How To Shorten The Hiring Funnel And Get Hired Faster

Finding a PhD-level industry job through the hiring funnel is hard. 

After all, you are aiming for one of the 0.5% top available positions. Employers don’t just hand those positions out.

At the same time, it’s likely that you are not getting hired because you are incorrectly aligning your efforts with what the hiring process looks like from the employer’s perspective.

Do you have a strategy for getting hired or are you just winging it?

If you are thinking that you will only have to apply to a couple of industry positions before getting an offer or that hiring managers and recruiters will magically find you and offer you an interview.

You are setting yourself up for failure. 

It’s very important to set up the right expectations for your job search, but to achieve that, you need to understand what the hiring process looks like from the company’s point of view.

Understanding this will also help you set up your job search strategy in a way that maximizes your effort and increases your chances of getting hired.

This is what one of our members had to say about using the steps of the hiring process your their advantage:

I have broken up with academia!! I have officially transitioned and accepted an offer. Since October 2014, I have applied to 20+ jobs. I narrowed down to 2 best offers. Company A: My first networking outreach was to a scientist. I introduced myself and asked him about his experience in his role/field with the company. He immediately responded to my LinkedIn mail and said that he was actually leaving the position and that he would forward my resume to the manager. After finalizing their budget for the following year, he let me know he was preparing an offer. In the meantime, I was still interviewing with Company B. I just needed to expedite them because of the other offer. After reading a ton on the topic of multiple interviews and offers, I informed Company B that I would be receiving an offer A. They were actually happy I told them. And then I had 2 choices that I could choose from. Follow the process and apply for several jobs at the same time.

The Importance Of The Industry Hiring Funnel

Industry companies have an increasingly stringent workflow that job candidates go through on their way to being hired. This is called the industry hiring funnel.

The average hiring funnel looks something like this: an industry company receives 250 resumes per day – large companies like Pfizer, Google, Dow Chemical, etc., can receive over 2,000 resumes per open position.

Out of those 250, 12 to 15 will be called for a phone screen, 3 or 4 candidates will go to the video interview, 2 people will go to the site visit, and the top candidate will receive a job offer.

Figure 1: Industry hiring funnel

It’s very important that you understand what the hiring funnel looks like so you understand your chances of getting a position based on the stage where you are at.

The better you understand this process, the more prepared you will be for the critical moments that will come up.

Keep in mind that this process is just the visible part. Understanding how industry work will allow you to move behind the scenes and increase your chances of using the hiring funnel to your advantage. 

3 Mistakes That Will Elongate The Hiring Funnel

Most job candidates only focus on resumes and interviews because it’s all they can see of the hiring process.

But there are many things that happen behind the scenes that you can use to disrupt the funnel and accelerate your job search.

Understanding how industry works will help you guarantee that you not only move along the hiring funnel but that you skip certain steps, and even disrupt the funnel altogether to get a job offer without having to apply for the position.

Here, I want to discuss three actions you should avoid, and three you should take if you want to use the hiring funnel to your advantage.

1. Focusing all your attention on your resume

Most PhDs spend hours working on their resume. Adding little pieces of information or targeting it for the next open position. But in terms of the hiring funnel, spending most of your time working on your resume is not a great use of your time.

There are many things that could play against you at the resume stage.

For example, your resume could be rejected by an applicant tracking software (ATS) without ever reaching the hands of a real person.

Or it could not be considered at all because companies stop reading resumes after they’ve read 10% of them

As you can see, if you apply on the second day of a job posting, you could have zero chances of getting that position due to timing and timing alone.

Additionally, if you spend all your time focusing on your resume, you won’t be prepared to wow interviewers in the odd chance that you make it past the first step of the funnel.

On top of that, you can easily skip the resume stage of the funnel altogether by giving your resume to an internal referral. Candidates who apply through a referral almost always get a phone screen.

2. Underestimating the phone screen

PhDs often think that the phone screen is not important because it’s not technical and is usually performed by an HR employee.

Nothing could be farther away from the truth.

The phone screen is your first opportunity to interact with someone who will have a direct impact on whether or not you get hired. 

It will be your first impression to the hiring committee.

If you took a close look at the hiring funnel I presented before, you know that making it to the phone screen is not a trivial achievement.

If you make it past the resume stage, that means that you are being seriously considered for the position. So, don’t blow your chances by being an elitist PhD.

The phone screen is also a great opportunity to gather information about the next steps of the hiring process. 

Taking full advantage of this step of this hiring process will singificalty increase your chances of getting the job.

3. Being secretive

PhDs tend to be very cautious about sharing information regarding their job search.

They think that if an employer asks them if they are interviewing anywhere else, they should say ‘no’ to show commitment.

But saying that you are not interviewing anywhere else actually weakens your position because the potential employer will think that nobody else wants you.

Stop being secretive, and improve your chances of moving through the hiring tunnel by letting the company know you are interviewing in other places.

This is especially important if you get a job offer. In that case, you should immediately let the other companies you are interviewing with know that you got the offer. 

Ask them if they can expedite your process. Tell them you want to know where you stand with them. 

This will provide you a rare opportunity to break the funnel altogether and get multiple companies to fight over you.

If a company really likes you and you are able to show that you know your value, you can convince them to push you all the way through their hiring funnel and give you a job offer so you can consider their offer before taking a position somewhere else.

This might seem impossible to you but that is your academic perspective talking. These kinds of situations happen more often than you think, you just need to be confident and stop being secretive.

3 Ways To Shorten The Hiring Funnel

1. Activate your network to break the hiring funnel

Networking is the most useful weapon against the hiring funnel.

We already discussed how, if you have a referral, you are almost certain to skip the resume step and enter the hiring process at the site visit.

But the power of having a healthy network doesn’t stop there.

Setting up a hiring process takes time and money. So, companies try to avoid this step every time they need new talent.

At the same time, every open position has specific requirements. The company can’t risk hiring someone who is not qualified for the job.

So, how do they solve this problem? They hire people they already know. Either inside the company or outside. 

Employee referrals have been accredited to yield the highest return on investment (ROI). The retention rate is also high when a candidate comes in through networking.

This means that hiring a known candidate is less expensive and risky than opening a full hiring process.

But the only way to get referrals is to network. You need to invest in your network before you need a job. 

This will ensure that you have connections who are willing to vouch for you and even ignore the hiring funnel to offer you a position. 

2. Use reverse recruiting

The biggest problem that PhDs wanting to transition into industry face is being invisible.

This means that, no matter how good a candidate you are or how well you fit an open position, recruiters are not likely to find you. 

They simply don’t know who you are or what makes you different from other candidates.

At the same time, it is easier for you as a candidate to find who are the gatekeepers at your target companies and start a conversation with them. This is called reverse recruiting.

Being proactive is yet another way of getting the hiring funnel to play to your advantage.

If you are proactive and reach out to the recruiter instead of waiting for them to reach out to you, you could end up with an internal employee who is invested in your application.

The good news is that gatekeepers are always looking for talent. It’s part of their job.

So, once you have your industry profile and target companies in place, start reaching out to internal recruiters working in those companies. 

3. Pursue multiple job leads at the same time

PhDs tend to pursue one hiring process at the time. They submit their resume. Wait for weeks or even months until they hear back from the company before they start looking for the next opportunity.

This is a huge waste of precious time where you give other candidates a major time advantage.

Most candidates who submit a resume won’t be called for an interview. Using an offer to expedite another hiring process is a great way to break the hiring funnel.

So, by now you can surely see that the only smart way to approach a job search is by pursuing several offers at the same time.

Besides allowing you to line up competing offers. Pursuing several offers will also reduce your anxiety. As you will stay busy throughout your job search instead of wasting time anxiously waiting by the phone.

Concluding Remarks

Many PhD-level job candidates fail to get hired in industry. They are incorrectly aligning their efforts with what the hiring funnel looks like from an employer’s perspective. Understanding that will help you avoid mistakes like spending a lot of time on your resume. Don’t underestimate the phone screen and other interview steps, and or be secretive. At the same time, it will help you accept that you need to network. Use reverse recruiting, and pursue several job leads at the same time. Avoiding the common mistakes and focusing on the right steps will significantly improve your chances of getting hired.

 If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published two bestselling books with Wiley and his methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

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