Why Can’t I Fill My Job(s)?

In my thirty years in recruitment, I have heard this question, and other related time-worn queries discussed below, countless times. Lately, it seems to be asked more frequently – and with a far greater degree of exasperation – leading me to believe that the problem is getting worse!

Author and Buddhist philosopher Tenzin Palmo, when questioned about finding happiness, writes “The answer lies within ourselves”. Similarly, when pondering these age-old recruitment questions,  I believe the fixes can be identified if we look inward. If we just dig a bit deeper, we can get at the core of the solutions for the most commonly asked questions about recruitment, including:

Why can’t I hire “A” talent?

Before you set your course to acquire “A” talent, ask yourself these three simple questions:

  1. Does this position require it?
  2. Can I afford it?
  3. Will “A” talent consider this role/company worthy?

Often times, we fail to recognize the difference between needs and wants and how that difference impacts scarcity. In other words, our needs are few but our wants are limitless…and human wants will always exceed the resources available to fulfill those wants, hence scarcity.  We can all agree that there is a scarcity of talent and this is compounded when we seek those at the top of the “A” list. That’s why we need to set our expectations appropriately from the beginning!

If you’re absolutely convinced that you must hire “A” talent, recognize that you’ll need to answer questions two and three above in a rational and objective manner. Also realize that you will pay a premium to attract “A” talent and they must perceive that a move to your company is worth it. Finally, recognize that “A” talent is typically not looking to move or available when you need them… you have to work within their timeframes. Unlike a piece of fruit at the market that you can buy when you need it, “A”s need to be identified far in advance. Then, their interests and capabilities must be assessed and cultivated over time. So, think long and hard before you embark on hiring “A” talent and start engaging them well in advance of your needs. Or, follow the example set years ago by of the most progressive businesses and professional sports teams and hire top talent when it is available, not when you need it!

Why does it take too long to fill my positions?

As noted above, a big part of the problem is that organizations try to hire “A” talent for “B” and “C” jobs. The other challenge is related to the demand or supply chain for talent (which is “just in time”) within a reactionary recruitment system. Supply chain professionals know that when a customer buys a product, that product must already have been manufactured, stocked and be ready for delivery. But companies and their recruiting functions, in contrast, seldom have talent on a shelf. They have to “produce” the talent when they get a request and this frustrates hiring managers who expect recruiters to deliver talent “just in time”.

So why hasn’t this changed? Ask yourself this question when you eliminate recruiting staff every time demand for new hires slows. Instead of laying off your team, why not deploy them to go out and restock the shelves!?  Better yet, ask yourself what you stand to lose when you decide to NOT use an outside recruiting consultant because of the perceived cost. The reality is that the price of retaining a recruiting consultant is often far less than the revenue lost every single day that a key position remains unfilled!

Why is it so difficult to get the right candidates to accept my offer?

Too often, we allow our internal convoluted and/or extended interview processes to determine our destiny. A good recruiter knows that time is the enemy. Candidates who are “passive” when you initially engage will inevitably respond to every other recruiter calling with an opportunity once that candidate declares him or herself “active”.

This is particularly challenging for industries like consulting where I spend most of my time. We know that a good consultant might have three or more opportunities to consider at any time – even when they are not looking!  That’s why a long drawn out or otherwise “messy” interview experience can kill a great candidate’s interest in joining a firm. Callbacks, recruiters who oversell the opportunity, rescheduled hiring manager interviews ad nauseum OR, worse yet, getting mixed messages from various hiring managers, can lead a candidate to reject the job. The candidate’s thinking is, “if they can’t get the interview process right, how does anyone get any serious work done here?”.

Why do I struggle getting my new hire up to speed?

Again, we already know the answer to this question. While hiring is often a challenge, getting that individual up and running and, of course, making sure that he/she stays, is equally important. Plus, an onboarding program, viewed as a tool of attraction, can actually help you fill a position in the first place.

Traditionally, recruiters have tended to focus on the tactical at the expense of the strategic and view their job as “I get a requisition, I do a bunch of recruiting, I find and interview candidates, I get them hired, I am done!”  That’s now changing because businesses understand the frequency, costs and risks of early departures. They are also beginning to acknowledge that onboarding needs to about acculturation as much, if not more, than about training. Finally, there is growing recognition that recruiting is uniquely qualified to be involved in onboarding given that a relationship with the new hire has already been built.  

But onboarding shouldn’t only be recruiting’s bailiwick.  Getting the new hire up to speed is not a task the hiring manager can or should delegate to HR/Recruiting/IT or, for that matter, an assistant. Ultimately, onboarding is the hiring manager’s responsibility. The better the on-boarding experience is, the faster the new person will become productive and engaged. Conversely, the lack of onboarding or a bad process can translate into a slower start, delayed success (or even total failure) and sow the seeds for discontent and a early departure.

Conclusion

Make it a practice, before asking yourself these questions, to ask “what am I doing that is preventing me from filling my jobs?” As the market for good talent in most industries becomes increasingly competitive, it’s easy enough to blame external conditions for the recruitment challenges you encounter. But looking inward instead at your own hiring practices can uncover numerous ways – many of which won’t cost a dime – to increase your chances of hiring great talent…and keeping them. And, of course, lead you to the answer to “Why Can’t I Fill My Job(s)?”.

J. James O’Malley

About the Author

Jim has spent 25 years on both ends of the table, developing HR and talent solutions to align leadership, talent, and business needs.

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