Are some jobs unfillable? Why would a Recruiter walk away from a client search request? 

Short answer? Yes. Some jobs are unfillable.  

 Read on for the longer version and some of the reasons that might make a job nearly unfillable. As a life-long Recruiter, I’ve been known to say, “I’ve never met a job I couldn’t fill”. The truth is that I’ve been in situations throughout my career to consult with hiring managers, executives, and leaders to edit roles thus making them fillable. Often, the first draft of a role or the wish list from a hiring manager describes a unicorn riding on the back of a Centaur living at Hogwarts … Good Luck!  

 Leading an agency (Recruiting Experiences) that works on primarily retained work as a Partner alongside our start-up and scale-up clients, it’s important that we are confident the searches we take on will be successful. Not only must we ensure we have the skills and resources to fill the role, but we must also believe the role is realistic in terms of the skillset, location, compensation, and requirements. When it’s not, we negotiate and share data to help the team understand why it may not be feasible to find what they want and need within the constraints offered. We’re not looking to make it easy. We’re looking to make it doable and to guide our client to find the best talent available within their budget, location, and skillset needed.  

 If you think you may have an unfillable job or you’re a Recruiter considering whether you can fill that order you’re about to take… here’s some red flags to watch out for: 

 🚩 Lack of clarity in the role generally identifiable in an unclear job description: If you aren’t sure what you’re reading, or the description doesn’t seem to match the title… ask more questions. As you dig, find out whether there is a clear vision of what this person is going to do within the business. A great clarifying question to try with the leader is: ‘In 6 months, what will this person have accomplished?’ 

 🚩 Unrealistic expectations. Remember that unicorn I mentioned above? When the list of demands becomes too long, really think about whether the talent truly exists and in what volume. If they do exist, would this role/company/leader/comp package be appealing? If there are only 20 people in your State with the skillset, what’s the likelihood of landing one of them into this role? If you don’t hear some wiggle room in the negotiation, move on.  

 🚩 Limited budget. Does the budget match the need? Is the company equipped to pay for the level of talent they want in compensation, benefits, perks, and your fees to find top talent alongside them? Bring data to these conversations. Use tools like PayFactors or to review rates for similar roles and geographies. Keep in mind that public databases are generally less accurate (often inflated) than private databases with subscription rates. Most recruiting firms have access to private data and can share market data with their customers to help find the ideal budget to attract top talent across multiple roles and industries. 

 🚩 High Turnover & Poor Reputation. While I am not a fan of the site which shall not be named allowing former employees to list their grievances and rate CEO performance, it is very popular among job seekers. As a Recruiter, I do go and check it out before engaging with a new client so I can determine what job seekers may see and ask me about. I can then address issues directly with leadership and learn the other side of the story. The answers may deter me from wanting to represent a brand or may give me the answers needed to help paint a clearer picture for candidates during interviews. Key question to ask before agreeing to take on a search: Why is this position open? 
Growth? Let’s Go! 
4th time it’s being filled this year? Uh-oh.  

Red flags don’t always indicate a reason to walk away. Often, they are conversation starters and offer an opportunity to consult with the client from your perspective as a Talent expert. Sharing data about compensation, benefits, perks, or other market trends are easy ways to stand out amongst your competitors and show value beyond just presenting resumes. Helping the organization to create compelling job listings which sell the job vs traditional job descriptions which may be more task focused and compliance-driven are another way to open the conversation about how to attract the best talent and sell your role in the marketplace. Additionally, during a hiring intake (the MOST important part of the recruiting process), Recruiters should focus on sorting all of the job criteria into ‘must-have’, ‘nice-to ’have’, and ‘bonus’ qualifications rather than assuming that every possible skill should be present in each candidate. Creating clarity around these selection criteria and ranking the most critical skills is extremely helpful in moving through the interview process effectively if you decide to take on the search.  

 Bottom line. Not all business is created equal and sometimes it is better to walk away than to take on recruiting for roles that may prove to be unfillable. If you can create a partnership and consulting relationship with the potential client and see your impact in shaping the opportunity to the available talent pool, there may be a viable search ready-made for you. In that case, go for it & Happy Hunting!  

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