Baseline Your Performance

May 19, 2008

How are you doing in this business? How are you really doing? Do you know? Can you answer this question in quantifiable terms or would you have to guess? For you, as for all of us, a credible answer is the key to establishing realistic goals, managing your time, developing a daily, weekly, and annual plan, and identifying those areas in which skill sets need to be further developed.

The best way to truly know how you are doing in this business is to baseline your performance and measure your progress against that baseline.

Management can assist in determining a baseline for your performance, but ultimately the primary responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders. You need to know how you are doing in both quantitative and qualitative terms, and that translates into knowing your numbers and ratios. More importantly, knowing how to interpret those numbers and ratios.

Achievement-oriented people want to know “how” they are doing. That’s just human nature. However, there are some recruiters who claim they are not “numbers oriented” and use this as an excuse for not establishing a performance baseline. In most of these instances, the individuals are merely trying to avoid responsibility for their own poor performance. This is a direct contrast to many of the industry’s top performers, who know their numbers, baseline their performance, and use this to guide them to consistently higher levels of production.

If you want to accurately baseline your performance, you need to collect the following numbers and ratios.

Job Orders/Searches Accepted versus Job Orders/Searches Filled.

This ratio is the ultimate measure of your success as a recruiter. Understandably, many focus on revenue generated, and that is the bottom line. However, in the long run, focus needs to be placed on the number of successful placements that occur as a result of your activity. Although this ratio may vary greatly by industry specialty, an overall industry average for contingency recruiters is somewhere around one fill for every five to seven orders/ searches accepted. You begin to separate yourself from the competition when your ratio compresses to one fill for every three orders/searches accepted, while many top producers compress that further with fill rates of 50% or better. These tight ratios result from the recruiters accepting only truly qualified orders/searches. They do not waste their time on low-odds business (See TFL, 5/99, “Beware of the Low Hanging Fruit”).

Candidates Presented versus Candidates Interviewed by Your Clients.

For the purpose of establishing a baseline and because of the great variance in hiring processes, only first-time face-to-face interviews (sendouts) are counted. This ratio reflects both the quality of your orders/ searches and your skills in selling the client on interviewing your candidates. A ratio of greater than three presentations for each candidate interviewed is above industry average. Top producers have ratios of two to one or better, particularly those who work with their clients on an exclusive basis.

Candidates Interviewed versus Offers Extended to Candidates.

This ratio is determined by dividing all your first-time interviews (see above) by the number of offers the candidates receive from your clients. Once again, this ratio can vary greatly by specialization. Nevertheless, it’s an indication as to the level of control you have over the selection process. It also reflects on both your candidate-matching skills and the quality of your orders/searches.

Offers Extended versus Offers Accepted by Your Candidates.

Unless you are marketing a candidate where competing offers are extended on almost a simultaneous basis, you should be striving for a ratio as near as possible to one acceptance for each offer extended. This ratio is a valid indicator of both your closing skills and your ability to control the placement process.

In order to further baseline your performance, you should also keep track of the following activity ratios.

Number of Calls Attempted versus Number of Actual Contacts Achieved.

A contact is defined as actually reaching the individual you have targeted for your call. Even if they hang up on you, it should be counted as a contact. Conversely, leaving a voice mail message does not constitute a contact.

This ratio should be tracked for both your marketing calls and your recruiting calls. It will be a strong indicator as to your skill level in getting through the “gatekeeper.” However, you also need to track the number of voice mail messages you leave when you are unable to connect with your targeted contact.

Number of Contacts Made versus Number of Orders/Searches Received and Recruits Generated.

This is a critical ratio to monitor, as it demonstrates your effectiveness once you actually reach the targeted contacts. If you are properly focused (calling the right companies and the right people) and prepared (See TFL, 2/99, “Why Are You Calling Their Company?” and 3/99, “Why Are You Calling This Recruit?”), you should not have ratios greater than 10 to one for your marketing and recruiting calls.

Number of Voice Mail Messages versus the Number of Return Calls.

Voice mail is not designed for use as a sales presentation platform. Nevertheless, many recruiters leave lengthy sales messages that result in 10-to-one return ratios or worse. Conversely, recruiters who understand that the purpose for leaving voice mail is to motivate the listener into returning your call many times achieve a two-to-one or better return ratio. Obviously, these recruiters have developed the skills necessary to deliver voice mail messages that generate return calls. Con-sequently, they ultimately achieve considerably more contacts than the average recruiter.


All of these numbers and ratios already exist, but they only have value if you track and use them. Therefore, why not use them to your advantage in establishing a baseline for your performance?

As an illustration of the value of establishing a baseline for your performance, let’s consider its use in goal setting. For the purpose of this illustration, your average fee is $20,000 and your goal is to produce a minimum of two placements per month, for annual billings of $480,000.

Because there is an established baseline for your performance, you now have the capability to set the following objectives:

  • Your job order/search to fill ratio is five to one, which requires you to write a minimum of 10 new orders/ searches per month in order to complete two placements per month.
  • Your contact to order/search ratio is 15 to one, which translates into a need to make a minimum of 150 marketing contacts per month. (An average month has 22 business days, which means you will need to make a minimum of approximately seven marketing contacts per day.)
  • Your marketing attempts to contact ratio is 10 to one, which means you need to average 70 marketing attempts per day in order to reach at least seven contacts.
  • You have an offer to acceptance ratio of two to one. This requires that you generate at least four offers per month.
  • Your candidates interviewed versus offers extended ratio is six to one, which requires you to set up a minimum of 12 interviews (sendouts) per month (approximately one new first-time interview every other day).
  • Your candidates presented to candidates interviewed ratio is three to one, which requires you to complete a minimum of 36 candidate presentations per month (nine per week).
  • Since your source of candidates is a combination of the existing database and recruiting, you have a combined ratio of five contacts for every one candidate/recruit who is both qualified and interested. Therefore, in order to generate 36 candidates to present, you will have to make contact with 180, which is approximately eight each business day.
  • Your attempts to contact combined ratio for candidates is four to one, and therefore you will need to make a minimum of 32 attempts per day.

Because you have established a baseline for your performance and used that baseline to develop goals and objectives, they have a solid reality foundation. Therefore, with this illustration, your goals and objectives for the next year can be summed up as follows:


2 placements per month – Annual billings of $480,000.


2.5 new orders/searches.

350 marketing calls (70 per day).

35 marketing contacts (7 per day).

1 new offer.

3 new interviews.

9 candidate presentations.

41 candidate/recruit contacts (8 per day).

160 candidate/recruit calls (32 per day).

Using conservative estimates (two minutes for each attempt and 10 minutes for each contact), the above illustration represents approximately five hours of phone time per day for marketing and recruiting calls. That leaves at least three hours per day to handle everything else related to being a successful recruiter.

In contrast, many experienced recruiters who have achieved consistent success and built a loyal client following will have a baseline quite different than the above illustration. They may be able to accomplish the same results in half as much time. Consequently, they have more time available to achieve even greater results both professionally and personally.

Although the numbers and ratios used in this illustration may not reflect your personal baseline, they are drawn from industry averages for contingency recruiters across most specialties. As demonstrated, knowing your performance baseline is critical to successful goal setting, planning, and time management. Without a valid performance baseline, all of these functions would be compromised and in danger of degenerating into nothing more than guesswork.

In addition to personal tracking, many of the numbers and ratios required to establish a performance baseline can be collected through proper utilization of industry-specific software programs currently in use as well as through call accounting software (which I highly recommend for every office).

Achieving success in this business does not happen by accident. Rather it results from putting forth a consistent and properly focused effort, while continually improving your recruiter-specific skill sets. By periodically establishing a baseline for your performance, you will always know “how you are doing.” Armed with this knowledge, you will be taking a major step forward in laying a solid foundation for that success.

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and emails are most welcome.