Are You Paying the Right People to Do the Right Things?

Stop. Listen. Learn. Take a look at how you and your teams are spending their time, and make sure you are paying the right people to do the right things, whether it is sourcing, scheduling, arranging travel, or generating offer letters.

As an avid benchmarker, I spend a lot of time talking with members of recruiting organizations comparing recruiting strategies and processes. I was happy to oblige when I received a call from a director of recruiting at a major financial institution wanting to talk about the ideal requisition workbench for recruiters and how to optimize recruiting resources. For ease of explanation, I’ll call this benchmarker Mary.

“Our target workbench for recruiting team members is between 25 and 30 requisitions, depending on position type,” I explained.

“Really?” Mary replied, “I’m surprised your recruiters handle that type of workload.” I explained how our recruiting team was enabled by an in-house sourcing team with deep functional expertise focused solely on talent identification. She was still surprised at the workload.

I was surprised that she was surprised, so I began to probe further. “What is your current target workbench?” I asked.

“No more than 10 requisitions, regardless of position type,” she answered.

Surprised again! Surely we strive to keep workbenches at optimal workloads because, as we know anecdotally and metrics tell us, the higher the requisition loads, the lower customer satisfaction is and the longer it takes to fill jobs. But a max of 10 requisitions at any given time for non-executive positions? I had not benchmarked with anyone whose targets were that low for an in-house recruiting team (regardless of whether they were enabled by an in-house sourcing team). I completely understood Mary’s quandary of having to handle increasing requisition loads without being able to add staff.

“Tell me how you came up with a target workbench of 10,” I asked. Mary explained that she and a team of recruiters mapped the entire recruiting process for a requisition, from identifying the steps to determining how long each step takes. So far so good; I agreed with her logic.

Mary then explained that they came up with a total hours-per-week metric for each requisition and divided this by 40 hours in a week to come up with the workbench target of 10. I was now having trouble understanding why each recruiter would be spending an average of four hours per requisition per week with sourcing support; it seemed excessive. I then asked Mary what the team’s average time to fill was. “Eleven weeks,” she replied.

“So that means your recruiters are spending an average of 44 hours on each requisition?” I asked.

“Yes, I guess that’s what it comes to,” she stated, noting she had never looked at it this way.

“Walk me through your high-level process,” I asked. She e-mailed me a process map as we were on the phone. As soon as I opened and scanned it, something caught my eye. “Mary,” I stated, “It appears that your recruiter manages nearly every step in the process.”

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“Yes, that’s correct,” she said.

I began to read how her recruiters were involved in everything from pre-screening resumes presented by the sourcing team to scheduling interviews, arranging candidate travel, and typing up offer letters. A familiar saying coined by my colleague Adam came to mind. “Mary, are you paying the right people to do the right things?” My question was met with a silent pause.

I then explained to her how it might be beneficial to reallocate the workload among different types of individuals to ensure she was realizing a maximum return on investment for her resources. I suggested she consider using administrative professionals to manage the administrative tasks of recruiting (such as scheduling, arranging travel, and creating offer letters), which would free up the recruiters to handle the more core-competency recruiting work of assessing and qualifying candidate slates, participating on interview teams and working closely with hiring managers to ensure the candidate pools meet their needs. “You don’t want to pay recruiters $45 to $55 per hour and have them spend nearly half their time on administration,” I offered.

Mary then went on to explain how recruiters handled many other “nonprocess” tasks, such as responding to unsolicited resumes, filling out new hire forms, and managing job folders.

We then began strategizing ways she could segregate the work and remove much of the administration from her recruiters’ plates, which would lead to reduced time to fill, higher capacity, and even greater satisfaction among the recruiting team. “Not only do I think it would make for a more optimized workforce,” Mary commented, “but I imagine our recruiters would be delighted to shed the administrivia.” I couldn’t agree with her more.

That conversation prompted me to initiate a conversation with my colleagues in Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, resulting in a full review of our end-to-end processes to ensure we are paying the right people to do the right things. This review stemmed all the way from the leadership team, who should be focusing the majority of their time helping set the course for talent acquisition for the enterprise, to the coordinator team which steadfastly handles the administration that a compliant hiring process entails. In between are our recruiters and sourcers, who are focused on the core competencies of talent acquisition, although admittedly there is some administrivia that is part of their roles that we just can’t seem to shed. (They are not alone; I assure you, we all suffer from it!)

Once again, benchmarking yielded benefits for both benchmarker (Mary) and “benchmarkee” (me). It was an invaluable conversation, and Mary and I have talked several times since, always starting out with our mantra (courtesy of Adam): Are you paying the right people to do the right things?

Stop. Listen. Learn. Take a look at how you and your teams are spending their time, and make sure you are paying the right people to do the right things.

Lisa Calicchio, SPHR, is Director of Recruiting -- Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, the internal talent acquisition organization of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. In this role, Lisa manages the development and delivery of talent acquisition strategies and execution for Johnson & Johnson?s U.S. pharmaceuticals and biotechnology operating companies. In addition to managing this segment of the business and a significant client base, Lisa focuses on enhancing JJR's consulting capabilities through specialty teams for business analytics, training, and recruitment marketing. Her background includes extensive experience as an HR generalist and recruiting, though she started her professional career "on the line" and held several line positions across key functional areas before moving from sales and marketing into HR.


3 Comments on “Are You Paying the Right People to Do the Right Things?

  1. As a corporate recruiter that is in a situation not unlike Mary, I could not agree more. I feel this is one area that most companies do not focus enough of their attention. I would venture to guess that most companies come close to just picking a number out of the air as their goal for time to fill. While companies often spend considerable time mapping out WHAT their recruiting process is, they rarely spends enough time determining WHO should be doing the activities. You can not weight down the recruiting team with non-recruiting activities and expect the time-to-fill to go down.

  2. Long story, but I have a second profession working in retail, been there for many years and love it. My day job is very flexible allowing me to work.

    The situation is the same, following David’s note about mapping what the process is – the process for handling a retail department is well known, yet a computer is responsible for assigning people to schedules. Among team members, we know who is better at certain tasks and when our optimal time is for working (day or night). Yet, we are thrown into suboptimal situations at the mercy of a computer that cares only about time/cost optimatization and managers who dont take time to understand staff’s strengths.

    How much different and how much better our department(s) would be run if the right people were doing the right things at the right time! Whether it is a retail store at the holidays or a recruiting department….the gist is still the same.

    I will also add that it is unfortunate that ‘Mary’ had to speak to a colleague and didn’t consult with her team to identify ways to improve the department. I wonder if some of her team members had said something? That is just another issue for another day….

  3. Succinctly put, ‘Take a look at how you and your teams are spending their time, and make sure you are paying the right people to do the right things.’

    Couple your observations with the malady we’ve coined ‘reqitis’ and is any wonder that recruiters will ever get out from under the heavy (but necessary) administrative burden imposed by internal processes. In fact, this is so common in corporations in another article I’ve suggested that the role ‘recruiter’ be clearly distinguished from ’employment administration’ — a title that more correctly describes 75% of the work of many corporate recruiters.

    But, that administrative work must be handled. In most circumstances, burdened with headcount and budget constraints, corporate recruiting organizations have had to pile it on to the job description of a full life cycle recruiter. And what becomes even more paralyzing is that many in these roles become consumed by those tasks and spend even less time actually recruiting candidates for their companies.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard comments like ‘Oh, I can enter applicants into our ATS’, or ‘Oh, I can search that database!’ … followed up by, ‘Oh, I didn’t have time to call that candidate to get him/her interested in (i.e. recruit for) our opening,’ or ‘I’m busy busy busy!’


    I wonder if the same company’s sales people are burdened with end-to-end responsibilities. Can you just imagine a widget sales person with responsibilities in design, engineering, manufacturing, packaging and distribution ?!? Now that’s a full-life-cycle sales role that candidates would clamor to hold!

    I wonder who will be reading your article and actually thinking about how to apply the logic and effect change for what some of us see as good basic business sense!

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