Staffing Metrics: ‘Time to Fill’ Can Kill Prospects of Landing Top Talent

By Jamie Ross and Karen Werner Jan 18, 2012
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Timing is an essential piece of the recruiting puzzle. Granted, some things just can’t be controlled; however, there are several aspects of recruiting that can be influenced. A few of the most relevant aspects include:

Having the interviewing team readily available and able to focus time on the process.

Being prepared with an efficient staffing process that allows for timely decision-making and feedback.

Understanding when to outsource the position to a specialist.

It is important to have an organized and high-sense-of-urgency approach to filling positions in order to maximize the success of recruiting efforts.

One of the most critical aspects of the staffing process to measure is the time-to-fill (TTF) metric. According to research published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the definition of time to fill is “the number of days from when the job requisition was opened until the offer was accepted by the candidate.” This number is calculated by using calendar days, including weekends and holidays. This metric is one that typically fluctuates with the influence of supply and demand for talent, which has the potential to change significantly, quickly and often. Analyzing TTF helps reveal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and areas for improvement in the hiring process.

Challenge: Hire in ‘Under 30’

SHRM’s research reveals that the average time to fill per position across the board is 33.28 days. Each position has potential to be challenging. Whether it’s the timing, the market or the expertise needed, there are a number of variables to the equation. If a company’s average TTF is greater than one month, however, the organization should evaluate its staffing process objectively to identify what is preventing the timely acquisition of top talent.

How? Most companies have annual budget and forecasting processes that they work through. If head count and projected growth are not part of this annual process, it’s time to include them. It helps to know what staffing demands are going to look like in the near future. It creates awareness and helps to eliminate those all-too-familiar “I need this person yesterday” situations.

Following are some suggestions that can help rein in that runaway TTF metric:

Establish a timeline to keep your TTF average at or under the 33-day mark. Many employers adopt the strategy “Let’s see who else we can find” without a timeline. This results in perpetual candidate identification, the first step of the recruitment process. While the temptation to wait is a strong one, it has to be balanced with the cost of not filling the position and the associated lost productivity.

Unless you set a goal, you’ll miss it every time. So set realistic milestones and share them with hiring managers. Determine the date by which the position must be filled and work backwards. Allow time for the key activities: candidate identification, presentation to hiring manager, phone and face-to-face interviews, assessment and onboarding.

Establishing a timeline helps to determine if external resources are needed up front instead of at the last minute.

Review internal recruitment processes. Once a timeline is established, ensure that the internal process can support it. Determine the resources needed and the key players who will participate. Provide an overview of how the process will unfold. Some key questions the overview should answer:

Who will be involved with the interviewing?

How will feedback be provided to the hiring manager or to human resources?

How will candidates be kept abreast of the process and their candidacies?

An ineffective internal process that provides little or sporadic communication, or that results in unreasonable delays, manifests itself in disengaged candidates—individuals who once identified with the new opportunity but are now losing the vision.

For the candidate, the TTF period can be renamed “the waiting game.” There’s a crucial period immediately following a candidate’s engagement in the recruitment process. The initial interactions with the prospective employer are characterized by enthusiasm and excitement as the candidate is tapped emotionally in to the process. The momentum is building. From a recruiter’s perspective, there’s credence in the adage “strike when the iron’s hot.” An effective internal process will allow this to happen.

Train hiring managers and supervisors to interview effectively and confidently. The candidate interview is a critical component of the selection process. Begin to address it by considering the logistics carefully:

Which managers and supervisors will participate in the interviewing?

Will interviews be with individual interviewers or with panels?

Will participating interviewers ask their own questions?

Also, set objectives for each segment of the process:

What information are you looking to discover, verify or clarify?

What types of questions will elicit detailed responses from candidates?

Train hiring managers and supervisors to be effective interviewers who are confident in their ability to identify qualified candidates, as their input is critical. Frequently, an interviewer is handed a resume and instructed to “talk to this person about the position.” This approach will not contribute to the accurate assessment of the candidate.

Finally, set realistic expectations. The perfect candidate might not exist. Beware of setting a standard that, in all likelihood, can’t be reached. Identify requirements that are necessary and those that are negotiable. Keep an open mind that the best person for the job might have a background that’s slightly different than what was expected or a personality that’s somewhat different than the ideal. And assume that even the best candidate will require some mentoring, coaching and training to be fully productive.

Jamie Ross and Karen Werner are human resource consultants with the talent management firm Ross Staffing Solutions LLC.

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