June 1, 2022

Is “Time to Fill” An Effective And Accurate Hiring Metric


Episode Highlights

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Join Michelle Mehlis and Chelsea Renaud as they talk about the common metrics used in talent acquisition. Every company wants data-driven data but what does that data really consist of? One of those metrics is time to fill. Michelle and Chelsea take a deep dive to discuss how accurate and effective ‘time to fill’ truly is. It’s not a metric of one size fits all, so they share insights on other things your organization can be doing to become more data-driven. Check it out!

Episode Transcript

Good afternoon. I’m Michelle Mehlis and I’m here with my coworker, Chelsea Renaud. We’re both with Hirewell and we’re here to provide some talent insight. We both bring both agency and corporate recruiting experience and we took on a big topic today. One that we both lived and talked about a lot and that is metrics inside of talent acquisition.

And I think it’s important and relevant because every time you look at a job description, whether it’s in talent acquisition, or it or sales, it doesn’t matter- data-driven, data-driven and we want an organization that has a data-driven operation. We want data-driven people. So if we’re going to live by this, data-driven what exactly is the data?

And really in talent acquisition, we live in an ATS. The ATS is collecting data and they’ve basically decided the most common measurement, it seems like is time to fill. Every ATS will track that for you and give that to you. Yeah. So it is a good measurement because if you think about it, the reason a position is open is because there’s a need for it on the team, whether it be a new position, new head count or a backfill.

And so either the team is doing the extra work in both cases for this employee that’s absent or the project. So it creates this tension on the team. So it’s very important to track time to fill, because you want to make sure that it’s not going on for months and months where it could cause somebody on the team who is doing double the workload to leave because

they are doing too much. Also, it is a quantity. It’s a number, so it’s easy to track. And while on the surface we agree that time to fill sounds like a good metric for talent acquisition, since Michelle and I have both been in enough shops to know it’s not necessarily driving the best business outcomes.

Yeah. I mean, and I think that this is really where this topic kind of started, is we started talking about well how would you do a good organization? And we had a very easy time starting to poke holes in this from time to fill. It didn’t take us long at all. And the first thing was just it’s not accurate, right?

So it’s not measuring what you think it is. So most obvious one, hiring manager, someone on the team goes on vacation. A week or two weeks. Well clock’s still ticking, right? There’s inconsistency of when it goes into the ATS. Does it go in when the rec goes in? Does the hiring manager hold on to it for a couple of weeks or does the hiring manager get it in immediately?

So that inconsistency creates it so that it’s not really comparable sometimes from one department to another, one recruiter to another, one organization to another. And what about internal candidates and does it really take into account if they’re getting the first shot at the hiring process or interview process? And the time to fill for that.

If they don’t work out, then having to start from scratch with external candidates. Right. Because I mean, we’re all about trying to accomplish a lot with a little like every department. And so if you know there’s two internal candidates, you’re not working on the external candidates typically until those are reviewed.

But then if those don’t end up being the hire, then you’re starting and you’re a couple of weeks behind. Your clock’s already got a long ways. And even sometimes like a position can go on hold, right? Oh, we’re thinking about this. We may restructure the department. Don’t close it.

Just put it on hold while we decide, right? Because there’s stuff going on. And it’s like, okay, sitting there for a month, two months, that kind of stuff. But then if it’s getting aggregated, it’s looking like it’s a slow time to fill. And then probably my favorite, which happens all the time

is oh, we’ve got four of these, right? So how exactly do you know? Or you had two and then you had an extra head count or someone quit while you’re filling those first two, but it’s all going back to that original date. So lack of accuracy and that’s really, really common, especially when you get down to a role that you hire a lot for that you don’t close and open each time you have to hire it.

You just have one open almost all the time. But besides just the obvious things that we’re talking about here where it’s like you poke away and see a lot of ways where that the number itself is an accurate. I think when you think about it versus the business objective, it has some failings too.

Yeah, like quantity over quality. Are we just trying to get a button seat because the team is stressed because of their workload for this extra position that they are accounting for? And so are we just trying to get a warm body into the team to help with stuff? But that should be called a contractor.

Yeah, well, exactly. And then that is a lot of cost to the business. If that’s your mentality on hiring is just quantity, bring people in, you’re not really going through the thorough vetting process and you’re not making sure that you are bringing on the right fit to stay long-term with the company.

So turnover, that’s a huge cost to the company with training, with onboarding, with just everything that it takes to bring a new hire up to speed. And then three months later they leave because they’re not a good fit or they mess something up because you didn’t take the time to qualify them.

If I’m as a recruiter, I’m looking at time to fill and that’s the primary thing, like all these other measurements that are really rich measurements aren’t getting tied in and I’m just like, okay. I just need to- it’s all about activity pipeline and how fast can I make a move.

Yeah. That’s one of the most stressful things for a recruiter, at least for me, it’s when yeah your numbers aren’t reflecting what you’re doing. Yeah. Well, and I think that some of this stuff is just out of our control, right? Like obviously hiring managers, vacation, out of control, but even beyond that, like built into in to it. Do people think- the hiring managers don’t remember.

We have to remind them every single time that time to fill is not time to offer acceptance. Then there’s this whole unknown of like, do they need to give two weeks notice? Three weeks notice? Is the background check- like does that take longer? Do we make the offer on a Tuesday? Well even if they gave notice that day, you’re looking at least three weeks out, maybe four weeks out. We also end up with things that are like more macro types of things.

So at a company level, how good is the repository that you have for job descriptions? Whose responsibility is that? It’s one of the worst things out there. And in fact, I think we should do one on that at some point that talks about hiring 10- like oh my God, like how bad of a repository do we have to start with?

And then there’s things like comp, right? Like companies can be way out of line overall because that’s what they can afford, where they can have one set of positions out of line and it takes adjustment. A lot of times what we’re doing as talent acquisition people is helping them figure out that like, oh yeah, I better make an adjustment because if I don’t make an adjustment, I’m not hiring anybody.

And more importantly, then I’ll start losing everybody, so. Right. Yeah. And that’s how we get that data is by listening to what the market is telling us, which again, extends the time that the position’s been opened. Yeah. So it really means that you need a good talent acquisition leader. But the talent acquisition leader can solve for some of these problems

but without executive support, it is a big problem in terms of how to accomplish this. Right. Yeah, exactly. A good talent acquisition leader is critical. And I think that looking at the number of applications versus us going out and sourcing candidates- if we have a heavy flow of applications that we can just go through quickly and we find a great candidate versus us having to go out and source and wait for people to get back to us,

that really affects the time to fill. And then sourcers, does your company have a sourcing team? Do you have a dedicated sourcer that can go out and find the candidates while you’re going through applicants or doing other things. And the budget that your company has for

advertising and just like the job descriptions. Is there somebody dedicated to job descriptions or just market outreach, getting the name out there of the company, if you’re not a very well-known company? I mean, I think that really just like this whole- thinking about it, it’s like we want to have this measurement, but is it doing the right thing?

There’s all these challenges, if you want to call them that, inside of the go-to metric for talent acquisition. How do we then run a data-driven organization, right? Because we’re spending so much time doing, doing, doing that the measurements aren’t really that accurate.

And then if they’re not that accurate and consistent, say across recruiters, across types of roles, right? Because entry level clerical role is not going to be the same as a software engineer role. Do you try and separate for them? I think it really becomes a challenge and you put that inside of a lot of organizations. Like if you watch James, his talent insights, he’s been advocating for a Chief Hiring Officer. But I’d even say that in a lot of organizations, there’s not even a Chief Human Resource or a Chief People Officer, there’s still a director. Like, I don’t know if you’ve experienced that but where we see a director of HR, but there’s a CFO and a COO and a CRO.

And if there’s not that in there, then who’s advocating for making talent, something that’s really important so that we could get good data? Right. And it really is a testament to how the company values the talent acquisition team or values hiring in general or quality hiring in general. I think it talks about how they value their people, but especially in general- that’s a whole other topic.

Another me related news, but yeah. And then we have to look at too, the size of the company and how this differs between large corporate organizations and smaller companies, so I’ll be blunt and saying this, but it’s true. If your company can’t afford Taleo or Workday, you’ve got to stop thinking that this is a viable measurement because there’s so many other factors that go into it.

When you are a larger organization and can put in the money and resources to these tools that are more data-driven and that have accurate data, it’s just not a one, a one-stop solution or a metric for every company. I just think that they have so many more data points,

right? So the things get averaged out more. This one vacation doesn’t throw something off, like the ratio of the types of searches probably comes into play. So you know, that bigger thing, more people focused on it, consistent implementation just helps make it potentially viable there.

But it sounds to me like it’s a topic we should revisit because we would like to be data informed.

So what does that mean for small and medium sized companies? How do you create this into a good, effective measurement? We’d love to hear your thoughts. So put them down in the comments below. Tell us do you agree?

Is time to fill a great one? Tell us how we’re off or if you’ve seen some of these same problems we have, share your thoughts on what we should be using and how we can make it so that we do use data points to help us become more effective at recruiting. Thanks everyone.

Thank you. Great seeing you! And we’ll be back with more talent insights on data metrics for talent acquisition.

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