Back in school, getting to stay home sick was one of the luckiest things that a kid could hope for. Instead of a day of busy work and staring at the spot just above your teacher’s bald, bald head; you’d get to wile away the hours watching daytime TV and eating a few bowls of chicken noodle soup. Sure, you might have to make up a test you missed, but it was a break, a free pass to drop everything and recuperate.
In the working world, however, there is rarely a chance to rest. Unlike in school, there are rarely free passes and just because your team has a vacancy in a position critical to operations, doesn’t mean that you get to spend your days sipping Gatorade and hooting at the latest antics on the Jerry Springer Show. When an employee with an important skill set leaves or is terminated, it means that the people that they’ve been working will have to pick up the slack, even if they have no idea where to start picking that slack up. In other words, just because there’s nobody to do the work, doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t still need to be done.
Now, not every vacancy will bring productivity to a standstill, but, no matter where the hole in your workforce lies, you can bet that the people closest to that hole will be feeling the pressure. Because of the lost productivity that comes with vacancies, especially extended vacancies, it’s important to take a look at some of your hiring metrics to see where the inefficiencies and points of friction lie in your hiring function. By identifying the bottle necks in your hiring process, you can cut down the costs of job advertising and minimize the effect that vacancies have on productivity and morale.
For starters, let’s get some perspective. According to the DICE‐DFH Vacancy Duration Measure, the national average for the time to fill a position is about 25 days, which is the longest time to fill since they started measuring this stuff back in 2001. That’s right, it’s taking companies longer to fill a position today than it took them during the global economic downturn of 2008. And it’s even worse for technical positions. According to a study from The Brookings Institution, “The median duration of advertising for a STEM vacancy is more than twice as long as for a non-STEM vacancy. For STEM openings requiring a Ph.D. or other professional degree, advertisements last an average of 50 days.”
Now, if 50 days (on average) seems like a long time, it’s because it is! I mean, you could do a lot in 50 days: learn 50 words in French, try 50 different curry recipes, run 50 miles or even grow a decent beard. One thing you probably won’t do, however, is understand how to be a build engineer or a physical chemist. Though a large portion of this “time to fill” problem has to do with a mismatch in the supply of skilled workers and the demand for them, it’s hard to tell for certain when you’re dealing with a metric as general as “time to fill.”
If you go to the higher ups in your company and say, “It’s taking us a month to fill most positions, and even longer to fill our critical coding jobs,” you might be met with a simple, terrible question: which is “Why?” The second difficult question that you’ll probably be asked is “How do we solve this problem?” There are many steps to getting a person hired and, until you take a good look at your metrics, you might not have a satisfactory answer to this question. Is the delay coming from an inefficient sourcing process? A lack of qualified candidates? Is it coming from a particularly hard-to-please hiring manager? The point is that, until you know where the friction lies, you’ll have no idea where to start smoothing things out.
For a little help in breaking down the hiring process, here’s an article from HRO Today in which Greg Karr, executive VP of Seven Step RPO, relates a recruiting problem that led to his compartmentalized view of the hiring process, “We have a client that hires engineering professionals; it’s a manufacturer,” he says. “They have two different business units with very similar profiles. They are essentially looking for the same kind of people. But one of them had an overall time to hire that was upward of 15, 16 days different from the other one. Same geography, similar profiles … what gives?” This led Greg to parse the classic “time to hire” metric into distinct stages:
- How long to open the job?
- How long to source the candidates?
- How long to present the candidates?
- How long from present to interview?
- How long from interview to offer?
- How long from offer to accept?
By recording “time to hire” as the sum total of these steps in the hiring process, it is much easier to see which steps are taking an inordinate amount of time and, thus, which steps need to be improved upon. For instance, in the example that Greg Karr used, it turned out that, among other things, the hiring managers at the slower site were taking 5-10 business days longer to decide on which candidate they liked best. While it’s certainly no picnic to fill a position that requires specific, technical knowledge, sourcing is often used as a blanket explanation/excuse for hiring inefficiencies. Though your vacancy time is highly dependent on the candidates that you’re able to source, there are plenty of ways in which human error can make the hiring process extend beyond reason. Things like: becoming indecisive about which finalist candidate to offer the job, waiting several days or a week before extending an offer or an inefficient interview/review process can do just as much to delay a hire as a small pool of available candidates.
If your time to hire metric isn’t telling you much more than how behind you are, then it’s high time that you started getting some use out of it. By breaking down “time to hire” into its individual components and recording the length of each stage in the hiring process, it can help to identify where that process is weakest. Through recording these metrics, you can start to make your hiring process more efficient and consistent.