Traditional Recruiting Metrics Are Useless

July 19, 2019


Strategic advisor, Consultant, Futurist, Global speaker, Entrepreneur

If metrics are supposed to give us data so that we can make recruitment more effective and efficient, they have failed – badly.

In most organizations, the commonly reported metrics have been relatively unchanging for months and even years. When comparing the metrics in a specific industry or occupation, the numbers fluctuate around a mean that varies only slightly. It seems that nothing has been able to move the needle on these metrics for a long time. The variations depend mostly on time of year, the number of open requisitions or the experience of the recruiter. I would propose they have become constants or givens and that only some extraordinary influence or technology will change them. Therefore, they are not very useful. 


Useful measures should provide the data you need to make meaningful, substantive changes in what you are doing. They should provide insight into questions that candidates, hiring managers, or leadership have, and they need to be ones that you have influence or control over. Most of all they should tell you in real-time what is happening so you can quickly change course.

The most commonly reported recruitment metrics do not meet these requirements. They are all backward looking and only tell you what happened days or weeks ago.

The usual measures of time to fill and time to hire as well as cost of hire are administrative or transactional measures that provide no data on the quality of the hires or with the satisfaction of the candidates or managers. Recruiters may end up overworked or quality may decline to lower costs. These measures are easy to game and do not answer questions such as are we attracting the right people, are the people who come to our career site engaged, or are we building a database of engaged potential candidates through engagement and relationship building.

Quality of hire is tough to define objectively. The usual measure is hiring manager satisfaction and length of tenure. Hiring manager satisfaction has at least two problems: their opinion is highly subjective and may be based more on bias than on objective evidence, and some managers may be satisfied with very average performance while others will be happy only with very high standards that are hard to meet.

The length of tenure is also a poor metrics as many factors may influence turnover that have nothing to do with the skills or competence of the employee or the effectiveness of the recruiter. Economics, the nature of the work, whether or not the job was defined correctly, how teammates interact are causes of turnover.


A Better Approach


The measures that matter the most are those that show us the level of interest and engagement potential candidates have, the number of candidates who pursue information and who complete applications, the number who, when presented to a hiring manager, are offered a job and the number we have developed a relationship with to fulfill future needs.

These directly measure how effective our communication is, how well we are using media and engagement tools to find and screen those most likely to be offered a position, and how good we are at building relationships.

These measures provide us valuable data on what attracts and engages candidates and also give us information about what to change or improve to attract those we want. We have direct control over the media we use, its content, and the frequency of update.

Pipelines Are Key


The primary job of a recruiter should be building pipelines of candidates around particular disciplines. Building a pipeline requires developing a marketing strategy to attract the right people as well as an engagement and relationship building strategy and process to get people involved and interested in the organization and potential work opportunities. Tying metrics to this process provides actionable data that can be used in real time to tweak and improve the process. Traditional metrics are all backward looking and by the time they are compiled and reported, it may be too late to make any improvement.


Trust Building


Building trust requires a willingness to share and a candid and open attitude toward data and information. Recruiters who can listen and are respectful with candidates can create stable and long-lasting relationships. These relationships will lead to you to be confident in finding and hiring the right people.


Predictive Analytics

The most useful of all metrics are those derived from accumulated data to predict behavior and alter actions. By analyzing past behavior, it is possible to predict with a high level of probability the behaviors that will occur. More on this in a future article.



Discard your traditional metrics and embrace a dynamic and useful set of measures based on relationships, trust, and actual candidate behavior. Begin the movement to predictive analytics using accumulated data.

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Kevin Wheeler

Kevin Wheeler


Kevin Wheeler Founder and Chairman the Future of Talent Institute. Kevin started FOTI in 2004 out of his passionate belief that organizations need a more powerful and thoughtful architecture for talent than they have. After a 25 year career in corporate America serving as the Senior Vice President for Staffing and Workforce Development at the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Vice President of Human Resources for Alphatec Electronics, Inc. in Thailand, and in a variety of human resources roles at National Semiconductor Corporation, Kevin has firsthand knowledge of the need for better strategies and approaches to finding, developing and retaining people.

Today, Kevin is a globally known speaker, author, teacher and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, as well as in corporate education. He is the author of numerous articles on human resource development, career development, recruiting, and on establishing corporate universities. He is a frequent speaker at conferences. He writes a weekly Internet column on recruiting and staffing, which can be found at, and he and Eileen have written a book on corporate universities, The Corporate University Workbook: Launching the 21st Century Learning Organization. He serves as adjunct faculty at San Jose State University, the University of San Francisco and on the business faculty at San Francisco State University.

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