So What?

It was a Tuesday morning and my 9 a.m. appointment just arrived at my office. The appointment was with one of my recruiters; we were meeting for a quarterly business review of his accounts.

He came prepared with a list of his accomplishments from Q4 and full-year 2006, including a summary of his performance against key metrics such as agency utilization, time to fill, and customer satisfaction.

As he outlined his results, I listened with great interest, taking notes on what he described as his key wins: Filled 89 positions, achieved time to fill of seven weeks, and ranked third in client satisfaction out of 20 recruiters.

Rich (not his real name) paused, then put his papers down. “What do you think about what you’ve just shared with me?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “I had a great year.” There was a pause, and he asked, “What do you think?”

“My first reaction is that you are meeting expectations,” I told a smiling Rich. “But my second reaction is so what?”

Rich’s smile turned to a frown, and he appeared taken aback. I wasn’t surprised; I had chosen these words deliberately.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I explained. “I’m not saying this in a negative sense. It’s another way of asking you what impact these results had on your clients.” Rich sat back in his chair, looked at his notes again, fidgeted somewhat, and said, “I’m not sure I understand?”

I then talked about the importance of articulating not only what the results were, but how the results helped clients achieve their business goals. In other words, did Rich help his clients “move the dial” by doing what he did as a recruiter? Was he able to clearly communicate the WIFFM (What’s In It For Me, from a client’s perspective in this example) to the clients? Did the clients understand the value and impact Rich personally had on their business through his results and contributions?

Put yourself in the shoes of Rich’s clients. If you were a vice president of sales, which of these statements would be more compelling to you?

We filled 89 positions in the central region with an average time to fill of seven weeks and at a cost per hire of about $5,400.


We filled 89 positions in the central region with an average time to fill of seven weeks. Filling the positions in this timeframe allowed the newly hired representatives to get onboard and subsequently complete their sales training early (i.e., in the April class rather than the May class), which means they were in their territory an average one month earlier than planned. Do the math. For 89 positions, this means you have:

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  1. Eighty-nine additional months of territory coverage, which not only preserved the market share of Achiphex in the region, but actually increased its market share despite a competitor’s product launch in the same timeframe.
  2. An additional 89 months of sales revenue generated by these representatives, allowing you to exceed your overall business plan.
  3. You may not go as far as to say this, but it also means the vice president of sales will probably get a bigger bonus.

Better yet, which of these statements demonstrates the value of the recruiter and his accomplishments to you and your business?

Isn’t the purpose of being in business to bring value to the customer through one’s products or services? If so, and it’s done right, the profits will follow. So why wouldn’t we in recruiting seize every opportunity to translate our accomplishments to the value it brings to our clients? This is not only about what sales or marketing contributes to the P&L, folks. Recruiting contributes to the bottom line, too. It’s up to all of us to demonstrate how.

It’s Not Only About Metrics

Recruiting, like most of HR, does not do a stellar job of linking activities, initiatives, and results to impact. It’s not enough to highlight activities; in some industries, it’s not even enough nowadays to show results.

To really get ahead, where the business case is king, you’d better be prepared to not only talk about what you do and how you do it, but about the positive impact your contributions have on the business. Demonstrating impact brings credibility to what you do, and underscores your value to the organization.

In HR’s perennial quest to get a seat at the table (or for some HR organizations, keep it), we’ve turned to metrics to try and quantify our results and contributions. The past couple of years have seen an explosion of metrics, from industry consultants helping develop metrics that matter to statistical software tools to help translate results to data, complete with jazzy graphs and diagrams.

Everyone seems to be measuring, or trying to measure, everything. HR organizations now have sophisticated dashboards and balanced scorecards that analyze cost, performance, and productivity. So what? In the metrics frenzy, don’t lose sight of the “so what.”

Although fancy charts and green dashboard lights are important and required, they simply can’t articulate the value and impact of the results we in recruiting deliver to the bottom line.

Take, for example, telling a vice president of research, “By hitting or exceeding these metrics and achieving these results, we’ve ensured you have the specific scientists you need to achieve your business goal of starting an oncology therapeutics area by 2008. By decreasing our agency usage and finding this talent through our internal sourcing team, we’ve avoided nearly $1 million in agency fees, which you can use to invest in building this new area. By achieving a quality of hire of 97%, we can say with confidence you have talent you need to make this happen.”

I guarantee this vice president’s comment won’t be, “So what?” And don’t be surprised if she says, “So tell me more!”

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.


7 Comments on “So What?

  1. ‘ You got yourself a real statistician there Harry but does he know anything about the Driver?’

    Excellent article Lisa!

  2. First, Kudos to Lisa for the excellent example and for extending the invitation to measure and report value.

    Second, take it one step further with measurements of this type:

    26% of the recruits were at job knowledge mastery 2 weeks ahead of the new recruit average. This translates into a 7% higher average transaction value from these new representatives.


    98% of those hired passed their licensing exam on the first attempt, thus reducing the cost of on-boarding by $4,000 per candidate ($ = X )


    Based upon Tenure Risk scores, we should see a 50% increase in first year retention from this group, thus reducing staffing waste and re-work by $XX,XXX. I will report the 6 month actual year over year change next month.

    Thoreau said: ‘It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants.’ The question is, ‘What are we busy about?’

  3. Lisa,

    You are quickly becoming my favorite author here on ERE 🙂

    Excellent points in todays article. We do need to be aware of certain metrics internally to our recruiting organization to measure workload, efficiency, cost, source utilization, etc. But the only thing that management is and should be concerned about is how our efforts affect the organization’s bottom line. The better job we do at reporting to management our value in terms of our effect on the bottom line, the better off our recruiting organizations will be in getting that coveted ‘seat-at-the-table.’

    Another great article to share with my colleagues as we continue to think about what metrics are most relevant to our firm’s leaders.

  4. Lisa,

    Yet again, another fabulous post. Thank you! I really like the way you think! In fact, I liked your last article about the importance of providing a good candidate experience as it relates to your brand so useful that I cited it, with full credit to you of course, at a presentation I gave here in Dallas. I think you are definitely helping to push the industry into an even more professional, consultative place. Kudos yet again.

    Your fan in Dallas,

  5. Very rarely do you see the Great Stuff that not only catches your attention, but makes you say Yeah, that is really good, maybe I should consider that – implement it with my tools..

    Excellent article.. Hope to see more of your advice. We need more of this type of quality content.

  6. One of the more refreshing and informative articles I’ve recently read on ERE.

    I’ve been coaching a few potential candidates about the importance of quantifying what they’ve done and their accomplishments. This article provides an even more concrete explanation of the articulation process.

    As I read your story about the recruiter’s performance review, I kept asking ‘But compared to what?’ He did 89 placements but the average is 70, so that what he was saying was he exceeded expectations? There were other points he made and at each one I kept wondering, compared to what? And I kept wondering what his required performance was supposed to be.

    No doubt he was quite proud of how well prepared he was for his performance review. Your article also showed that merely going in with a bunch of numbers is not sufficient. It needs to be in relation to a comparator. This factor was implied in your writing, it wasn’t explicit.

    And you also articulated something that gets overlooked so much in this industry — how your activities have benefitted the client and in what way.

    There’s a lot of rush to make the placement with the ‘right fit’ or the ‘best candidate.’ You’ve shown us that there’s more to be done. There’s more to be understood.

    Thanks for the great write.


  7. I’m not sure the author herself is not to blame here for the disconnect manifested by her subordinate: after all, why does this lack of practical integration with the business only come up at review time? Isn’t strengthening the business through recruiting a mentality that should dominate one’s thinking from the moment he walks in the door each morning? Inevitably, such thinking coupled with reasonably competent execution leads to more credibility and deeper integration with the hiring managers. You could call this Theory of Recruiting 100, a prereq for everything else.

    It floors me that a full 20 years after I did my graduate research project (Integrating HR into the Strategic Business Plan’)—a topic that in my own mind was hardly revolutionary— that there are still recruiters out there who see themselves as just another ‘spoke on the rim’ rather than part of an engineered system of mutually supporting components that keeps the show moving. And when will it dawn on the recruiting world that the really senior executives (the CEO’s and SVP’s) don’t care a whit about your recruiting metrics, they only care how you can help THEIR metrics?

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