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Companies Are Taking Longer to Hire - WSJ

Why Companies Are Taking Longer to Hire

Number of Job Openings Rise, but Firms Still Feel Uneasy About Committing to New Hires

Employers are taking longer than 25 days to fill openings within their companies. WSJ's Lauren Weber discusses why employers are taking so long and what factors could be contributing to the delay.

It's getting tougher for companies to say "You're hired."


U.S. employers are taking longer—25 working days, on average—to fill vacant positions. That is a 13-year high, according to the Dice-DFH Vacancy Duration Measure, an index created by University of Chicago economist Steven Davis. At companies with 5,000 or more workers, the time to hire is even longer, at 58.1 working days. The index defines working days as Monday through Saturday.

Economists and employers say there is no single cause for the slow hiring pace, but the lag time can be read as a proxy for corporate confidence in the economy. On one hand, companies are feeling sunny enough to post jobs—openings reached 4.7 million in June, the highest number since 2001—but, fearful the economy could falter, they are finding it hard to commit to hires.

Typically, a longer time between employers advertising a job and having an offer accepted is a sign of a thriving economy, suggesting there are more openings than job seekers to fill them. But with nearly 10 million Americans currently unemployed, that doesn't describe today's labor market.

Employers have become "extremely picky," which also partially accounts for stagnant wage growth, says Mr. Davis. "If employers were more confident, they'd bid up wages, and that hasn't happened."

Employers have raised the credentials required for jobs, according to recent studies, and some have intensified pre-hire screenings. As a result, bosses are having trouble finding candidates who not only possess the skills for the job but also clear those higher hurdles.

Also potentially slowing the process are social networks like LinkedIn, where employers court so-called passive candidates who are already employed at competitors and not officially on the job market. While such networks expand the pool of potential hires, wooing those candidates takes longer than plucking someone actively searching for work, says Mr. Davis, who uses Labor Department data for the time-to-hire index.

Thinner staffing in HR and recruiting departments may be another factor, since recruiters are taking on a larger workload as employers post jobs. "Depending on how many hiring managers [company recruiters are] dealing with, it's impossible" to fill jobs quickly, says Mark Mehler, co-founder of staffing strategy consulting firm CareerXroads.

Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC, a division of tire maker Bridgestone Corp. 5108 -0.24 % , takes 21 to 30 days to hire an experienced mechanic or salesperson. In 2008, Bridgestone Retail made those hires in about half that time.

U.S. employers are taking 25 days to fill vacant positions—a 13-year high. Pictured, Paul Walton works at a Firestone garage in Queens, N.Y. ENLARGE
U.S. employers are taking 25 days to fill vacant positions—a 13-year high. Pictured, Paul Walton works at a Firestone garage in Queens, N.Y. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Like many other employers, the Bloomingdale, Ill.-based Bridgestone Retail is conducting more background, drug and physical screenings for candidates and has a more rigorous interview process for white-collar hires.

That comes with a business cost. Bridgestone Retail Chairman and President Stu Crum says desirable candidates sometimes go elsewhere rather than wait, and in the meantime, short-staffed stores may have to turn customers away, or incur overtime costs for mechanics.

The company is trying out an outside firm to conduct background checks and sift applications, in an effort to speed hiring. Mr. Crum has set a target of 10 to 14 days for store staff and around 30 days for corporate positions.

Other companies are taking different tacks. OpenText Corp. OTC 1.06 % , a software company based in Ontario, reduced its time to hire by about 30% over the past two or three years by bringing recruiting in-house for most positions and cutting the number of approvals needed to lock down a new hire. An expanded social media presence helped, too, according to Chief Executive Mark Barrenechea.

Even as he looks to speed up hiring, Mr. Crum wants to make sure the process doesn't get too easy. Getting the right people into the company is the most important thing, he says, and the added rigor in hiring helps.

"When there's a larger pool out there you can make mistakes and there's another one standing in the queue," he says. Now, "when you hire someone you want to make sure they're the right one."

Write to Lauren Weber at and Rachel Feintzeig at

Nick Corcodilos
Nick Corcodilos user

"Economists and employers say there is no single cause for the slow hiring pace, but the lag time can be read as a proxy for corporate confidence in the economy"

It can more readily be read as a catastrophic failure of automated recruiting. Companies like LinkedIn, Taleo,, CareerBuilder heavily market "access to the perfect candidate" -- and HR departments buy it. Literally. They spend billions to solicit millions of applicants who can't possibly be fits. Then HR cries it can't possibly sort or review all those applicants, while jobs remain empty for historically high periods of time. A talent shortage? Totally untrue, unless we consider the lack of talent in the HR suite, where the strategy is to blame the labor pool and managers who aren't good at interviewing.

The bottom line is, HR must get out of the recruiting and hiriing business and stop funding automated recruiting vendors who make money mainly while jobs remain vacant and job seekers keep searching.

Stephanie Dailey
Stephanie Dailey user

This is a major concern, especially for job seeking baby boomers.  I've been trying to help a highly skilled and experienced job seeker juggle all the new high tech interviews (virtual interviews, skype interviews, phone interviews, etc.) and we've been unable to secure her a position.  She has the experience, but cannot get past HR's screening process for even simple customer service positions.  For many positions that she's over qualified for, they turn her down after several rounds with a simple "your experience wasn't a match".  If anyone can help or offer suggestions, please let me know.

Andrew Eppink
Andrew Eppink subscriber

"U.S. employers are taking 25 days to fill vacant positions—a 13-year high. Pictured, Paul Walton works at a Firestone garage in Queens, N.Y. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal"

That's the first time I've ever seen a workman identified by name in wsj. Why that's not done routinely I haven't a clue. Prob some bs abt stock photos or some such. You expect this sort of thing in the _limeball lib media where the mission statement is, "Keep the _oron masses under control" but the wsj ought to be better. You can be sure if it were some _limeball pol or 'judge' he'd be named.

Robert Gallman
Robert Gallman subscriber

Companies are looking for overqualified candidates who are willing to work for less than those candidates could have earned prior to the recession.  Ironically, many of the positions I've seen are requiring qualifications that seem to fit more of a lateral hire (e.g. 5-8+ yrs experience, top undergrad school, top graduate school degree + top of the class).  It takes time for a company to attract such a candidate since the candidates the companies are looking for are likely already working elsewhere.  Hence the emphasis on recruiters as explained in the article.

Chip Shirley
Chip Shirley user

Some companies like Koch and Haliburton are not hiring and losing revenue on purpose to try to slow the Democrats in the mid-terms.

Tomas Pajaros
Tomas Pajaros subscriber

I just don't get these articles.   Per the Obama administration, unemployment is way down, and the economy is roaring as we go into the election 2 months away.  

These articles from other sources than the Obama administration makes me think the bureaus reporting unemployment and GDP are probably already crashing their emails and disposing of backups, in case of investigation into their political operations.

JOHN MCKAY subscriber

Employers are slow to hire, employees are slow to spend.

Jeremy Fuller
Jeremy Fuller subscriber

They're looking for candidates who are able and willing to do the work of three people while possessing a resume that makes them highly overqualified for the advertised position. It was easy enough to find those people in 2009 and 2010, but those people are less common in the labor market now, and employers haven't moved on from the mindset that they should be able to get someone with 10 years of experience for an administrative position.

Joe Thompson
Joe Thompson subscriber

In this day and age of diversity, employers are much more cautious when bringing someone onboard.  It is much more difficult to fire an underperforming employee and there are publicity as well as financial risks when a lawsuit occurs, even if it is unmerited.

A bad hire is far worse than no hire.  Hence, it is worthwhile for a company to take the time.

Mark Johnston
Mark Johnston subscriber

Any article that purports to set out the reasons that companies are taking longer to hire/hiring fewer employees than they might have been expected to be doing without mentioning the overwhelming regulatory and tax costs of adding people, and the legal risks of doing so, is doing a disservice to its readers. It's like describing the damage of waves, but ignoring the tide. Excessive taxes (and foregone benefits) also make employment less attractive to prospective employees.

Bloated government is the cause of unemployment, period; without it, people would find ways to make themselves useful to each other.  

James Ewins
James Ewins user

The 1964 Civil rights Act which has been erroneously applied to the private sector has increased the risk of a poor hire and a termination without cause.  Too often employers are forced to depend upon diplomas and certifications as predictors of future performance.  The US governments have indeed provided a environment hostile to individuals and business...  increasingly, decade after decade.

Robert Waters
Robert Waters user

From the front page of the online WSJ, a tech giant, SAS, promotes a blog about current job titles in hi-demand: One, a data psychologist, two, data scientist. I clicked on both and read. In the U.S., 80% of the new data scientist jobs created between 2010 and 2011 remained unfilled as of February 2014. That’s why companies are increasingly employing software such as Web-based decision trees and data-visualization programs”.

80% unfilled equates to unemployment! Time isn't the issue, rather, its hype from the tech market. These "jobs" don't exist. Google, FB, Apple and Amazon are right there in the pack. They are bringing us to a "software selected" workforce and the software is filled with behavioral science theory.

Alonzo Quijana
Alonzo Quijana subscriber

I recently did a consulting job at a local university and was shocked at how complicated the hiring process has become -- after the offer. (Last application for a job was 30 years ago).  First, due to an IRS crackdown,  they no longer allow 1099 work, so you have to become an employee, but with no benefits.  So, there were drug tests. Credit checks. Criminal background checks.  Long, redundant questionnaires.  A personality test.  Transcript release forms.  A questionnaire about family background. Confidentiality agreements.  Non-competes.  Visits to four different campus offices.  I even had to prove my citizenship (for some reason a passport was not deemed sufficient, so certified birth certificate --which they kept --  and the need for a new SS card).   It took about a month, while the problem I was being hired to work on festered.  

My 1980s job -- in many ways far more sensitive -- went from messengered offer letter to being signed up and on board in one day.  

David Peterson
David Peterson user

Employers have become "extremely picky..."

In order to justify a hire in the era of Obamacare, you need to be very careful to make sure you've found the candidate who is most capable of carrying his or her own weight.

Carl Castrogiovanni
Carl Castrogiovanni subscriber

"...they are finding it hard to commit to hires."

They are slow to commit to anyone who doesn't meet 95% of the criteria.  They are being picky.  This always happens when there is an abundant supply of applicants (due to a slow economy) - companies become much more selective in a hiring decision simply because they can...

Matthew Rensen
Matthew Rensen subscriber

If an employer takes too long they run the risk of losing that hire to a competitor. If they aren't serious they should not be teasing the job seeker. It isn't honest.

John Pound
John Pound subscriber

Econ 101 - this is a buyers' labor market...

Laddakhisharma Sharma
Laddakhisharma Sharma user

@Robert Gallman the article is very much informative from the jobs,market and economy point of view  it should have in its next installment duly studied and published the growing impact of quality less ,dumped rusted ,banned and substandard goods and toys ,machinaries and products from China spuriously entering now USA-EUROPE-INDIA and causing the unemployment among st the qualified and experience upper ladder executives

Howard Samson
Howard Samson subscriber

@Chip Shirley Chip,  did you know that if you take a sharpened pencil and stick it all the way into your ear, right up to the rubber eraser at the other end, you can hear the ocean?  

John Klein
John Klein subscriber

@Tomas Pajaros 

This is the worst recovery since the Depression.

Unemployment figures only measure those actively looking for work.

Many have given up.

That is the primary reason why the percent of available workers actually working is at an all time low.

Chip Shirley
Chip Shirley user

@Tomas Pajaros Don't play dumb, you know full and well that this article backs up the claims of the Obama administration that we're in a very strong recovery. After the hell that W put us through employers are just slow on planned hiring but the hiring they are doing is already bringing unemployment way down!

Peter Warren
Peter Warren subscriber

@Mark Johnston,




The article noted that job openings are being posted but not filled.


If any of what you claim were actually true, the job openings would not be posted.



Howard Samson
Howard Samson subscriber

@James Ewins  When I go into the supermarket and see a man in his late fifties, gray hair, in good physical shape, middle-manager type, manning a cash register and wearing a tag that says 'trainee', I know very well that the Obama news media and even Wall Street are covering up for a very, very poor and weak economy.

If and when a Republican is elected to the WH in 2016, the news media and the financial press will finally open up about the poor state of the overall economy.  Barry Soetero has been a very poor steward of this nation's economy.

Ernest Moosa
Ernest Moosa subscriber

@James Ewins The burden of adhering to government rules and regulations have ground the US economy to it's breaking point.

Most people think all US businesses make money hand over fist.  They do not.

They also do not understand what the average rates of profit growth are when the economy is good, and what happens when they are bad.  Instead they have values that have somehow been anchored into their heads that lead to a verbal assault against businesses when they have any success in good years.  Yet that is what helps them to get through the lean years.

The profit margin at the nation's largest retailer is 3%.  If you do the math, you will see there is no room for higher salaries.  There is no room to expand payrolls.  

You could take all the salaries from the top 100 employees that work there, and it would not be sufficient to give the employees a 3 cent an hour raise.  

Benjamin Sydnes
Benjamin Sydnes subscriber

@Robert Waters Actually the point of the data analytics positions is to formulate predictive models that accurately predict behavior and achieve a specific goal. The problem is that a lot of the modeling, similar to most professions, ends up being useless and makes the new hire similarly appear not worthwhile. The more you can write programs to do jobs, the less you have to provide for a physical workforce. Unfortunately this leads to unemployment as more work is done by fewer people leaving those without capital or the defined skill sets adrift. There needs to be a 21st century change in economics to accomodate the increasing automation and overall decrease of employment.

Peter Warren
Peter Warren subscriber

@Ernest Moosa,


You may want to learn more about the economy before making such foolish predictions; though that's never stopped you before.


Corporate profits are a lagging not leading indicator.  Essentially, all they do is confirm that we had bad weather last winter.




That confirms what the rest of us already know, our economy is on the leading edge of a low inflation, abundant energy led boom.



Alonzo Quijana
Alonzo Quijana subscriber

@Ernest Moosa I've never bought into the Obama-generated cheerleading about how wonderful our economy is.  

PETER HOLM subscriber

@Alonzo Quijana Think of all the employment required just to support making your hiring decision.  All of that labor is confined to screening you rather than staffing outpatient clinics, elderly care, child care, semi-/skilled industrial labor, and so on.  There are bona fide unmet labor needs in the market, but the paper mill needs to operate, so it competes to keep people tied up in counter-productive pursuits.

Minh Nguyen
Minh Nguyen subscriber

@Matthew Rensen Why don't you open a company and hire them then?  Preferably a union shop with $15/hr min wage.

Chip Shirley
Chip Shirley user

@Phil Weichert No I didn't, thanks, I'm sorry you had to learn the hard way....

Chip Shirley
Chip Shirley user

@John Klein @Tomas Pajaros Nope, here I prove you factually wrong...

RightWing Unemployment Ploys 

1. Obama Cheats on How Unemployment is Calculated.
NO-The way the unemployment rate is calculated was most recently changed by the REAGAN and CLINTON administrations so that it no longer reflects those who have dropped out of the job market HOWEVER this point was never mentioned by conservatives until President Obama came into office and now when Fox etc. does mention that fact they don't put it in context and thereby insinuate that this is a new way of calculating the unemployment rate which was begun by the Obama administration but IT WAS NOT. The unemployment rate today is calculated in the exact same fashion it was during the W Bush administration.

Ernest Moosa
Ernest Moosa subscriber

@Peter Warren Perhaps you should learn how to do a little research of your own.

For the three quarters prior to the last recession's start, profits year over year were negative.  

The four quarters prior to the 2001 recession were all negative year over year.

Show me a recession that started while profit growth year over year were not negative.

There is no boom.  There is not low inflation for anyone that shops.

Without profit growth, businesses curtail expansion, leading to a recession.  They right size themselves for the economic realities they are experiencing.

Ernest Moosa
Ernest Moosa subscriber

@Alonzo Quijana If the economy was indeed good, there would be no need for anyone to tell us.  The evidence would be all around us.  Construction cranes, new businesses opening, empty storefronts a thing of the past, graduates having to sort through three or four job offers, wages rising naturally.

Instead, we have people making careers of entry level jobs....

Chip Shirley
Chip Shirley user

@James Savage @Chip Shirley @John Klein You're right, excuse me,it was the owner of Lowes and he said he was afraid to expand because he feared the economy tanking, even though he was clearly lying because all the data counter him...

Andrew Eppink
Andrew Eppink subscriber

Yeah. Don't give up. Keep trying.

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