How Many Open Reqs Should In-House Recruiters Have?

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 6, 2018
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​Individual in-house recruiters carry requisition loads spanning between a single-digit number to well over 100. What is the right amount?

Well, it depends on a variety of factors, including the position and industry they are recruiting for, the resources available to them and their additional responsibilities.

"Because each organization and each market are so different, and there are so many factors that go into why a candidate would apply to one organization over another, there is not one universal answer to the amount of requisitions a recruiter should have," said Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, president of HRU Technical Resources, an IT and engineering staffing firm headquartered in Lansing, Mich., and author of The Talent Fix: A Leader's Guide to Recruiting Great Talent (SHRM, 2018). "Using an 'average' requisition load per recruiter is nonsensical. Each organization, though, can figure out its ideal recruiter requisition load from its own data."

National averages across all industries and employer sizes tend to fluctuate between 30 to 40 open requisitions per recruiter at any one time, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) HR Knowledge Center. The median tends to fluctuate between 15 to 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 each organization.

"Most recruiters I've worked with and overseen handle around 30 open reqs at any given time," said Paul Falcone, vice president of HR at the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Los Angeles. "Then again, at Paramount Pictures, I oversaw both recruitment and employee relations, and my req load averaged 90." 

The goal is to set an appropriate range of open requisitions per recruiter and budget for staffing based on that range. The dangers of not setting a suitable range that works for each organization are many, including increased time-to-fill, recruiter burnout and decreased candidate experience and quality of hire.

"Overloading a recruiter with too many reqs creates too much pressure from internal clients who often have unrealistic expectations of candidate delivery," Falcone said. "On the flip side, if recruiters' req loads are too thin, they will be bored and underchallenged, and you'll likely lose them for lack of engagement." 

Another danger is misdiagnosing recruiter performance, Sackett said. "For example, you assign all your recruiters 20 open reqs, but one recruiter working high-volume roles seems like a rock star, while another recruiter working hard-to-fill roles seems like a failure, when in actuality the recruiter working hard-to-fill requisitions might be your best talent, but you're killing him or her with an uneven workload."

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Factors to Consider

According to Sackett, the main factors to consider when determining recruiter workload are:

  • The amount of time and effort it takes to recruit for the positions required. "Applicant flow per opening, the amount of outside sourcing it will take to find the right candidates, and the level of screening and interviewing it will take to fill the job all come into play," he said.
  • The recruiter's level of experience and knowledge.
  • The tools the recruiter is given to do the job. Internal employee referral programs, robust social media recruiting and various technology applications can ease recruiter workload and allow for higher requisition loads.

"The biggest factor will always have to do with the complexity of the assignments," Falcone said. "Not all reqs are created equal. Recruiters who work at research hospitals, for example, conduct searches for everything from Ph.D. research scientists and high-level clinicians to hourly waiters, cooks and room attendants."

Sackett explained that most employers can break down their recruiting support into various buckets, such as high-volume, easy-to-fill roles; midcareer, professional roles; and hard-to-fill roles with scarce skill sets.  

"By separating the work like this, it allows you to understand the workload of your team," he added. "A high-volume recruiter might be able to handle 20 openings at a time, where a recruiter working with hard-to-fill jobs might only be able to handle four or five."

Benchmarks by industry, staff size, geographic location, sector, profit status and more can be helpful as a starting point for setting internal standards, according to the SHRM HR Knowledge Center.

Internal benchmarking of historical recruiter workloads, internal time-to-fill rates, offer-acceptance rates, turnover/retention rates and other internally meaningful metrics can show over time how requisitions per recruiter affect the bottom line.

Periodically reviewing the data and inviting recruiter feedback on workloads will help establish and adjust expectations.

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