Episode #70 – The Hidden Dangers of Leaving a Position Open for Too Long

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive search consultant and recruiter Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary organizations acquire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about the hidden dangers of leaving a position open for too long if you’re an employer. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Sharita. I’m glad to be here.

Sharita: Stacy, right off the bat, what do you mean by the “hidden” dangers of leaving a position open for too long?

Stacy: Well, I think that most employers and hiring managers are aware of the obvious dangers of leaving a position open for too long. These are usually tied to lost time, energy, and especially money. I think most hiring managers would agree that this is the case. However, there are other dangers associated with leaving a position open, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

And I’d like to start our discussion with a case study.

Sharita: I’m glad to hear that, Stacy. I enjoy your case studies, and I know they’re a great way for our listeners to learn about the employment marketplace.

Stacy: That’s the way I look at it, too, Sharita. I’ve always said that a person should learn from their mistakes, but it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes. That way, you don’t have to endure the pain associated with the mistake, but you can still learn from it.

Sharita: What’s today’s case study about?

Stacy: A hiring manager at an Animal Health Company reached out to me to ask for my help with filling a position that had been open for about 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.

Sharita: For six months! They waited until then to reach out to you?

Stacy: Yes, this happens sometimes. An Animal Health Company or Veterinary Practice will attempt to fill a job opening on their own which is fine. However, the job market is really tight right now in terms of finding qualified candidates, so it did not surprise me that they weren’t able to fill the position right away. And six months is a long time for a position to remain open. However, this is what I do, so I was glad that the hiring manager reached out to me.

Sharita: What happened next?

Stacy: Well, 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?”

Sharita: So the candidate knew that the position had been open for a while?

Stacy: Yes, he did. And I knew the hiring manager did not expect any candidates that I contacted about the position to know that. However, the fact that the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession is so small and the position had been open for so long contributed to this candidate’s knowledge of the situation.

So right away, the employer had a branding problem.

Sharita: What do you mean?

Stacy: It was a problem of perception, and as we’ve stated before on numerous occasions, perception is reality in the employment marketplace. Specifically, the problem was the candidate’s perception of the organization. He believed that there must be something wrong with either the job or the employer since the position had remained open for six months.

Sharita: So was there something wrong with the position or the employer?

Stacy: No, Absolutely not. Once again, though, that was his perception, and it’s difficult to get past people’s initial perception of a situation. In this case, there was an immediate roadblock with this candidate, who was highly qualified and was potentially a great fit. And the main reason he was hesitant was not that he wasn’t actively looking for a new job. It was that he had doubts concerning the organization that was looking to hire.

Sharita: And those doubts were not based upon facts, but upon perceptions and assumptions.

Stacy: That’s absolutely correct. But from the point of view of the candidate, these perceptions were valid concerns. He was right to ask the questions, because they’re logical questions to ask. When an employer has a job that they can’t fill, the logical question is “Why can’t they fill it?” Unfortunately, if you don’t have the actual answer to that question, it’s part of human nature to answer the question yourself using a worst-case scenario, such as “They can’t fill the position because no one wants to work for the organization,” or “They can’t fill the position because there is obviously something wrong somewhere, perhaps with the job itself.” And since potential candidates don’t have an actual answer to their questions, they may simply steer clear of the opening and the organization.

Sharita: So the hidden danger in leaving a position open for too long is primarily one of employer branding?

Stacy: Yes, and employer branding is a huge consideration in the marketplace right now. Top candidates want to work for organizations that have a positive employer brand. In this situation and for this candidate, my client did not have a positive employer brand. And because of that, the candidate was very hesitant about exploring what could have been a great employment opportunity.

Sharita: So when you combine the hidden dangers of leaving a position open for too long with the not-so-hidden dangers, the cost really starts to add up, doesn’t it?

Stacy: Yes, it certainly does! First, there is an actual cost loss associated with leaving a position open. That’s because there is no one in the position making the company money. In some cases, other employees have to divert time and energy away from their own job to cover the responsibilities.

Not only that, but 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.

Sharita: The position in this case study, was that a sales position?

Stacy: It certainly was, so you can imagine how costly it was for this employer to leave the position open for so long. In fact, there are a number of questions that we can ask about this case study and about the employer involved in it.

For example, how much money could the organization have saved if it had hired someone for the role within one or even two months? Who else in the organization was impacted by not having the position filled in a timely manner? And how many other candidates had a negative perception of the position and the organization? Just the one? Or were there more?

Sharita: What about the competition? Doesn’t leaving a sales position like that open for such a long period of time give an advantage to whatever competition this organization has in the marketplace?

Stacy: Yes, and that’s an excellent point. Did the competition move in and take advantage of the opportunity since there wasn’t a sales person in the position? That is a very valid and important question, but unfortunately, it’s not one that employers ask often in situations like this. They don’t, but they should, unless they want to give an advantage to their competition.

Sharita: Stacy, I imagine that the hiring manager of the organization or other company officials thought they would be able to fill the position on their own? Is that why they waited so long before contacting you?

Stacy: Yes, and that’s part of the irony of the situation. Believe me, this has happened on a number of occasions. A hiring manager will attempt to fill a position through online job postings or other means. They might think that they’re saving money by not engaging the services of a search consultant or recruiter. Perhaps they believe they’ll get a “quick hit” and fill the positon in a short amount of time and save money in the process.

However, that doesn’t always happen in a candidate driven job market like the one we’re currently experiencing. Instead, what sometimes happens is exactly what happened in my case study. The employer is not able to find a suitable candidate, and the position remains open for a prolonged amount of time. Not only does the organization lose time and money, but its employer brand also suffers, which is what we’ve discussed today.

Then, after all of that, they end up engaging a search consultant or recruiter anyway.

Sharita: Would it not have been better for them to just come to you in the first place?

Stacy: Yes, and perhaps that is what they will do in the future.

The important thing to remember is that an experienced executive search consultant or recruiter can help an Animal Health Company or Veterinary Practice source quality candidates in a short amount of time. They can also help that organization to fill critical positions quickly with the best talent possible.

I’m thankful that this hiring manager reached out to me to help 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.

Sharita: Stacy, thank you once again for all of this great information today. I’m sure that our listeners found it to be very informative.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!