A slow-moving hiring process is like falling out of a 60-story building. The first part actually goes surprisingly well…until you hit the ground. As the saying goes, “It ain’t the fall that kills you — it’s the landing.”

In hiring, time wounds all deals. The longer you take to hire, the more candidates’ interest in your position falls.

We’ve looked closely at the numbers, and in many professional jobs, 10 percent to 15 percent of the best candidates drop out for every unnecessary week of delay. If you fall a month behind, by the time you are ready to hire, all the top performers may have accepted job offers from your faster-moving competitors.

So if delays are so costly, why does this same hiring disaster scenario keep replaying?

Think about when you typically start hiring. You’ve probably already fallen behind on a long list of urgent work needed by your customers, your boss, and your staff. (Why else would you be hiring?) That backlog of other urgent needs will often tempt you into making hiring a lower priority.

You know hiring is important— filling that open position will be immensely helpful in the future. But hiring does not feel urgent. Fall a few days behind in hiring, and nobody complains. (Candidates wouldn’t dare express frustration. That’s a one-way ticket to the rejection pile.)

In fact, hiring is typically the only part of your schedule that seems to offer any flexibility at all. Unlike your other urgent tasks, the benefits from hiring are all in the hazy distant future, while the time cost is large and immediate. So why not first catch up on a few quick deliverables for your boss? What’s the harm of taking a few more days to look at the stack of resumes, or another week to schedule interviews?

Almost any forward motion creates a pleasant illusion of progress in hiring. Without a strict timetable for hiring, it’s easy to think that everything is fine. Because candidates rarely mention having other job offers, managers often think they have plenty of time to make a decision. And unlike falling out of a building, few people recognize the warning signs that a search is in trouble.

Fortunately it is easy to protect yourself from danger. All you need to do is schedule your hiring process like you would schedule any other project. Don’t be hasty. Be rigorous. Don’t skip steps just to save time. But do eliminate all the unproductive gaps between the steps.

For more perspective on how to make job offers, see How to Make a Job Offer and Negotiate Salary for a New Hire, 

You might also be interested in our Guide to Interviewing.