The Only Speed Metric You Need

Over the past two years, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to companies about their metrics, and while most companies don’t have good data, almost every company was able to quote me their time to fill number.  

The speed metric. It’s the cornerstone of every dashboard. It’s also the most questioned, least accurate, and useless metric of them all.  

There is a speed metric you can use that will add value to your stakeholders, but first let’s discuss why we should stop measuring time to fill.

Your Stakeholders Are Skeptical

As ridiculous as this sounds, your time-to-fill metric really doesn’t mean anything to your hiring manager.  You see, the time-to-fill metric starts at requisition approval and concludes at offer acceptance. That’s not unreasonable, given that it’s the part of the process the talent acquisition team is responsible for.  

Yet the hiring manager sees this through a different lens. For the hiring manager, the process starts the minute they receive a resignation and ends when the new hire starts in their position. This timeline is typically four weeks longer than the time-to-fill metric that the talent acquisition team quotes. It takes up to one week to get the opening fully approved and posted to the talent acquisition team, and three additional weeks for the candidate to start after the offer is accepted (one week of background checks and two weeks of notice period).

Given that the pain your hiring manager feels is 28 days longer than your time-to-fill metric, it makes sense that they’re skeptical of your numbers.

Time to Fill Is Inaccurate

I’m not going to dive too far into the rabbit hole on this one, but you’re measuring time to fill wrong. Pull the number out of your ATS and it gives you an average over a specified period of time. More specifically, it’s giving you the mean, which is adding up all the information and dividing by the number of entries.  Talk to a data scientist about this type of data, and they’ll tell you the proper way to measure this type of information is to use a median.

Additionally, your team is faking the numbers. We’ve all worked a desk and we’ve all done it. The hiring manager changes something on a position that has been open 60 days — cancel/reopen. Position needs to be refreshed — cancel/reopen. My favorites are the positions that are open only one day or the magical recruiters who actually find a way to hire someone before the position is opened (I have a call into Stephen Hawking to get some clarification).  Needless to say, there’s a distinct ability to artificially impact the time-to-fill metric.

Time to Fill Is Useless

Maybe I’m being a little provocative with that heading, but I once had a senior leader of a Fortune 500 company tell me that “nobody in the business cares about your time-to-fill metric, that’s just more HR speak.” Although there are ways to translate time to fill into something the business cares about such as bottom-line dollars, you’ll need to be prepared for questioning looks and accusations of voodoo math.   

Plus, the talent-acquisition leader doesn’t learn from this metric. If time to fill was high, was it because the team is no good? If it was low, was it because it was great? How much of this had to do with workforce planning? Recruitment marketing? Company brand? Lack of available candidate pool? Selection process?  You can start to see that the aggregate number of time to fill really gives us no actionable intelligence.

Your Solution: Applicant Cycle Time

Most companies would not accept a dashboard without a time metric, so the metric you should be using is applicant cycle time. 

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Applicant cycle time measures the time a successful candidate spends in the selection process. For this metric, you will only be measuring people who have accepted an offer. The clock starts at the time the candidate applies and ends when the candidate accepts an offer.  

This is more valuable than time to fill. It’s title/description is much more clear to your stakeholders. You are measuring the time your applicants spend in the selection process, not the time of the vacancy. It will help you move beyond the skepticism of your hiring managers.

Also, it measures the efficiency of your team once a qualified candidate has been identified. There are too many internal and external factors that can impact the construction of a candidate pool, and those variables allow for too much discussion and finger-pointing around the time-to-fill metric. The applicant cycle time metric measures your talent acquisition team’s ability to efficiently execute the recruiting process once a qualified candidate has been identified. It strips away the time spent hunting purple squirrels and only talks about how efficiently we can coax them into the nest.

John Ricciardi

John Ricciardi is a self-proclaimed ski bum who passes the time between trips as a managing partner with Afton Consulting Group, a global human resources consulting firm. Ricciardi is a global talent acquisition leader with 20 years experience developing, implementing, and leading the recruiting function. His experience as a practitioner includes both agency and corporate settings, where he managed large teams and created strategic solutions for organizations that include global process development, employment branding, ATS selection, and RPO implementation/management.