A Standard Set of Recruiting Metrics

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Sep 4, 2015

I need your help. I need the community’s help. If I had to pick only one article that I wrote that got forwarded, re-posted, and re-tweeted by the most people in our profession to get the word out, then this is it.

The Problem Statement

Over the last 20 years of my career, and more specifically the last 10 years in a talent acquisition leadership role, I became increasingly frustrated that it was so difficult to find a simple set of standard recruiting metrics. Yes, you can find millions of results by searching for most of the basic recruiting metrics, but try finding out the actual formulas of how these metrics are made up, and there are few to no results, or they are hidden and not published.

While the “Internet of things” has given us all access to more and more data, when it came to identifying a standard set up key performance metrics, like most of you, I was left up to calling people I trust to determine the best quality, speed, productivity, cost, and customer-satisfaction measures. As you probably have found as well, the level of frustration becomes amplified by the limitations of technology platforms that hinder your ability to effectively track these key metrics in a simple and easy way. I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with peers over the last 10 years during which we both grind teeth in frustration over the limitations of technology solutions that seem counterintuitive to tracking and reporting some key metrics.

In short, we have two wild ends of the spectrum when it comes to recruiting metrics and measurement of performance. One, metrics that are so overly engineered and complex that they are just way too hard to implement and make real for you, your recruiters, and the business. Or, two, you have worked for a company that really struggles to get even basic baseline recruiting performance metrics in place because of processes, people, or technology (or lack thereof).

The Opportunity

This list of standard recruiting metrics is not something I just decided to dream up one morning over a coffee. The list is a culmination of hundreds of hours of conversations with people like yourself, my own trial and error with technology, as well as best practices I have seen and discussed with other recruiters and leaders.

You could be in the process of building a recruiting function, fixing a broken one, or looking to compare yourself to others to see if all the hard work you and your team has put in has you operating in the top quartile of performance.

Each of these standard recruiting metrics are broken out into the main performance areas that we look to manage a function by: quality, speed, productivity, and cost.

Important Note: This standard set of recruiting metrics and the formulas are a starting point and not a finishing line.

Some of you will roll your eyes at these metrics, saying, “Geez Rob, tracking source of hire and time to fill is basic stuff.”

Yes it is, but you would be surprised at how many companies out there today are not even measuring the basics. So the metrics list you will find is designed to span the basics to more advanced recruiting metrics.

I also know that you will not all agree with the definitions and formulas of the metrics. Some of you will want to debate things like business days vs. calendar days related to time-based metrics. Good. (I believe the only reason why some companies still calculate in calendar days is because their ATS is designed that way. When was the last time you, your team, and the business actually was recruiting full days on Saturday and Sunday?)

In my new role I’ve received a lot of feedback about metrics from a lot of you. And what you’ve told me in short is that we should at least publish something and let the journey begin, even if it is an informal stake in the ground, rather than take the approach of trying to get everyone to agree to what each formula for each metric should be. The cynic (or pragmatist) in me says we might never get off the starting blocks if we took the later approach.

That being said, I also want us all (or those who have a passion and interest in this) to weigh in on these metrics. You will see at the end of this article that I am trying to create an informal platform for that to take place.

From your feedback, here are some common themes on the journey so far:

  • Don’t make it overly complex. Don’t make it like some people have done historically with dozens of data points in the metric formula. Example: Making up a cost-per-hire calculation with so many data points no one will ever use it. Trying to get everyone to agree on the 27 things that can go into a cost-per-hire metric is an exercise based on futility. So given this feedback and working with some TA leaders, you will find a simpler but relevant metric as an example like cost to acquire in the metrics list. Important Note: Once again, this is a starting point. As we/the profession get more advanced with our tracking of data and metrics (and yes even financials), this particular metric could be revised or variations of different cost metrics will come to light.
  • Give it a global lens. If any of you have worked in Europe, given some of the local market employment laws regarding employees give longer notice periods compared to North America, the interest in a time-based metric is more around when the candidate turns up on the job … time to start vs. just looking at time to fill or time to accept. So logic dictates that a standard set of recruitment metrics needs to accommodate the variances on a global scale where possible but balanced with point No. 1.
  • It must inform an action to take. As some people hear me say, “Data for the sake of data is busywork.” All recruiting metrics where possible must be able to be compared to something else to help inform a course of action and improvement to take, including: 1) Comparing your own performance to yourself over a period of time, and 2) Comparing yourself to other similar companies performance

Quite simply, data and performance metrics and the story we can tell to enable change is an area that I feel we can do a better job on as a profession. ERE Media gives me a platform that I could not get in a corporate leadership role to help influence and drive our profession around this topic. I now get the opportunity to have hundreds of conversations and hear the direct feedback on what opportunities could make a talent-acquisition function more effective.

But to be 100 percent clear, this should not and cannot be about just what Rob’s personal passion for standardization of metrics. It cannot be just one company’s charter and mission. It must be our collective journey as a profession. To help with this journey and make sure that I/we do not create and refine metrics in a vacuum, provide me direct feedback (, comment on this article, or even refine and add to the definition of recruiting metrics that I created on Wikipedia here.

A printable PDF version of all the metrics is located here.

My hope, and I believe yours is as well, that this is a stake in the ground that we as a profession can build upon. It takes a village, as they say!