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Time to Fill and Time to Hire: What Happens When Key Roles Stay Un-filled?

Randy Schmitz

The Risk of Role “Decay”

In hiring leadership roles, what is known in HR as time to fill is critical. Every week, the “decay” of your open role – for as long as it remains un-filled — becomes a growing liability.

With 28 years of experience working alongside CEOs, Frederickson Partners has gathered firsthand insights into the repercussions of prolonged vacancies of leadership roles. In the high-stakes process of executive search, the delay isn’t just about lost finances—it’s also about lost opportunities, halted growth, and diminishing team spirit.

What’s it like to be a CEO or executive team member waiting for a critical open leadership role to be filled?

Our video, The Time Decay of an Open Role, shares insights we’ve gathered about the downsides of a long time to fill period for a strategic executive role. View and download the infographic for a step-by-step look at what happens as a time to fill draws out.

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Time to Fill vs. Time to Hire

Time to fill and time to hire are two concepts frequently used in Human Resources (HR) to track hiring.

Time to fill is a term in HR that specifies the average number of days, from the moment a job requisition is initiated to the final acceptance of an offer. It is an index of recruitment proficiency and alignment with strategic goals. For top-tier search firms and discerning HR leaders, this measure offers insights into the balance of speed with quality of hire. An optimized time to fill reflects not just agility, but the synchronization of candidate skills, culture fit, and organizational vision.

Time to hire captures the duration between a potential candidate’s entry into the talent pipeline and their final acceptance of an employment offer. But it’s more than a mere countdown. This metric depicts the firm’s ability to identify, engage, and secure top-tier talent in an efficient manner, ensuring that both talent quality and timeliness are in harmony.

Average Time to Fill a Position in 2023

According to the Thrive Mid-Year Executive Search Report, Q2 2023, the open duration for executive roles over the last year has ranged from about three months up to more than five months, depending on the role and size of organization.

The report mentions that in a noticeable trend reflecting the evolving corporate landscape, executive roles are remaining open for longer durations before being filled. Data indicates a clear upward trajectory in the time decay of such vacancies. For example:

  • CEO and President roles now take an average of 149 days to fill, marking an 8% increase in CEO search from the previous year.
  • Chief Financial Officer roles are witnessing a more noticeable jump, with the average open duration of a CFO search expanding to 123 days, a rise of 13% from the prior year.
  • For Chief Technology Officer roles, the waiting period for a technology executive search averages at 128 days, up by 9% compared to last year.

This trend emphasizes the increasing complexity and selectiveness of executive hiring in today’s business world.

*Source: Thrive Mid-Year Executive Search Report, Q2 2023

Typical Cost of Not Filling a Role in a Timely Manner

The cost of vacant executive roles, as the time to fill drags on, can be substantial for businesses in different ways including:

  1. Lost productivity: The direct and immediate impact is lost productivity. Executives often play pivotal roles in decision-making, strategic planning, and organizational leadership. Their absence can mean decisions are postponed or not made at all.
  2. Impact on morale and employee turnover: A vacant executive position can create uncertainty among staff and may lead to decreased morale. If employees feel unsupported or unsure of the company’s direction, this situation might lead to higher turnover, which comes with its own set of costs.
  3. Missed opportunities: Without strategic leadership, companies might more easily miss out on business opportunities, whether it’s launching a new product, entering a new market, or forging strategic partnerships.
  4. Onboarding and training: Keep in mind that once an executive is eventually hired, there will still be unavoidable costs associated with onboarding them, which include training and potential lower productivity as they get up to speed.
  5. Potential business decline: Especially if the vacancy lasts for an extended period, there can be a decline in business performance, customer relationships, or partner trust.

In some cases, companies might hire an interim executive or consultant to fill the gap, which can help keep essential functions moving. This investment can have significant short-term benefits — all depending on an organization’s unique situation.

Challenges in Hiring and Talent Shortage – 2023

According to Gartner, organizations are facing historic challenges with a highly competitive talent landscape, an exhausted workforce and pressure to manage costs. How they respond to these challenges will determine if they will become an employer of choice. A cooling economy has further added to the challenge with a slowdown in hiring in some sectors. Yet the risk and potential downsides of a lengthy Time to fill period for a leadership role are still very real.

Selecting the Right Executive Leadership Search Firm

It is critical to keep in mind that the longer an executive role remains open, the greater the negative impact on the organization.

At Frederickson Partners, the perfect leadership match is more than just a goal—it’s our legacy. With 28 years of experience in executive search, we’ve honed a reputation for pairing organizations with the ideal leadership talents. Whether you’re seeking strategic Human Resources visionaries or unparalleled People Management acumen, we specialize in discerning and delivering the leaders that align with your organization’s unique needs—and with our structured and efficient search process, are typically able to present a winning candidate within 17 days of initiating an executive search. We invite you to initiate a conversation with us. Delve into our executive search process methodologies, explore our success stories, and understand how our specialized approach can cater to your unique requirements.

Contact Frederickson Partners today – together, we can strategize, identify, and recruit the leadership that will not only meet, but exceed your aspirations.

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Randy Schmitz , Partner and Go-to-Market Leader at Frederickson Partners, a Gallagher company, is a technology entrepreneur and experienced operator who has founded five companies. As a founder responsible for the HR function in addition to other operational areas of the business, he has seen first hand how strategic HR is an enduring competitive advantage. Randy has also held senior Sales and Business Development leadership roles at Silicon Valley pioneering companies WorkBoard, Ascendify, Voxology and Redwood Systems. (See Randy's LinkedIn)

Read Randy Schmitz’s Full Biography.

Frederickson Partners, a Gallagher company is a market leader in retained executive search since 1995. As one of the top-rated HR executive search and C-suite recruiting firms, we have expertise in placing Chief People Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Diversity Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Legal Officers and many other senior leaders. We draw on a broad network of rising and established executives and leaders, and a 28-year reputation as a talent acquisition and HR Advisory provider.

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