Human nature and momentum are funny things. Act too quickly, and people wonder about your intentions. Take too long to deliver, and even the best ideas start looking like crappy decisions.
Example from life: Buying a car.
Example from HR: The amount of time it takes from a first live interview to get to the offer stage for a great candidate.
Let's break down the car example first. My buddy Paul Hebert recently pulled out his Tony Soprano-like wad of $100 bills and decided to buy a new car. Here's what he had to say over at FOT about the delay between the decision to buy and actually getting in the car to drive home:
"Yeah, do the math. FIVE hours from hitting the dealership until we left. I don’t care how much you love your new car – 5 hours is a long time to sit in a dealership watching overweight men in tight knit shirts smoke cigarettes and chat up the receptionist. The bad thing is that during that time I started thinking about the payments, the insurance, the style, the color, the features… everything. I started losing that “we actually drove it off the freakin showroom floor” feeling.
The time between the decision and the documentation was too long. It took the wind out of their sales and mine (extremely poor pun intended)."
Human nature is pretty powerful. When I'm ready to buy, I'm ready to buy. Take too long to close the deal, however, and I'm going to start creating the mental spreadsheet of pros and cons in my mind, and guess what? The longer it takes you to deliver, the more the cons are going to grind on me and suggest maybe I should delay making such a big decision.
HR, like life, is subject to the laws of momentum. The biggest mistake I see on a day to day basis is the delay in making an offer to a great candidate. The delay can be caused by hundreds of reasons: travel on the part of hiring manager, wanting to see more candidates (most frequent reason), or just getting busy in the business of the day. Meanwhile, that great candidate you got all jazzed up in the interview process is sitting at home over the weekend after a two week delay and saying the following:
"They haven't called. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with them? Do I really want to work there?"
The clock is always ticking. Take too long and you cost yourself closed deals. HR is a lot more like sales than we give it credit for.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Or, put in the words of another poet, Check yourself before you wreck yourself...