A Standard Set of Recruiting Metrics

I need your help. I need the community’s help. If I had to pick only one article that I wrote that got forwarded, re-posted, and re-tweeted by the most people in our profession to get the word out, then this is it.

The Problem Statement

Over the last 20 years of my career, and more specifically the last 10 years in a talent acquisition leadership role, I became increasingly frustrated that it was so difficult to find a simple set of standard recruiting metrics. Yes, you can find millions of results by searching for most of the basic recruiting metrics, but try finding out the actual formulas of how these metrics are made up, and there are few to no results, or they are hidden and not published.

While the “Internet of things” has given us all access to more and more data, when it came to identifying a standard set up key performance metrics, like most of you, I was left up to calling people I trust to determine the best quality, speed, productivity, cost, and customer-satisfaction measures. As you probably have found as well, the level of frustration becomes amplified by the limitations of technology platforms that hinder your ability to effectively track these key metrics in a simple and easy way. I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with peers over the last 10 years during which we both grind teeth in frustration over the limitations of technology solutions that seem counterintuitive to tracking and reporting some key metrics.

In short, we have two wild ends of the spectrum when it comes to recruiting metrics and measurement of performance. One, metrics that are so overly engineered and complex that they are just way too hard to implement and make real for you, your recruiters, and the business. Or, two, you have worked for a company that really struggles to get even basic baseline recruiting performance metrics in place because of processes, people, or technology (or lack thereof).

The Opportunity

This list of standard recruiting metrics is not something I just decided to dream up one morning over a coffee. The list is a culmination of hundreds of hours of conversations with people like yourself, my own trial and error with technology, as well as best practices I have seen and discussed with other recruiters and leaders.

You could be in the process of building a recruiting function, fixing a broken one, or looking to compare yourself to others to see if all the hard work you and your team has put in has you operating in the top quartile of performance.

Each of these standard recruiting metrics are broken out into the main performance areas that we look to manage a function by: quality, speed, productivity, and cost.

Important Note: This standard set of recruiting metrics and the formulas are a starting point and not a finishing line.

Some of you will roll your eyes at these metrics, saying, “Geez Rob, tracking source of hire and time to fill is basic stuff.”

Yes it is, but you would be surprised at how many companies out there today are not even measuring the basics. So the metrics list you will find is designed to span the basics to more advanced recruiting metrics.

I also know that you will not all agree with the definitions and formulas of the metrics. Some of you will want to debate things like business days vs. calendar days related to time-based metrics. Good. (I believe the only reason why some companies still calculate in calendar days is because their ATS is designed that way. When was the last time you, your team, and the business actually was recruiting full days on Saturday and Sunday?)

Article Continues Below

In my new role I’ve received a lot of feedback about metrics from a lot of you. And what you’ve told me in short is that we should at least publish something and let the journey begin, even if it is an informal stake in the ground, rather than take the approach of trying to get everyone to agree to what each formula for each metric should be. The cynic (or pragmatist) in me says we might never get off the starting blocks if we took the later approach.

That being said, I also want us all (or those who have a passion and interest in this) to weigh in on these metrics. You will see at the end of this article that I am trying to create an informal platform for that to take place.

From your feedback, here are some common themes on the journey so far:

  • Don’t make it overly complex. Don’t make it like some people have done historically with dozens of data points in the metric formula. Example: Making up a cost-per-hire calculation with so many data points no one will ever use it. Trying to get everyone to agree on the 27 things that can go into a cost-per-hire metric is an exercise based on futility. So given this feedback and working with some TA leaders, you will find a simpler but relevant metric as an example like cost to acquire in the metrics list. Important Note: Once again, this is a starting point. As we/the profession get more advanced with our tracking of data and metrics (and yes even financials), this particular metric could be revised or variations of different cost metrics will come to light.
  • Give it a global lens. If any of you have worked in Europe, given some of the local market employment laws regarding employees give longer notice periods compared to North America, the interest in a time-based metric is more around when the candidate turns up on the job … time to start vs. just looking at time to fill or time to accept. So logic dictates that a standard set of recruitment metrics needs to accommodate the variances on a global scale where possible but balanced with point No. 1.
  • It must inform an action to take. As some people hear me say, “Data for the sake of data is busywork.” All recruiting metrics where possible must be able to be compared to something else to help inform a course of action and improvement to take, including: 1) Comparing your own performance to yourself over a period of time, and 2) Comparing yourself to other similar companies performance

Quite simply, data and performance metrics and the story we can tell to enable change is an area that I feel we can do a better job on as a profession. ERE Media gives me a platform that I could not get in a corporate leadership role to help influence and drive our profession around this topic. I now get the opportunity to have hundreds of conversations and hear the direct feedback on what opportunities could make a talent-acquisition function more effective.

But to be 100 percent clear, this should not and cannot be about just what Rob’s personal passion for standardization of metrics. It cannot be just one company’s charter and mission. It must be our collective journey as a profession. To help with this journey and make sure that I/we do not create and refine metrics in a vacuum, provide me direct feedback (rob.mcintosh@ere.net), comment on this article, or even refine and add to the definition of recruiting metrics that I created on Wikipedia here.

A printable PDF version of all the metrics is located here.

My hope, and I believe yours is as well, that this is a stake in the ground that we as a profession can build upon. It takes a village, as they say!

Rob McIntosh is a talent acquisition leader at Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise business. He is a senior talent executive with 20+ years of global recruiting experience spanning four continents where he has consistently delivered results through building high-performing teams for Fortune 100 companies in senior leadership roles for McKesson, Avanade, Deloitte, and Microsoft. 

As a public speaker his articles, presentations, and case studies have been shared and downloaded over 50,000 times. He is one of the early pioneers of corporate sourcing functions and the co-founder of SourceCon. He is the primary content, strategies, tools, and case studies provider for the Human Capital Institute Talent Acquisition Strategist Course & Certification and ERE Media’s Talent Advisor course.

His strategic advice is constantly sought after for use of advanced metrics/analytics to help tell the business story around the value of talent acquisition, and how to scale delivery while improving quality of hire through optimal talent org designs; shared services, CoE, offshore, outsourcing, and hybrid talent acquisition structures. 



26 Comments on “A Standard Set of Recruiting Metrics

  1. In a lifetime of recruiting whenever someone asks “How much?” “How Long?” or “How Good?” or, any number of 1000 variations on those themes in an attempt to make sense of an internally measured value, I can predict with unerring accuracy that the next hour will be spent on comparing definitions.

    20th century methods to resolve this dilemma of having a standard ‘starting point’ that we can all deviate from (ANSI, ISO) will take another century to bring to fruition. I’m thrilled Rob is attempting to use 21st century tools to establish base-line definitions for common recruiting metrics…and perhaps curate content to debate the pros and cons of the meaning of those measures to improving various aspects of recruiting.

    Going forward I’ll be pointing folks asking questions to wikipedia and happily looking for interesting examples added by others that save time and add meaning.

  2. Gerry – thanks for weighing in on this one. While the metrics list is not perfect, I am with you that rather than debate endlessly on why we can’t do something, I would prefer we at least start the journey, all weigh in and adjust and improve as we go along.

  3. WOW Rob this is quite something, it is fresh, it is bold and it is challenging and not least evolutionary, so I am so with you on this. Trying to get an industry like talent acquisition and recruitment that come from so many different angles so many different beliefs and goals to come to an agreement is no easy feat but hail those that dare those that challenge and those that try. Say what you wish help.and facilitation with and I for one will sign up any day.

  4. Bravo Rob, this is long overdue…without a standardized system of measuring our work, it is impossible to compare and contrast industry effectiveness. Being able to announce with one industry voice that Talent Acquisition improved an aspect of our mission is a key step in getting TA recognized as a critical business profession.

    Of course I have two cents to throw in for consideration. Perhaps it’s my exec recruiting emphasis, but “timing” metrics that overlook the Hiring Team “in-take” is missing a key period. Sure, TTA v. TTF will provide the effectiveness of the background check process, but in my world little happens in manager and up type openings until TA hears what the HM is looking for during the In-Take call. I’m mostly referring to harder to fill or corporate type roles. For roles that are recurring, “front line” or similar functional hires, this metric obviously wouldn’t apply as an In-Take is typically not done

    Time From In-take to Acceptance is a key metric that matters a lot to functional TA in this type of recruiting. I wonder if this is one of those “one off” metrics you mention Rob, or something that others also take into consideration? Just curious…

  5. KC – Agree the intake meeting (kick off call) is one of the most important aspects of getting the role filled most effectively. Given the FFT (Full Funnel Throughput), I suspect that some companies would have that as a step/status in their ATS as associated with the requisition. So once the req goes through the approval step, then as you point out the logical next step should be an intake discussion step as a measurement of how long does it take to complete. So the FFT could look something like: Req Created : Req Approved: Req Posted: Intake Meeting: Recruiter Review (resume): Recruiter Screen, so on and so on.
    Great comments and suggestions !

    1. “Intake meeting’ and all that this include and requyre is in fact the ‘contract’ the ‘modus operandi’ and THE single most important aspect of TA and hiriring manager relationship. Get this right and signed off and all the rest should in fact relatively (hey we are talking dealing with people why a certain amount of uncertainty always present) easily fall into place.

  6. I’m skeptical of measures like time to hire and cost to hire. I’m curious about measuring the value a hire creates. When we know that, then we can calculate return on investment and make informed decisions about rewards and resource deployment for recruiting.

    Talent Management would do well to partner with Accounting to develop metrics that provide actionable information. This would be a terrific joint task force activity for SHRM and the Institute of Management Accountants to tackle.

    The current state of play reminds me of the person who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The cash laid out to secure a hire means little without knowing the value that the hire produces.

    Tough stuff, getting those answers in a simple way, but invaluable if and when it happens.

    BTW, I’m a CPA (inactive status) who has been recruiting since 1987.

  7. Donna – Agree you have hit on the most important metrics but is the hardest to measure given all of the variables with post hire performance. Based off the hundreds of conversations I have had on this very topic, we did come up with a simple to implement metric around quality called FYQ (First Year Quality). There are other metrics and data points that I have played around with on this metric such as: Annual Review scores for first year performance AND how quickly a new hire gets promoted AND company ‘pulse’ and Hiring Manager satisfactions reviews AND attrition (both managed and unmanaged) for first year employees. All these are within the first 12 months – Max 18months of new hires as once you get too far out it becomes to difficult to draw an association back to the Talent Acquisition function. I did present my lessons learned on trying to measure quality of hire here if you or other are interested:


    In short though what I did find is it was impossible to have a simple metric that combines all those data points together to produce one easy score given things like performance management frameworks that are built on bell curves skew the results. Net/Net is that is why we landed on a metric (FYQ) that does derive quality indicators but is not overly complex or obtuse.

  8. This is a great idea and I thank you for “starting the journey.” I’m most interested in the discussion of using predictive analytics to improve on these metrics and overall quality of hires. Metrics are great but we should all be more forward looking, I think…and it’s what our business leaders are (or will be) expecting from us…this coming from a Corp. recruiting viewpoint.

  9. Marcelo – thanks and that is what I am most interested in seeing as well. Example: What do we notice in the data of how improving the candidate experience might impact speed metrics but significantly increases quality outcomes.

  10. I appreciate a simple starting point with the basics at its core. I also appreciate an inspiring vision that makes for an interesting journey. My bags are packed and ready to go. Count me in.

    1. Sean – yes. As we know there is more to measuring just recruiters. SEO metrics, Web site metrics, Candidate and hiring manager satisfaction metrics, sourcers metrics, so on. Most of these should help a recruiter on the whole hiring continuum at identifying over or under performance. Sean, was that where you were going with your question?

      1. Nothing genius about this statement and probably nothing new, but “recruiting metrics” is like a jigsaw puzzle all put together that creates a picture. But that picture is made up of those little pieces that have to be put together.

        When you put a jigsaw puzzle together, you glance over at the box to see what it looks like but your focus always comes back to the pieces. You start to sort the big pile into smaller piles and so forth. In other words, you solve where the pieces go little pile by pile vs. the one big pile.

        The “recruiter” metrics I asked about and the metrics you listed in your comment are all those little piles that need to first get sorted out and later they become the “big picture.”

        I love the Wikipedia page you created but do have a suggestion. Right now, to me…it looks like the “big pile.” My recommendation to you (not to the group), is to “chop” it up a bit into smaller piles that can then get worked by the community little pile by little pile.

        Little piles are fun, big piles are scary.

        So, the grid you have in there now…if you were to add “category” to each record (the little piles)…this could start to put things in a format making it much easier for others to edit/add to.

        If you agree that smaller piles are needed, I’d also get rid of the grid format. It makes it hard to contribute to IMHO. Perhaps later create a grid that is a summary of the narrative…but I think that’s still getting formed right now.

        1. Thanks Sean for the extra comments about breaking it up further than Cost, Speed, Quality and Productivity. I had some conversations on that point and people suggested keep them in big catagories so they don’t get lost in multiple catagories or over engineered. What sub piles were you thinking. On the grid format sort of same as above a copied the format from similar pages on Wikipedia.

  11. Rob, I have a question that not one person has ever been able to answer to my satisfaction. Why are we creating recruiting metrics? Over the decades..yes decades…and I go back to some of the original Saratoga Institute studies…the rationales given sound much the same–develop trends, find Herbies (extra credit for knowing that little management pop-culture reference), develop programs, implement solutions…yada, yada.

    Problem seems to be that mostly what happens is the Talent Acquisition/Recruiter folks, whether in-house, RPO or retained/contingent, seem to bear the brunt of the burden of the dissatisfaction of the outcome…slow time to hire, bad candidates, yada yada.

    Examples abound. A friend of mine was on a project…the client shall remain nameless. In the course of the four-month project she consistently submitted 3-5 candidates per week against seven very tough requisitions representing 14 open positions. Feedback given was that the client was literally overjoyed with the quality and quantity of the submissions. The client asked for a hiatus of four months.

    Some months later…4 months or so, it was ascertained that the client had made offers to 6 of the candidates after taking some 10 candidates as far as F2F and about 60% of all submitted candidates through at least three rounds of phone discussions. Only one of the candidates declined the offer and that was because he had been promoted to partner.

    I contend these situations are not outliers. They are more normative. And being more normative, they take desired “quick-turn” metrics and show them to be mere wish-thinking. Cost-per-hire, satisfaction of ANYONE–candidate, hiring manager…these are really non-starters.

    Until HR performance is made a consistent part of line management bonuses, HR oriented metrics are quite nice to contemplate and develop, but not practical. As of now, in most companies, there is not one iota of an incentive for a manager to speed his/her filling of any opening. Why? S/he is likely getting the work done by spreading it among the residual workers and the salary of the “absent” worker is gone from his/her department overhead. The longer s/he can put off making the hiring decision, the better. And the tactics…we all know them–change the job requirements a little bit, don’t return phone calls, delay, delay delay.

    ANY attempts at these metrics will continue to be like the legendary pig/lipstick story. Until management is made as responsible for meeting the targets as the talent acquisition folks are, there will be no movement to real progress in improving hiring metrics. Holding the bearer of the news responsible for metrics over which s/he has no control is not logical.

    Metrics are not evil. I worry about people who get all excited about sharing without thinking about the ramifications. Because metrics can be really nasty when deployed as weapons…

    1. Bill – thanks for the comments and I hopeful my answer will be more satisfying than what you have heard to this point.

      In short any metrics, not just recruiting should help inform a course of action. If they don’t then it’s just busywork.

      It must in my opinion, help identify over and under performance, be it for the recruiting and business function.

      Metrics are only as powerful as the person knowing what to do with them. If the person can not tell the story behind the data to help infulence change be it within their own function, HR and/or the business, then they just become more numbers on a excel sheet that no one will ever read.

      If your interested in more details on how metrics have been one of the key cornerstones of my success, you should read my previous article:

      Hope that changes some of your thinking.

      1. Rob, I agree with everything you wrote; you and I share many ways of managing and developing people. That being said, I have to continue along the outlier route on the general subject of TA metrics, taking the the Yogi Berra path…”when you come to a fork in the road…take it.

        The first fork is “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff, Irving Geis. The authors, IIRC are both dead but the melody lingers on. Metrics of the sort we are discussing are going to gore someone’s ox at some time, are going to be messed with. Huff and Geis wrote the field manual on how to play hob.

        The second fork is DILBERT. We would love to think we all live and work in a Richard Branson organization. We don’t. That world in six s.d. to the right of mean/mode/median. Most of us work in Dilbert-land with PHBs and Wallys and the clueless sociopath CEO–about 3.5 s.d. to the LEFT of mean/mode/median. (I believe it is a bi-modal distribution, but why muddle things up, right?)

        The third fork is that most metrics in business are dispassionate. Recruiting/TA metrics are not. They move directly from the numbers to a human failure. In general, that human failure is in the Hiring Manager bucket or in the HR stagnate process bucket. And those people (I was one of the latter for a fair amount of time) do not like to have the “bad light” shine on them.

        Yogi gave that direction because the roads came back together. My metaphor comes back together as well. Until Hiring Managers are incentivized to make things happen on the TA front, then TA metrics are nice to shoot ourselves in the foot. Beyond that, I am not sure what role they play.

        1. Bill – I am not as cynical as you but I am also pragmatic in the sense that all people will not a) understand the value of trying to run a business by the numbers to gain efficiencies b) even if they gain the insights they are not sure how to use them to influence change.

          I have spent the last 10 years of my career trying to influence and change one company at a time. Data has been my dear friend on that journey to help change hiring managers view of recruiting and also been the mirror which I can hold up for them to look at themselves. Yes in a perfect world every CEO would incentivize their hiring managers (be it carrot or stick) to hire more effectively, but we will all be holding our breaths for a long time on that one.

          Why I joined ERE and my thinking has not changed is that I get the platform to help other people who are also trying to change and influence that one company at a time. If having a standard set of performance recruiting metrics helps inch the rock being pushed up the hill individually or collectively as a profession, then I will take that vs no action at all.

  12. Great job starting an important discussion, Rob. Ultimately, Talent Acquisition must continuously improve on speed, cost, quality and diversity. How you slice it – how you categorize it (I could quibble with where you’ve placed items in your categories) – is less important to the most essential metric that your paper doesn’t reflect, which is: How does TA drive business value? In other words, what is the ROI on TA investments? Given that our economy is now based on intellectual capital – which is created and maintained only by *people* (think brands, customer relationships, data, patents, etc.) – these numbers don’t reflect the importance of a differentiated effort to TA activities and results. While all jobs are important, not all create the same amount of business value for organizations (think engineers at Raytheon, merchants at Home Depot, researchers at Merck, etc.) Our approach to TA measurement needs to reflect this differentiation.

    As an example, reqs for a Marketing Coordinator or an AP Clerk at Zappos simply can’t be handled the same way as a Software Engineer req. Every organization has limited TA resources, so we need to prioritize our efforts and over-invest in our approach to sourcing, selecting and retaining critical talent. Therefore, measuring quality by tracking who stays in position for one year or more might be appropriate for those Coordinator positions, but it could spell disaster for the Software Engineers. Our analytics – how we (and others) judge the success of our efforts – needs to reflect this distinction and our new, knowledge-powered economy.

    In the end, though, TA metrics and this discussion are meaningless unless TA professionals as individuals have clear role definitions and measures of success – and are held accountable for driving meaningful results.

    PS – And don’t even get me started on Hiring Manager surveys. When are we start going to start evaluating how well we think Hiring Managers are performing in the TA process?

    1. Designs on Talent – lots of great comments to dig into, thank you. 100% agree that any initative or program TA deploys must require some form of measure associated to it. I have hit on this point in previous articles and presentations but maybe a specific article just on this is needed.

      Great point amd also agree that these metrics are going to have varying levels of importance depending upon your industry, size, geography, hiring profiles and business priorities.

      The last point about a TA surveying and rating the hiring manager and business is a fabulous idea. I will add this specific point to the wikipedia metrics list unless you beat me to it 🙂

      All the comments so far is exactly what I hoped for. Keep them comming people and feel free to way in if you don’t agree, agree with comments or you think we need to be considering other ideas on all this.

  13. Hello Rob and yes Bravo indeed! Setting our terms and definitions is crucial to the evolution of our the talent acquisition profession. Lets be in touch soon. We at People Science have a few more ideas.

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