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New trend: Companies sometimes taking months to make a hire

Companies who interview for months just waiting for that "perfect" hire may never find it.

I love the email I get from people who read my blogs on TechRepublic. One of the things I love best is when I get a link to a piece of content just because they know it will send me into a rant. It's like shaking a stick in a tiger's cage, I'm that easy.

So imagine how I felt when I was sent a link to this article from the New York Times about how American companies, even though they have "a variety of job vacancies, piles of cash and countless well-qualified candidates," often take weeks or months to hire someone, if they end up hiring someone at all. The reason? They're looking for perfection.

Months?! It took the papal conclave less than a week to choose a new Pope, for crying out loud.

Now this aggravates me for a couple of reasons: Many of my readers are people who are looking for a job--some for months and months. I'm writing blogs schooling people on the correct words to use in a resume, the best questions to ask in an interview, etc. But these companies are looking for perfection? And not just perfection, but an objective form of perfection?

I understand there are a lot of costs involved in a bad hire, but there's also a productivity loss in having your staff conduct six or seven interviews for each job candidate. And who knows what else these companies are requiring--DNA samples, an MRI, a dance-off?

So I'm going to speak as someone who has been on the hiring side of the job equation more times than I can mention: Believe me when I say, you're not going to find perfection. I'll bet my bottom dollar you don't even know what constitutes perfection for your job opening. You want to be the company that snags the next Bill Gates? That's fine, but you know how many Bill Gates there are? One. And I don't think he'd be interested in working for you or anyone else.

If you can't decide after six interviews with the same person whether he or she is right for the job, then I'd say you might have a little problem with intuition. I'm not sure what you're looking to come out of the sixth interview that you haven't seen in the previous five.

You're like the girl who won't say yes to any boy who asks her to the prom because you're waiting for the perfect date. Well, guess what? There's a good chance that girl doesn't go to the prom at all.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

16 comments
jonrosen
jonrosen

I've had similar experiences, waiting, and waiting, and waiting for replies. Sometimes I know it's legit.. The actual manager I'm going to work for is on vacation.. Or one of the interviewers for it might be (what happened with the job I'm at now). Other times it is simply the idiocy of HR, of the manager him/herself, or any number of idiotic factors, which can include that they KNOW there is a hiring freeze or the like, and want to pre-load for if and when it ends.. Generally whenever I get a hold-off, or long wait.. I stop waiting. I contact whoever I need to, and let them know I've had another ~good~ interview, or even an offer (which has actually happened). If I'm being given a runaround, or left in the dark I get answers or tell them that I withdraw the application. If it's a headhunter, they don't want to lose the business, they'll push. If it's a direct-hire, generally it's the same thing. It's a simple, generally fast way to make someone make up their damned minds, or at least explain what's going on. If they're not interested, at least you know and can move on.

Reinhart Corporate Services
Reinhart Corporate Services

My wife is on the inside an international firm. She tells me that the departments are working their buts off on minimum staff. They are picky because they want someone who will be as productive or even more productive .......no slacker. Still I find that if you can help them to feel that they have gone through an exhaustive process and found the best guy. They will hire.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

1. companies survive by controlling cost and market - anyone can innovate but that is not enough... 2. nature did not create business 3. people who say what you do (e.g. ayn rand re: social security and medicare) often ditch their beliefs when they become inconvenient. 4. would you write like that on a resume?

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's the companies loss. It's survival of the fittest. Stupid companies should go out of business and die. It's the natural order of things.

MissDorkness
MissDorkness

This situation reminds me of a position I really felt would be a perfect fit for me. The interviews went pretty well, with the hiring manager and the team I'd be working with. But, they were hesitant and wanted someone with X experience who could 'hit the ground running' with that X, so the Y scheduled and coming down the pipe wouldn't be too much learning new stuff at once. I guess I can understand that, certainly, but, the 15 or so months that position remained open would've been plenty of time for me to perfect X, learn Y and likely recommend Z.

Reinhart Corporate Services
Reinhart Corporate Services

I have been on the headhunter side watching the hiring process. Finding the best people is possible, with the right process. Hiring managers often have criteria that they have not verbalized. When they verbalize it, it may not make sense. The company (1) needs to work with a consultant that will ask them the right questions and rephrase their wants into logical terms. (2) Screen the candidates properly (beyond the resume), (3) Prepare the candidate properly for the interviews and the first few weeks on the job. It's a lot of work but it makes a big difference.

y2ktoou
y2ktoou

Laid off the end of Jan (and twenty others) thanks to the incompetence of those who were supposed to be managing/running the college. Almost two month's later and despite the considerable number of openings, I am presently waiting to hear back from two interviews and it's been a month. Even worse, no one has the grace to let you know they received your application. One interview and the IT Director said in front of me and the other interviewers, "you must have an old job description", yeah and I got it from your company's HR dept! Needless to say I got asked questions about Virtualization that weren't mentioned in the job announcement. Swell....

aandruli
aandruli

Companies try to be very unique and then want to hire someone who has been doing exactly that work work for exactly a totally similar company. If they want someone to make Sprite, someone who has been making 7-Up just isn't close enough.

Robert.Thomson
Robert.Thomson

I don't know if it is perfection syndrome or just a really slow inefficient HR process, but in a higher end tech job for large DOD contractors, taking a few months from the 1st interview to the 1st day of work has been common for years. In fact, ten years ago, I had already worked for company B for a month when company A finally sent an offer letter. And company B had taken over 60 days to hire me. More recently I had worked for Company J for over a month, before Company E finally got around to out processing me.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

It has been my observation that in addition to waiting for Perfect Candidate Disorder, a large number of firms have Issues with HR only understanding buzzwords combined with hiring by committee, so no one is responsible if the candidate washes out. I've known more than a few IT managers that could not be trusted to choose the right candidate and often IT team members will demand to have a say in the matter after a few poor choices cause issues for them. This is still a well known issue at one firm that I have moved on from and has gotten so bad that a number of well known recruiting firms won't send the business candidates for a certain department for fear of alienating candidates and having them ruin the recruiting firm's reputation.

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

I agree with you. When I was a technical manager for a high tech company for 16 years, I hired 45 to 50 software developers (approximately 3 per year). Out of 50 hires, only 2 did not work out (fired eventually). For one, I later learned that a reference lied because he wanted a painless way to get rid of a poor performer. For another, the candidate lied during the interview and I did not catch him. If a manager cannot decide after one interview plus reference checks then I question the competence of the manager.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Besides a full background check and the usual health interviews, toss in a whole body count(final step) and you're on the payroll. I have heard of some taking 90 days and if prospective hires weren't working, they would receive a stipend until a decision is made. These are often specialized jobs requiring engineering degrees. A sharp recruiter will get a pretty good idea from a few previous employer or professor on how an individual will fit in the team. Team members also get to meet in groups with candidates. I do venture to say that the company hiring process is tougher than working for the DOD.

TuacaTom
TuacaTom

Yes, Toni, you are absolutely right. If you want perfection in hiring (or dating), you are going to be waiting a long, long time ... I've been involved with corporate delays in both hiring and on-boarding on both ends. It can be quite ridiculous at times. For instance, at one firm, it was typically a 90 day cycle from "I need someone" to "They are now hired and working" and it was not because we didn't find good candidates, that was the easiest part. You weed through the choices, call the ones with qualifications you are needing, then make the phone calls. It usually took me 5 minutes or less on the phone with those 'finalists' to determine if they were to be considered. The tough part was getting through all of the approvals for the position even if it was a replacement. Good grief. On one on-boarding experience, I had to drive 4 hrs one way to a city in another state to obtain 5 minutes of citizenship verification, because they were not smart enough to perform this another way. Then drive back. What a waste of time. There is logic and then there is corporate logic.

Slayer_
Slayer_

1. Companies survive by making a product or service and selling it. So far companies can't survive without people. If the company is too inefficient to hire skilled workers, the company will die. 2. Nature created everything, from the minerals used in the cement for the building, to the people in it. You may think people created those things, and people are created by certain horizontal actions in bed. But that too is nature. 3. Are you trying to say that social security becomes inconvenient if the company goes under? Then yes a pension plan could be a problem. But it is still the natural order of things. That's like saying dying of old age is inconvenient. If not, then I have no idea what you are trying to say. 4. No, resume is for describing your feature set, and the cover letter is for kissing ass. If another job offer comes while I am waiting for the first, the first loses out.

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

I'll agree with that in general. Most of my recent managers have expressed a concern that I wouldn't fully understand the job (IT Support) because I'm unfamiliar with their specific industry. I think it's risk aversion that's part of the reason hiring managers don't want someone under-qualified/out of the job market for 6 months/not in their industry. Candidates should be prepared for this reality. And they could even address risk aversion in an interview. If a job has been posted for over two months on a board, see that as a sign that the hiring staff is risk averse or slow in their process. Adjust your responses accordingly. Make it clear that you will 'hit the ground running' and that your being hired will immediately close the gap on whatever project needs the most help. Make your case that if they don't hire you today, they'll be losing money.