Jobs Staying Vacant Longer in 2014

Norm Clausen on August 21, 2014 10:00:00 AM EDT

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Everyone wants Lebron James on their team. The man is not only a superstar in his own right, he does everything in his power to make the people around him better. He’s willing to work for less pay than he deserves. He’s shown commitment and loyalty to his hometown team for the greater good of the local economy. Apparently, he also plays violin and he’s a snappy dresser.

The problem: there’s only one Lebron. Every team wants Lebron, but only one team can have Lebron.

What the heck does this have to do with hiring? Good question. Every hiring manager should want superstars just like Lebron for their own team. Whether it’s an ace programmer or the best sales person in the field, corporate recruiters and managers should always be shooting for the top talent on the market. But at the end of the day, is it worth it to let those roles go unfilled until that superstar appears? No—of course not.

There are a million examples of companies discussing their costs of vacancy online, so I won’t waste your time (we’ll save that fun and entertainment for another blog). The point is that every day one of your critical, money-generating roles goes unfilled, your company is losing revenue. Sales drop, billable hours go down, less tins of unicorn meat get shipped. I mean, do you want your customers to go without their recommended daily allowance of glitter?

Think about it. Are any of the other teams in the NBA playing a man short, just waiting for Lebron’s contract to expire? No. That’s madness. You go out and you get yourself a nice free agent like Lance Stephenson. He’s not Lebron—he doesn’t have the experience, he’s not a polished product yet. But with the right coaching and development, he’s got superstar potential (and a pretty decent pump fake on his jump shot). Who the heck fields a team with four players?

The entire American economy, apparently.

A new study put out by Dice Holdings, Inc. shows that jobs are staying vacant longer than any period in the last 13 years. And the time to hire has increased 64% since the height of the recession in 2009.

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Obviously, there are a number of factors that play into this—the economy being one of them. It stands to reason that in 2009, when everyone lost their jobs, there was a higher volume of talent on the market. Others cite a “skills gap,” as pointed out by this recent study by Manpower claiming that 25% of applicants lack experience, 39% lack workplace skills, and 47% lack technical skills.

But as much as anything, this supposed “skills gap” and the increased time to hire can be heavily attributed to the Lebron factor. Companies don’t want to develop talent; they only want to hire polished superstars. That’s bad news for Lance Stephenson and bad news for new grads. Prior generations of employers were willing to hire candidates right out of college, train them, groom them into future roles, put them through apprenticeships, etc. But this willingness has greatly deteriorated in the past few decades.

Okay, maybe you don't need to wait around for your version of Lebron James, but you've got to admit—he's a snappy dresser!
The result? In 2014, graduates aged 21-24 are unemployed at 8.5%. That’s more than double the 3.3% rate for college grads over 25 according to the Economic Policy Institute. Even more striking, 16.8% of recent grads are underemployed. Which amounts to a total of 25.3% of new grads who spend their whole day at Starbucks—either because they’ve got nothing better to do than sit around and drink coffee, or because they’re busy serving it.

The problem has reached such epic proportions that Congress actually decided to fly back into D.C. from their summer homes in Nantucket to pass some legislation. Obama recently signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—a bill funneling billions of dollars to on-the-job training programs. This marks the first significant job training legislation, as well as the first time Congress and the President have agreed on something useful in almost a decade.

This bill may be a long-term solution. The short-term solution? Hire smart, motivated people and teach them how to succeed in growth-oriented roles at your company. If beagles can be trained to sniff out bed bugs in NYC hotels for $300 an hour—a smart, young go-getter can certainly be trained to do financial analysis and bill out at way more than that.

Ultimately the increased time to hire comes down to a fundamental flaw in our nation’s hiring processes—the quest for perfection. If the hiring manager scrutinizes any candidate enough, they'll find imperfections. And worse yet, if the ATS is set to narrow down results to a ridiculous set of keywords and salary ranges, then you're going to end up eliminating all the people that actually are qualified.  Rather than being laser focused on finding that purple squirrel that fits in the perfect little box of a job you've crafted, the goal should be to find quality people and to find them as fast as possible. Every second you go without them is costing you money.

Do you really want to be the only team on the court with 4 players? Or do you want to watch with bated breath while Lance Stephenson sinks another silky smooth jumper from the top of the key? It’s your choice.