The Single Most Effective Way to Stay on Top of Recruitment

I have a fond relationship with Recruitment. It was one of my first responsibilities as an HR Coordinator and I’ve continued to recruit over the past 12 years at various levels of the organization. Back in the early days, I was fortunate enough to join an HR department with set processes, so I had lots of guidance, templates, and tools to help me. I remember I filled my first role in less than 3 weeks, and I thought I was the best recruiter in the world. However, I quickly found out it was nothing more than beginner’s luck and that some roles were harder to fill than others for a variety of reasons: difficulty in finding candidates, hiring managers getting caught up with other tasks, and me getting side-tracked with other tasks.

For HR Business Partners who are fortunate enough to have a dedicated Talent Acquisition department, the task seems easy enough. Help hiring managers define which roles need to be filled and then introduce them to the Talent team who take it from there.

However, for the rest of us HR Generalists who need to juggle recruitment along with a multitude of other tasks, it’s too easy to let recruitment fall to the wayside. I found that hiring managers would need to follow-up with me to get the status on the hiring process at an embarrassing rate. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep up. Now, mind you, I was also juggling 10 – 12 open roles along with a very busy HRBP schedule, so it was no wonder. But hiring managers don’t care about what else you have going on. For them, rightfully so, their role is the most important.

So, in my quest to find a more efficient system for myself, I realized that the best way to manage each vacancy was to treat it like a project.

Let me explain.

Project Management as a discipline sets proper expectations around what can be delivered, by when, and for how much. Effective Project Managers can negotiate logical and reasonable deadlines and milestones across stakeholders, teams, and management. They also highlight the potential risks, which areas will likely run into difficulty, and which ones need more attention upfront.

This is exactly what is expected of the Recruitment function within HR.

So, I’d like to share how I keep on top of my open roles and how I treat each and every vacancy as a project to ensure it gets filled in a timely manner and within budget. With today’s sophisticated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), it’s a lot easier. But even without a fancy ATS, HRBPs can stay on top of all their vacancies with a little work upfront.

There are a few things you need to do up front to set you up for success

Map your recruitment process

Sure, we all know that the basic process: meet with hiring manager, get job specs, create job posting, post job, screen applicants, conduct phone interviews, then in-person interviews, background checks and then an offer letter. That said, each organization is different and it’s important to map out each step of the process and who is involved. I won’t go into the specifics of what a good recruitment process looks like (more on that in a future blog post) but go ahead and map out your organization’s recruitment process and approval steps.

Create a Project Plan template based on your process

The next thing is to create a project plan template. This is simply a list of steps you that the relevant stakeholders need to take in order to close the open role. The trick to this is to include each and every step that needs to happen along with who is responsible for taking those steps. Ultimately, though, you (the Recruiter) are the Project Manager and are responsible for ensuring the project stays on track.

There are a number of tools you can use to create your template. You can do in a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet or use a project management tool such as Asana (my personal favourite because it’s free and it’s online with a free app for your phone).

In a Word document, put in the Title of the vacancy as the heading, next the hiring manager, next milestone dates (E.g. job posting date, resume/phone screening dates, in-person interview dates, second level interviews dates, and offer letter date)

Underneath that, create a table with columns across the top. The 1st column is the task, 2nd column is Responsibility, 3rd column is the Date when it should be completed, and 4th column is the status. You can populate the Responsibility column referring to the process you mapped in the earlier step and the Dates would come from your milestones.

Commit to weekly status updates

The crux of managing a project is providing timely updates on the status. One of my first managers told me I should be providing a recruitment update to my clients every 2 days; however, I’ve found that a weekly update is sufficient. I like to put in the date of the status update at the top of the document (and in the file name) and simply commit to completing the Project Plan for each vacancy on a weekly basis. Pick a day of the week when you’ll update the Project Plan and send it out to your respective hiring managers and put that date into your calendar or task list. Fridays work best for me.

I like to send the Project Plan to the hiring manager at the beginning of the recruitment cycle so we’re all on the same page. It also has the added benefit of keeping me honest as I’ve publicly committed to the dates.

When things go sideways

Inevitably, there will come a time when things won’t go according to plan. There have been only a handful of times in my 12 years of recruiting when the recruitment process has been smooth and I’ve hit every milestone. Your top candidate will drop out of the running, hiring managers will change their mind, the job won’t attract the right candidates the first go around and we need to redefine the criteria. These things do and will continue to happen. The point of the Project Plan isn’t to eliminate these things; it’s to ensure that when they do happen all parties are aware of the issues and are able to quickly come together to course correct.

Project Management is one of those disciplines that we don’t often see in the HR space, mainly because much of what we do is undisciplined. However, as I do this more and more, I’ve found that we create the anxiety around us and with a little focus and discipline we can break out of the I’m-so-busy-it-hurts routine that we’ve come to see as a badge of honour. There’s no honour in chaos and busy-ness.

Recruitment is exactly the type of work that could be done more effectively (and more efficiently) using the basic principles of Project Management. I would say that even with an ATS, a Project Plan provides an excellent overview of each of your vacancies and ensures all stakeholders are on the same page. So, the next time your boss or your hiring manager’s boss asks you for a status update on a vacancy in your company, send them the most recent Project Plan for the role. An added benefit of Project Plans for each role is that anyone can pick up the recruitment of a role when someone leaves the organization or goes on vacation.

If you would like a copy of my own project management template, I’d be happy send it to you. Just email me at

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