Adler’s ‘Crazy Metrics’ for Progressive Recruiters

As the economy tumbles, and companies right-size their recruiting departments, the bottom-half is the first to go. Under this scenario, those formerly in the relatively secure 2nd quartile are now in the bottom-half. So be wary or get better.

With this sobering news in mind, I offer those of you in all quartiles this short, 10-point personal evaluation guide. While some of them are a bit crazy, they’re based on comparing your performance to the best in the business. It will tell you quickly whether you’re in the top 25% and how to stay there.

If you’re not in this double RIF-proof group, you’ll find out what you have to do to get there. For those of you doing any pre-RIF assessments, it will help you figure out who goes, who stays, and who’s worth saving. What a crazy idea! (Note: your comments are being collected on my Recruiter’s Wall blog.)

Using Adler’s Crazy Metrics as the New Recruiter Scorecard

The world of recruiting continues to evolve faster than most of us can adapt. To see where you rank in the new age of recruiting, evaluate yourself on each of these factors on a zero- to 10-point scale.

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This has been designed for full-cycle recruiters and it’s based on a curve, so you need to score around 65-75 points to be in the upper quartile.

  1. Voice Mail Return Percent. If you’re calling passive candidates (those not looking) you should be in the 70%-80% range here. This is worth a full 10 points. Average in the current economy is about a 20% return rate and is worth about 3 points. You only score points here if you’re calling people who are fully employed or where your personal influence is the key to getting them interested. (Note: see point 3 for how to increase your voice mail return rate.)
  2. Number of Days Looking. Getting people as soon as they enter the job-hunting market is a huge competitive advantage. So start asking your active candidates how long they’ve been looking. If you’re the first recruiter or company they’ve spoken to, give yourself all 10 points, but only if you had anything to do with pulling this feat off. You get a big donut if the candidate says they’ve already accepted another offer, they’ve got other offers pending, or if they’ve been in the market for more than two weeks. Give yourself 5 points if most of your candidates found your ad in the first 5-10 days of their search. If you had nothing to do with making sure the ad was found, that it was compelling, or in causing your candidate to respond, you don’t get any of these points. Instead, give them to the person who pulled this off.
  3. Referrals Per Call. To score all 10 points on this factor, you need to average 2-3 worthy referrals per call. Someone is worthy if they are highly qualified and a strong candidate for your open job, or personally knows someone who is. An average score (3 points) on this factor is about one decent referral per call. I have a personal rule that has enabled me to increase my personal productivity by 300%! It goes like this: first, don’t call anyone who will not call you back! Second, don’t call anyone who’s not a top performer. Third, only call worthy prospects. The only way to pull this is off is to get 2-3 worthy referrals on every single call you make. (Here’s a networking tips article for help on improving your score here.)
  4. The Maslow vs. Money Index. Here’s an article summarizing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s must-read material for recruiters. The key point here is that good candidates don’t take new jobs primarily for the money. They take them for some combination of growth, opportunity, a chance to learn new skills, to do something important, or to increase their personal satisfaction. Unfortunately, most candidates ask “what’s the money?” early in the courting phase, putting most recruiters on the defensive. Good recruiters quickly shift the conversation to Maslow-related ideas, suggesting that the primary reason a person should select one job over another is because of the opportunity for growth and personal satisfaction it represents, not the money received. (Caution: this will only work as long as your comp is reasonably competitive.) Score all 10 points if you handle this money question smoothly all of the time, and zero points if you stumble all of the time. Give yourself 2-3 points if you can convince a fair percent of your candidates to reconsider, independent of the pay.
  5. Not Interested Conversion Rate. This is the percent of candidates who initially say they are not interested in your job opening but who reconsider. You score all 10 points if you phrase your questions in such a way that everyone says they’d like to talk with you about your open opportunities. Score zero points if you walk away from most of these candidates without some type of clever rebuttal. The key to good recruiting and scoring high on this factor is applicant control. You know you have it when you — the recruiter — determine if you’re interested in the candidate, not the other way around.
  6. Partner vs. Vendor Ratio. If you’re a partner with your hiring manager clients you have a better understanding of real job needs, you’re more influential, they’ll see candidates who are a bit off the mark based on your recommendation, they’ll trust your judgment, and you’ll make more placements without wasting time. A vendor-like relationship with a client puts the recruiter into a subordinate and less-influential role. The recruiter typically has less knowledge of real job requirements, the hiring manager refuses to see candidates who don’t meet the exact requirements, and the manager won’t reconsider candidates he or she has incorrectly assessed. Divide the percent of your clients who are partners by those who are vendors (Note: 50/50 is equal to one and is worth 4 points.) A good ratio here is two, meaning two-thirds of your clients treat you as a true partner, so give yourself 7-8 points for this.
  7. Unsolicited Referral Rate. If you regularly get great referrals without asking for them you score high on this factor. Great recruiters are known in their niche market and top people want to connect with them. Give yourself all 10 points if at least 50% of your placements are made from these unsolicited referrals. If you get 4-5 strong unsolicited referrals each month, whether you place them or not, give yourself 5 points on this factor. You get a big zero if you don’t get any good referrals, unsolicited or not.
  8. Technology Utilization Factor. Whether it’s being an ATS geek, a Web 2.0 aficionado, a search optimization fanatic, or a CRM guru, recruiting in today’s era requires significant technology expertise. If you still advocate a tech-free environment, you earn a big zero on this factor. Googling for resumes is not a big deal anymore, so you get nothing for being good at this. If you’re training others in using the latest recruiter-tech stuff take all 10 points. If no one laughs at your lack of tech-expertise, score 5 points here.
  9. Advertising Efficiency. To get all 10 points on this factor, you have to make sure your ads are found and at least 50% of the people who find them click through. This means you need to use reverse engineering to select the best boards and make sure your ads are so compelling top people are intrigued enough to respond. If you just post your traditional job descriptions on boards that have not been vetted, your score is equal to the number of great people who apply — zero!
  10. Gauge of Persistence. Recruiting top people is never smooth. People always have concerns. Candidates always have other offers. Managers always want to see more candidates. Pushing through these issues is at the heart of great recruiters. If you can convince most of your candidates to reconsider, get your managers to see and hire people who don’t meet the exact requirements, and are constantly pushing the process forward, regardless of the challenges, you deserve most of these 10 points. Take them all if your candidates and clients thank you for persevering. You don’t deserve any points here, if you complain about all of the challenges involved, procrastinate, or make excuses about your lack of results.

Free BONUS ADD-ON: Buyer vs. Seller Quotient

Divide the percent of the time your strong passive candidates are selling you (meaning you’re the buyer) by the amount of time you’re selling them (i.e., 50/50 is equal to one and worth 5 points). If you sell more than you buy, you get 1-2 points, and if you buy a lot more than you sell, you get 7-8 points. Good recruiting is about getting a strong candidate to sell you on why he or she is qualified for the job. They’ll only do this if they believe your job represents a strong career move for them. This is also referred to as applicant control and is a core competency of every top recruiter.

New-age recruiting is about influencing people who have multiple opportunities to consider what you have to offer. While there is more technology now available to find people, this is now the easy part. Getting on the phone, recruiting them, and networking is now the real skill involved with being a great new-age recruiter. That’s a crazy idea, isn’t it?

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


10 Comments on “Adler’s ‘Crazy Metrics’ for Progressive Recruiters

  1. Hi Lou,

    I have always respected all of your work here on ERE. This time I think there needs to be a clarification. I think the advice you give is spot on if the recruiter is working at an agency, staffing service or as an independent headhunter. The metrics you outline will ensure they continue to bring in revenue even in a down economy.

    If you are a Corporate Recruiter, I don’t think this is the right roadmap to follow. Corporate recruitment typically reports into Human Resources. If you bring a HR VP a scorecard with the metrics in this article their eyes will gloss over. This just isn’t important to them.

    Corporate recruiters should start to focus on things such as selection process, interview training, program management, vendor management and workforce planning. Human Resources departments will become smaller and stay that way in the next few years. Corporate Recruiters will need to become very strategic and provide a high level, long term value to the organization. They need to be the expert to bring the right candidate in the door but the candidate attraction and sourcing will probably be driven from an outside company who provides the service.

    The new economy will create a significant divergence in the skills, competencies and measurements of corporate recruiters and agency headhunters.

    Bill Opal
    Chief Flunky

  2. Bill
    I couldn’t disagree with you more.
    “but the candidate attraction and sourcing will probably be driven from an outside company who provides the service.”
    The real value to corporate is to provide more of that service. Why is a corpoate recruiter relying on outside firms. Look there is a place for the left handed blond plumber to be outsourced. But that should be the exception.

    And before I get yelled at I am an onsite recruiter for the last 10 years. And am a 2nd generation 3rd party recruiter. I see the need for the hybrid. But real bang for the buck in this economy has to be shown.

    Rich Goldberg

  3. Bill – while I respect your point of view, it flys in the face of what most recruiter directors at corporations are doing and what their line management expects them to do. Corporate recruiters are expected to target passive candidates, they’re expected to leverage their employee referrals programs and they’re expected to bring in the best candidates as soon as they enter the market. The metrics described allow recruiting management the see if they’re team is achieving these objectives.

    If anything I see corporate recruiting emphasizing the need to not go outside unless absolutely necessary.


  4. Lou-

    I think you are spot on with most of these metrics. Our company has taken an active approach by screening more passive candidates than we ever have and we are still presenting them as “hot candidates” so when positions do open up we are ready to present. I also agree that we need to find candidates who just experienced job loss, but I think Recruiters need to do more networking to ensure that the people who have lost their jobs are A/B players.

    Bill, I think your comments are way off (almost shock value to a Corporate Recruiter). If anything, corporate recruiters now have the best chance to bring the best talent in which will help build partnerships with their hiring managers. This economy has taught us as corporate recruiters to be more cognizant of cost per hire. Enhancing partnerships with hiring managers will facilitate a reduction in our hiring managers using outside agencies.

    Just my thoughts.
    Michael Goldberg
    Recruiting Manager

  5. Most of the metrics Lou suggests are good metrics for a recruiter to use to measure her-/himself against, but measuring a recruiters success really isn’t about tracking these types of activities. I’ve never strayed from the metrics 1) cost-per-hire, 2) time-to-fill, 3) effective resource utilization, 4) adherance to required employment process/procedures, and 5) 90-day satisfaction and retention results from both the manager and new hire.

    Believe me, I’ve seen recruiters measured on things such as how many resumes were reviewed, how many calls were made, and a host of other recruitment activities. I’ve always found it more effective to have recruiters use these measures themselves to keep a pulse on whether they’re not taking the right approaches to a hire. I stick the five hard measureables I noted above because they show recruiter success in an fact-based manner.

  6. Darryl – I think you have it totally backwards! What you suggest is not managing, it’s monitoring performance. Straying from what you believe is the tried-and-true might is actually called the tried and failed approach. Using historical metrics like you suggest are nothing more than rear-view window accounting metrics. What I’m suggesting is process control metrics that allow you to see exactly what’s happening in real time. What you suggest is like managing a factory and only looking at the output to see if it’s okay. When things go wrong you then have to figure out the problem and then correct the problem and then monitor the output. Depending on your cycle time this takes 3X the cycle time to fix the problem. Real time metrics fix the problem before it happens. What an idea! Using process control metrics your standard metrics will improve across the board by understanding exactly where the process is falling apart.

  7. Lou, Process control metrics are great to use. In fact, I’m a big fan of trying to bring Six Sigma and Lean processes into HR when possible. Some of these measures would be included. However just like most consumers don’t care if they buy a product from a company that is “Six Sigma certified” (consumers want high quality and fair value regardless of industry certifications), business leaders aren’t overly concerned with process steps (eg. how many referrals recruiters get per contact) so much as whether it’s leading to the right outcomes (good hires at a reasonable cost and timely).

    The common metrics I suggested are already embedded into organizational culture and can be useful and effective if NOT looked at solely after the fact. They’re dashboard measures that business people understand, and they are not “tried and failed” or useless if used as real-time measures. Cost-per-hire can be set as a target, then used as the recruitment process takes place. It can be a critical metric for a recruiter in an organization who’s business environment dictates low-cost recruiting. That measure then helps set up which other activities (and metrics) are most important. Many strong recruiters use the metrics you outlined to gauge whether he/she is on the right track or not. At the same time, presenting some of these metrics to business people isn’t always what works.

    I’m suggesting that both type of metrics can be useful in a corporate recruitment setting, but it’s up to the recruiter or recruitment leader to determine whether these are the right key metrics to present to business leaders. Some business leaders will inevitably interpret ideas like this as measures of activity.

    I understand your point to challenge recruiters to use different metrics. I’m just suggesting that they can also use existing metrics differently and still get very productive, useful information.

  8. Both Lou’s article and further comments are true and effective when appropriate, when implemented properly, and when used as a part of managerial process.
    Looking to Recruiter’s metrics from BSC perspective, organization needs to create a combination of leading and lagging indicators to evaluate and MANAGE the Recruitment Process (whether at an agency or at in-house recruitment team).

    In that case, the lagging (rear-view) indicators can be mostly used for evaluation of results, and for reward-related decisions for instance. While the leading indicators to be seen as a key to “where the problem lies” or “where improvements could be made” – because they are more close to the process itself – so influencing them, we can see improvements in more traditional indicators e.g. Cost per Hire, Time to Fill, and the like.


  9. While i partially agree with lou. I think the scope of the role of the modern day recruiter is not limited to direct channel sourcing as pointed out.

    Recruitment if broken up covers 3 phases in the life cycle of an applicant. Sourcing, selection and Induction.

    The thumb rule to measuring each of these stages is measuring the efficiency & effectiveness of the systems or processes.

    Efficiency can be assessed by evaluating scalability and speed of delivery at the level of cost against the accepted service level agreements and metrices to be evaluated could be drilled down to respective source channel conversion,yields and TAT. In selection, efficiency could be measured through measuring interview turn around times and applicant wait times )especially while hiring large volumes)

    Effectiveness is the measure of Quality. Sourcing effectivemenss can be guaged again by measuring the applicant success rate.thumb rule being higher the success rate the better the effectiveness of sourcing). Selection effectiveness can be assessed through rate of offer acceptance or joining. The biggest measure of selection effectiveness is the on job performance of the employee in terms of knowledge, skills and behavior.

    As a recruitment manager one must be able to guage the helth of the recruitment system by building a dashboard that captures all these metrices in order to get an early view to lags in the system and proactively plug leakages. A strong metricised recruitment system also would enhance the ability of leadership making informed decisions in the rcruitment space.

    While these were just off the hat thoughts i had on this topic i would love to take this discussion further and deeper to help all of us get a better understanding.

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