A reader writes:
I work for a public library system and part of my job includes helping library directors and library boards (often at very small public libraries) with personnel management questions.
I read your blog every day and find and use and recommend it all the time. One of the things that happens too often at “my” libraries, I feel, is that they don’t advertise a vacancy for a long enough period of time. For example, a library board may advertise that they are hiring a new library director, for 2 weeks, sometimes even less. I try to impress upon them, when I get the opportunity, that 1 or 2 weeks isn’t long enough!
I think the length of time a vacancy should be advertised may vary with the position (for example, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend advertising a part-time shelver position for a month), but something as important as a director (even for the smallest library, and even if it isn’t full time), I tend to think 4 weeks is not too long. I know there aren’t any hard and fast answers, but do you have any “rules of thumb”?
Great question! I agree that two weeks isn’t long enough.
Part of the reason for that is this: I generally find a pattern with the way applications come in. When a job is first posted, there’s an initial rush of applications. These are in large part the people who are applying to everything they see for which they’re remotely qualified (and sometimes not even that) — the resume-bombers. That tends to be true for roughly the first week. Conversely, of the applications that come in toward the end of an application period, a much higher percentage of them are candidates who are very strongly matched with the job qualifications. I’ve concluded that this is because these are people who aren’t applying wildly every day — they’re being much more judicious in what they apply to, and they’re probably not looking as frequently because of that.
If you’re closing jobs after one or two weeks, you’re probably missing out on some really strong candidates who aren’t checking ads as frequently.
Disclaimer: This is absolutely not to say that there aren’t strong candidates in the first week, or that everyone who applies toward the end is a strong match. I don’t want anyone to read this and decide that they shouldn’t apply to a job if it’s only been posted for a day; that’s not what you should take from this. I’ve hired plenty of people who have applied early on. These are just overall trends.
So back to your question: How long is long enough to keep a job advertised? I’d say a minimum of three weeks, and four is better.
I’ll usually start my initial round of phone interviews around the third week, but I’ll keep the job open meanwhile. In fact, I’ve pretty much gotten rid of application “deadlines” all together — I’ll accept applications until the job is filled. The bar does move higher and higher if we’re nearing the end of the interviews; at that point, a candidate would really need to be a rock star to get added into the mix … but I don’t want to close the door to someone absolutely fantastic just because of an arbitrary deadline.