Case Study: Improving Recruitment Processes – Part 1 of 2

In this case study, a team strives to improve the recruiting process in a large, fast-moving consumer goods company. Part 1 focuses on reducing the recruiting cycle time. Part 2 focuses on decreasing the effort required to fill a job opening.

Rising attrition is a common problem across industries. Tight monthly, quarterly and annual objectives leave little room for error when it comes to having the required manpower being available consistently. Unwanted attrition results in two significant challenges for human resources (HR) teams. They must work to continuously:

  1. Decrease cycle time to fill a job opening.
  2. Decrease the effort required for a successful recruitment.

The case described here uses total quality management (TQM) to address these problems in a large, fast-moving consumer goods company in India. (Note: The details of the process have been condensed and modified for the sake of confidentiality and easy of storytelling.)

A two-day quality awareness program introduced the cross-functional project team members to TQM (including just-in-time [JIT], total quality control [TQC] and total employee involvement [TEI]). Fortnightly meetings then started to address the problem at hand through the seven steps of problem solving:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Research the causes
  3. Generate countermeasure ideas
  4. Test and modify the ideas
  5. Implement ideas
  6. Standardize procedures
  7. Compile quality improvement story

The case study is described in two parts: 1) decreasing cycle time and 2) decreasing effort.

Step 1: Define the Problem

Following the recommend practice of TQM, the project team began by defining the beginning and end of the process – in this case, the start and finish of the recruitment process. The possible starting and end points are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Possible Beginning and End Points in Recruitment Process
Employee resigns or there is otherwise an available position (1)Make employment offer to successful candidate (3)
HR receives email for initiating recruitment (2)Employee starts work (4)

After discussion the group agreed to take up the process between HR’s receiving an email to initiate recruitment (Point 2) and an offer being mailed to a candidate (Point 3). It was concluded that the events between Points 1 and 2 and then between Points 3 and 4 were not within the control of the project team.

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To measure the current state (problem = desired state – current state) of cycle time data, an overview of past recruitments was pulled.

Average cycle time (A)64 days
Standard deviation (σ)52 days
A + 3σ219 days

The team members agreed (after heated discussion) that they would be happy with the result if they could reduce the current state of A + 3σ of 219 days to 45 days – an aggressive 80 percent reduction target.

Steps 2 and 3: Research the Causes/Generate Countermeasure Ideas

In JIT problems, the process of improvement typically involves the following three steps:

  1. Draw current state process map.
  2. Apply JIT principles to generate countermeasure ideas.
  3. Draw proposed process map including both value added and non-value added (NVA) activities.

The current process steps from HR’s receipt of the initial request to fill a position through to the offer letter being accepted are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Current Recruitment Process
Step NumberActivity
1Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment
2HR manager directs hiring team to start the recruitment process
3Log into employment website/contact recruiter
4Identify/collect candidate resumes
5Receive resumes
6Shortlist resumes
7Send shortlisted resumes to department manager
8Agree to interview date
9Call candidate for interview
10Interview 1
11Interviewers complete feedback form
12Send feedback form to HR
13Plan for interview 2
14Schedule interview 2
15Interview 2
16Interviewers complete feedback form
17Send feedback form to HR
18Identify/collect resumes (batch 2)
19Receive resumes
20Shortlist resumes
21Identify/collect resumes (batch 3)
22Receive resumes
23Shortlist resumes
24Interview 3
25Interviewers complete feedback form
26Send feedback form to HR
27Select candidate
28Email HR regarding selected candidate
29Send offer letter

The key JIT countermeasure ideas to reduce cycle time are to:

  1. Reduce waiting time (typically 50 percent to 70 percent of cycle time) between finish of one activity and start of the next activity, and
  2. Eliminate NVA activities – activities that add time to the process but no value.

Step 4: Test and Modify the Ideas

The team first focused on reducing waiting time. In order to quantify the potential of reducing waiting time, a test was proposed: process one job opening with all members of the team being briefed to not let the activity wait at their desks and to record how much time it took to complete the relevant tasks. The results are detailed in Table 3 below.

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Table 3: Timing of Steps in Recruitment Process
Step NumberActivityTime* (Minutes)
1Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment
2HR manager directs hiring team start the recruitment process25
3Log into employment website/contact recruiter35
4Identify/collect candidate resumes4,320
5Receive resumes1,080
6Shortlist resumes120
7Send shortlisted resumes to department manager5,760
8Agree to interview date8,890
9Call candidate for interview30
10Interview 11,020
11Interviewers complete feedback form330
12Send feedback form to HR
13Plan for interview 240
14Schedule interview 22,880
15Interview 25,880
16Interviewers complete feedback form120
17Send feedback form to HR
18Identify/collect resumes (batch 2)1,440
19Receive resumes1,440
20Shortlist resumes1,440
21Identify/collect resumes (batch 3)8,640
22Receive resumes1,440
23Shortlist resumes60
24Interview 32,880
25Interviewers complete feedback form
26Send feedback form to HR
27Select candidate
28Email HR re selected candidate
29Send offer letter
Total (minutes)47,870
Total (days)33

The team was greatly enthused with the result of 33 overall process days when compared to the past average of 64 days and A + 3σ of 210 days. The team believed that the targeted reduction of 50 percent was achievable.

Next the team turned to reducing NVA activities and rework. Looking at the activities in the existing process revealed that not finding enough suitable candidates was a recurring problem. The effectiveness and breadth of the initial candidate search was enhanced to avoid rework. This led to the elimination of seven out of the 29 steps in Table 3. The now 22-step process is shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Revised Recruiting Process
Step NumberActivityProcess Time (Minutes)Waiting Time (Minutes)
1Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment
2HR manager directs hiring team to start the recruitment process25
3Log into employment website/contact recruiter
4Identify/collect candidate resumes360
5Receive resumes5
6Shortlist resumes60
8Send shortlisted resumes to department manager
9Agree to interview date
10Call candidate for interview30
11Interview 1300960
12Interviewers complete feedback form30
13Send feedback form to HR
14Call candidate for interview 25
15Confirm interview date15
16Interview 2180960
17Complete feedback form10
18Compensation offer determined60
19Compensation offer sent for approval
20Approval received120
21Send offer letter30
22Offer accepted480
Total (Minutes)16851920
Total (Days)8
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The group was asked to estimate a fair time for each step with no undue delays. The revised process includes some waiting time when it comes to directly interacting with candidates, whose availability is an uncontrolled variable. The total of all times added up to eight working days and a reduction of 75 percent in cycle time. The drop from 33 days (shown in Table 3) to eight days pleasantly surprised the group.

Testing this idea was achieved by treating one recruitment as a special case and ensuring the minimum waiting time through the process. Team members recorded how long each step took to complete.

The test recruitment took 18 days compared to 33 days originally. Two further recruitment test cases took six days each.

Step 5: Implement Ideas

The process was implemented for all future recruitments. The cycle time for each recruitment was plotted in a graph shown below. The reductions in cycle time achieved in 25 recruitments are shown here.

Before (Days)After (Days)Percentage Improvement
Average (A)638More than 85%
A + 3σ17530More than 80%
Cycle Time Recruitment – Before and After

Cycle Time Recruitment – Before and After

Step 6: Standardize Procedures

The 22-step process shown in Table 4 was documented, and the staff were trained to adhere to the new recruitment process. Regular tracking of each recruitment was introduced to preempt slack from creeping back into the process. In addition, each recruitment’s cycle time was recorded and graphs were produced to monitor the results. Any delays were analyzed for root causes and addressed.

Step 7: Compile Quality Improvement Story

The quality improvement story was prepared and presented to the company’s management team.

Comments 3

  1. Dhiman Banerjee

    Nice article. Would like to know whether there was any impact on the quality of hire and whether that measure was included in the project as a boundary.

  2. TANI

    THIS PROCESS ENDURES TOO MUCH. AS A EMPLOYEE I WOULD DEATH OF FAMINE UNTIL BE HIRED, AND FOR ENTERPRISES THEY WOULD LOSE AN ELEMENT THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY ANOTHER COMPANY. What I mean this is a waste of time, time is money, and we must think about human needs… I have been unemployed and all that you want in the moment is to be hired quickly.

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