How Long Is the Hiring Process for Small Businesses?

How long is a typical hiring process for a small business? It can depend on multiple factors such as industry, season and size. We break it all down.

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Finding qualified talent can be a challenge, especially for small businesses.

The process can be tedious, expensive and time consuming, and the difficulty is often exacerbated when unemployment is low. A recent survey found that 60% of business owners are hiring or trying to hire, and of those employers, 90% reported finding few to no qualified applicants.

If you’re hiring — or struggling to hire — it’s important to have realistic expectations about the process and how long it might take.

How Long Is the Hiring Process Typically?

The length of the hiring process depends on several factors.  Hiring strategy, time of year and the industry can all have an impact on how long it takes to fill an open position.

The average number of days it takes to fill a position is 36 days, according to the Society of Human Resources (SHRM). That data is derived from a survey of HR professionals, 82% of which were from organizations with 499 or fewer employees.

The time it takes to hire can also vary based on industry. DHI and Dr. Steven Davis at the Chicago Booth School of Business developed a “mean vacancy duration measure” as an indicator of how long it takes to fill a position. The metric looks at the mean average an open position is vacant. The indicator found that in 2017, the last year for which the measurement was made publicly available, the time to fill a position was as short as 13.4 working days for the construction industry to as long as 48.3 working days for the healthcare industry.

And while some industries saw their hiring timeline fluctuate heavily, others saw a steady decline or increase in the number of working days required to fill a vacancy. Financial services saw the average increase by 10 working days between 2013 and 2014.


The list of industries listed by the longest hiring processes are:

  • Health Services – 48.3 days
  • Financial Services – 46.2 days
  • Other Services – 39.7 days
  • Information – 31.8 days
  • Manufacturing – 30.9 days
  • Education – 28.9 days
  • Government – 28.5 days
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade – 25.8 days
  • Professional and Business Services – 24.7 days
  • Leisure and Hospitality – 21.1 days
  • Resources – 17.4 days
  • Construction -13.4 days

What Steps Can a Small Business Take to Avoid Making Hiring Mistakes?

Have a Hiring Strategy

A good hiring strategy is a crucial component to hiring the right person within time and money constraints. The first steps for creating a strategy are to develop a clear job description, understand company values and culture, and to budget for the open position.

Look in the Right Places

Don’t look for candidates in one place; cast a wide net. Social media is a great place to post an open position and advertise your company’s culture. Ask employees for referrals. And don’t overlook internal candidates who might appreciate some career mobility. Also, consider searching for recent college graduates or those early in their career.

Plan Your Interview Questions

Plan and write a list of questions to ask your candidates, focusing more on whether they’d be a good fit culturally than if they have all the skills the position requires. Be aware of forbidden interview questions that could land you in hot water.

Set Clear Expectations

Be persuasive when describing the position and company culture, but don’t sugarcoat it and exclude its challenges. It’s better to be upfront about what the job entails so candidates are fully prepared and know what to expect.

Involve the Team

Ultimately, the hiring decision is yours. However, it’s wise to consider input from others. Your team’s input is valuable, and they can spot any red flags you might’ve missed. It’s also important to see how the team gels with the candidates prior to being hired.

Is Hiring Better During Certain Times of the Year?

The length of the hiring process depends on the time of year.

The first quarter of the new year means new budgets, and possibly more money for hiring. Springtime is prime time for hiring college recruits, with students ramping up their job search as they get ready to graduate. If you’re planning on hiring recent college graduates, aim to have open positions filled by June 1. The fall months are a good time to hire before the holidays roll around.

Of course, these are general rules based on seasonality. The size of your business and the strength of the job market can also have an impact. For instance, when job openings are high and unemployment is low, hiring is tougher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks this rate, and it shows this rate was highest in October 2018, November 2018 and January 2019.


The government also tracks monthly job openings by size of business, and averaging the job openings for each size of business since 2001 through 2018 gives a sense of when the job market is hottest.

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That data shows the following months have the highest job opening rates for various business sizes:

  • 1-9 Employees: October
  • 10-49 Employees: August
  • 50-249 Employees: July
  • 250-999 Employees: July

Plan for the hiring process ahead of time ultimately helps target the right candidates and minimize the duration of the hiring process.

This article is intended only for informational purposes. It is not a substitute for legal consultation. While we attempt to keep the information covered timely and accurate, laws and regulations are subject to change.

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