how long should a job be advertised?

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.

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. Charles*

    Those of us who are among the ranks of the unemployed are, of course, checking job posting EVERY day.

    But, not everyone is doing so; some aren't even checking every week. By not leaving the posting up for a longer period of time the library is missing out on some great candidates. (mind you, as one who is looking for work I am NOT complaining about less competition!)

    Also, one of the things I do when I see a job posting is check the date to see WHEN it was posted, if it was too long ago I am less inclined to send a resume. But I do send a resume to these "older" postings if there is a deadline date that has not arrived yet. So there is a benefit to listing an application deadline. It will make a posting not seem stale if it has been up for several weeks.

    Just some things to think about.

  2. Anonymous*

    Posting it for a few weeks give some of those who may have missed it in its early days a chance to actually apply for it. I would guess it's based on how fast your company needs the positions filled.

    I'm on the fence for a deadline. It shows me when I have to apply by or if I missed an opportunity. Then, on the other hand, if there isn't one and I apply thinking I have a chance, I get angry (obviously never shown to the company) when the letter/email comes back saying "the position has already been filled." Of course then there's the "your resume will be put on file" which AAM has answered about previously. Without a deadline and perhaps not knowing how long it's been there, it's a 50/50 shot if it's been taken or not. Sometimes the webmaster is not fast enough in taking job postings down. That's why I lean towards deadlines.

    By the way I've also seen it where there was a deadline, and a few days beforehand, it was taken down suddenly.

  3. Anonymous*

    I know for a fact that some government jobs are only posted for a few hours, just an interesting side note.

    At my organization the process is this: all jobs must be posted internally for a minimum of 5 working days to allow any internal candidate to apply for the position. The posting can be posted externally as well, either after the initial internal posting of 5 days has ended, or (more commonly) concurrently with the internal posting. The hiring manager determines the posting length and during that time frame collects applications and resumes. After the posting period has ended the hiring manager is free to start interviewing candidates and hire someone, but not until the posting period has ended. HR is only involved in the hiring process in so far as we receive the posting and actually are the ones who post it internally or externally, as the case may be.

    Being in HR I have a lot of problems with this process because HR is not involved in the collection of the resumes/applications, doesn�t conduct initial phone interviews or screen candidates and isn�t even involved in the vetting of the candidates to insure their employment history or references check out, that is all done by the hiring manager, who�s primary motivation is to just get someone hired with as little disruption to their day as possible and, I�m sure, doesn�t bother to vet any of the hires properly. Needless to say the quality of new employees at the organization is fairly low and the turnover rate is extremely high.

  4. cherylb*

    I am the author of the original question. I'm pleased to have my gut feeling validated. I lean toward a deadline date too. Typically, in our world, resumes aren't reviewed until after that deadline date has passed.

    The comments are interesting and helpful, and I'll be interested in continuing to read what others have to say.

  5. GC {God's Child}*

    I'm working and looking for a position. But because I am looking to move out of the type of work but within the same field, I don't really rush to apply immediately. I want to do my research first to make sure I'm barking up the right tree, and also to get my resume and cover letter right. This is SO not the type of thing to do right in the office. . .so while juggling everything, sometimes I'll wait a bit to make sure I'm doing the right thing.

    Sometimes I'll even hold off if I know a lot of work is coming down the pike and I won't have any opportunities to slink away for an interview.

    Am I the best candidate? Not necessarily, but if a job was still up after a couple of weeks, or had been re-posted, I take it that the position hasn't been filled and I'm still welcome to send my application.

  6. Anonymous*

    I think Alison's thinking is off. In this economy I prefer to interview applicants who are hitting the pavement everyday. With so many people out of work i get tons of great candidates with 2 week postings. If my applicant pool is small I readvertise. I think a job closing date also helps applicants know that you're serious about hiring and gives them some sense of a timeline. Besides who wants to get a great resume right after you've made the job offer.

  7. Kimberlee Stiens*

    My question is, is there really a downside to posting longer? I mean, you can still pick from people who sent the first day if you want, and then, time permitting, you can still be looking at resumes all through the hiring process to see if that rockstar just didn't check that day. Most places just charge by the ad, right, not by the day?

    Kimberlee Stiens, Business for Good, not Evil, here on Blogger!

  8. Anonymous*

    Given the OP deals with what seems to be smaller markets, this might not quite apply, but I was at a job fair for the sports and entertainment industries earlier this week in New York City and something that really made an impression on me was the entertainment recruiters saying that their window was 48 hours. That sometimes they can get 200+ resumes in that time span and they'll grab a batch of 30ish resumes. If there's acceptable resumes in that batch, they'll stop looking. I'm not sure if that goes for just the general roles or even the higher ups, but it was pretty enlightening to hear that. I am being pretty selective, in my opinion, for what I apply for right now (just industries or work I know I'll be passionate about) and I do tailor my resume and cover letter towards each position I apply for, but I feel like I'm working against a time crunch as well, so I still try to apply within the first 24 hours. I certainly hope these efforts shine through, but I can't say just yet as I haven't gotten any interviews, but I've only been on the market officially for a couple weeks as I was travelling internationally and domestically for the better part of the last year.

  9. Heather*

    Can I just say that I really do not like it when employers leave job postings up for long periods of time with no deadline listed? It is very hard to tell whether I would still have a shot at the position if I were to apply. It takes me 2-10 hours to do a job application, and right now I am not able to send out a lot every week. I don't like worrying that I'm wasting my time crafting a good cover letter because the employer has already narrowed the field to a few people for in-person interviews and just hasn't bothered to take the posting down yet.

    A good compromise between your desire to be able to keep screening applicants and job searchers' desire for more detailed information about whether an older posting is worth applying to might be to include information in the posting like, "We anticipate beginning to interview candidates around such and such a date. Applications will still be considered while interviews are in process." That tells me that while I may have missed the first cut, my cover letter and resume at least will be given a look.

  10. Charles*

    Anon at 11:36 said:

    ". . . recruiters saying that their window was 48 hours."

    It is not just those recruiters that you mentioned. It is many large companies doing this. That's one reason that so many unemployed feel that their resume just disappears into the "black hole of cyberspace."

    With so many people applying there is no way that recruiters can look at them all, so just pull 20 or so randomly within 24-48 hours and they often have a decent selection of candidates. Lazy? yes, but there is no need for them to work any harder, especially in this job market.

  11. Anne*

    I also work in public libraries, so I think about 4 weeks (or more) is probably right as many candidates learn about job opportunities through their networks, especially for something like a director search where applications may come in from all over the country.
    In the case of a position like circulation clerk jobs, which are going to be filled by local candidates, I think 2 weeks or so is perfectly reasonable.

    There is definitely some education to be done with board members on this, as they will most likely have experience with hiring in the private sector which does operate differently than the public library world.

  12. Cass*

    Our univ's minimum posting policy ranges depending on the position – 4 weeks if it's senior management position, 3 wks for managers and 2 wks for everyone else.

    I've been looking at job postings recently within our univ (though I'm not really looking for a new job) and it looks like a lot of the positions are just listed at 2 weeks. It makes me wonder if the hiring people already have a candidate in mind (e.g. someone working within the dept) – because I would think you would want to get a large applicant pool so you could find the best candidate. If you close the posting within 1 week, you're going to get a really small number of applicants.

    According to our HR website, a dept can request to shorten the posting period. With an explanation, of course. Except I wonder what could possibly be an adequate justification (you can't say "we're going to hire this person so we don't need the full 2 weeks".

  13. Ask a Manager*

    Heather, I really like that suggested wording!

    One thing I'd point out to everyone who's saying "well, in this market, you can get plenty of good candidates in just a week or two" — if an employer really values having great people, they shouldn't settle for thinking "we have enough reasonably good applicants now." They should be actively seeking the rock stars — and they should be open to continuing to review applications because a rock star may turn up. "Good candidates" may be fine, but truly great high-performing candidates are fairly rare, and they're worth waiting for! (But that's assuming that an employer really gets the importance of great people.)

  14. ClaireLouise*

    I totally agree with Heather’s point, I am applying for a job right now which was advertised via a website from a Care Agency. There is no deadline what’s so ever and the advert was posted nearly a week and a half ago (2 weeks this coming friday) I am one of those people who isn’t applying for just anything mainly because with the job I want there are not many adverts which are asking for the amount of experience I have (very little!) as I am only starting out in a new career after deciding to change direction, so when an advert comes up I feel I could go for, I then take ages to make sure I post a good cover letter and making sure my CV is perfect. However I am currently up into the early hours of the morning and I have no idea if once I have perfected my cover letter and CV if I’ll be too late to apply for this job. I just have to plough on and hope!

    1. ClaireLouise*

      Just realised it says 9.03pm above but I am GMT! incase it confused anybody so its currently 02.32am here :-( Iam a night owl but I should get to bed soon.

  15. GHW*

    I am in the process of evaluating 44 applications for a 30 hour per week library job that was posted for 14 days. Our current policy is to open positions for a minimum of 14 days and this happens every single time – 40+ applications. Last time we had a 20 hour per week opening we had 59 applications.

    My argument for a shorter application period is so that I will have fewer applications to evaluate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Your goal is not to minimize how many applications you need to review; it’s to hire the best person.

      59 applications is actually very low; several hundred is more common.

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