Is warm body syndrome hurting your business?

Matt Tarpey

Is warm body syndrome hurting your business?

As an employer, you need to balance a lot of factors every time you make a hiring decision. But when speed to hire is your number-one priority, the only thing that may seem to matter is getting a warm body to fill an opening. Unfortunately, that method of hiring — sometimes called Warm Body Syndrome — is unsustainable and can be harmful to your company long term as you may end up with employees who don't have the skills needed to accomplish their tasks.

That's why knowing how to prevent this hiring practice is key to ensuring you hire quality candidates who help the company achieve its goals. Keep reading to learn how to avoid hiring just another warm body and find the next perfect candidate.

How Warm Body Syndrome occurs

Whenever you have an open position, your goal is to find the best person to fill it. But the quality of candidates isn't the only factor influencing the way you hire; time often plays a major role too.

Many employers say extended job vacancies have had a negative impact on their business, often resulting in increased employee turnover and loss of productivity, revenue, and morale. Once that pressure is on, how long should you wait to find the perfect candidate?

The longer a position is open, the more likely that hiring managers will simply fill the role rather than continuing to face losses in productivity and morale. Standards may begin to fall, both in terms of desired skills and cultural fit. Instead of focusing on the candidate for the future, you begin settling for the candidate of the moment.

Another way to end up with warm bodies in the office is from inaccurate job postings. If you don't take the time to make sure your job description accurately portrays the required skills and the overall values needed, then your candidate pool will likely consist of warm bodies. You may also see more of them if you don't properly vet your candidates. Comprehensive interview questions and accurate skill verification tests help weed out candidates who may not be the best fit.

The good news? There are effective ways to keep warm bodies from invading your office.

"The longer a position is open, the more likely that hiring managers will simply fill the role rather than continuing to face losses in productivity and morale."

How you can prevent Warm Body Syndrome

When you're looking at candidates in a rough hiring landscape, read between the lines and look for potential rather than experience. Investing in a candidate who shows potential but lacks some of the skills they need may seem counterproductive, but many suggest it may be a better option for your business. Many employers say they've used this employee-development strategy in the past, and have plans to do so in the future.

In addition to hiring candidates who show strong potential, try incorporating certain tactics into your company's hiring practices to help sort out the warm bodies from those who have either the proper skills or the potential to develop them. Including both technical and personality questions in the interview process can help you determine not only if the candidate is a cultural fit but also whether they have the necessary skill sets. Skill verification tests can tell you whether candidates possess the skills they claim.

Some questions to consider incorporating into your business's interview process include:

  • Can you walk me through your typical decision-making process?
  • Which skills do you think would be beneficial to use in this role?
  • Which roles have you filled on a team?
  • Describe what you think a typical day may be like in this role.

Recruit for your future needs

Many employers only think about hiring when a new need arises. At first glance, that seems perfectly logical. However, a reactive approach can lead to longer vacancies and greater pressure to hire the next warm body. By proactively recruiting throughout the year, you're less likely to be left in a bind by unexpected departures. Many companies that have shifted toward this less traditional hiring cycle have seen shorter hire times. Plus, transitioning to year-round hiring opens you up to a more diverse talent pool than hiring sporadically.

Maintaining a list of your past candidates also provides a starting point for the next hire. You can refer to this pool to see if anyone is a good fit for the new position. This can also expedite hiring, as some candidates may have already gone through some of your hiring process and may not have to complete as much of it the next time around.

Keeping Warm Body Syndrome from entering your workplace is difficult, but it's worth it. A complacent, good-enough hire may end up being a financial burden and a waste of everyone's time. Just be certain you ask the right questions, and don't feel pressured to make just any hire. Finding the perfect fit may take some time.

Related reading: Tips for finding the right candidate

Learning what pre-employment tests are can help you decide how you may incorporate them into your company's hiring practices.

Explore common hiring mistakes and how you can avoid them so you can find qualified candidates to fill your vacant roles.

Some candidates may deserve a second look after the interview stage; they could be a great fit for your organization.

Find ways to expedite the hiring process to help you fill those gaps fast with high-quality candidates, minimizing productivity loss and improving morale.

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