Every hiring manager and recruiter knows that the hiring process can be long and arduous, but it hasn’t been this long and arduous in many years. According to Dice Holdings, a career sites provider, the average length of time it takes to fill an open position has increased by a whopping 73 percent, from 15.3 working days at the height of the recession in July 2009, to 26.5 days in August of this year.

Surprising, given this increase, is the fact that there are more jobs listed now than in the last 13 years. The Dice report follows a U.S. Labor Department report on job openings and turnover, which shows that there are more openings in the country now (4.7 million as of the last day of June) than at any time since 2001. In addition, the report said there’s been a net gain of 2.4 million jobs over the last 12 months, as businesses reported a total 55.7 million hires, minus 53.3 million separations (voluntary departures, lay-offs, and terminations).

Of the industries that have a longer hiring time, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) job vacancies take almost twice as long to fill as non-STEM vacancies, according to a Brookings Institution study. Filling a STEM job requiring professional degree averages 50 days, compared to the 26.5 day average for a non-STEM job. The study concluded that STEM skills are in high demand in the workplace and there aren’t enough skilled workers available to fill these jobs, especially in metropolitan areas where it may take months to fill a STEM position.

Yet STEM jobs aren’t the only ones that are proving harder to fill. Other industries that require specialized skills, such as health services (average 45.8 days), financial services (average 42.5 days) and government (average 41.3 days) are also taking longer to fill their openings. This is compared to a relatively short vacancy duration in industries that don’t require as much training, education, or specialized skills and that can offer quick and easy training, like retail trade (average 20.4 days) and construction (average 10.7 days).

While the problem of longer hiring times is evident, the cause is not so clear. Economists and employers say there is no single cause for the country’s current slow hiring pace, but there are a few challenges that have lead to this stalemate, such as:

  • Few workers with the desired skills. As mentioned above, employers in the fields of STEM, health services, and government are taking longer to fill an open position because there aren’t enough candidates with the credentials and skills necessary. According to a survey by The Wall Street Journal, about a third of small business owners say they can’t find workers with the skills they need.
  • Employers are too picky. Another big cause of the slow hiring pace is that employers are being more choosy, and are taking their time to hire candidates. They list positions requiring an unrealistic amount of experience, education, and degrees, and they have a lengthy and cumbersome hiring process that either takes too long or is a turn-off to candidates. Employers are also too focused on finding candidates that are ready to “hit the ground running,” so they can avoid investing in training for less-experienced candidates.
  • Fear of an economic downturn. In some cases, what employers express as an inability to find candidates with the right skills is actually the inability (or unwillingness) to pay for those skills. Employers are fearful of another economic recession and are therefore finding it hard to pay more competitive wages and commit to hires.
  • Seeking passive candidates. Also potentially slowing down the hiring process is the growing tendency to go after passive candidates—people who are already employed at other companies and not officially on the job market—since wooing those candidates takes much longer than picking someone who is actively looking for work.
  • HR is spread too thin. Finally, the fact that there are more jobs open now than in many years prior means there is more work to be done in order to fill them. HR and recruiting departments have their hands full and are taking on a larger workload as employers post more jobs. It’s not surprising then that the hiring delay is even greater among larger companies—those with 5,000 or more employees take an average of 58.1 working days to fill a job.

Has your company experienced longer hiring periods in recent months? What challenges are you finding make the process take longer when recruiting and hiring candidates?

Adina Miron


  • Avatar Ali Mitchell says:

    It’s true that the hiring process is slower than it was in the past, and I totally agree with the ideas that you pointed out. But I’ve noticed that a slow hiring process reduces a potential candidate’s excitement. When I’m trying to recruit top talent away from another company, I keep them engaged and interested about their potential opportunities as much as I can. I find this vital for recruiting success. The longer it takes to get through the recruitment process, the more likely I will lose the interest of my candidates and I would be taking a risk that my competitors may contact them first.

  • Avatar Sarah Howard says:

    One problem is that employers have an idealistic view of the kind of potential employees that might be available and the resources it may take to hire them. Just because every company would like to hire superheroes doesn’t mean they are available or will want to work for you. There are no perfect employees, and waiting for one is as unrealistic as searching for one.

  • Avatar Deborah says:

    The marketplace has become really competitive, and employers have higher expectations from employees. The problem appears when employers are not able to create a balance between expectations and salary. You can’t have top talent without paying more for their skills. Nowadays, employees can objectively evaluate their abilities, and they know their value. This is why it becomes quite hard to attract top talent without offering extra benefits for their extra abilities.

  • Avatar Jessica Green says:

    I like to take my time during the hiring process because I want the most competitive employees for my company. Since there are many potential candidates, it is quite difficult to find the right people for the required positions. Nowadays, people who are looking for a job apply for any position that seems interesting without checking to see whether they meet the requirements. This is why I have to pay more attention to details and carefully select the right candidates.

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