Three Ways to Measure Your Performance

Mar 17, 2008

I still remember my harsh introduction to the concept of having my performance as a recruiter measured.

I had joined a company to support a functional area that had lots of needs. Jobs were open for unacceptably long periods of time, and hiring managers were questioning the candidate slates that were being presented. I had been hired by a fantastic manager, and that person was incredibly supportive as I worked with my sourcing partner to find new and innovative ways to identify and attract candidates.

It was a really exciting time in my career, and I remember the thrill of filling jobs with the great candidates we’d found. Each month the recruiters would compete for small awards: “Most jobs filled,” “Shortest time-to-fill,” etc.

My sourcer and I certainly didn’t win every month, but we did win. More exciting to me, though, was watching that backlog begin to disappear, and walking though the building and seeing all the great people we’d hired.

Then my manager was promoted. I didn’t do anything different, but my monthly one-on-ones with my new supervisor weren’t fun at all. My first manager liked to review my dashboard metrics with me, and we talked about what I was doing to improve my recruiting efficiency. My new manager never talked about metrics; instead, she would open a file folder filled with emails she’d printed and notes from phone conversations.

“I heard from a very senior-level person that you were kind of slow in returning a phone call a few weeks back,” she’d say.

“Gosh,” I’d stammer, as I opened my notebook. “Who was it? I take notes whenever I return a call.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she’d say. “Just don’t let it happen again.”

Our conversations moved away from reviewing statistics and metrics, and I began to feel more and more like I was testifying in front of a congressional subcommittee! Our meetings would always end the same way.

“How am I doing?” I’d ask.

“You’re doing?ok,” would be her even-toned reply. She never elaborated, and that was all she’d ever say.

How successful are you as a recruiter? It’s a simple enough question, isn’t it? Surgeons measure their performance by how many people got better under their care, and how they minimize morbidity and mortality. Professional athletes measure lots of statistics, and compare their performance against their peers, their competitors, and against historical data. Businesses measure sales, income, and volume. It seems as if nearly all professions have a standard way of measuring performance, but for some reason recruiters don’t always seem to measure success the same way.

Perhaps this is because ours is a profession in transformation. It wasn’t that long ago that companies hired talent by simply running advertisements in the local paper, or even hanging a “Help Wanted” sign in the window. Success was measured by how many people sent you resumes (on nice paper, no less, and we even checked to make sure they had the watermark aligned properly!).

Now we target job-seekers with employment branding campaigns, by pushing them emails and multimedia pieces, and seeking them out on social networking sites.

Job-seekers have changed, too. People used to look for a job with a “good company” where they could work for decades and build a nice pension. They now look for places to build their skill sets and enhance their resumes in preparation for their next job.

Rather than sit politely and list all the reasons we should hire them, they come with a list of their own questions, and quiz us mercilessly about our tuition reimbursement programs, medical plans for domestic partners, and what we’re doing to reduce our carbon footprints.

Different organizations measure recruiter success in many different ways. This can be confusing, especially if you get a new manager who measures success differently (like I did). Since our role in competing for talent will only get more significant, it’s important to understand the differences in how performance gets measured.

In talking with peers at lots of organizations, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are essentially three ways recruiters are measured. It’s important to know how your performance is being tracked, and to make sure it’s aligned with your own professional philosophy and supports the long-term goals of your organization.

Let’s look at the three ways recruiters are evaluated:

  • Time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, etc. Modern applicant tracking systems make it easy to run reports and generate lots of data. Generating time-to-fill reports makes it easy to calculate short-term impact on the business; every day a job is open represents lost revenue to a company. These are valuable metrics because they’re easy for a business person to understand. They also make it easy to identify trends (I filled more jobs in less time), and measure the effectiveness of particular initiatives (as a result of our targeted advertising campaign, we hired more people away from our competitors). People who use metrics like this to measure performance are able to build a business case for new investments, and can more easily demonstrate their value to the recruiting team on which they work. On the other hand, in the race to “fill orders,” long-term investments in process improvements can seem less important.
  • Do your business partners “like” you? This is a surprisingly popular measurement. Recruiting teams have been thrust into the company spotlight recently, CEOs can now recite your brand message, and everyone in the company seems to wonder why you don’t have an avatar on Second Life yet! Hiring managers are feeling the pressure to fill jobs that seem to stay open for longer these days, and human resource partners seem to have a new (and decidedly unpleasant) edge to their tone. People in my company who I don’t even know now forward emails from vendors offering to solve every recruiting challenge you can imagine, from increasing my diversity hires to helping me attract Millennials. Talent is now the business of every employee, and recruiters are feeling the pressure to deliver; what used to be a very behind-the-scenes type of job is now a decidedly public role. Selecting a recruiting strategy and sticking to it is sure to disappoint someone in your organization, and without proper internal support it’s impossible to succeed. Assuming you have a robust strategy that will work in the long run, you need to also ensure you maintain d?tente with your business partners.
  • Quality of hire. Quality of hire is pretty popular at the moment. It represents the long-term value you’re bringing to your organization. The idea here is to invest in long-term strategies that improve your organization’s ability to attract top-tier candidates. Some have argued that it’s difficult to obtain objective measures of the “quality” of a hire. While I agree it’s not as straightforward as, say, time-to-fill, it absolutely can be measured. Quality of hire can be measured though employee engagement assessment (How connected do you feel to your job and to the company mission?), surveying hiring managers (How well is the person you hired six months ago performing compared to their peers?), tracking performance or length-of-service, or a dozen other methods. It’s a great way of aligning your own objectives with the mid- and long-term strategic objectives of your organization.

Which One to Select?

Rather than make a case for one of these methods being superior to the others, I’ll acknowledge that each of them can work well. Trouble starts not when you decide how you want to be measured, but rather when your boss decides to measure your performance differently than you’re measuring yourself.

For example, if you decide that you want to measure your success using quality-of-hire metrics (for example, hiring manager satisfaction and performance scores as measured over the employee’s first three years), your focus will naturally be on selecting candidates with a high probability of long-term success. This may increase your time-to-fill as you invest a little more time in gaining a deep understanding of the position and waiting until you find the “right person” to hire. However, if your boss is accustomed to seeing time-to-fill and cost-per-hire metrics, she might express concern as she sees these metrics creep up.

Similarly, a desire to increase your operational efficiency and de-bottleneck your recruiting process in an effort to reduce time-to-fill can sometimes strain your relationships with your hiring managers or human resource partners as you push them to review resumes faster and minimize the number of people on the interview schedule.

Correctly Measuring Performance

Before you spend another day recruiting talent, take some time to do the following:

  • Decide what kind of recruiter you want to be. Many of us recruit for years before we realize that we’re self-sabotaging ourselves. I’ve known recruiters who love innovation, and bring all variety of technology into their organizations, yet never measure their long-term effects on candidate quality. Others really and truly value their partnerships with internal customers, yet don’t let them know what’s needed from them to drive an efficient recruiting process. Spend some time thinking about what makes you happiest as a recruiter. Look for patterns, and determine how you want to be measured.
  • Let your boss know. Does your boss know your goal is to reduce time-to-fill and save your organization thousands of dollars, even if it means asking your generalists to take on additional responsibilities they’ve never had before? If not, they’re likely to hear it on the streets, and you’ll suddenly find yourself defending your actions during your one-on-ones. You need to schedule time with your boss to talk about one thing only — what your goals as a talent acquisition professional are. Once you are both clear on outcomes, you can work together to negotiate a fair way to measure performance. Simply assuming your boss knows why you make the decisions you do is very dangerous.
  • Let your organization know. Once you and your boss have agreed on how you’ll measure performance, let your business partners know. I recommend one-on-one conversations with your generalists, a high-level overview with the entire HR community, and then company-wide updates as you make progress on your goals. One example might be a news story on your organization’s home page celebrating how you saw improvement in candidate feedback after interviewing. You could talk about how that’s becoming more important to job-seekers, and how you’ve come to realize as an organization that waiting a few more days for the right person is critical to achieving your business goals. People throughout your organization should be able to articulate how recruiting success is measured.

Chances are you crave feedback so you can get even better at something you already enjoy doing. Ensuring you have a consistent approach to measuring your success as a recruiter makes it easier for your boss to recognize when you’re being successful, and helps your organization understand how you’ve chosen to approach talent acquisition philosophically.

This profession is sure to get even more complex; ensuring alignment within your own organization will make it much easier to navigate this complexity, and provide you with the support you need to bring top talent into your organization consistently.

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