The Talent Acquisition Taboo No One Wants to Talk About

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Cost Per Hire. Time to Fill. ATS and CRM Systems. Sourcing Channel.

While these topics are of great importance in the recruiting and talent acquisition community, there's one particular issue that seems to be continuously avoided: Seat Fillers.

What are Seat Fillers? Employees who were hired simply to fill the chair and are not actually the most qualified fit for the role. Rarely do Directors of Talent Acquisition, Recruiters or HR want to admit they have hired a seat filler, but the results of this hasty hiring mistake can be detrimental to the organization's bottom line. It can cost up to a third of a new hire's salary to replace them.

Additionally, there are a number of hidden costs that can be associated with hiring a Seat Filler, including:


Recruitment Costs

  • HR/Talent Acquisition Time
  • Management Time
  • Interview Team Time
  • External Tool Cost – Agency, Job Board, Etc.

Lost Business

  • Prospects Lost
  • Customers Lost
  • Reputational Impact

Productivity Losses

  • Startup Performance – a new employee is only operating at 25% productivity, meaning the company is losing 75% of  the employee's salary in productivity (Investopedia)
  • Low Morale of Co-Workers
  • Standards of Performance Lowered by Default


  • Seat Filler's Salary
  • Seat Filler's Benefits
  • Overhead – Phones, Technology, etc.


How do you spot a Seat Filler? The individual may not display the core competencies necessary of the position to begin with, but this is overlooked in the hurry and stress to fill open roles. The Seat Filler will not push to better themselves and will be content to sit idly by as an average or less than average performer.

When this happens, management is often scrambling to try and change the inherent behaviors of the Seat Filler - the candidate's lack of skills skills, competency, attitude, and cultural fit within the organization. This becomes a struggle to fit a square peg into a round hole and creates tension surrounding accountability and quality of hire.

While open roles can be harmful to the business, a Seat Filler may cost the company more in lost time and dollars. The Seat Filler issue has become more prominent than ever, as organizations are struggling to find qualified talent to fill key positions.

Try these tactics when looking to make a hire in order to avoid Seat Fillers:

  • Ensure HR, the Hiring Manager, and the Recruiter develop a healthy working relationship prior to filling the role so that lines of communication are clear
  • Determine what the organization is truly looking for: Discuss "Must Haves" vs. "Like to Haves" and be reasonable about looking for the "ideal" candidate
  • Leverage each other's knowledge base and ask ask many questions as possible to gain clarification about the open position
  • Make note of top performers and bottom performers currently functioning in the team and what separates them in the mind of the Hiring Manager

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  1. Bob Gately says:

    Hello Marilyn,

    If an employer wants to dramatically improve their hiring successes, then they should add a talent assessment to their screening process.

    80% of employees self report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers are not suited to managing employees.
    The two eighty percents are closely related.

    Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few successful or engaged employees.

  2. I call them ghosts – hires that never really materialized!

  3. Bob Gately says:

    Larry, employers that hire for competence, cultural fit, and job talent do not suffer from ghosts.

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