A Behind the Scenes Look at the Hiring Process

As a job candidate, it's easy to get impatient with the hiring process. You know you're a good fit, so what's taking so long? The truth is, hiring managers are dealing with a lot behind the scenes, including overseeing the work of a short-staffed team. It's no wonder the average hiring process stretches three or four weeks from posting to offer.

hiring for job process

Although the process varies by industry, size of company and level of position, hiring managers typically follow some variation of this six-step process:

1. Justifying Need and Setting Parameters

Before a job is posted, the hiring manager often tries to figure out how not to fill a position. That's right: The hiring process begins with an attempt not to hire. If the work can be spread across existing staff members, then the expense of the hiring and onboarding processes can be avoided. Every company wants to do more with less.

But if the position is necessary, all stakeholders—the hiring manager, his or her supervisor and HR—must agree on a salary range and required skills and qualifications. Remember this to help grow a thick skin during your job hunt: When you apply, you’re putting yourself forward as the solution to an existing but unknown problem. You might be an excellent candidate, but if you don't match initial objectives or preconceived notions on paper, you aren't likely to get an interview.

2. Sifting through Applications

Once a job is posted externally, dozens and sometimes hundreds of applications come in. It's a lot to sort through, and some larger companies even use automated application tracking systems to scan resumes for keywords. That's why it's critical to tailor your resume and cover letter to the position and ensure your application uses similar language to the job posting. Even if a human is conducting the initial weed out, your resume and cover letter have only a few seconds to catch someone's eye.

3. Screening Candidates

Before you're invited for an in-person interview, you'll likely talk to HR or a recruiter on the phone. Look at this as a good opportunity to make sure neither party is wasting time. You might be asked for a salary range, and that's a good thing. Better to find out now that the position is low paying. Ask questions about the position to make sure you want to continue the process.

4. In-person Interviews

HR and the hiring manager might conduct multiple rounds of in-person interviews, depending on the position. You might meet with your potential team or boss's boss. Remember that anyone you meet might be asked for feedback—so, while it should go without saying, be nice to the receptionist.

5. Making a Decision

This is where the hiring process is the most out of a candidate's hands. You might have aced every step of the interview process…but the CEO's niece also applied. Or maybe the funding for the position suddenly disappeared. The hiring manager must navigate bureaucracy and internal politics as he or she makes a decision.

6. Extending an Offer—and Checking References

Once everyone is on the same page internally, the hiring manager or HR is authorized to make an offer, which the candidate might not initially accept. And even once back and forth on salary is complete, don't rush to quit your current job until you have a start date. Some companies make offers contingent upon background and reference checks, and more than one job candidate has found himself unemployed after a job offer fell through. Best to give notice when you have a firm start date.

Any hiring process is a long and winding road, and you will encounter some dead ends. It's all part of the journey to the right destination for your career.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market