Quality of Hire: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Because quality issues are a focus of mine in the recruiting industry, I have a lot of people coming to me and asking me to weigh in on quality of hire. How do we measure it? What does it really mean? I’ve started referring to quality of hire as the Holy Grail of Recruiting, because many of us are searching for it ó although our visions often differ in what it’s supposed to look like and how we go about finding it. I have some thoughts here that might help shorten your quest. What Is Quality? As we talk about quality of hire, it is important to understand the term quality in a standardized business context. The American Society for Quality provides this definition: Quality: A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: 1) the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs, and 2) a product or service free of deficiencies. So let’s shelve definition number two for the moment (a product or service free of deficiencies) ó though that could be used to apply to candidates who make it through background screenings, skills testing, or other things that could be used to identify deficiencies. Since most usage is in the context of quality of hire, we are assuming that the candidate has been hired and we are looking at their ability to “satisfy stated or implied needs.” In other words, once you hire a candidate, do they do the job that you hired them for? Because of the subjective nature of the term, I recommend you avoid using the word quality in your manager surveys, performance evaluations, or other follow-ups that you use to gather your quality-of-hire metric. Don’t ask managers to “rate the overall quality of the new hire.” Instead, be specific about requirements to keep your measures as objective as possible. The Bigger Question: What are You Going To Do With It? Moving forward with a framework of quality of hire that means to satisfy required needs, you need to stop and ask some more basic questions:

  • Why are you measuring quality of hire?
  • What are you going to do with this metric?

Before you can come up with effective ways to measure quality of hire, you must at least answer those two questions. If, at the end of the day, the results of your measurement are that everyone can sleep better because, “Yup, we’re hiring good people,” then you need to take a closer look at your efforts. Consider these questions:

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  • Is your quality-of-hire metric being used simply as a re-recording of initial performance measures, or is it also being used as a rich feedback loop to improve your recruiting efforts?
  • What about improving your on-boarding, development, and employee retention efforts?

If you’re not making improvements with quality of hire, it is not as effective a metric as it could be. Make a key purpose of measuring the qualitative results of your work to be to improve the quality of your work. Making the Connection While measuring the performance of the new hire will tell us something about whether he or she is meeting requirements, you need to then make the connection back to the recruiting process. You need to establish what can be learned to improve the recruiting process on an ongoing basis and to ensure continuous quality. For example:

  • Did you go through a particular selection process that helped get you a superior candidate? How can you validate this result?
  • Are there contextual things to be included in the recruiting process such as selecting, not only for the job requirements, but also to get a good match of personality types with the manager and peers?
  • If you got a superior candidate, how can you get that caliber of candidate on an ongoing basis?

Again, the key here is to figure out how to improve your recruiting process and achieve consistent results. Conclusion Quality is a subjective term and concept, and how it is measured will vary from organization to organization. No matter where you are though, you will never be able to demonstrate quality of hire if you don’t start with clear requirements. One step in doing this will be to stop asking managers and other evaluators about the quality of the hire and be more specific about requirements. This will help you identify objective measures. Beyond gauging performance against requirements, you must make a careful effort to be attuned to the qualitative results of your recruiting efforts so that you can improve the quality of your future results. This means that not only should you measure quality of hire, but you should also use it as an active feedback loop to constantly improve how you recruit. As we get better at understanding and defining what quality of hire is and what it means to us, we will be that much closer to achieving it.