The Case for Continuous Recruitment

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I’m always surprised by the intermittent way most companies recruit. Even those with designated internal recruiters seldom look for potential candidates except when they have an existing vacancy to fill or a hiring requisition in hand.

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And what’s wrong with that?

Let’s consider it from the perspective of sales. Most sales people have an annual objective or sales quota to meet. Let’s say, for example, that you have a sales quota of $100,000 this year and $150,000 next year. In your planning process for the coming year, you might equate that target with 100 sales of $1,000 each, or 10 sales of $10, 000 each, or some other combination that makes sense for your product or service.

You would then plan your activity around finding and closing those sales, either by selling more to existing customers, or by acquiring new customers. If you’re a good planner, you’ll make sure that your sales funnel is continually growing, since you have a more aggressive target to meet next year.

What you would not do is pass up a sale of $20,000 just because your plan says to secure 10 sales of $10,000 each.  Similarly, you wouldn’t send a new customer elsewhere in December, just because their order would put you over quota.

Salespeople understand that more sales is a good thing.

They also understand that consistent effort is required to maintain a healthy sales funnel. As long as qualified prospects continually enter the top of their funnel and are nurtured through the sales process, they can count on a regular stream of sales.

Intermittent effort, on the other hand, just doesn’t work. When it comes to sales, activity breeds activity and momentum is half the battle.

Recruiting is a Lot Like Sales

What few companies seem to realize is that recruiting is a lot like sales—essential to business survival and most effective when continuous.

A survey of 2,201 hiring manager and HR professionals[1] found that only 38% of respondents recruit continuously, but of those who do, 65% said it shortened their time to hire, and 54% said it lowered their cost per hire. The primary reason cited for not recruiting continuously was lack of time. Maybe it’s time to make time.   

The Impact of an Unfilled Position

The CareerBuilder survey also showed that 83% of employers had vacancies that remained unfilled, on average, for more than two months with 22% of respondents reporting vacancies that went unfilled for more than six months. 

This past month, the average time to fill vacant positions in the U.S. “has reached a national average of just about 25 days, the lengthiest job vacancy period in the 13 years covered by the DICE‐DFH Vacancy Duration Measure.”

At the same time, the skills gap debate continues to rage with employers insisting that they have a hard time finding workers with the skills they need. Research shows that “Millions of workers within these [technical] occupations appear to have valuable specialized skills that are in short supply and have seen their wages grow dramatically.”[2]

There is a substantial cost to leaving a positions unfilled. In his article, The Cost of an Unfilled Opening, Dr. John Sullivan identifies (and details), the following categories of impact in calculating the cost of an unfilled position:

  • Product development and productivity
  • Team impacts
  • Individual employee impacts
  • Increased management time and effort
  • Customer impacts
  • Competitive advantage
  • Image and recruiting
  • Out of pocket costs
  • Other miscellaneous concerns (and costs) that may arise

Keeping Your Candidate Funnel Full

Given these factors in conjunction with increased competition for talent, an improving unemployment rate and the changing expectations of an evolving workforce; there has never been a better time to shift to continuous recruitment. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Create an HR plan that projects hiring demand for the next 12-24 months.
  2. Track HR data to better understand your vacancy trends.
  3. Empower internal recruiters to recruit continuously.
  4. If you don’t have internal recruiting resources, find an external partner who will work with you to manage your recruiting funnel on a continuous basis.
  5. Create a process for cultivating relationships with strong candidates in your funnel, including how you will communicate your process when there is no immediate vacancy.
  6. Encourage managers and employees to continually look for your next great hire and always refer strong candidates, even when there are no current openings.
  7. Have a process in place for managers and recruiters to follow when they identify a “superkeeper” serendipitously. You might, for example, have interview templates, question sets and functional tests available for use as needed.
  8. Be prepared to create a position for someone you really want on the team.

Most companies wait until they need employees before they look for them. While this may make sense on the surface, just imagine if your salespeople only looked for sales when the company was financially strapped!

Continuous recruitment makes searching for great talent part of everyday operations. Of course, this means that you and your management team will have to be on top of emerging staffing needs, since it’s hard to find what you don’t know you need.


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[1] Conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder between Nov. 6 and Dec. 2, 2013.

[2] James Bessen, Harvard Business Review, Employers Aren’t Just Whining – the “Skills Gap” Is Real.

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The Latest from Workplace Tribes
The Case for Continuous Recruitment September 01, 2014
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