Every American—be they employees or business owners—welcomes the return of lower unemployment statistics.

A dramatic drop in the number of Americans seeking gainful employment is generally seen to be the surest indicator of economic recovery, and a portent of better times ahead.

However, a decrease in the unemployment numbers also means a shrinking pool of skilled, talented job candidates—and that presents its own set of challenges for recruiters and hiring managers looking to fill new or existing positions.

As the number of available, qualified job seekers continues to decline, Human Resources professionals often find themselves under increasing pressure to find strong candidates, in a shrinking job pool and under relatively strict deadlines.

With the most recent unemployment rate standing at 5.1 percent—the lowest level since before the Great Recession—some recruiters are worried that an elongated hiring process could end up costing them access to the highest quality candidates. To avoid such scenarios, there is a growing trend among recruiters to shorten the time between locating a qualified candidate, and deciding whether or not to make an offer of employment.
According to a survey by the DHI Group, an organization that studies hiring trends, the “time-to-hire index”—the measure of the amount of time required by U.S. companies to fill vacant positions—rose to a new high of 29 days during the month of July.

While there may be many factors at play in that time lag, the general consensus is that most companies have yet to adapt to the new realities of the 2015 job market: more job openings, combined with fewer qualified candidates readily available for hire.

DHI’s Chief Executive Mike Durney said that a great many companies are still seeking out what he termed as “purple squirrels”—a term used to describe candidates having unrealistically high skills and experience; in reality, employers need to re-jig their expectations to better reflect the significantly stronger employment market in this post-recessionary world.

In fact, many employers are looking to shorten the time required in order to complete the recruiting process as a means of helping to ensure that they are able to hire the best available candidates.

For some employers, such as those in the retail sector, the idea of a shortened recruiting period has long been the norm. Seasonal hiring has been an integral part of the retail sector for many decades, particularly as it pertains to the Christmas holiday season; the notion of ‘one-day’ hiring has for some time been inherent with those operating in the retail sector, who are looking to ramp up their staff in time for holiday shoppers.

One example of a company that is taking unique measures to help ensure it meets its hiring requirements is food retailer Chipotle.

In early September, the company held a one-day “hiring binge” in which it hired approximately 1,800 entry-level employees in order to fill staff openings. The event was so successful that Chipotle officials say they are likely going to repeat the one-day hiring event in the not-too-distant future.

Still, not all companies are adjusting successfully to the new realities of today’s employment market.

Surveys indicate that a large number of companies still require a long waiting period prior to the completion of the hiring process. This, despite concerns by some that certain ‘pre-employment tests’ and even references may not be fully indicative of a candidate’s capability.

However, some HR professionals have also expressed concerns that if the hiring process is not thorough enough it may result in hiring less-than-fully qualified candidates. In addition, there is concern about a pattern of “quick entry/quick exit” employees; those who are hired rapidly, sometimes may also choose to leave the company more quickly than candidates who are more thoroughly vetted.

Another challenge presented by “single day hiring”, or even a shortened hiring process, can be the need to restrict the amount of time that hiring managers are given to review applicants, thereby leaving the hiring decision more fully in the hands of solely HR professionals.

One way to avoid excluding hiring managers may be to conduct “group interviews”, in which both HR representatives–as well as hiring managers–sit in on a single interview, thereby eliminating the need for multiple interviews over a period of days or even weeks.

The bottom line for the thousands of American companies now wishing—and in many cases, needing—to hire more employees from an ever-shrinking pool of qualified candidates is a need for increased flexibility, when determining what constitutes their company’s hiring process.

As the Great Recession fades into the past, this new era of lower unemployment demands nothing less for those companies seeking to hire highly skilled employees.