What You Need to Know About Evaluating Recruiters

Having worked with and trained many recruiters and owner/ managers all over the world, it is clear to me that almost universally, the first improvement that can be made is in actually measuring performance. It probably won’t surprise most people that with rare exception, in the recruitment industry globally appraisals are at best a “congratulations you’ve hit your target for the quarter, let’s increase by 10% next quarter and good luck,” and at worst non-existent.

Somewhere in the middle is an appraisal that only gets pulled out of the drawer when someone is not hitting their targets. Often called a “performance improvement plan,” or cynically a “you’ll be fired if you don’t achieve this” plan, it usually only monitors quantitative measures, and is rarely supported by adequate training. It could be argued that the managers and owners themselves need to go on a performance improvement plan at the same time to observe and improve upon their influence over their underperforming team member.

It surprises me further how managers expect their teams to perform when they themselves are too busy hitting their own revenue targets. There’s a clue in the title given to those responsible for a team of performers: manager. You have to manage their performance and every aspect of it.

To do that, like with the athletes, we need to know and be able to measure the inputs.

Quantitative Measures

The ultimate quantitative measure is of course revenue. How each individual recruiter achieves that end goal can be very different. Take the IT sector. Someone placing help desk analysts is going to have to place a lot more in volume than a recruiter placing IT directors. Other quantitative elements can be anything in numbers that leads to this revenue. What’s important here though is the quality. If we break down the recruitment process we can form a neat reverse chronological list of steps taken and ultimately inputs to measure. Client offers, client interviews (with your candidates), candidates submitted to the client, your candidate interviews, business development calls, marketed candidates, number of detailed reference checks. Some would even argue that the number of calls or time on the phone are good measures.

These numbers and measures in themselves are less relevant than what the ratios between the numbers actually mean. For example, what percentage of your candidates are being called for interviews? What percentage of your offers are being accepted? When we know these ratios, we can begin to understand where improvements can be made.

Qualitative Measures

These measures are much more subjective, but that should not prevent you from trying to measure them. As a recruiter you need to be honest with yourself here and as a manager you need to invest time with your team to be able to make an informed judgement on these qualitative measures.

One simple way to approach it is to break it down into Client Development, Candidate Development, Administration and Work Ethic. For each of the four headings, break down and list the elements of the role. For example, with clients you can break it down into 12 elements:

Client Identification, Client Planning and Strategy, Name Gathering, Client Knowledge, Call Objectives, Call Execution, Closing, Meeting Planning, Meeting Control, Listening Skills, Fee Discussion, Follow Up.

Work Ethic for example may be broken down into:

Urgency, Focus, Time Management, Role Prioritisation, Planning, Attitude, Team Player.

What is important is that for each element, there is a 1-10 scale for recruiters and managers to mark. This can be achieved for taking two extremes for each part. Its very simple. Some examples are provided in the graphic (click to enlarge):

Clearly these are subjective, but conducting this appraisal on a quarterly or bi-yearly basis in itself helps to refocus a recruiter on all elements of the job.

In Practice

Who likes to be micro-managed by their boss? Nobody, I’m guessing (there may be exceptions). It’s human nature to want to feel in control and dislike someone watching over you the whole time. We all want to be in charge of our own destiny and have autonomy in our decision making.

The beauty of a well-put-together appraisal system is that as recruiters, you’re micro managing yourself so your boss doesn’t have to, and then everyone’s a winner. Why would you not want to know every single piece of data that could possibly help you increase your performance? You get the vital data you need to know where you’re falling short and where to make improvements, and also your manager gets the same information so they can help you devise a training plan to improve on your shortcomings.

A well-written appraisal should be laid out with the following elements:

Quantitative results from previous period (goal versus actual), e.g:

Revenue, placements, offers, second/final stage interviews, first interviews, candidates submitted, candidates interviewed (by consultant), client meetings, reference checks completed.

Qualitative results from previous period

See some of the examples above provided in the graphic for client development, candidate development, administration, and work ethic (lots more are listed in a full appraisal)

Revision of action points from previous appraisal

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• Proposal for action points for following period based on results – commitments

• Key areas of focus for next period

This document should also be revised as part of a monthly one-to-one, so it’s not a surprise every three or six months when you dust off the old appraisal document.

Key tips for successful appraisals

• Break it down to include both quantitative and qualitative measures along with commitments for the coming period

• Conduct a full appraisal on a bi-yearly basis with shorter ones quarterly and use the document as a tool for ongoing monthly one to ones.

As a recruiter

• Manage yourself before you get managed — embrace appraisals to help guide your success

• If there’s not an adequate quarterly or bi-yearly appraisal system in place, take the initiative to make it happen

• Ask for your managers’ time and use it wisely. If you’re not being trained adequately, ask. Managers should be supporting, guiding, and training you.

As a manager

• Dedicate time to conducting the appraisal and follow up with training, you will have better results and better staff retention

• Keep the inputs being measured the same for everyone but treat the results as unique to individuals

Above all else, remember this not just about performance. It’s about providing a great quality of service to your clients and candidates and playing your part in continuing to improve the perception of our industry through better quality in everything we do as recruiters.

Fraser Hill started his career in technical contract recruiting in London in 1997 before moving to Hong Kong to head up a technology practice focusing on contingency and executive search recruitment for a UK public-listed recruiting firm. After a period back in the UK working in boardroom retail executive search and global investment banking technology search, he ran a finance recruitment company throughout six countries in Eastern Europe. After that, he moved to Canada to work in finance and technology recruitment before setting up and later selling a Canadian-based recruiting organization. In 2009 he created and launched Pure Recruitment Training, an online on-demand interactive recruitment training suite of products providing over 20 hours of recruitment training along with detailed appraisal and business planning tools via the online portal. Since then he has worked as an in-house headhunter for a leading U.S. global bank, enabling him to understand the internal recruitment market, and in 2012 launched headhuntin.com, a similar training product targeted at the in-house market. In 2012 Hill also launched Bremnus, a search and recruitment firm where he practices what he teaches on a daily basis.


12 Comments on “What You Need to Know About Evaluating Recruiters

  1. Oops — missed the last paragraph in hurried reading.

    “Above all else, remember this not just about performance. It’s about providing a great quality of service to your clients and candidates…”


    But these need to be factored in as an integral aspect of the measurements — not just tacked on at the end.

  2. Thanks, Fraser. ISTM this reads to me more like what should be expected of 3PRs than Corporate Contract Recruiters. Call mew simplistic, but IMHO most corporate/contract recruiter should be judged on getting quality butts in chairs on time and within budget, and very little else…



  3. Fraser, great article. Good contenet and of real value.

    @keith, your point is well taken but I see it as not quite that simple.

  4. Donna, thanks for your comments. The fact that this statement was at the end of the article was not because it was an afterthought about client and candidate service.

    On the contrary, I was looking at summing up the article with a clear message that client and candidate service improvement should be the focus in conducting appraisals instead of it just being a performance review.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your point and am glad we’re on the same page. I’m sorry that may not have been conveyed clearly enough in the article.

  5. Keith, thanks for your comments. You’re absolutely right – this article was more about appraisals for permanent recruiters. However, I hope you still found the sentiments of appraising, training and client/candidate service from the article still very relevant to the contract market.

  6. There’s a recruiter out there whose signature has the tagline “Torture numbers enough and they will confess to anything”. Can’t recall his name but the tagline is perfect.

    If a recruiter makes 1,000 calls and places 30 consultants on 6 month assignments that don’t get renewed, that’s a number: you can call that your quota. If the recruiter next to him makes 200 calls and places 30 consultants on 6 month assignments that get renewed 4 times, that’s a number too.

    The recruiter that made only 20 percent of his quota generated 4 times the revenue than the one who made his quota.

    Which recruiter made your client want to ask for more business from your agency?

    Numbers are cheap, whiskey costs money…

  7. @ Fraser: You’re very welcome.
    @ Bill: It all depends on what they’re being paid to do.
    In many places inhouse, you’re paid basically to go-along, follow procedures, and fill out paperwork; quickly and cost-effectively putting quality butts in chairs was a distant second.

  8. Bill – I agree with you partly and partly disagree. I agree about the numbers – that was the point I was making about the ratio’s between the metrics and why they’re important in the quality equation.

    What I disagree with is how you spell whiskey. Where I come from (Scotland)it’s whisky,but less letters doesn’t make it any cheaper! The quality is better though. Less is indeed often more. 🙂

  9. Hello,

    Thanks for the article. Is there anything specifit for corporate recruitment that needs to be added to the list.


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