Sinaloa: Strength in Numbers and Law of Averages, Part 1

Jan 5, 2010

Many of us have been taught a philosophy that it is “all about the numbers,” and if we want to improve our results, all we must do is increase the numbers.

Although based on the principles of manufacturing, it oversimplifies our industry. Numbers, metrics, ratios, and the like are critical in recruiting because they provide us with very important data. I am constantly being asked what the “average” numbers are for recruiters or what is the ideal number of recruited candidates, interviews, placements, etc.

People want simple formulas, and so many oblige with what is “normal.” Recruiters must then realize that normal for someone else is not normal for me and so the numbers lose their meaning and value and as such become instruments of abuse rather than assistance.

Theory X and micromanagement are simply principles of leadership based on looking at details. The problems with this are not the act of micromanaging oneself or others. The problem is IN THE WAY that it is done or in the comparison of data that is done.

Most successful recruiters are type A people with high dominance and low patience and conformity. We don’t like rules and don’t like systems or rules and procedures.

So telling someone to track numbers is hard enough, but then to make generalized statements based on universal metrics is the equivalent of an iPod filled with the sound of nails on a chalkboard!

If a person has $40,000 average fees and is content billing $240,000 a year, then she only needs six placements. If she only needs three first-time, face-to-face (FTF) interviews to affect a hire, then she would only need about one first-time FTF send out every three weeks. If she fills one out of two searches that she gets, then she would need about one job order/search assignment/needs analysis profile (whatever you call it these days) per month. Now imagine a recruiting trainer or leader espousing these numbers! This is clearly a unique individual, but that is the point. No two searches, clients, or candidates are the same and neither are recruiters.

The classic approach to numbers looks something like this:

A recruiter wants to make a six-figure income, so he needs to bill $240,000 in one year. The recruiter will have average fees of $20,000 so he must make one placement each month. The recruiter needs eight first-time FTF interviews to affect a hire. He will fill one out of every eight job orders he takes. He will place one out of 50 candidates he recruits. It takes 15 marketing/business development presentations to secure one job order and six presentations to recruit one candidate.

Drilling further, it takes five dials/attempts to get one marketing presentation and three dials/attempts to get one recruit presentation.


  • Results: Two first time FTF send outs per week, 12 recruited candidates, 2 job orders
  • Activity: 72 candidate presentations each week and 30 marketing presentations or 15 and 6 per day respectively
  • Energy: 45 recruiting attempts and 30 marketing daily attempts

Of course, this does not even account for MAPPING metrics (number of candidates presented to arrange interview and vice versa), telephone interviews, and much more. It does not factor previously recruited candidates in the database or many other factors. All it does is provide some semblance of a standard formula from which to measure.

The logic then goes that if you want to double your billings, one simply must double their numbers. Thus, if you dial the phone 150 times a day instead of 75, you will double your billings!

Then we wonder why most recruiters detest numbers and don’t bother even tracking them. Numbers are vital but we must measure them based on the specific individual. The industry, level the recruiter works, years of experience, and recyclability of the database are all critical data points that could drastically impact the numbers.

Numbers to a recruiter are like vital signs to our bodies. Prescribing without diagnosing is malpractice in medicine and is the same on our business.

When you visit your doctor, she will first ask someone to take your temperature, obtain weight and height, and check vitals such as blood pressure and heart rate, usually before even the preliminary conversation. This is gathering YOUR unique history. Now imagine two patients visiting the doctor. Both patients weigh 250 lbs. One is obese and completely out of shape and has 35% body fat. The other is a body builder with less than 10% fat. While the first person probably needs to lose weight, the second person most likely wants to ADD more weight but NOT get fatter. Yes, add weight but add lean muscle mass.

Consider a recruiter who wants to LOWER her numbers in some areas but INCREASE her results. This is not unlike the fact that you can burn more calories by running faster for a shorter period of time than walking slower than longer. Even that is an oversimplification, though, and at times, too fast becomes counterproductive for certain objectives, but that is for a different periodical!

The doctor does have very broad ranges to compare but will always look at the unique situation to determine whether there is concern.

Using a different analogy, imagine a baseball player who bats 200. This means he will hit the ball two times for every time he is at bat. If he wants to get better, we would not say, “Well, just get up to bat 10 more times, and then you will get two additional hits.” That may be part of it, but more likely the answer is a combination of more “at bats” but also improvement and NOT just swing harder and swing faster! What about the stance, bat, vision, body position, etc. All of these factors are part of the overall unique diagnosis for that player!

So, too, must we do this when we examine ourselves or others. Numbers are some of the vital signs we must look at to determine our protocol for change or our prescription. Increasing numbers may be part of the formula, but so may be narrowing a knowledge gap with training or helping improve technique or attitude. Perhaps a market change is necessary.

Every practice has ratios, and the ratios tell a story that creates an opportunity for improvement. A recruiter may have a 10/1 job order to fill ratio as a rookie and then becomes a veteran and fills one out of two and then boasts about this. The shame may be that this recruiter is not marketing much and as such only has this ratio because of only working with a few clients. Of course, when the client’s business dries up the ratios likely will not hold and the recruiter will experience the pain of that reality when the slump happens. The recruiter may also be too selective in what to work on. The key is that numbers are not inherently good or bad. They just create a unique picture that requires assessment and interpretation.

About 8 years ago I had my thyroid removed due to that wonderful “C” word. Since then I have visited my endocrinologist (good for you if you have no idea what that is!) at least twice per year where he measures my “levels” and then adjusts my prescription accordingly. I bet I have had at least 12 changes in my prescriptions during that time.

My body changes and so my prescriptions must change continuously to adjust. There is not just one dosage forever, and at times different approaches are introduced. So, too, must everyone have their “desks” diagnosed periodically.

Editor’s note: Check out Part 2 tomorrow, which includes a broad desk checklist that a “recruiting doctor” might want to review in order to help write the correct prescription for one’s desk.

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