Making Sense of Recruiting Metrics

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Apr 9, 2021
This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Back to the Future.

Editor’s note: This article is also part of a series highlighting speakers at the upcoming ERE Digital event. Click here to view other articles in the series.

One of the constants of the business universe seems to be this: If the organization is struggling in any way, the first thing to fix is recruiting.

First of all, no. That’s not true. There could be myriad other issues you need to fix first. (Spoiler alert: It’s usually your leadership). Unfortunately, those issues are deeply rooted in your organization’s culture and systems, so people tend to shy away from them. 

Recruiting, on the other other hand, sits on top of culture and systems. It’s separate, yet connected, so any changes you make to your recruiting strategy feels like you’re transforming your business. After all, hiring the right people is vital to a successful organization. Participating in interview panels is an excellent way to develop individual contributors who may want to be managers one day. And launching a new employer brand is flashy and fun. Mugs! Stickers! Pens! 

But sadly, most of those efforts are doomed to fail. Partially because hiring alone isn’t going to solve all of your cultural issues, but also because most recruiting departments don’t do a good job of measuring success in the first place. 

In case you didn’t know, key performance indicators (or KPIs) are commonly used to help measure whether a process is operating as expected. In talent acquisition, common KPIs tend to measure events. For example, number of reqs filled, numbers of offers accepted, number of applications, lead source, and everyone’s favorite, time to fill. These are all well and good, but they’re lag measures — they can only look backward and tell you where you’ve been. And even then, is it actionable information? 

And let’s be honest — can you really trust that your system is giving you accurate information? Is your time-to-fill report reflecting the reality that the req went on hold for two months because the hiring manager was trying to decide what level she should hire? Is your sourcing report self-reported by the candidate with validation from the system? Does anybody really care?

I used to get so frustrated when a hiring manager threw a vendor benchmarking report on my desk (and yes, they always printed it) and claimed that if these people could fill an IT role in one week, then so should we. Nevermind that we measured from req approval to start date, and that wouldn’t even account for posting the job or the typical two-weeks notice most people give their employer. And most of the time, this hiring manager wouldn’t give you dates for interviews until two months after the job was posted. But I digress.

My point is, talent acquisition — for all the systems and automations we throw at it — tends to be a process that elicits more “feeling” than true measurement. If I share data that doesn’t align with how the business feels like it’s going, that data is ignored. But if someone finds outside data that feels like how the business should be going, that data is treated like gold. 

Sentiment is important, but it doesn’t change a process. It may be a catalyst for change, but it won’t help you find the root cause. And it isn’t really “data.” But then…a lot of “data” isn’t really data. It’s just a number someone put in a report that companies are pressured to benchmark against. It doesn’t care about the complexity of your roles, the location of your business, the number or recruiters you have, or that your compensation philosophy thinks the 25th percentile is a good target. 

I have a lot of opinions about the data that’s out there, as well as the data that recruiting departments are measuring internally. I suspect you do, too. 

Join me at ERE Digital, May 25-27, where I’ll be presenting “Where’s the Beef?: A No-BS Look at Internal and External Metrics.” I’ll break down the challenges that talent acquisition faces in measuring success. After all, if everyone thinks recruiting is going to save the company, we may as well have the KPIs to prove it won’t. (Get 10% off your ticket price when you register here.) 

This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Back to the Future.
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