Research update – Senior managers are getting harder to find

It takes an average of 12 weeks and costs £11,000 to fill a senior management vacancy, according to a study by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Employment Review.

The survey of recruitment specialists at 97 organisations, which together have a combined workforce of 520,000 people, found little difference between the public and private sectors in the time it takes to fill a top-level vacancy. But there was widespread variation between different employers of all types in the time taken and the costs involved.

One in four organisations spent £20,000 or more to fill a senior management role, and typically took 17.5 weeks or more.

At the other end of the spectrum, one-quarter of all those surveyed spent £5,000 or less and took a maximum of 9.25 weeks.

One in four organisations (26%) taking part in the survey identified the long time­scales involved in filling senior management roles as a problem. And while most employers regarded the delay as inevitable, some admitted that they could do more to speed up the shortlisting and interview process.

But only one in 10 said high recruitment costs were a problem. Some not-for-profit organisations said they were unable to use particular recruitment methods – agencies, for example – as a result of the high costs.

Most employers set up panel to make key recruitment decisions

One reason why employers take so long and spend so much to recruit senior managers is that they set the bar at a high level, the research shows.

Most organisations expect successful candidates to have directly comparable experience and skills, to share their corporate cultural values, and to be able to work effectively almost from the moment they take up their new post.

In eight out of 10 organisations surveyed by Employment Review (and in all those in the public sector), this task of finding some-one who met the criteria was delegated to an appointment panel.

Appointment manels were typically made up of:

  • the post’s immediate superior (97%)
  • someone from HR (87%)
  • another senior manager (71%)
  • a main board member (59%)

Other possible panels were almost always involved in the inal selection interview (99%) and in making the decision to appoint (97%), there was less consensus about their other duties.

In most cases, panels were responsible for agreeing selection criteria (81%), deciding whether to seek external candidates (74%), conducting first interviews (70%) and agreeing the selection process (67%).

Fewer panels undertook the initial sift of candidates to produce a shortlist (55%) or acted as assessment centre assessors (42%).

Tough selection criteria keep quality up

Candidates for senior management jobs can usually expect lengthy and repeated visits to the interview office, and to be questioned by a panel rather than an individual.

All organisations taking part in the study conducted at least one interview for senior manager roles, with three out of four (75%) interviewing each candidate at least twice. At least one of these interviews was with a panel of interviewers in every organisation.

Half the organisations questioned (51%) also tried to find out more about the background of job applicants. While most of these took up references or made Criminal Records Bureau checks where appropriate, two out of five (40%) carried out web searches for work-related information, and one in eight (13%) checked sites such as Facebook or MySpace.

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