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How do I determine an appropriate recruiter workload?

This is a common question with an unfortunately complex answer. While there is no standard recommendation, there are various factors for employers to consider as they set their internal standards.

The dangers of not setting an appropriate range include an increase in errors, time-to-fill rates and recruiter burnout, while a decrease may be evident in quality of hire, offer-acceptance rates and applicant satisfaction ratings, which can damage the company's reputation.

Let's look at some national benchmarks as a starting point.

National averages across all industries and employer sizes tend to fluctuate between 40-60 open requisitions per recruiter at any one time. Additionally, the median (the number that appears in the exact middle of the list of data) tends to fluctuate between 15-20 open requisitions per recruiter. These generalized findings, however, are more of an economic indicator than the basis for identifying an appropriate recruiter workload for an individual organization.

Benchmarks by industry, staff size, geographic location, sector, profit status and more can also be helpful as a starting point for setting internal standards. SHRM’s Talent Access Benchmark Report can provide recent findings on number of requisitions per recruiter by these segments. 

Internal benchmarking of historical recruiter workloads can also be very valuable. Collecting monthly averages and plotting those against internal time-to-fill rates, offer-acceptance rates, quality of hire, turnover/retention rates and other internally meaningful metrics can show over time how requisitions per recruiter affects the bottom line. Time studies on each recruitment task can also help establish reasonable goals and identify areas for process improvements.

Once meaningful data has been collected, there are additional factors to consider that can affect individual employers, from organizational growth state and industry to various economic factors. In general, these variables affect the time it takes recruiters to perform their job tasks, which in turn affects the number of open requisitions they can successfully handle at any one time.

Keep in mind: While these factors may increase or decrease the number of open requisitions an organization may have at any one time, the goal is to set an appropriate range of open requisitions per recruiter and budget for staffing based on that. To do that, start with your benchmarking data and assess how your organization relates to the following factors:

Unemployment Rates: In times of high unemployment, more applicants will lead to increased offer-acceptance rates and a decrease in time-to-fill rates, affording a recruiter the time to handle a greater number of open requisitions. Conversely, a drop in unemployment results in fewer high-quality applicants, so a smaller requisition load is warranted.

Turnover Rates: The effects of turnover aren't always obvious. For example, high turnover could mean the company's reputation is damaged, and although the number of open requisitions may be high, the recruiter workload may need to be lowered, as more time is needed to attract quality applicants. Alternatively, high turnover may be common in certain industries, and higher recruiter workloads the norm. Low turnover means fewer open positions at any one time, but it may also lead to increased offer-acceptance rates, which means a recruiter could handle more open requisitions.  

Industry/Profession: Jobs that are in high demand, such as health care and technology positions, will result in fewer qualified applicants and more difficulty filling positions. Recruiting requires more time and skill and, although there may be many positions to fill, employers may need to reduce the number of requisitions reasonably carried by a recruiter to improve quality of hire and time-to-fill rates.

Type of Worker Being Recruited: Filling executive-level positions or those with unique skills and abilities will reduce appropriate requisition loads as quality of hire is imperative and candidate pools are limited resulting in longer time-to-fill rates. Unskilled labor, on the other hand, takes much less time to hire, therefore more open requisitions can be handled.

Organizational Life Cycle Phase: As an organization moves through different stages of development, recruitment needs change. During growth and revival stages, open positions will increase; however, the number of open requisitions a recruiter holds may not if highly skilled workers are sought and more recruiters are added as a result. During maturity and decline stages, open requisitions will decrease, but so may interested applicants, leading to more time needed per requisition.

Resources Available: Internal employee referral programs, robust social media recruiting and various technology applications can ease recruiter workload and allow for higher requisition loads. What other job tasks the recruiter may have (such as a generalist who also recruits) will also greatly affect how many open positions he or she can successfully handle.

Recruitment Strategy: Targeting passive job seekers and cold-calling candidate leads is more time-consuming than receiving referrals and active job seeker applications. The more creative recruiters need to be with sourcing, the number of appropriate requisitions they can handle declines.

Employer Brand/Reputation: The ability to attract qualified candidates is heavily influenced by an employer's public reputation. A positive applicant and employee experience can result in higher requisition loads as the ease of finding talent and the time-to-fill rates are both improved.

Other factors, such as local labor market data, global recruiting strategies and the experience level of the recruiter should also be considered. Periodically reviewing the data and inviting recruiter feedback on workloads will help you establish and adjust expectations accordingly.


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