The good news is that the US unemployment rate continues to fall, down to 5% for October 2015, according to the latest statistics. “The Federal Reserve considers a base unemployment rate of 5.0 to 5.2% as ‘full employment’ in the economy,” according to Mitchell Hartman of Marketplace.
And still, that position you’ve been eyeing for a while, the one you applied for months ago, is still open. Why?
The economy is humming along and people are employed, so when openings are available employers have a larger universe to select from — of both employed and unemployed candidates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the most recent recession began in December 2007, there were 1.8 unemployed people for every job opening. That ratio peaked at 6.8 unemployed people per job opening in July 2009 and has trended downward since. In September 2015 the ratio of unemployed people to job openings was 1.4.
US employment continued to decline after the end of the recession, reaching a low point in February 2010. Job openings have trended upwards since, surpassing the pre-recession peak of March 2007. There were 5.5 million job openings in September 2015, BLS says.
But still — what gives?
The AP explained in September: “Some economists say that a mismatch between the skills of many of the unemployed and the skills needed by expanding companies is a big reason that openings are rising more quickly than actual hiring. Openings are up 22 percent in the past year, while hiring has declined. For example, construction workers who lost jobs in the housing bust may not have transitioned to fields where jobs are plentiful, such as health care.”
Often employers are searching for the perfect candidate rather than a really good candidate who will grow into the position. These candidates are known by recruiters as “purple squirrels” — with an all-but-impossible set of qualifications including the right levels of skills and experience. And especially in tech hiring, these candidates are expected to boast the skill set that two or three workers used to possess. But as you know, purple squirrels don’t exist. At Sysazzle, we work with the 80% rule — if you find a candidate with 80% of what you want and the drive and aptitude to pick up the balance on the job, hire that person immediately.
Many analysts blame the hiring bottleneck on technology — the portals and databases companies now use to screen candidates slows down the process. While employers are looking for the “right” candidate, they are sorting through thousands of applications in order to avoid hiring the “wrong” candidate, which costs the company not only time but money.
“Right now hiring delays can represent money left on the table both for workers and employers. There has been surprisingly little research on ‘interview durations’ from the job seeker’s perspective, and how company HR policies influence delays in job matching throughout the economy,” notes Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor Chief Economist, in a press release from Glassdoor Economic Research. Glassdoor, the jobs and recruiting marketplace, issued a report this past summer entitled “Why is Hiring Taking Longer?” that looked at the global hiring process from the candidates’ perspective.
Employer size, location and sector also factor in, with big companies and government taking longer to hire. “Job candidates in the Washington D.C. area report a slow hiring process as government jobs in this region tend to be more dominant – candidates in the nation’s capital report the hiring process takes an average of 34.4 days, which is roughly twice the time it takes candidates in Miami (18.6 days) to get hired,” according to the report.
Additionally, candidate background checks, skills tests and drug tests also add time to the process. But is a longer hiring process the new normal?
Glassdoor’s Chamberlain told Business Insider that HR professionals are telling him, “‘I’m seeing the same thing at my company, we’re now doing more and more of these screens, because we have systems that are just set up to do it, and no one’s really evaluating whether it’s working or not.’ Fads in hiring go through cycles. They may dial back when they realize how much of a delay each of these things cause. I don’t think most people realize.”