Some positions are hard to fill, like those requiring highly specialized niche skill sets or those prone to significant stress and high turnover. Whatever they look like, chances are your organization has a couple of its own.
In a perfect world, every position would be easy to fill. In a slightly less perfect world, it would be fine to leave these hard-to-fill positions empty until the perfect candidate came along. Unfortunately, we don’t live in either of those worlds. In our world, problems come running as soon as there’s an empty chair in your organization. Let’s take a look at some of those problems:
1. Tension in the Office
When a position goes unfilled, somebody has to pick up the slack. This means more work for everyone in the office, adding stress to the environment and making it harder for anyone to get anything done. Naturally, tempers get shorter and the office becomes a much less pleasant place to be.
If your workers need to pick up the slack for empty positions, their performance will also suffer. It may not happen overnight, but the bigger the workload, the lower the quality of the completed product. Even the best people can only do so much.
You may think your people aren’t like that. They’re professionals. They would never lower their standards or cause trouble because of a heavier workload. Much as I’d like to say you’re right, human beings are human beings. Maybe your team can withstand a heavier workload than usual for a little while, but even the most enthusiastic workers will reach a breaking point. If you don’t fill the position before that point arrives, the organization will suffer.
2. Longer Hours
As we’ve established, empty positions mean somebody has to pick up the slack. When somebody has to pick up the slack, they have to work longer hours to get everything done.
Maybe you’ve been there before yourself. Maybe you’ve had to cancel a night in with your family because you were covering for an empty position or trying to improve a team that wasn’t performing up to par. Maybe you’ve had to miss birthday parties, anniversaries, or other holidays because you were stuck in the office.
You might say this is just part of being a professional. None of us like it very much, but we do what we do because we have to put the good of the organization first. But in a healthy organization, we shouldn’t have to make those unpleasant decisions very often.
There will be occasions when overtime is totally necessary and totally unavoidable, but empty positions are preventable problems. They don’t have to lead to extra stress and more time away from friends and family. You just need to set up a hiring process that actually works.
3. Pressure in the Organization
With short tempers, long hours, and low productivity festering in the organization, something has to give. Performance can’t go on dropping forever. Sooner or later, upper management is going to realize something is going wrong, and they’re going to start looking for the source of the issue.
That means they’re going to figure out that empty positions and bad hiring practices created the problem. They might decide it’s enough to give a warning to the people responsible for filling the position — or they might decide the people responsible for the position in question shouldn’t be part of the company anymore.
Whatever happens, you need to realize that a failure to fill important positions harms the organization as a whole. It harms the people in the organization, and it harms you. It may even be the reason you lose your job.
Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
One of the crucial components of filling a problem position quickly is defining the duties of the position and the skills a candidate will need to fulfill those duties. This sounds obvious — and it should be obvious — but the fact is most companies aren’t realistic with their hiring goals. They describe the perfect candidate instead of the right candidate, or they never come up with a clear description of the role, so they never know how to recognize the right candidate.
When a company doesn’t know how to recognize the right candidate, the hiring team will drag their feet throughout the interview process. They’ll perform interview after interview, not because they really need to know more about the candidates, but because they want to put off making a decision. I call this “death by interview” because it virtually ensures the best candidates will be gone by the time a decision actually gets made.
The best way to solve death by interview is to set a clear expectation that there will only be a set number of interviews before a hire is made. This prevents decision-makers from waiting around for a perfect candidate who never comes — because the perfect candidate doesn’t exist!
If, even after properly defining your role and the right candidate, you’re still having serious trouble filling positions in a timely manner, you could also consider bringing in some third-party help. Sure, an executive recruiter will cost some money, but the price is still lower than the one you’ll pay when you fail to fill that open position.