In this age of data, every area of a company is generating a lot of metrics to analyse. Recruitment is no exception, and there are a lot of things you can keep track of and optimize.
So how do you decide what are the right recruiting metrics to focus on?
The first step is to understand not only each metric but what story the numbers tell. Formulae of KPIs are very important, but arguably the more important thing is to know what the numbers are saying and what you should do about it.
That way you can know what you can do if things are not going well or, even more importantly, recognise when things are great and you can celebrate accordingly.
Here I’m going to split the recruiting metrics into what I consider “key” and “advanced”. Key metrics are what I keep track of regularly and what I recommend non-HR professionals learn more about.
The advanced are for when your organisation has the capacity to keep track of more (i.e. you have hired a Talent/People Operations Specialist in your Talent Acquisition team).
In reality, all of those are important, however very rarely is there a case where you will have the time to actively keep track of everything.
So, rather than getting decision paralysis, start with the key metrics and then work your way towards the advanced ones.
Key Recruiting metrics
Time to Fill vs Time to Hire (TTF and TTH).
TTF and TTH are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences.
Technically speaking, Time to Fill is from when you opened a position to when you have a person hired and Time to Hire is the time it took for the specific candidate you have to move from application to hire. Usually, they are measured in the number of days.
I’d say Time to Fill is more important as a metric to start with so that you can see on a higher level how long it takes for your company to hire anyone in a given position. This gives you a starting point to see if anything needs to be investigated.
Just for benchmark reference in my career, I've never been able to push the average down below 30 days and I wouldn’t recommend it either especially if you have many roles because you may be rushing your decisions.
If your hiring time, however, is consistently above 90 days, you may want to take a look at why. Is it the salary you are offering? Is it a small candidate pool? It’s not the end of the world, but something to investigate further.
The different organisations I’ve worked for as a recruiter had different definitions of “hired” too. Some consider a person “hired” when they sign their contract/offer letter. Others consider a candidate “hired” when they actually start.
My recommendation is that, if you’re hiring in a global capacity, for ease of comparison use the time when they signed their contract rather than the start date.
This is because the start date can differ wildly from the contract date, due to notice periods in different jurisdictions. In the US it can be almost no difference, but in a country like Germany, it can be 3-6 months. This means that using the start date will not yield any comparable results as Germany will look slower to hire.
Most modern applicant tracking systems (ATS) give you the ability to track this and modify what is a starting point and what is an “ending” point to each role for the TTF so you won’t need to manually track this.
Number of hires (vs. number of open positions)
Quite simple and straightforward, but you always want to make sure you know how many hires you have per month/quarter/year and how that stacks up with the headcount plan you had.
The two go hand in hand because you could have a low number of hires made e.g. 15 for the year, but if that is all the open headcount there was for the year - then you have achieved 100% fill!
A “good” average per month really depends on the market, roles you have, the company you are and the team you have.
Just as an idea—if you are a startup company with almost no employer brand recognition, expect a lower number of placements unless you invest more money into either a larger team or external recruiters. Depending on the roles sometimes as low as 2-3 placements per recruiter can be a great achievement!
On the other hand, larger companies with more candidate attraction should expect to average around 4-5 a month, once again depending on the role. If it’s all customer experience, that would be more. If it’s all Principal Software Engineers—4 would be amazing a month!
Source of hire
There are many sources of candidates nowadays, so it’s important to choose ones that are a good fit for your area or industry or location. The main categories of sources are job hires, social media, direct sourcing, and referrals.
Most modern ATS have a way for you to keep track of each candidate and where they came from, by either generating links for each job board or social media that tags it accordingly or integrating with them to show you directly.
With so many choices, it’s important to keep track of where candidates you hired actually came from so that you can invest more in those sources. Recruitment is not a cheap endeavour, so making smart, data-backed decisions on where you spend is important.
Take tech hiring as an example—off the top of my head I can think of so many platforms—Hired, Cord, Talent.io, Remoteok, Haystack, Honeypot.io.
You may be on some of those, or all of them, but looking at which ones yield actual candidates you hired will avoid spending creep.
Who knows, maybe your best source is actually social media/community outreach which most of the time is free anyway!
Number of applicants
This is quite a straightforward metric. On its own, it may not say much but it’s important to keep track of how many people you have to choose from.
For a role that is entry-level, you should expect more candidates as the requirements are lower and there should be more people.
If that is not the case (e.g. for a Customer Service role you only had 2 candidates in a week) you may want to take a look at why that is. Are links working properly? Have you described the role appropriately?
On the other hand, if you consistently are getting over 200 candidates a day, you may want to implement a closing deadline for posting so you or your team are not overwhelmed with applications.
This is probably my favourite metric to look at. It tells so much depending on where you are looking in the pipeline.
The conversion ratio is quite simply how many candidates are passing through each stage vs how many candidates progressed to the stage.
For example, if you are a recruiter who has screened 10 candidates, and had 8 submissions to the hiring manager, then the conversion rate from screen to the introduction of 80%.
Then let’s say the hiring manager interviews all of them, and only passes one person to the next stage, the conversion ratio from the introduction to 2nd stage interview is only 12.5%. This is significantly lower!
Here is where looking a bit deeper into the story comes in. There are a few reasons I have seen why a scenario like the one above might happen:
1 - the recruiter is passing too many people off to the hiring manager and has not vetted candidates properly.
2 - the recruiter and the hiring manager are not on the same page as to the requirements of the job (could be either party has not understood or been clear).
3 - there is an unexpected requirement that has come up over the course of the interview that was not reflected in this pool of candidates (e.g. hiring manager decides skill X moves from “nice to have” to “essential” so none of the candidates pass).
4 - the interview style is not fit for purpose so no candidate is ever going to pass.
and many more. The point here is to take a look at the discrepancy in conversion ratios at any stage of the recruitment process and keep an eye on what is happening and why it might be happening.
I have often used this to both let my team know how they are doing as a recruiter, and also advise hiring managers - especially if a test stage just fails everyone all the time, which has happened often.
One note—a good conversion ratio is no replacement for keeping up the volume of outreach. A 100% conversion rate may sound great but if you have only introduced, screened, and interviewed one candidate, that is not a proper search in the market for qualified candidates.
Recruitment funnel speed
It is essential to keep an eye on how long your hiring process takes and one way to do that is to see how long candidates spend in each stage of the funnel. Otherwise, you risk losing out on good candidates because they will go to other companies that can move quicker.
There is no need to rush through a process, but it’s great to review what is happening in each stage and check if something needs nudging or changing.
For example, if people are spending too long in the “testing" stage, why is that? Are candidates not willing to go through the test task you have for them? Are they going through the test but waiting too long for feedback on your company’s end?
Both of these scenarios are something to investigate and see if you can do something to make the process smoother. I have had a few occasions where the test was either not a fit, or the link wasn’t working for candidates, and some of them just didn’t flag that until I went to ask them about it.
This also will have a direct impact on the TTF metric above so it’s important to understand if one stage is holding up the process.
Related read: Best Interview Scheduling Software for Hiring Teams
Offer Acceptance Rate
This is a very simple ratio of how many offers are made vs. how many offers are accepted. In my previous article on how to make a job offer, I mentioned that there are ways to make sure that candidates are more likely to accept an offer, but there is always a risk.
That’s why I never make my aim to be 100% offer acceptance rate. That is simply impossible in the long run, and you are setting yourself up for failure.
Additionally, if you have that as a target you may concede to perhaps some unreasonable demands you really shouldn’t and make a hire that you will end up regretting.
I’ve had it happen where I, as the Talent Leader, advocated against hiring someone whose working demands we couldn't meet. The hiring manager was insistent on keeping their own “track record” of never having an offer rejected. 2 months later the person was out as it just didn’t work.
A good rate is really dependent on the market, role, your employment conditions (salary, benefits), and the volume of hires.
If you have a few hires and are considered a good employer, you really should be aiming for 90%+. If any of the other conditions are less than ideal you should adjust this accordingly. I have, however, never dropped my expectations for my teams below 75% regardless of role.
Candidate Net Promoter Score (CNPS)
Candidate Net Promoter Score (CNPS) is similar to the net promoter scores in customer experience management.
It’s a numerical score—usually out of 10 and anyone scoring less than 7 is considered a “Detractor”—i.e. their experience is not positive with your company.
The easiest way to manage the CNPS is to let the ATS do the heavy lifting for you. Some ATS allow you to send candidates surveys about their experience at any stage of the hiring process using preset templates or customized questions.
That way you can have a mix of numerical (quantitative) and qualitative answers so people can both score your hiring process and elaborate on any issues.
It’s a great way to gather feedback on the candidate experience—what works well and what you can improve on if you need to.
Personally, I prefer to send a candidate survey upon exit from the recruitment process. This could be at any stage post-first screen/first interview. I tend to not ask for feedback via survey during the process as I think that can be a bit spammy.
If candidates are rejected at the application stage, they may not have sufficient information about your hiring process beyond the application page to help.
Recently, I have seen some ATSs providing you the ability to create a feedback form at the end of an application especially aimed at assessing accessibility.
Diversity of pipeline
This is essential to keep in mind. While I do not advocate box-ticking, or having a minimum number of candidates from the X category, it’s important to keep track of the number of candidates from diverse backgrounds for your industry or area applying.
If you don’t have any in the pipeline, how can you encourage wider representation of your community? If you do have an accurate representation, what did you do to encourage this so you can keep it up and develop it further?
In some jurisdictions it can be an issue keeping data on things like ethnic background, gender etc. so please familiarise yourself with your jurisdiction’s rules first.
Additionally, you can make the diversity-style questionnaire part of every application, but please be aware that some are incredibly long and can lengthen your application process significantly.
This can, in turn, discourage people from completing the questionnaire or the application altogether. Balance is the key. Only ask for the information that is important to you.
Recruiter effectiveness metrics—screens, outreach
This is something I keep track of whenever I have a team of recruiters I lead. It’s important to understand the performance of each recruiter so that you can help in their development.
It’s difficult to say how many recruiter calls or outreach messages are appropriate as every situation is different, but it’s good to set some expectations.
For example, for volume hiring, I’d expect them to have around 4-5 calls a day with candidates at minimum. If it’s a leadership hire, the expectation can be around 2-3 as they will need to spend more time researching and reaching out to candidates individually.
Additionally, you need to keep in mind how many roles a recruiter has. If they have 2 roles, they can’t reach the 4-5 calls a day for an entire month. If they are fully loaded (e.g., around 15-20 roles) then it’s reasonable they should be able to reach their targets for outreach or screens.
It’s important to keep track of these so that, if something is to go wrong, you can see if you need to pull or push the outreach levers, work on messaging, work on the screening call, or the volume of calls.
Advanced Recruiting metrics
These are for when you have more capacity to keep track of everything you may want to. They are still important and helpful but you may be overwhelmed if you try to implement them all at once.
Probation passing (if you have one)
Working with hiring managers to understand whether most of the new hires actually were a good fit and passed probation. It’s not a completely foolproof metric to guarantee the quality of hire as there may be one-off situations that are not representative of candidate quality.
It does, however, help you build an overall picture of your company’s hiring practices. If a lot of employees are not passing probation, either in a specific team or overall, this could be symptomatic of many things including:
- A bad interview process
- An onboarding process in need of reshuffling
- Review of potentially inefficient management style.
Employee experience score at the start and at probation passing
(or 3-6 months if no probation).
This is a less talked about metric but something I have noticed can be quite indicative. Often, due to the excitement of a new job, the engagement scores of new employees can be slightly elevated.
A lot of the employee engagement tools (Peakon, Hibob, and CultureAmp) allow you to filter the results by tenure to check for any dips. I had a situation previously where there was a significant drop in employee engagement at the 3-month mark once people start.
This is something I investigated by running interviews with new starters and people 3 months into their jobs. Through that process, I realised that there was a big difference in the way recruitment was talking about the company vs. the reality.
This prompted us to both retrain recruitment and also launch an employer value proposition re-evaluation exercise with the leadership for us to work on where we want to be.
It’s important to keep track of any difference as the first few months are crucial in how engaged or disappointed someone will be in their employment.
First Year Attrition
This is how many of your hires stay beyond a year is a potential indicator of the quality of the hire. You may also see it called retention rate, but I prefer to really focus on the first year as a more appropriate timeframe for recruitment.
It’s quite a standard metric for companies to keep track of as an indicator of both hire quality and engagement.
In my opinion, it’s something that you have to keep waiting to see or to action anything against, so, for smaller companies at least, I prefer the above two as it lets them be more agile and responsive.
Average Cost per hire
This is easiest to calculate if you have a recruitment team budget tracker so start with that first.
The cost per hire is all the expenditure around recruitment combined divided by the number of hires. Expenditure includes things like:
|Internal costs||External costs|
|Salaries of recruitment team + taxes||Agency fees|
|Benefits and other costs (IT or software)||Advertising costs/sourcing channel costs|
|Background check services|
Related read: 10 Best Recruiting Software
Sourcing channel costs—they can creep up!
As a more in-depth look into one of the costs listed above, I like to also divide all the platforms my team uses and keep track of the cost per month/year vs how many hires they have generated.
For example, if a platform is fairly expensive, but it has not yielded a candidate that has even gone to an interview in a month, it’s likely time to review why that is.
The first step is to speak to your account manager at the platform (if there is one) and see if they can help. Otherwise, it may be time to look at alternatives as it is not yielding a return on investment.
With so many sourcing platforms out there it’s easy for the costs to creep up. I once came into a situation where the previous leader had spent £80,000 in advertising and platform costs alone for 8 hires. That is way too much!
Sourcing Channel Effectiveness
This is a more in-depth look at sourcing channels. If they’re not getting hires, maybe take a look at where candidates are falling in the pipeline.
This may be a bit tougher to measure, but once again the modern ATS should have the data for a report on how many people go through the process at different stages from each channel—including the ones who don’t apply.
This is important, because it may help you identify which sourcing channels are most effective so you can double down your efforts there.
|CV screen||Recruiter Screen||1st Interview||Test||Final Interview||Offer|
|Job site applicants||8%||5%||5%||4%||3%||1%|
The above example shows that LinkedIn outreach and Referrals seem to be the most effective sources.
Hiring Manager feedback
A lot of the metrics we can look at are quantitative, but it’s important to engage with hiring managers on a qualitative basis. We are in a people profession after all!
I like running regular retrospectives with hiring managers e.g. after we’ve done a massive push for hiring with a specific team or after 6 months of regular hiring activities.
This is a great space for both parties to say what worked well and what didn’t. Below is a simple retro template I use:
Application completion rate
Modern ATS can give you the data on how many people clicked through to the job and how many actually completed the application.
A high drop-off rate may be an indicator of low engagement with your brand, a need for improvement in your job description, or that the application process is too complex.
Ideally, this should be coupled with the Candidate NPS above.
Test completion rate
Similar to the application rate above, the test completion rate may tell you if the test is irrelevant or too onerous for candidates.
In tech circles, testing has recently been getting a bad rap recently, precisely because sometimes they are too artificial or irrelevant to the role.
Keep testing to what you really need and truly look at the content of the test you are sending out as top talent will recognise irrelevant tests immediately.
Getting a good number of quality referrals is a great indicator that employees are engaged, and they want great people to come in and work alongside them as they want to share your great working environment.
However, either too low or too high a number of referrals can create issues of their own. Too low may be something to investigate with teams. For example, if current engineers are not referring anyone to come and work with them, why is that? Or, if there are too many referrals but the majority aren’t right, is your incentive for referrals too high?
One thing I like to do with referrals is to ask “Who’s voice are we not hearing from in your team and how can you help us with that?”. This encourages people to think about getting a diverse pool of referrals so that their team can be better rounded.
Days to a job offer
This is something that, again, can help you get candidates that are on the market quicker and can help identify snags in the internal process.
Days to a job offer is the metric of how long it takes you to make the offer to the candidate from the time you’ve identified that you’d like to hire them.
Ideally, this time should not be more than 72hrs in today’s market. If it’s often longer, it may be time to take a look at what is holding things up—is it the approval process, the admin or something else?
Candidate withdrawal/rejection reasons
Once again in the ATS, whenever you are rejecting a person or removing them from the candidate pool, you can add a reason which you can then filter in the reports.
It’s important to see if there are patterns emerging in situations where candidates have rejected your role or offer.
I’ve had situations where, through this metric, I’ve realised that our salaries were way too low for the market, or the hiring manager was actually undermining the hiring process.
Whatever the issue may be, look for patterns as one person rejecting an offer for being too low is not enough. A few more are needed to establish a pattern.
Closing thoughts on Recruiting metrics
The modern ATS can really help you streamline the gathering and presenting of data and even generate a dashboard for you. However, the important thing for you to know is what potential story the data is telling you and how to adjust your recruitment strategy accordingly.
To give you an idea I once had a situation where I was helping our Head of Sourcing at Twitch look into her team’s performance which was showing only 80% attainment of the recruiter screen KPI.
However, when we looked deeper, I realised that the hire ratio had actually increased slightly, and we were on track for placements. This means we were still producing the right candidates with fewer calls, and therefore we’re a more efficient team.
By looking at the wider data we were able to see the bigger picture rather than drive the team harder to just reach an arbitrary number.
Choosing the right metrics will allow you to make data-driven decisions that are right for your organisation. Not all of them will be relevant for all companies at all times and you don’t want to end up in data paralysis!
Most importantly, once you choose what is right for you, look at a few of them to draw the right picture so you are not constantly chasing outliers.
Some further resources to help you on your hiring journey:
- Employer Branding: Where To Start And How To Keep It Authentic
- How To Write A Zinger Job Description
- The Key To Focused, Engaging Interviews (+ Template)
- How To Create A Great Candidate Experience (Even Through Rapid Scaling)
- How to Create An Attractive Careers Page to Get Better Applicants
- What Is An ATS? Features, Benefits And Best Practices