An organized hiring process empowers companies to discover, interview, select and make an offer to the right employee with efficiency and ease. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. employer spends about $4,000 to hire an employee, and the process takes an average of 24 days. A hiring process that is inefficient, or one that results in no hire (or a bad hire), wastes valuable business resources and puts your company at a competitive disadvantage. 

This article provides a step-by-step walkthrough of the hiring process and explains what to expect and how to proceed at each stage. You can develop a systematic hiring process that protects your team’s time, is respectful of applicants, and positions you to minimize the costs of turnover or failed hiring efforts—no matter the industry or the type of position you need to fill.

The big picture

Before delving into the steps of the hiring process, let’s discuss some high-level concepts that offer perspective on how to think about the hiring process.

Hiring vs. recruiting

Although hiring and recruiting are closely related processes, each plays a distinct, but complementary, role in helping businesses secure new talent.

Businesses use a hiring process to fill a particular opening in the company. The recruiting process refers to an ongoing effort to identify highly qualified candidates and help them learn about your company and potential openings, even if a specific position is not available at the moment. If there is a shortage of a particular kind of candidate within your industry, recruiting can help you connect with skilled employees who can fill that need, and increase the chances that you—and not your competitors—can hire them when the time is right.  

Internal vs. external hiring

Many people think of hiring as the process of finding a new employee from a pool of applicants who do not already work at your company. This is called external hiring, and it’s the most typical approach to the hiring process.

Businesses also hire internally by inviting current employees to apply for current open positions. Internal hiring offers several advantages for your business:

  • Less effort is required to train a current employee; an internal candidate already is familiar with your company
  • Starting salaries for internal hires are about 20 percent lower on average than those for external hires
  • Internal hiring gives ambitious employees a way to advance their careers without applying to openings at competing companies
  • Retention rates for internal hires are typically higher than retention rates for external hires
  • Whether a business chooses to fill a position with externally or internally sourced candidates, the hiring process should be smooth and effective. Creating a hiring process workflow can help. 

    Using a business process workflow

    Smart hiring managers will map-out the hiring process using a business process workflow—or flowchart—so they can see the "big picture" and identify opportunities and risks before they begin. 

    Business process workflows can bring visual clarity to complicated processes. They can help you map out potential strategies and evaluate the pros and cons of each one so that you can settle on the approach that works best for each hiring need or open position.

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    Hiring process in 13 steps

    Every hiring process is unique, and there is no single hiring process that works for every type of hire at every type of business. A hiring process should be tailored to a business’s needs and the specific role for which you are hiring.

    Nonetheless, the hiring process typically includes 13 common steps described below. You may not need to follow all of these steps every time, but they can help you build a consistent, efficient hiring process that makes life easier for you and your new employees. 

    1. Identify and describe the hiring need

    You doom your hiring process if you approach it without having clear goals in mind. Simply knowing the job title for which you are hiring is not enough. You must define the qualities and essential qualifications that the hire must possess.

    Think about whether the expectations associated with the position have changed since you last hired for that position. If it’s a new position, carefully assess how it relates to other roles at the company, and what value the new position should provide to the company.

    2. Establish a timeline

    The exact duration of each phase of the hiring process can vary, and you can't always predict it ahead of time. You should, however, estimate much time you expect to allocate to each step. 

  • For how many days will you accept applications before reviewing them and scheduling interviews?

  • How long do you plan for interviews to take, both in terms of the time allotted to each individual interview and the span of time over which all interviews will take place?

  • How quickly do you want to make an offer and onboard the new hire?


  • Answers to questions like these will vary depending on the position and your company’s needs. In general, the more expertise required for the position, the longer the timeline will last. Remember that in-demand candidates may be scooped up by a competitor if you let your hiring process run on for too long; strive to be as efficient as possible in your hiring timeline.

    3. Attract candidates 

    Posting openings on job boards is the most common way to attract candidates. That approach, however, enables you to reach only people who are actively looking for a new job. If you want to draw a broader pool of expertise, consider posting the open position on social media to help pique the curiosity of qualified applicants who are not currently searching for a job. HR managers refer to these as passive candidates.

    You may also contract with a recruiter that specializes in a certain industry (ex: technology)  or type of hire (ex: SVP level and above). This costs money, but saves time and energy because the recruiter does the heavy lifting of identifying candidates and choosing the right ones for the hiring manager to review. Many executive-level recruiters also specialize in identifying passive candidates. 

    Clearly indicate the duties the position entails, which department it is part of and the essential qualifications you are looking for. Job ads often don’t include salary information, but you can indicate a salary range, especially if doing so will help you attract more candidates (which is likely the case if you offer a particularly competitive salary) or avoid applicants who would not end up accepting the position because the salary is too low for them.

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    4. Track applications

    A typical corporate job attracts 250 applications, and tracking all of the application data can be challenging, especially if you accept job applications through multiple channels.

    It's important to take a systematic, organized approach to tracking applications and managing the documents within each one. You don't want to risk overlooking a great candidate because you misplace an application.

    5. Identify candidates

    You can take different approaches to choosing when to begin reviewing applications. You could include an application closing date in the job posting, letting candidates know that applications accepted afterwards may not be reviewed. You may set an internal deadline that is not disclosed publicly; this gives you more flexibility to review applications that come in late, while still helping you stick to a timeline. 

    Or, in cases where you are not sure how many applications you can expect to receive by a certain time, you might have no predetermined date for beginning review at all; instead, you can wait until you have received a number of applications that you deem sufficient.

    Whichever approach you take, you should be systematic about reviewing applications once the process begins, and compare candidates on the basis of a consistent set of criteria.

    6. Interview candidates

    Interviewing is one of the most intense parts of the hiring process. It's also among the most important, because it's your only chance to evaluate candidates as they exist in person and not just on paper.

    We use the term "in person" here lightly, because many job interviews now happen virtually, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused companies to switch 86 percent of interviews to a remote format. Although in-person interviews may be preferable for some employers and employees, it's possible to effectively assess candidates during a remote interview.

    While the typical job interview consists of stakeholders (hiring manager + team leader + potential teammates) posing a set of questions to the candidate, this isn't always the best way to assess applicants. Consider sharing at least some questions with the candidate before the interview, so that he or she can come in with well-thought-out answers. This will give you insight into how the candidate thinks when given the chance to evaluate a problem fully.

    7. Assess interviews

    After you've conducted interviews, carefully assess each candidate on the basis of factors such as demonstrated skillsets, work history, enthusiasm about your company and mission . Strive to use a consistent set of criteria in order to make the assessment as systematic and objective as possible. Stakeholders should also share notes in order to gain a balanced assessment of each candidate.

    Keep in mind, too, that the order in which candidates are interviewed tends to impact the way interviewers view them, with candidates interviewed first and last enjoying some advantages over those interviewed in the middle. Don’t let this get in the way of evaluating your interviewees objectively.

    8. Notify candidates who aren’t selected

    After interviews are complete, be sure to reach out to candidates with whom you don’t intend to move forward and let them know their status. That may benefit you in the future if you have a new opening for which one of your past interviewees is a great fit.

    Sending out timely and polite rejection notices also encourages interviewees to leave positive reviews of their experience with your company, which bolsters your overall brand and helps you recruit effectively in the future.

    9. Background and reference checks

    For the leading candidate, it’s wise to conduct background checks and reference checks before extending the offer. Although in certain states this is not allowed, running checks before making an offer, when possible, will help you avoid situations where you offer a job to someone, only to discover later that you need to rescind the offer due to issues revealed by a background or reference check, such as finding out that the candidate did not complete a degree he or she claimed, or cannot obtain a necessary security clearance. 

    10. Extend the offer

    When you’re finally ready to make the offer, be sure to determine all of the details of the job package before reaching out to the candidate. These include not just salary and benefits associated with the job, but also work scheduling expectations and expected start date.

    When you make the offer, don’t expect an answer right away. It’s common to give the candidate up to a week to decide, although you may ask for a response sooner if you face a specific timeline.

    If the offer terms are truly non-negotiable, make that clear when you make the offer. Otherwise, expect most candidates to seek to negotiate the terms.

    11. Provide a contract

    Once the employee has informally accepted your offer via the phone or email and you’ve settled on terms, it’s time to formalize it with a contract. Because there are so many variables and considerations, and employment laws vary among states, it’s wise to consult an employment lawyer when creating your contract.

    12. Acceptance of offer

    It’s common courtesy to give a new hire a day or two to review the formal employment contract before signing. Once he or she has signed, it signals formal acceptance of your offer, binding both you and your new employee to the terms of the contract.

    12. Begin the onboarding process

    The last step of the hiring process is to transition into the onboarding process, by which the new hire learns about your company’s systems, procedures and expectations and gains any necessary training for his or her new role. Aim to transition the employee smoothly by making it clear who will oversee the onboarding process, when it will begin and how long it will last.

    Automate to transform HR operations

    Hiring new employees is challenging, and managing all of the moving pieces within the hiring process can be tough, especially if you lack a way to track and manage all of the steps clearly.

    And that's where Pipefy HR comes in. Pipefy helps businesses transform HR operations and improve efficiency with digital, customized workflows that your team can automate and integrate with other software without IT development. 

    You can bring consistency, transparency, and accountability to your company’s hiring processes.

     Pipefy can help. Create a free account, and begin using Pipefy in two minutes or less!

    Many people think of hiring as the process of finding a new employee from a pool of applicants who do not already work at your company. This is called external hiring, and it’s the most typical approach to the hiring process."