Hiring in the architecture and design industry has surged again. My firm has been inundated in the past month with requests from employers who are struggling to find the right candidates. Their dilemma is part of a larger pattern as the economy approaches full employment level.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported last month that the average "time to fill" — the time between when a job requisition is approved and an offer is accepted by a candidate has expanded to 41 days. At the same time, says SHRM, top candidates are staying in the market an average of only 10 days before accepting an offer.

Those two trends are butting heads, causing a big headache for employers.

Hiring managers are under increased pressure to hire quickly, even as the pool of eligible candidates shrinks. Those same hiring managers usually have other duties to perform as well. Having to spend more time on recruitment makes them less effective in their principal roles and responsibilities.

When a group of promising candidates has been identified, then other members of the firm need to give up some of their productive time to review resumes, interview candidates and take part in the final selection process. All of this can add up to significant time and money lost for the firm.

You can take steps to minimize the time your firm devotes to recruiting and hiring.

The first is to develop a staffing plan and anticipate when you will need to bring on additional staff. That will allow you to start your recruiting effort earlier, decreasing some of the pressure to fill a position quickly.

Second, schedule time in advance for reviewing candidates resumes, interviewing and making a final selection. According to SHRM, the biggest delay in the hiring process is the hiring manager review stage at 37 percent of the time, followed by the interviewing process, which can take up to as much as a month or more.

If top candidates are being snatched up in a little over a week, you don't really have the luxury of three to four weeks to make a hiring decision. A recruiter can help by screening applicants and reducing the final candidate pool to a select few, speeding up the selection process and significantly reducing administrative time allotted to hiring.

And don't overlook the impact a new hire can have on your current staff. Make sure you have a proper retention plan in place so you don't lose any of your existing staff and that what you are offering the new candidate is in line with your staff's needs.

Compensation is not always the most important factor. Having more time off and/or paid leave time, flexible work hours or other work/life benefits may suffice and keep your offering in line with what the market is offering.

Third, engage the services of a professional recruiter. When business is slow and pickings are plentiful, you have the luxury of doing your own recruiting. At peak business times, like the cycle we are in now, it is neither efficient nor cost-effective to spend valuable time that could be billed to clients on searching for a needle in a haystack. An experienced recruiter can perform this task more quickly and more thoroughly, increasing your odds of finding the right candidate and freeing you to focus on your core business.

Unless your firm is large enough to warrant having a full-time HR manager on staff, you are delegating critical hiring decisions to someone who may have little knowledge and experience in screening and evaluating candidates, and who, frankly, is not likely to make that process a priority.

The cost of recruiting and onboarding a new employee is significant, but it is a fraction of the cost of making a bad hire and having to go through the process all over again in short order. In today's rapid-hire job market, you need someone giving their full attention to finding the best candidate and reducing the "time to fill" to as little as possible.