Hiring Advice: The Cost of Putting a Role on Hold

July 13, 2021

In hiring, roles go on hold for a variety of reasons — some more preventable than others. Here’s why putting roles on hold may cost your company more than you realize. 

“We’re sorry, but the role has been put on hold until further notice.”

If you’ve been in the job market long enough, you’ve inevitably opened your inbox to this email. It’s either this message, or something along the same lines: “the role has been put on hold while we evaluate our strategy,” or “while we navigate a company restructuring.”

It’s a frustrating experience. The deeper into the process you are, and the more job interviews you’ve done with a company, the more frustrating it is. Right at the finish line, some issue outside of your – or the hiring manager’s – control has put the job on hold. You might wonder: is this a way of letting me down easy? Will I hear back again when the search resumes?

Roles go on hold, but most of the time the candidates don’t stay on hold. They press forward with further interviews at other organizations. If it’s a market where candidates are in high demand – like it is right now – they’ll likely secure other job offers before the search starts up again. So for companies, putting a role on hold is a decision that often feels like a small bump in the road, but ends up being a huge risk.

So today, we wanted to write a post about the dreaded hold. Specifically, the true cost to this decision that companies can’t see, as well as some tips for navigating this difficult situation as a hiring manager.

First of all, if you’re a candidate who’s been put on hold before, rest assured: “on hold” usually isn’t just a euphemism for “closed.” It isn’t just the company letting you down easy, and any company worth their salt will be honest about why they aren’t moving forward with your candidacy. Companies usually put roles on hold with good intentions.

Holds happen for many different reasons, most commonly:

  • Company restructurings. A merger, acquisition, departmental change or other restructuring has affected the hiring process. Sometimes this is unavoidable.
  • New hires being onboarded to senior positions. We see this one a lot: a new director or senior manager moves into an organization, and they want to take a pause to re-evaluate roles currently under recruitment.
  • Changing budgets. Sometimes companies decide that the budget for a hire needs to come from a different pool, or internal circumstances change and the role has to go on hold for financial reasons.
  • Vacations. A hiring manager will go on vacation, and several weeks will pass before the hiring process can resume.
  • Other internal delays. Sometimes, roles go on hold because the company just gets gun-shy, or a possible internal candidate comes up.

Among other reasons. Some of these situations are beyond any individual’s control. Some of them are more preventable than others (mostly the ones near the bottom of the list). Some of them are a fact of life of hiring that will always be there.

But here’s a crucial question that bears mentioning: how often do these roles go off hold, and back into being active, with successful results?

Not as often as companies would like.

In our practice recruiting for supply chain and procurement, roles go on hold all the time, sometimes leading to successful hires down the road. But often, companies take a pause to re-evaluate a role, and don’t realize that the candidate pool isn’t standing still. Candidates already under consideration move on to other opportunities. And if you let the hold drag on, you might find yourself inadvertently moving into a high-activity hiring season, with much greater competition to hire from your competitors.

It’s very similar to spending weeks to develop a work product (say a forecast, or a production plan), only to lose it all — not because it isn’t high quality — but because it isn’t a high enough priority. It can leave you stranded, right back at square one in your hiring. By putting a role on hold, you’re often surrendering thousands of dollars in costs. It’s often just as frustrating for a hiring manager as it is for a candidate.

So here are some of our tips for how companies can navigate these holds:

  • Try to keep it short. This goes without saying. The longer a role goes on hold, the more likely you are to have to go back to square one.
  • Try to avoid placing a role on hold for vacations, or other reasons under your control. Hiring is much more time sensitive than people sometimes realize. If a senior manager realizes that great candidate might not be there when they get back from vacation, they might feel more urgency to make a decision before they take it.
  • Have an exit strategy. If a role does have to go on hold, it helps to set out a clear roadmap and decision making process for activating it again. Otherwise it can stay on hold without accountability in the organization for restarting the search.
  • The closer you are to the finish line, the more you stand to lose. If you’re just starting out in a search – say you’ve just posted a role or engaged a recruiter – the cost of going on hold is low. You don’t have candidates in the pipeline yet, so the biggest risk is that you’ll end up waiting until competition is high. But if you’ve had several interviews with a few candidates who are in play, and you’re ready to get final approvals, you have much more in recruiting costs on the line – and a hold can be more devastating.
  • Be transparent. You should work with all stakeholders, including your internal team, any candidates, and any recruiters, to clearly outline why a role is going on hold and the action plan to get started again. The less clarity there is for everyone involved, the more chance the search has of going off the rails.

All of this doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t put a role on hold. As we said, sometimes it’s inevitable. But it should be done in a thoughtful way. So if you’re a hiring manager or HR leader who’s faced pressure from above to put a role on hold, by all means, send those leaders this article.

Tell them Argentus sent you.


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