The Lingering Job Order

Why it exists and tips to move it forward

We have all these things in the world today designed to make us more efficient and save us time.  The recruiting world is no different.  Candidates now apply online or on their mobile device, resume databases and tools like LinkedIn make it easier than ever to identify, connect and network with professionals in a field, applicant tracking systems help us stay more organized and efficiently communicate with candidates and hiring managers.  All of these advancements are designed to save time, yet many organizations and recruiters are seeing their time to fill numbers growing. 

The role of the recruiter has always struck me as a bit unique.  The job is part HR professional and part salesperson – and try “selling a product” where the product can say ‘NO”!!!  To be a good recruiter you really have to be part artist and part scientist.  As an artist, one must develop a style that works for you and resonates with hiring managers and candidates alike.  As a scientist, you need to focus on the numbers and metrics of the recruiting system that drive success and highlight process challenges.  One of the process metrics that has always been a barometer of the relative health of an organization’s recruitment process is time to fill.  Yet as organizations have focused on driving continuous improvement in all aspects of their business, many companies are seeing their time to fill numbers grow.  Early in my recruiting career it, a slogan was drilled into my memory – Time Kills All Deals – so longer cycle times certainly don’t sit well with me.  The increased age of open positions is not an isolated instance and has left many talent acquisition professionals trying to determine what is driving this phenomenon.  If we want to fix something, we have to first get to the root cause, so...  Why is it taking longer?  What factors are contributing to increased timelines?

  • Supply and Demand – even the best recruiters cannot create more supply of qualified candidates and the reality is for many skill-sets, supply of qualified, quality candidates can’t keep pace with the demand.  Add the increasing desire of organizations to focus more on the recruitment of passive job seekers into the mix and it is easy to understand that for many skill-sets more intense sourcing is required - translating into longer timelines.
  •  Leaner HR and recruiting staff – everyone is being asked to do more with less and for many HR professionals where recruitment is one of the 15 bullet points on their job description it is often very difficult to dedicate the amount of time necessary to focus on recruitment.  This is especially true for requisitions that require intensive sourcing or screening. 
  • Recruiters’ inability to assess “fit”- job fit is much different than in years past.  The technical nature of many positions can create challenges for recruiters who may not understand all the nuances or acronyms associated with certain job families.  In addition, assessing fit today is about a lot more than just skills.  Companies today are more focused than ever before on things like cultural fit, potential for upward mobility, their succession planning needs, the potential working relationship with supervisors, customers, and peers within the department.  Assessing fit is much more than matching key words on a job description to key words in a resume for today’s recruiters.
  • Leaner organizations – we already mentioned leaner HR and recruiting departments, but what about the fact that organizations in general just operate leaner.  As a result, the number of bullets on a typical job description have grown.  Work that used to be done in a department of ten are now done with six.  The needs of the department haven’t changed, the breadth of skills for each individual have just increased.  In addition, because we are operating leaner, the ability and willingness to train on some skills has diminished.  We no longer have the time or budgets to invest in training and every new hire needs to come in and “hit the ground running.”  This also leads managers to want people in a similar role, with a similar sized company to want this job for similar money.  That is certainly not a compelling reason for many candidates to consider changing jobs especially when they are passive candidates.
  • Larger interview teams- many organizations have increased the size of the interview teams and included more people in the decision making process on who is ultimately hired.  The logic is to increase buy-in once a candidate is ultimately selected and have a better selection process by having additional perspectives and opinions.  While I do not argue with the intent, the impact is also undeniable.  More people involved creates more logistical challenges when scheduling interviews.  It typically means additional steps in the process, which adds both time and work as well.  And finally, gaining alignment is complicated – both from the standpoint of job requirements and the candidates being selected.  People are most certainly going to have different perspectives on what the critical skills needed and personality fit, which unless you have a strong personality to manage the team, can create all types of challenges resulting in longer lead-times. 
  • Increasing use of pre-employment testing and assessments – interviewing and assessing people has always been described as an in-exact science and as a result companies are trying to create selection processes that minimize the chances of a “BAD HIRE”.  More and more companies have integrated the use of pre-employment assessments and testing into their selection processes.  I am not commenting on the value of those instruments, but their use almost always results in a longer selection process.
  • FEAR – this is an interesting phenomenon since our last recession.  Those recruiters who have been in the business have noted some subtle changes.  Whether hiring managers will verbalize it or not, there is certainly an increased fear in making a bad hire.  It sometimes feels as though managers go into the hiring process looking for reasons to say “no” versus impartially assessing the individual.  Whether they are afraid to add headcount, add budget, invest time in on-boarding a new employee, or that if they say yes to this candidate a better one will miraculously appear is hard to say, but decision-making for many has slowed.  
  • People are important – our employees are our organization’s most valuable assets and more and more companies are focused on increasing the talent within their organizations.  They are not interested in just filling requisitions, but filling them with the perfect candidate.  While intellectually we can all agree with the goal to hire the right candidate, the reality is people are not perfect and as a result the pursuit of perfection can be a very long arduous process – result more time.

So what do we do?  In general, jobs sitting open longer is not a good thing.  How can we better balance the need and demand for quality hires who fit both from a skills and cultural standpoint with the need to have an effective and timely recruitment process.  The bottom line is we as recruiters need to become better consultants.  The experts as it relates to talent acquisition.  Experts that are able to help lead the hiring teams through these challenges.  How can we better do this?

  • Insure alignment with your hiring teams – schedule thorough requisition launch meetings.  Don’t let hiring managers short change this process and insure that anyone who is truly an influencer of the targeted candidate profile participates and then signs off on the agreed upon profile.  In addition, if a requisition stays open for any period of time, typically 60-90 days, makes sure you get your hiring team back together.  Oftentimes, after talking with external candidates, the hiring team may change the profile slightly – either adding or subtracting from their “wish list”.  If you don’t ask, you may never know that the target has actually changed.
  • Make sure you have a compelling opportunity to sell – after aligning around what we are looking for in a candidate, we need managers to be able to articulate a compelling reason why someone like that would be interested in our role.  If they cannot, we need to help them work through this challenge.  Contrary to the opinion of many some managers, most companies do not have people lining up at the door trying to work for them.   
  • Establish check-in meetings - have regular meetings with your hiring managers to discuss the progress of your search.  Discuss what you are finding, what challenges you are facing and be prepared to suggest potential course corrections. 
  • Understand the market dynamics – get to know your market.  Get something from every candidate you talk to.  What is the market like?  Do they have the skills you are looking for?  Are their wages in alignment?  Most people, even those not interested in changing jobs, are willing to give you a little insight.  Look for external research as well.  It is our obligation to help educate our hiring managers on the marketplace.
  • Balance your organizational needs with the reality of the market – have courage to make recommendations.  I personally struggle telling a manager that I can’t find everything they are looking for within the budget we have set.  Failure is simply not an option.  We are sometimes so focused on finding it, we don’t stop and really evaluate our chances of being successful.  Engaging the hiring team in meaningful conversation about the search can make all the difference in ultimately filling the position.
  • For repeatable role consider pipelining activities – when and where it makes sense, dedicate time and resources to prospect in critical areas even in the absence of having an actual opening.  It certainly will get a search jump started when it actually goes live.

Hiring great talent is critical to an organizations success.  Hiring great talent in an effective and efficient manner is critical for the long term success of a recruitment function.  Having an understanding of what is impacting the length of time and some tools to manage the requisition and leading the hiring team through the process will ultimate help our recruiters become more successful.  Happy Hunting!

Chadd Dehn

Chadd Dehn, the EVP at DreamJobs has worked in the human resources field with a focus on talent acquisition since 1996. During this time, he has consulted with clients from a wide spectrum of industries including healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, banking and retail. Chadd has consistently helped clients improve their hiring systems as demonstrated by positively impacting cost per hire, time to fill, turnover, candidate quality and both candidate and hiring manager satisfaction.