He Who Hesitates Loses The Best Candidate

A recovery is underway, but hiring remains sluggish

A couple of months ago, over 43% of respondents to the Cornerstone International Group global survey of senior management felt that quality candidates were not only harder to find, but harder to hire.

Now we may be finding out why.

Many surveys confirm an economic recovery. In the U.S. particularly, unemployment at 5.3% in June is a seven year low and 49% of US employers surveyed by CareerBuilder expect to add full time staff by year end.  That compares with 36% at the start of the year.

But, although there are tons of jobs available – as many as before the dot-com balloon popped  — hiring remains sluggish.

There do not seem to be fewer people searching for work and the popular “skills mismatch” argument is losing steam without any skills revolution.


Yet there are more jobs sitting there open than at any time in the past 15 years.  The culprit may be the significantly increased time that companies are taking to convert the candidate to employee.

Surveys by both Glassdoor and DHI Group say the average time from vacancy to offer is now over four weeks, nearly double the time it took to fill a job five years ago.  In some specific industries it is worse: health services jobs take an average of 42 days to fill, financial services jobs 41 days.

The Glassdoor data reveals the average interview process alone in the U.S. took 22.9 days in 2014, up from just 12.6 days in 2010.


An International Issue

This lengthening of the process is international.  In Australia, the U.K. and Germany, they take even longer than in the U.S.

Because it is a candidate-driven market, the foot-dragging by employers has an effect similar to shrinking the pool.  A survey of over 300 recruiters in June reports that the leading cause for a job offer being turned down is the candidate accepting another one.

But why the slowdown?  One theory is that as the economy shifts from routine to more skilled jobs, the hiring process will naturally get more complicated.

Screenings and background checks, in particular, have skyrocketed. Last year in the U.S., 42% of job candidates underwent some sort of background check, compared with 25% in 2010.


Applying has become too easy

One of the most interesting theories is put up by Matthew Yglesias in vox.com – it’s become too easy to apply for a job.

“What’s changed over the past 15 years is that the internet has dramatically decreased the cost of identifying an open job listing and sending in an application, “he writes.  “But digital technology has done essentially nothing to make it easier to evaluate candidates.

“The stack of résumés you need to read through in order to start scheduling interviews has just gotten longer. Rationally, of course, one could respond to this by randomly tossing out 50 percent of the résumés sight unseen. But in the real world, nobody does this. The easier you make it to apply for jobs, the slower the hiring process becomes.”

In other words, if the average quality of the application is going down but the average quality of the match is going up, it could be because of a big increase in the volume of applications followed by employers carefully going through them all to find the best candidate.

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