To shorten lengthy time-to-fill rates, organizations should consider tightening up the interview process, making offers more quickly and loosening the requirements for in-demand roles.

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As recruiting has become more sophisticated, many companies now track their hiring metrics. One of the most discussed is “time to fill.” This measures how long it takes to fill a role once you start recruiting for it.

Statistics are varied but many sources say that in the software, IT, health care, professional services and manufacturing sectors, it can take more than 46 working days to fill a role in high-growth markets like Seattle.

Debbie Oberbillig: I’ve observed the recruiting process change over time, and 46 days is the longest time-to-fill statistic that I have ever seen. One of the biggest challenges is that the pool of qualified candidates is limited because of lower unemployment. Degreed candidates have a 2.5 percent unemployment rate — that is extraordinary! At the same time, job openings have reached an all-time high, with almost 5.8 million vacancies nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s definitely a candidate’s market.

Ryan Biancofiori: I think there are a variety of reasons it takes longer to hire now. Companies are running leaner, and managers have more work. They have less time to devote to interviewing and hiring, so they put it off. Then when they are ready to hire, they want immediate results.

We all hate it — managers, candidates and recruiters, both internal and external. One of the consequences is the impact on a hiring client’s employees. Many of the candidates that we work with are leaving their current employers because they see a position open on their team that’s not getting filled, and they are wondering, “Why do I have to do all this work? When are we going to hire?” It really lowers morale. Another is that companies are losing potential hires to their competitors that will move faster.

Oberbillig: Who do you think does a good job hiring, Ryan? How about “Company X” (one of our clients)?

Yes, they do move quickly after they have the perfect candidate. Managers are super picky about candidates and only want to be given the “perfect” match. Then they want to interview four or five of those people to ensure that they are hiring the very best candidate. Many times, the skill and educational requirements exceed the responsibilities of the role.

Traditional hiring methods are not working. Every candidate has to be individually recruited, which takes a lot of time, even for the most experienced recruiters. Internal recruiters have such large loads that they are unable to recruit for every role. Once candidates are selected to interview, the company must move faster. The way that companies are structured now, with virtual workers and geographically dispersed teams, it creates longer interview times. Full loops of multiple people, all-day interviews, assessments, more loops and endless questions, and sometimes more tests — to what end?

Oberbillig: Unfortunately, I don’t think that we are going to see much change in the time-to-fill rate as long as unemployment is so low. In the meantime, I think that companies can become more proactive to keep their current staff by conducting “stay” interviews. They should ask their people what will keep them there, work on engagement and offer more flexibility. They need to work to retain the key people on their teams.

What else will help reduce the time to fill? Tightening up the interview processes to get the most qualified candidates, making offers more quickly and loosening up requirements for in-demand roles. Otherwise, companies won’t be able to compete in the marketplace to attract the best people.

Debbie Oberbillig is the founder and president, and Ryan Biancofiori is vice president of Allen Partners, which provides recruiting and staffing for corporate, finance and accounting professionals in Seattle and the Northwest.