Vacancy of an Employment Position

What is a vacancy of an employment position?

empty chair in cubicle
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A vacancy is an employment position within a company, government organization or nonprofit that has no current occupant. It opens the door for recruitment efforts with outside applicants or for promotion from within the ranks, and sometimes a combination of both.

How Vacancies Occur

The most common way a vacancy occurs is when a current employee leaves his position due to promotion, demotion, termination or resignation.

Promotions can cause a chain reaction of vacancies because employees within an organization are often promoted in succession down the hierarchy. The demotion of one person often causes the promotion of another person. Terminations can cause a chain reaction of promotions if the vacancy is a management position. Sometimes organizations create new positions, so these begin as vacancies.

How Vacancies are Filled

Vacancies are filled with a variety of selection processes. The larger the organization, the more formalized this process will typically be. The selection process in government is almost always highly formal to give all parties who are involved in the selection a sense of fairness. Such a process is also meant to withstand scrutiny from those outside it.

Vacancies vs. Full-Time Equivalents

Vacancies are not the same as full-time equivalents. FTE is a measurement of how many employees an organization has, assuming all employees work a full-time schedule.

It's instrumental in defining certain health care laws and labor laws. Employers with fewer FTEs are sometimes given exemptions and special considerations.

A vacancy for a full-time position equals one FTE. Part-time positions count for less than one FTE. The exact amount depends on how many hours per week the person in the part-time position works or worked.

Other Related Terms

A vacancy is sometimes called by these other terms: 

  • vacant position
  • job opening
  • open position
  • opening

Some Examples

A company’s chief executive officer retires. This creates a vacancy at the top of the organization. After a lengthy hiring process, the company’s board of directors promotes the company’s chief financial officer to the chief executive officer position. One of the defining traits of this company is its propensity to promote from within, so the accounting department director becomes the chief financial officer after several selection processes. The accounts payable manager then becomes the accounting director, and one of the accounts payable accountants become the accounts, payable manager. Someone from outside the company is hired as accounts payable accountant. As a result of the chief executive officer's retirement, the company filed a total of five vacancies.

A rapidly growing city must ensure that the size of its government keeps pace with its population. After looking at the city’s growth over the last few years and considering projections of what growth will look like over the next 10 years, the city manager and police chief decided that the city must hire two additional police officers each year over the next 10 years.

In addition to positions that must be filled due to promotions, demotions, terminations, and resignations, the police department will have two vacancies to fill next year.