How to Improve Your Recruiting Batting Average 25 Points

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 12.43.42 PMI’ve been missing from these pages for awhile, but I asked if I could return and request the help of some real recruiters. I heard some of the best hang out here at ERE.

Here’s the idea. I’m working with a  bunch of people and companies putting together a comprehensive batting average for recruiters that combines all the critical factors, metrics, and competencies into one useful statistic. This will become known as the RBA — the Recruiter’s Batting Average.

Please look this first list over, suggest other factors that should be included, why some shouldn’t be considered, and which ones you think should be weighted more heavily than others.

I’ll be demonstrating how recruiters can better use LinkedIn Recruiter to improve their RBA at a LinkedIn workshop in NYC on June 17 for staffing firms. You’re invited to the streaming event.

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All of the factors will be converted to a 1-5 scale and adjusted for importance based on a weighting factor. The sum of all of the factors will represent the recruiter’s RBA. An RBA of 100 will be considered the standard norm. A score of more than 150 is first ballot all-star material, and an RBA of 75 or less justifies a lengthy stay in the minor leagues.   

Most Heavily Weighted Factors

  • Productivity. This is a measure of delivering results. It’s a raw score combining sendouts (interviews with hiring managers arranged) per month adjusted for the number of assignments being worked concurrently. Tracking this will drive all time-to-fill related metrics.
  • Number of candidates needed to be seen to get one hired, aka sendouts per hire. This indicates that the recruiter is efficient, knows the job, knows how to recruit and close, is a strong interviewer, and is in sync with the hiring manager’s needs. Target a maximum of four for most positions, and no more than two for repeatable high-volume positions like software developers or sales reps.
  • High-quality referrals per recruiting call. The best recruiters always get the best referrals and they spend most of their time getting them. This not only leads to the most placements per month and the highest billings, but it also increases productivity 2-3X, since referrals call you back and they’re already pre-qualified. Track referrals per call (or total per week) to drive the RBA higher, since it also gets the most weighting. Better: it instantly increases quality of hire.
  • In-depth job knowledge. When a top-tier passive candidate asks you to describe the job, the challenges involved, the available resources, and how success will be measured, you need to be able to answer with more than generic hyperbole and BS. Getting this information from the hiring manager is the first step in being able to convert a job into a career move. This is what I call a performance-based job description.
  • Quality of candidates presented. If a company just fills positions based on how they’ve always filled positions, they’ll continue to hire the same kinds of people they’ve always hired. To raise the talent bar, programs need to be put in place that define candidate quality and recruiters need to deliver to this standard. We use a talent scorecard as part of our Performance-based Interview to measure this.
  • Converting passive prospects into new hires. Being faster dialing for dollars (i.e., cold calling more people per hour found on some Boolean search) and filtering out people on factors that don’t predict performance is a waste of time. Tracking callback and conversion rates from first contact to the final close isn’t.

Less Weighted, but Still Important Factors

  • Accurately interviewing and passive assessing candidates. A recruiter needs to be able to accurately interview someone who’s not looking, while they’re overcoming objections and convincing the person the opening represents a career move.
  • Sourcing channel effectiveness. Knowing where and how to look ensures that candidates from all possible sources are seen and hired.
  • Creating compelling marketing messages. Posting skills-infested generic job descriptions, sending boring emails and tweets, and leaving dull voice mail messages is a recipe for attracting the desperate. Tracking message response rates is part of this, but these rates will surge when the messages tap into the ideal candidate’s intrinsic motivators.
  • Name generation. While cyber-sleuthing and having Boolean expertise are important skills, they represent only one channel for reaching people who won’t see or respond to your job postings.
  • Pipeline development and management. A pipeline of followers is short-lived, as the best active people find new jobs. Managing this turnover with fresh candidates and keeping those in the pipeline warm and interested is a great way to improve time to fill.

Not surprisingly, when asked, most recruiters rank themselves well-above average on all of these factors. However ability to do something is not the same as actually doing it. The RBA is intended to track what’s actually being done. It starts by making sure the right metrics are being tracked. Add your comments and thoughts to the whole idea. You never know: we actually might make it so that the best people are actually hired, not just the ones who manage to apply and make it through the artificial barriers and roadblocks, companies, hiring managers, HR, and recruiters put in their way.

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).


25 Comments on “How to Improve Your Recruiting Batting Average 25 Points

  1. I think a longevity or tenure measure of the hires made would be a good thing to add if possible. A good hire is one who sticks around well past the guarantee period and then some. It’s hard to control for other factors that affect retention, but if a hire sticks it’s an indicator that the recruiter knew the job and the company culture well enough to make a good match.

  2. I would revise the “Creating compelling marketing messages” factor to include engaging the broader organization not just in marketing job opportunities but creating communities where passive and active candidates engage with the brand. Recruiters can create and push content but I would score the recruiter that gets others to create and push the content higher.

  3. Richard, Hello…

    If you have a minute….

    Re: “…A good hire is one who sticks around well past the guarantee period…” is something I’ve seen before here and elsewhere but my question is, since a typical guarantee period is all of sixty to ninety days, how can this reference to a guarantee period be considered a realistic measurement?

    I measure stickiness by two to three years, three to five, five to ten, depending on the job, company and capacity for candidate growth.

    In other words, in my conversations for candidate stickiness, the guarantee period is ancient history and is not a suitable yardstick…




  4. @ Paul,

    “how can this reference to a guarantee period be considered a realistic measurement?”

    It’s what the market has produced via most agency’s contracts as the period after which the manager is more responsible for retention than the recruiter. It’s also meant to protect their capital by not having recruiters endlessly replacing people and chasing a fee they got last year. Now that can mean three things: in general recruiters suck at getting people who stick; managers aren’t good at retaining people who are otherwise qualified; or a mix of the two. The latter is what I’d guess. What’s lacking, as it so often is in our field, is research that would answer the question and help determine a cut off point.

    Sixty to ninety days certainly doesn’t seem like a good yard stick on a quick pass, but with the pervasive poor management I’ve seen personally at companies I’ve worked in, and the predominance of bad management as the reason people leave their positions, I’d be hesitant before just picking a number out of thin air. There are also complicating factors; you place candidate X with manager Y, but manager Y leaves the company a year after and is replaced with manager Z, who is a total moron.

    Tenure has to be included, but it’s also true that recruiters can’t be responsible for essentially managing and retaining people they placed years ago. That’s what managers are for. I’d think this portion of the metric would have to be specific to corporate scorecards where it’s much easier to assess and incorporate this kind of data, and understand the context of retention/loss of particular candidates.

  5. Quality of candidates covers everything you’re discussing post hire. There are too many variables after the hire that the recruiter doesn’t control so it shouldn’t be part of the RBA. I high and continuous RBA indicates the recruiters continues to place high quality people.

  6. Added thought: A good question to ask is how long should a person stay? The idea that, if a recruiter is really doing their job, then their candidates should take the job and never leave certainly isn’t true; it is part of the company/manager’s job to retain people. So maybe a better way to measure tenure is against the mean for the company in question rather than an arbitrary number. If you place someone in a position and they last nine months, it sounds horrible. If it’s a high turnover position where the average employee stays for six months to a year, it’s average. If they stay over a year, you’ve beaten expectations. But, if you place someone and they stay for three years and the average tenure is four, you’ve fallen short. But even then, what else affected this person’s tenure that was out of the control of the recruiter?

    Case in point: I’m aware of a company locally that burns through people like a damn NASCAR race. They’re in, they’re out. They’ve been through several HR managers, some of them with tenures measured in months. The reason is the company owner is a drunk and a lunatic, and some days he’s good, and other days he comes in sloshed and berates people at the top of his lungs for things they aren’t even associated with. But, people need to work, the company does serve a pretty vital function, so long time managers know how to shield their employees enough to keep them, newbies get turned into minced meat.

    What’s an acceptable tenure for that company? They have employees, they’re going to need more for obvious reasons, and since there are people who need jobs and would be willing to take that abuse for a while for their own reasons, they will make hires. And some of those hires will be through agencies. It’s an extreme example, but not as extreme as you’d think, and at what point is the recruiter responsible for retention of an employee who was hired there but encountered this owner on a bad day when he decided to insult that person’s parentage without first checking to see if they had died recently? Example taken from real life.

    Metrics matter, which is why they need to be thought out before being implemented. Employee tenure is important, how it’s measured and weighted are harder questions to answer.

  7. I disagree in part, Lou. A quality candidate should have a longer tenure. Measuring tenure in a practical way, there I agree with you; it’s likely impossible for agencies. Not so for corporate, though. But the proof is in the pudding, which is determined by those who eat it, not the chef’s opinion of it. Likewise, the quality of the candidate is determined by how they perform once they’re in the position in question. That can only be measured post hire; tenure being one measure.

  8. I disagree with your disagreement. It’s just like in baseball. If someone has a great batting average they might not score, but that’s a different metric. Tenure is function of quality of candidates presented and if there is subsequent turnover then the quality of the candidate is low. Since the RBA measure is not a point a time, but a continuous reading of real time metrics, turnover would show up in reductions in placements per month and sendouts per hire.

    This is not to say that your point is not important, it’s just not a direct part of the RBA.

  9. I am sure my bit will generate disagreement but here is my $0.02 after a quick read.

    There is too much focus on sourcing and marketing for me. While most of the current points listed are essential, there is not enough substance for the plays that make or break the hire.

    Perhaps sourcing, marketing, and a host of other practices/attributes that appear flashy and buzzworthy don’t matter as much as face or phone time.

    Face/phone time is what matters for me and what is said and how has a greater bearing on the result. Thus they need more weight.

    I really appreciate LinkedIn’s utility value in terms of sourcing and flooding my news-feed with articles referencing Moneyball but equating my recruiting to baseball, my time and effort in the strike zone is what matters most.

    I would prefer more substance and weight around mastering the exchanges. More on closing the deal and real time conversation exchanges during interview time.

    Many can master sourcing and we have technology to thank for that. Fewer can master the close and exchanges leading up to the close. That for me is where the greatest opportunity for improvement lies.

  10. @ Lou,

    “Since the RBA measure is not a point a time, but a continuous reading of real time metrics, turnover would show up in reductions in placements per month and sendouts per hire.”

    Turnover could actually lead to an increase in placements per month if the client keeps coming back to the same agency, which does tend to happen, so I don’t think this necessarily flies. Be that as it may, it’s still too much of a pain in the ass to incorporate such a metric, and probably suited for an annual corporate review type of report.

    @ Gareth,

    The question is, how would you measure that? I like tenure, but Lou is right in that it’s too removed from the recruiter’s control so not suitable in this context. How would you measure ‘mastering the exchange’? It seems that’s captured, perhaps indirectly, in the ratio of sourced candidates/sendouts/interviews/hires. A person who has mastered the exchange will be closer to a 1:1 ratio all along that line than someone who hasn’t.

  11. Richard, you’re not serious are you? You actually think a company would continue to use a recruiter whose candidates they’ve hired have excessively high turnover? I think your trying to justify your argument with straw men. In this case, I’d give the recruiter high marks for something, not sure what though, and give the client low marks for something else, not sure what though, either.

  12. Richard,

    Okay, thanks for taking the time, I basically get it.

    I generally go into a deal with a candidate with a clear understanding of approximately how long the job should last and what the expectations are for the next move upward after that.

    So we have an understanding, if not agreement, as to how long a candidate is expected to be in the position for which I’ve recruited them. This is my ‘three to five’, etc. formula.

    I can’t say this always sticks but for the most part, all my candidates stay at least a year or two at the minimum before they boogey. Some stay longer, some do leave after a couple of years or unfortunately, are riffed as a result of a corporate shuffle, not because my placed candidate was lacking.

    Strangely (or not) my retained search candidates last the longest- one in particular did the ten years as was expected and another is still there where he is supposed to be, fourteen years later.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time. Any time someone refers to ‘making it past the guarantee period’ I get the heebie jeebies.

    What has our business come to if that is even in the conversation…I know what you said but still….

  13. Richard I have the same question. I do not know how it would be measured. I agree, it is captured to an extent in those ratios but it would be awesome if a Bill James of Recruiting would surface and tackle that question. Can it be directly measured?, not sure but I would like to assume that what can be measured is the part of the exchange that I control.

    The next question then becomes what can I control?

  14. Mr. Adler….

    If/When you have time, would you consider calling me about your Talent Scorecard?

    I think there is room for improvement and I’d like to share my thoughts about that with you.

    Thanks, whenever you have time.

    Paul Forel
    Kansas City, MO

  15. “Richard, you’re not serious are you? You actually think a company would continue to use a recruiter whose candidates they’ve hired have excessively high turnover?”

    Since I’ve seen it happen multiple times, yes. It was one of the things I had to correct in my last job, the constant returning to the well of bad agencies that didn’t provide good people. So long as no one assigns the quality problem to the recruiter, and sometimes there’s good reason not to*, the process can keep going and higher turnover means more placements. At least until someone gets wise, but they don’t often do that.

    *There’s only so much a recruiter can do if they’re feeding people into one of the bottom rung companies out there where chaos and abusive management are persistent for whatever reason. And while you want to avoid working with them if possible, sometimes an order from one of those companies ends up on your desk, and you fill it. And you’ll likely fill it again.

  16. @ Paul,

    “What has our business come to if that is even in the conversation…I know what you said but still….”

    Generally market forces will push vendors towards a solution that is ‘good enough’ in the eyes of the customer. So, it’s no surprise, given the lackadaisical manner in which most management is done, that hiring isn’t the top priority in terms of quality and expectations. And right now the 90 day mark seems to be the standard. Anyone worth their salt will always want the candidate to last way longer than that, years hopefully. But there has to be a hand-off standard, a point at which all parties agree it was a good match and that retention is then the responsibility of the manager/company.

    1. IMO, unless the recruiter misrepresents material information, guarantees of any length are absurd. Guarantee what, exactly? All the recruiter can guarantee is that he’s told the candidate the truth, and that he’s provided the company as complete information as reasonable diligence can produce.

      From the moment the candidate begins interviewing, the responsibility for her success and tenure at that company rests with the company. The recruiter doesn’t establish the working conditions, doesn’t put the team together, doesn’t hand out assignments, doesn’t manage the new hire, doesn’t have a voice in the reward system, and therefore has no influence whatsoever on the candidate’s success and tenure.

      The company is paying the recruiter to source, sell the company and job, generate and sustain enthusiasm during the hiring process, save the company from its hiring gaffes, and close the candidate on the offer.

  17. Actually this is not a new idea. I wrote a white paper about a year ago about “Why recruiters and Baseball players BOTH need an RBI tool”. In this case in the Recruiter’s model this stands for Recruiting Business Intelligence”. So in case anyone wants to see this, feel free to send me a note to for the original piece.

  18. Marc have you gone beyond the why and also addressed some of the what and how’s of the need for this tool?

  19. No one said it was a new idea, implementing it isn’t a new idea either, it’s getting the right metrics that drive performance and quality is the purpose of this discussion. Richard’s post hire comment is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion, since if I were the recruiting leader I would terminate that recruiter. However, if a recruiter is underperforming the metrics should point out why. If a recruiter is over performing he or she should be rewarded. I suggest that the best predictors of overall performance are sendouts per hire, sendouts per month for different jobs and referrals per week. All of these in real time will predict who are the best recruiters. As an FYI these are the metrics we tracked in my search firm from 1980 to 2002 and out of 8 to 10 recruiters these accurately predicted who make the most placements with the highest quality and the lowest turnover. FYI – our guarantee was one year! Our fallout rate in the 20 years was less than 5%. My conclusion: since 90% of the best people find their jobs through referrals, 90% of a recruiter’s sourcing time should be getting pre-qualified warm referrals. Here’s a link to the survey proving the 90% –

  20. “Richard’s post hire comment is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion, since if I were the recruiting leader I would terminate that recruiter.”

    I agree, for the purposes of this scorecard it’s not relevant. If anything it’s for corporate use on a longer time scale, not real time. Keep in mind though, you’re not going to be the recruiting leader, and one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make in any management situation is to assume another person’s competence at managing. It pays to idiot-proof things.

    I also notice you’re going counter to how I’ve seen many agencies operate. I think the sendouts per hire metric is very important and you’ve got it right: the fewer candidates sent per hire, the better the recruiter. However, I’ve seen many agencies take the opposite tack, often thinking the answer is more candidates. Should this get traction, it’ll likely rub a lot of people the wrong way, especially those measuring competence by the raw number of people sent out as opposed to the ratio of sendouts to hires.

    “As an FYI these are the metrics we tracked in my search firm from 1980 to 2002 and out of 8 to 10 recruiters these accurately predicted who make the most placements with the highest quality and the lowest turnover.”

    That’s good backing information and a good track record for the metrics. Good luck with the development, I hope it gets used. It is exactly the kind of standards based effort the industry needs.

  21. The one variable I’d really like to see in RBA is this: a big, bold negative factor that subtracts dearly for prematurely writing off capable candidates! (In baseball terms, it’s almost like walking too many batters.)

    I’ve had this idea for something similar called a Hiring Batting Average, the HBA. It originally came to me when I became a manager — just how would I know how effective am I at hiring? (I originally called it Manager’s Batting Average, yet didn’t like the conflict with MBA.)

    One factor I’ve always wanted to track in Hiring is this: what becomes of those candidates we labeled as “Lonesome Loser?” Were they actually Losers anywhere and everywhere? Or were we wrong to prematurely reject them?

    This was brought up to me ages ago when another person in a hiring capacity said he knew of fellow managers who made a lifetime career of discarding applicants who were ultimately good. Nobody ever evaluated the evaluator!

    And in other forms of real life, there are those who made faulty hiring decisions this way such as:
    1 – “She won’t last, she’s just a flash in the pan,” an early 80’s Billboard review said about Madonna.

    2 – “You’re going nowhere. Go back to driving a truck,” said a musical director about Elvis Presley.

    3 – “Can’t act, can’t sing. Can dance a little,” stated a Hollywood executive’s about Fred Astaire’s screen test.

    I often wonder how many careers have failed to blossom fully simply because the persons in charge made errors in judgment. I especially think of this every time yet another headline proclaims we have a talent shortage.

    The last thing I want as a hiring manager is for someone I declared Loser to be a Winner at my competitor’s place. I’d love it if this could be a term in the calculation of RBA, HBA, etc.

    1. In the book, “The Rare Find,” the author shows how hiring against center-of-the-bell-curve requirements produces solid, if unspectacular, hires. Hiring stars requires taking a serious look at what they call “jagged resumes,” i.e., backgrounds that wouldn’t survive a company’s resume-scanning process. It turns out that many of those who’ve had a few too many jobs simply haven’t found the right destination yet. Using this philosophy, Facebook hired 1/3 of their engineering staff.

      Back in the day, when I was recruiting in IT (I’m in the software business now) I remember more than one conversation with a hiring manager in which, after checking out the candidate thoroughly, I said, “I know he can DO the job; I don’t know if he can GET the job.”

  22. Glenn,

    Valid point, but impossible to measure, I would think. Hindsight is always 20/20, and that’s assuming that given the opportunity they were denied, the same success would have followed. That’s not always the case, and there’s no way to confirm it by consulting an alternate reality where it happened. I think the best you can hope for is to get as reliable a set of predictive measures as you can, go by them, and cull the X% who don’t make it.

  23. Welcome back, Lou. Your plan seems very hard to properly and effectively incentivize. ISTM that most of these metrics would be mainly useful to help substandard performers who aren’t bad enough to fire, YET- say, folks who are consistently hitting 75-90% of quota…
    (They might also be useful for those achieving/busting quotas who want to improve IF the measurement, input, analyses of these factors doesn’t take too much time away from recruiting…)


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