Recruiting Metrics: What’s the Story Behind That Stat?

The numbers don’t lie. This is one of those pesky phrases that almost always pops up on lists of overused clichés and business jargon that we’re told to avoid. However, given the rapid adoption of big data to fuel everything from organizational network analysis to predictive hiring, it’s likely that the phrase isn’t going away anytime soon.

Yet, as HR analyst John Sumser wisely cautions after walking readers through a scenario meant to demonstrate how easily humans misinterpret data, “Intelligent tools are not a panacea that will understand all of the real-word problems employees encounter. Our new tools can quantify many things but can only help us see part of the picture.”

The scenario he presents illustrates how a manager relies on data alone to ascertain what’s going on with a current employee and, in doing so, miscalculates the problem and, therefore, the solution. And while this example is about data as it relates to performance management, I’ve run across numerous instances in which talent acquisition inadvertently misjudges the “story” behind a recruiting stat or data point.

So, to help talent acquisition teams more accurately assess the metrics and reporting that are available to them, here are three examples of how to ask questions and then dig deeper to uncover what’s really going on within the organization’s recruiting function.

Example #1: Funnel Throughput Percentages

Among the most valuable aspects of tracking funnel throughput is the ability to identify hiring process issues, especially those that negatively impact an organization’s results when it comes to moving candidates through the pipeline as quickly as possible.

Suppose you are tracking the conversation rate for candidates who advance from first interview stage to second interview stage, and your rate is exceptionally high, perhaps even 60%. Do you assume that this is an indicator that the recruiter generated an extremely qualified candidate pool and let it go?

Or, do you decide instead to look more closely at the qualifications of those who advanced alongside an analysis of the format and methods used to evaluate first-round interviewees? Depending on what you uncover, you may find that the high conversation rate is due to an inconsistently applied interview and evaluation process that fails to distinguish top-tier candidates from those with only moderate qualifications. This would signal the need to revamp the process and put tighter interview controls in place for better results moving forward.

Example #2: Average Days in Funnel Status

This metric offers talent acquisition visibility into how many days candidates spend in each funnel status, from “new” candidate all the way through to “hired,” which makes it ideal for generating a snapshot of where talent may be sitting for too long.

Essentially, you’ll have benchmarks in place that make it easier to zero in on any outliers, but even if you don’t, you should be able to immediately recognize when the average days spent in a particular funnel status appears to be too high based on your prior experiences and what you would expect for the associated opening.

However, while recruiters may be tempted to assume that they know why candidates are spending too much time in a specific status (e.g., hiring manager feedback delays), always drill down to determine what’s truly going on. For example, is a candidate sitting in the screen phase too long because the company is not acting quickly enough, or could it be that the job includes an assessment that candidates must complete—like a coding test—and therefore, the delay is on their end? The goal is to arrive at a clear understanding of what’s happening so that you can then act effectively on the data. In this instance, you could respond by enabling automatic reminders within the workflow to nudge candidates along in completing their assessments.

Example #3: Candidate Source by Offer Versus Hire

This one may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often organizations don’t regularly compare differences between the source of candidates extended an offer and the source of candidates who are hired. Not doing so risks wasting valuable recruitment marketing dollars because you haven’t reallocated dollars to the best performing channels.

While both metrics are undoubtedly strong indicators of candidate quality, only hire is an indicator of success. I can say confidently that, in my experience helping to create dashboards for GR8 Insights and guiding customers through how best to use their reporting and dashboards, it’s not uncommon to see that some of the top channels associated with offers fall dramatically—and even drop off—from the list of top channels tied to hires. Getting to the bottom of this ensures that your team will realize much greater value from its recruitment marketing budget because you can eliminate your spend on sources that produce offers but few hires and invest it in those that consistently produce hires.

The main takeaway in all of this isn’t whether the numbers lie or don’t lie because, after all, numbers are just numbers until we attach meaning to them. What matters most is that gaining accurate—and actionable—insights requires asking good questions and scratching below the surface to uncover the real story behind that stat.