Time Your Hiring… To When Your Recruiting Competition Is Low (The Candidate Per Opening metric)

The amazing “right time” strategy advises managers when their recruiting competition is low. Then, they can focus their recruiting during the times when they have the greatest chance of placing a truly outstanding candidate in a priority job.

This think piece… is designed to startle you… after you learn about the tremendous impact that the precise timing of hiring can have on your business and recruiting results.

Example – Right-time hiring when the competition is low

If you need to hire an exceptional Santa Claus, You would use “right time” recruiting. To start, you would begin your active recruiting early, at the end of September. Well before the intense Santa recruiting competition that occurs during mid-November. And because you recruited early, while all of the great Santas were still available, you got an exceptional hire. However, because of this early hiring, you might have to pay the newly hired Santa for a few extra weeks. But those minimal added salary costs would more than offset. By the exceptional customer service experience that the best Santa you ever hired would provide. Also, note if you waited until early December to begin your Santa hiring. You would need to consider the cost of the extensive damage that the resulting weak Santa new hire would do!

Understanding The “Hire When The Competition Is Low” Strategy

It is a common practice to open a requisition immediately after a new position opens up. And in many cases, that makes sense because leaving some positions vacant will result in lower productivity. However, if you fill that position during a time when there is intense recruiting competition. The resulting lower performance of this “weak hire” will also cost your firm a lot of money. Not just during their first year but over the many years that this poor-performing new hire stays with your organization. 

This “right time hiring” strategy is effective because it helps hiring managers understand. That if they were to consciously delay their active recruiting for a few weeks or even a month. Until the time when the new hire is actually needed (i.e., their need date). Managers should know that this postponement could allow the manager to land many more high-quality candidates.

These superior results will be received because there are time periods (days, weeks, and months) when the number of available quality candidates is high. While simultaneously, the number of new competitor job postings is low. I call this favorable metric the “Candidate Per Opening” metric (CPO). Alternatively, it could be called the Candidate Availability Ratio.

The Candidate Per Opening metric is calculated as follows:

In this example, Recruiters would report to their hiring manager. The external “Candidate Per Opening” number in November was 12 (based on Indeed and CareerBuilder data). This would mean 12 available candidates for each recently opened job X. That would suggest to the hiring manager. The competition for job X candidates is now so low (the normal availability number is only 6). They should immediately start recruiting for job X.


A List Of The Best And The Worst Times To Recruit”

In this section, you will find multiple examples of when the timing of recruiting is critical. Incidentally, you can get more examples from Onrec’s “best time” research here.

Best/worst months

  • December – December is the most favorable recruiting month. During that month, the recruiting competition (candidates per opening) is generally the most favorable to companies. August is the next month when the recruiting competition is at its lowest. You can learn much more about December/Holiday recruiting here.
  • December and June – are good months because the number of new corporate job openings during this time is generally low. Hiring budgets and headcounts are often completely used up at the end of each fiscal year. So you can expect to see significantly fewer new job postings during the months of December and, to a lesser extent, June.
  • January (and September) – January is the “worst month.” The recruiting competition (candidate per opening) is often the highest (i.e., the least favorable to companies). The second worst recruiting competition month is usually September.

Best/worst calendar days

  • January 17 – Tuesday, the 17th of 2023, was a good day. Because over the last year. Jan. 17 was the single calendar day when the most applications were received by companies. Unfortunately, in 2023, this “best date” fell on the Tuesday that followed “Blue Monday”. And that closeness may have driven a higher volume of applications (Because many argue that Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year). But be warned that even though you may receive an abundance of applications on the Tuesday that follows “Blue Monday next year. Those applications may, unfortunately, be mostly from disgruntled or even depressed candidates.
  • Mid-December – this can be a good time for recruiting salespeople. You can expect those employees who receive a large year-end bonus (especially salespeople) to quit and immediately begin their job search right after they receive their bonus in mid-December. Fortunately, you can expect a high Candidate Per Opening number in sales jobs for the rest of December. During the several weeks between when salespeople quit in mid-December and until serious replacement recruiting can begin in early to mid-January.
  • January 4 this single worst date over the last year was bad for recruiting. Because on this date, the highest percentage of new jobs were posted. So, the available candidates had the most job choices. And that meant that it was easy for them to miss yours.
  • January 1 and July 1 – these are bad days. Because these fiscal year beginning dates always signal the beginning of a surge in hiring. On these dates, companies release new headcounts. Unfortunately, you will need to watch two different dates. Although most company budgets begin January 1, others start their fiscal year on July 1. 

Best/worst days of the week

  • Tuesday – this day of the week is considered by most to be a bad day. It is the day of the week when the majority of new jobs are posted. This means that the competition to have your job posting seen by top candidates will be significantly higher on Tuesday. Incidentally, Tuesday is also the day of the week when companies receive most applications. So, ensuring that your job postings are up by early Monday morning makes sense.

You should also track

  • Major talent impact actions that your competitors take – you should also monitor each of your individual primary talent competitors on a weekly basis. So that you can react appropriately whenever they suddenly reduce/increase new job postings because of a budget increase, reorganization, a merger, a hiring freeze, layoffs, or the annual company-wide shutdown.
  • Let managers know which major talent competitor companies are actively recruiting – obviously, the most challenging recruiting competition occurs whenever there are only a few candidates for each open job. However, the talent competition may also be fierce at any time when the major industry talent competitors (with powerful employer brands) are actively recruiting. So, in addition to the numbers, many hiring managers would also like to be told. The names of the powerhouse firms in your industry that they are up against. Because they are also currently actively recruiting to fill your open job

How To Ensure That The Work Still Gets Done

Obviously, the current standard practice is to begin recruiting immediately after a vacancy opens up. However, if you expect a manager to delay their recruiting until “the right time.” You’ll first need to provide them with proven suggested actions that would allow them to maintain their existing work level while they wait to recruit. Some of the most effective “fill-in” approaches that you should consider include:

  • Ask everyone to chip in – when appropriate, ask your employees to temporarily fill in. Or to rotate through the job each week. This short-term help will result in them eventually getting a higher-quality teammate.
  • Ask part-timers to work more hours – where possible, one of your first fill-in actions. It should be to ask your part-timers working in that job to increase their work hours temporarily.
  • Pay overtime – for nonexempt jobs. Ask your employees to work additional overtime hours. Until you can hire the highest quality recruit
  • Hire a contractor – hire a contractor or a temp to work on the job on a month-by-month basis to ensure that the quality of the work is maintained.
  • Have the manager fill in – ask the manager to voluntarily fill in on a temporary basis. It will eventually allow the team to recruit a much higher-quality teammate. 
  • Make it a development assignment – make the work a development assignment. For an employee who needs to expand their skill level into new areas,
  • Reschedule the work – when possible, rearrange the schedule of when the work will be done. So, those new work dates coincide with high talent availability.


Action Steps For Implementing A Candidate Per Opening Program

If you decide to implement a system for tracking the external competition for candidates. Here are some action steps that you should consider as part of your implementation plan.

  • Accept the role of providing recruiting intelligence – your first step should be to realize that every externally focused business function already gathers and reports information about what the major competitors are doing. So, your next step should be announcing that recruiting is accepting the role and the accountability for gathering recruiting competitive intelligence. 
  • Benchmark best practices – before they undertake any external benchmarking. Recruiting leaders should first benchmark, work with, and adapt the best external intelligence practices already operational within their organization. Generally, recruiting leaders should target earnings from sales, marketing, and product development. 
  • Prioritize the jobs you track – although it’s possible to conduct “right time recruiting” across all jobs. At least initially, it’s best to prioritize your jobs (no more than 25%). And to focus on gathering recruiting marketplace intelligence on jobs with the highest business impact whenever they are filled with a top candidate.
  • Assign someone to gather the competitive information – obviously, someone has to record the number of candidates and the open job data. So, recruiting leaders will need to designate a recruiter (or even an intern) for each targeted job family. The role would be to gather the required weekly competitive information from your selected major job boards. For each of their assigned jobs, the recruiter will need to record the total number of newly posted similar jobs. And the number of candidates who have recently posted their resumes. Of course, if you are only recruiting locally, you need to only gather candidate and job opening data for your region.
  • Educate hiring managers about the upcoming best/worst times – in order to get managers to act. You will need a simple and straightforward reporting process that makes hiring managers aware of the best and worst times to recruit for their jobs during the upcoming quarter. The system should also have the capability of providing an “instant alert” whenever the competition for a manager’s job suddenly changes significantly.
  • Develop the capability to instantly start recruiting – after you begin continually monitoring your recruiting competition. Recruiting leaders will soon realize that in order to take full advantage of any talent surplus before it quickly fades away. Your recruiting function will need to develop the capability to “instantly begin recruiting” without any delay. Whenever a time frame of low recruiting competition suddenly appears.
  • Ensure that a delayed requisition won’t be taken away one of the primary reasons why managers fill their open jobs almost immediately is because they are afraid that if they delay, they might lose the position. So, the organization must have a policy that prohibits the elimination of “on hold” requisitions only because the manager is waiting for a “right time” recruiting period. 
  • Create evergreen jobs –to ensure that a hiring manager can actually place any amazing talent they find during these periods of low talent competition. HR must support the designation of “evergreen jobs.”  These are always open jobs that don’t require a new requisition in order to actually hire a surprise candidate.
  • Develop a talent pipeline – your “right time” recruiting will be significantly more effective if your function develops a talent pipeline approach. That is because a talent pipeline makes it much easier for a company to hire critical talent even when there’s no current opening. As an added benefit, this approach also makes it easier for you to “hold” outstanding candidates for a significant period of time until they are finally placed.
  • Develop results metrics – and finally, it’s essential for recruiting leaders to develop metrics. Allowing them to convincingly demonstrate to all hiring managers how much this “right time strategy” has actually improved both the number and quality of new hires. As a side benefit for the recruiting functions struggling to become data-driven, using metrics to measure the level of recruiting competition can be a great start.

Final Thoughts

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Timing is everything!” Serious businesspeople already know that timing is a critical success factor in almost everything a corporation does, from when to introduce products, advertise, and hold a price sale. But somehow, too many recruiting leaders have found a way to completely ignore the impact of timing in recruiting. In fact, you won’t even see the topic mentioned in popular recruiting blogs.

So, for those recruiting leaders who have been in the dark about the power of timing and recruiting. This may be the most impactful recruiting article you read all year. Despite all that you recently read about the importance of AI and technology in recruiting, I found that the precise timing of your recruiting may have the fourth highest impact on recruiting results (After developing a recruiting culture, becoming a data-driven function, and developing a data-driven referral program). 

Incidentally, you can learn many more details on how managers/recruiters can hire when the competition is low here.

If you only do one thing informally during October, track the number of candidates per open job in one of your hardest-to-fill jobs. Then, check to see if that “Applicant Per Opening” number has steadily become more favorable after the Thanksgiving holidays. And then use that information as your “proof of concept.”

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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