Have you ever interviewed for a position and found out that the job has been open for what seems forever? Perhaps you receive a call from a recruiter and it is the exact job opening another recruiter called you about months ago! Maybe it is worse, you are half way through the interview process and you find out it is a forever-vacant job opening. Is a forever-vacant job opening a Job Seeker Opportunity or a Job Seeker Warning Signal?
It could be either or a little bit of both, sometimes there is not a clear line as to whether it would be YOUR opportunity or YOUR worst nightmare!
There can be elements of both in that forever-open job opportunity. Perhaps, for the right individual with the right skill set and temperament, that forever vacant job may be their next great opportunity! For others that same job could be living hell. The old saying, "to each their own" can come into play as to why one person would love a job or another hate it.
On the other hand, if the job has some irreparable problems, like it is tethered to the Titanic and the company is heading downward, than no person in their right mind should take that job! Yet, some people do decide to hop on the Titanic even after the gash in the ship is already there and the boat half sunk. How can this be? Why do people do this?
I believe many people just don't change jobs enough (which is a good thing), to fully understand the right questions to ask before and during the interview that will help them understand the job and the reason(s) for the forever-open job. Sometimes, when they do ask the right questions, they may not understand how to evaluate the answer and understand what type of signal they are getting: The Warning Signal of the Opportunity Signal.
So let's look at the right information to obtain before, during and after the interviews. Questions should be asked beyond just the one you have asked the hiring manager during the interview, "How long the job has been open and why". 90% of the time he will just tell you that they are looking for a top sales person and they can't find "the one" that would be a best fit. This may also be simply true, but never take that as the simple answer. YOU NEED TO do a 360 feedback process! Get answers from a number of different people and their perspective. The darn job has been open forever, you know that fellow employees at that company all have an opinion as to why...so get it! Invest the time, this is your career we are talking about!
LinkedIn has really given a company nowhere to hide, you can easily find the former person who was in that job (who has left the company altogether) and connect with them to ask questions; most will call you back. Promise them it is all CONFIDENTIAL. If they were in that position for awhile, tactfully ask them how they did in the position. If it was a sales position and they never won any awards or were always in the bottom of the stacked sales rankings, then consider the information and the fact it is coming from a non-performer. They may even share they were fired! So listen and be empathetic and thank them, now move on. You have more homework to do!
It is time to ask questions of others connected to the job or company; current and former employee's. Ask the independent recruiter (if you used one for this opening; most forever-open jobs have been assigned an independent recruiter!). Remember recruiters are biased, they are being paid to fill that job! So listen and just add it to all the other data points you collect from others and your own web research.
The information you pull from this 360 degree approach will help you really understand and classify that forever-open job as a true Career Opportunity for YOU or one that has too many inherent risks as measured by the type and number of Warning Signals, to just say, "Pass" and let that Forever-Open job remains as such.
- You have checked Yahoo Finance and you see earning misses, impending layoffs announced, P&L Sheet's that look soft or simply trending downward from Quarter to Quarter. Again, who needs even a first class cabin on the Titanic?
- The job has been subject to an on and off hiring freeze with the company; if they can do that, then perhaps the job would be the first to go if they need to downsize.
- An inexperienced Hiring Manager has been actively interviewing for over 6 months for a vacant territory and just can't seem to find the right person. He may be afraid to submit a candidate to a tough boss or just can't get a feel for who the right person would be; this is not a great career scenario UNLESS you have a perfect background match and you won't need this manager's wisdom or guidance.
- Several people made it to final interviews one or more times and either the company rejected the candidate or the candidate declined the offer. You need to find out more about this situation, but it may be due to again, to an inexperienced or perhaps just a poor hiring manager who does not understand how to interview the right candidates to send to the boss or corporate for final interviews. Want to work for that person?
- There have been a number of people in and out of the job with none of them lasting more than a year or two; See where these people landed (use LinkedIn) are they now with top notch companies ( In other words, they look like sharp people). Sharp people stay in great jobs or build to a better job/company with each job move. Find out who had this job before and call them!
- The job seems great and the company is solid, but the money being advertised for the opening just seems so low and not competitive for the level and talent requirements of the position. Good companies pay competitive salaries and commission plans to get good people, less than good companies, not so much.
- The company has a number of job vacancies with the same level of position throughout the USA and it is not an expansion; these are back-fills for people who have left the position. Need I say more?
- CEO or President level of the organization has been a revolving door of new people every 2 years (worse is every year!).
- You went to LinkedIn and connected with some current or former long term employee's and asked what the company is like: listen for Company Culture Issues, product failures, GPO/IDN losses or Compensation Programs being reduced or quota's being raised unrealistically or less money at each sales quota tier.
- The Hiring Manager has had high turn over only in his region, one job open after another. When these departures include President Award Winners and top sales people, then run to the hills away from the manager and his job. OK, before you run to the hills, find out how long the Manager has been in position, if he is new, then this mass departure of top talent MAY be explainable; disgruntled, experienced people thinking they should have been promoted, not the new manager, so they quit. Just make sure you ask more questions of those left behind sticking it out!
OPPORTUNITY SIGNAL (This assumes the company is solid with no financial or product issues)
- The open position is requiring specific skill sets that only a small number of people would have the ability and/or credentials to perform. Example: a few years ago I had to look for a person who could build websites, HMTL Coding and understand how to SEO, as well as build customized on-line presentations. This person also had to have stage presence and conduct large group presentations to key internal and external customers groups! Yikes, they wanted a computer Geek who could sell to large groups of people! Tough one and the opening was open for quite awhile, but we did find that person!
- The previous employee retired or was promoted; sometimes a company just wants to take their time hiring to fill that type of vacancy, interview a high volume of candidate's looking for the right fit because they have some big shoes to fill!
- The company has very low turnover and this is a rare opening and opportunity within the company. They do hire on occasion, but no true and tested procedure of processing candidates to a quick hire.
- An expansion position and they have so many new openings, they are having a hard time processing them all quickly (I wish this was a problem at the time of the publish date!).
- A job may not appeal to the masses for several reason's but you would relish what most people would hate! Some examples; a high risk position (like a start-up or straight commission position), a massive 90% high travel job, working conditions not deemed favorable to some (nursing homes, in a cubicle in a basement and etc.), YET, it is something that you would love to do!
- The job opening is an area where highly qualified people just don't live! In other words, the ratio of qualified people to the number of job openings is very small. This is a beautiful thing for job candidates if you are living in a town where there are few people who qualify for what would usually be a rather routine opening. Think of finding qualified candidates in San Diego, CA (a lot of educated people with diverse educational backgrounds) vs. Little Rock, AR or Fargo, ND. If you live in an area that has few college graduates for instance or a small populace in general, that forever-job opening may be only a reflection of the small pool of qualified candidates available in a given area.
- The direct report hiring manager quit or was promoted halfway through the interview process, now they have to wait to find his replacement before they begin to interview again. This can be a positive in the case of a promotion and can be either a positive or a warning sign (maybe he needed to leave!). In either case, this can be an opportunity if again you have a strong background match for the job and don't have to rely on a green, new manager to direct you in the position.
Each company and job vacancy has it's own unique set of circumstances, just like the Job Seekers interviewing for them! As one person told me this morning, "I am a great match for this company, their job has been open for 6 months and I have been unemployed for 6 months! I don't care what type of signal it is giving me; I need to have a paycheck to pay my overdue Visa Card!" So remember, that is the other part of the formula; How badly do you need a job? If you are gainfully employed and trying to make the ultimate career move, then take your time and assess why a job vacancy is forever vacant. Understanding how to read the signals may save you a lot of heartache or, on the other hand, help you find the perfect opportunity for YOU!
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