiring authority’s feedback, the recruiter can fine-tune candidate submissions to better meet the employer’s needs. Recruiters are not asking, “Why did you reject this candidate?” to be annoying. They genuinely need to know so they can improve the pool of candidates they send.
  3. Recruiters work harder for hiring managers who respond quickly: Recruiters know who will get back to them promptly and who won’t. Recruiters enjoy working with hiring managers who respond quickly. It makes their jobs easier, and it makes it more likely they will be able to make a placement. Additionally, recruiters are often compensated based on the placements they make. Working with people who are focused on the process becomes an important factor for their bottom lines.
  4. Responsive employers receive more candidates, have higher acceptance rates, and significantly shorten time to fill: Faster responses to candidate submissions can improve time to fill by a matter of days or even weeks. The entire recruiting process becomes streamlined. The recruiter knows the hiring manager is focused on filling the role, and the recruiter fully understands what type of candidate the employer wants. The employer accepts more candidates, has more interviews, and ultimately fills the position in a significantly shorter time frame. Everybody wins.

What Is a Reasonable Candidate Submission Response Time?

The problem with automation is the separation it creates between the recruiter and the hiring manager. Hiring managers, as previously noted, are extremely busy. Without a direct connection to the recruiter, it becomes too easy for hiring managers to let candidate submissions sit in their inboxes for a few days.

The good news is most employers understand how essential it is to review candidates within a reasonable amount of time. In a recent survey by Goodwin Recruiting, 85 percent of respondents agreed three business days or less was a realistic time frame, with just about half of that group saying 24-48 hours was practical. Here’s the full breakdown of responses:

Within 24-48 hours: 40 percent

Within three business days: 45 percent

Within five business days: 10 percent

Within a week: 5 percent

Clearly, hiring managers do understand the importance of responding quickly. It is simply a matter of keeping them on task to ensure that happens. Recruiters need to provide hiring managers with enough time to respond, but not so much that the process extends beyond 72 hours.

Geri Duncombe is the director of marketing at Goodwin Recruiting.

By Geri Duncombe