One of the advantages of being a search consultant is the opportunity to be “in the trenches” on a daily basis. This allows me to see on a first-hand basis what happens in the employment marketplace, both on the employer side and on the candidate side.
It also affords me to see things that neither employers not candidates are able to see. They simply are not in the position nor have the opportunity to do so.
The first-hand experience I’d like to discuss in this article is what happens when a position is left open for too long. Now, you’ve probably read articles about the cost involved in keeping a position open, and while that’s certainly the case, there are other consequences, as well.
I have a case study that illustrates this.
A company reached out to me recently to ask for my help with filling a position that had been open for six months. They had been trying to fill the position on their own without success.
Now they wanted to hire me to help fill it for them. This, of course, is what I do, so I was glad that they reached out to me.
The trouble began when I reached out to a potential candidate for the role. When I spoke with him, he asked, “Hasn’t that position been open for six months? Why can’t they fill it?”
The problem was his perception. He believed that there must be something wrong with the position (or possibly the employer) since the position had remained open for six months.
More than likely, this is not a consequence of leaving a position open for that length of time that many company officials consider. As you can see, though, it is a valid concern.
However, that was just one of a number of consequences involved with leaving the position open for that length of time. To summarize:
- Candidates could have the impression there is something wrong with either the job, the company, or both.
- There is a cost loss associated with leaving the position open, especially in a revenue-generating positions like sales, because there is nobody in the position making the company money. In some cases, other employees have to divert time and energy from their own job to cover the responsibilities.
- In certain positions, like those in sales, leaving the role open for an extended period of time is even more costly. That’s because sales professionals generate continuous income for organizations. The position in this case study was for a sales role.
As you might imagine, this prompts a bunch of questions:
How much money could the company have made if they’d had somebody in the role within one or even two months?
How much money did the company lose because the position was open for six months?
Who else in the organization was impacted by not having the position filled in a timely manner?
How many top candidates have a negative perception of the position and quite possibly the employer now? Just the one? Two or three? More?
Did the competition move in and take advantage of the opportunity since there wasn’t a sales person in the position? Did the competition receive a competitive advantage and/or take away and business during this time?
An experienced search consultant can help an organization source quality candidates in a short amount of time and help them to fill critical positions quickly with the best talent possible. I’m thankful that this organization reached out to me to help them fill their position, but if they had done so at the beginning of the process, right when they learned they were going to have an open position, there would have been less loss of time, money, and energy.
The company may have thought they were saving money in the short term by trying to fill it on their own through placing costly advertisements, but whatever they had been doing had not worked and the time of having the position vacant for longer cost them more in the long term.
If you have a critical opening, don’t take the “wait and see approach.” Do what is necessary to fill it with the best candidate in the market.
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