Recruitment Metrics: Time to Hire Explained

Volodymyr Bilyk
25 February 2021
10 minutes

One of the most critical features of an effective service is its “speed of delivery” – i.e., how long it takes to get a job done according to service standards. Time to hire reflects that aspect of service delivery. 

In the broader context of recruitment metrics, time to hire is the most direct reflection of the workflow’s quality. That’s why it is critical to track it. However, it takes more than setting up a time tracker for every occasion to make it work.

Our previous article explains the importance of the cost-per-hire recruitment metric. This time, we are going to explain the “time to hire” concept and its mechanics.

What is the time to hire?

Time to Hire Recruitment Metrics Explained

When we talk about time, we actually talk about the impact of the surrounding context on the subject matter. In the case of the “time to hire” recruitment metric, it is about a temporal distance in-between states of absence and presence. It is not as complicated as it sounds.

  • Time to hire is a recruitment metric that measures the time passage between the candidate’s application (or sourcing) and the candidate’s acceptance of the job offer. 
  • The units of measurement are usually days or weeks or sometimes months. It depends on the context of the vacant position. 
    • Usually, there is a deadline to close the position. There’s also an additional comparative metric of time spent and time left to measure the flow’s actual efficiency for a particular vacant position. It helps to set realistic expectations further down the line for specific positions.

As such, the time to hire metric often applies in tandem with the cost per hire metric. The thing is – you can’t assess cost-per-hire metrics without considering time-to-hire. 

  • The combination of cost per hire and time to hire helps companies determine the specific recruitment effort’s cost-effectiveness.

Because of that factor, time to hire is one of the guiding recruitment metrics that creates a backbone for an effective hiring process

Time to hire covers a variety of recruitment factors, such as:

  • Candidate follow-ups,
  • Internal decision-making and communication,
  • Talent pipeline oversight,
  • Process tracking,
  • Document gathering.

How to calculate the time to hire? It goes like this:

  • “Day candidate accepted the offer” minus “day candidate entered the pipeline” equals “time per hire.”

What is the difference between the time to hire and the time to fill?

difference between time to hire and time to fill

There is also another related recruitment metric – time to fill. It takes a different perspective on the recruitment operation. Here’s how:

  • Time to fill metric tracks the period between job opening post to job offer acceptance. It covers the cycle overall. 

This metric is more overarching, and it takes into consideration the process on a broader scale.

As such, time to fill is a business planning tool. Time to fill data helps with mapping out talent planning strategy. 

  • This metric provides vital information regarding the approximate length of the recruitment process for different positions.  

In other words, the difference between the time to hire and time to fill in the following: 

  • Time to hire concern is the speed of finding viable candidates for a position.
  • Time to fill is about the speed of the recruitment process overall.

Why does time to hire metrics matter? Time to hire benefits explained

Why does time to hire metrics matter

The ultimate goal of any metric is to track performance, optimize it, discover patterns and analyze the market situation with a firmer grasp. 

In the recruitment context, establishing metrics is a matter of growth. There is no other way to understand whether you are doing it right. 

  • For sure, closing positions is a good indicator of whether it pans out the way it should. But it is “what it takes to get the job done” that matters and recruitment metrics like “time to hire” show that.
  • With this data, you can understand the weak points of the workflow and determine possible improvements. 
    • For example, it takes too much time to set up an interview with the candidate, and you need one follow-up too many to do that. Then you should probably act more swiftly. 
    • Or there is a big gap between the interview and client feedback so that the candidate can bounce off. Too big of a risk to take. It is better to smooth it out.  

Examples like these make data-driven recruitment the most efficient and cost-effective recruitment approach.

How to measure time to hire? A short guide

Measuring time to hire metrics revolves around four key submetrics:

Time to Hire Recruitment Metrics Explained

  • The time required to find the right candidate;
  • The time required to proceed with the candidate through the pipeline;
  • Time to hire statistics for the same role;
  • Resources required to close the position;

When combined, these four submetrics constitute a full “time to hire” picture of the recruitment operation.

Let’s look at them one by one.

1 How long does it take you to find the right candidate?

The real question is not “how” but “why.” There are two big reasons:

  • The process is too slow and long. 
  • The requirements are hard to meet.

Here’s the fact, according to Robert Half’s study, over 57% of the candidates lose interest in the job offer if the recruitment process takes too long. 

There might be many reasons for the recruitment process to be long and winding. 

  • Usually, it is either too many stages or too much time in-between stages.

Justified or not, the fact of the matter is – keeping candidates engaged is a challenge. 

  • Especially if the candidates are in-demand specialists with other offers on the table. You can’t win if you hesitate.

The other reason is the definition of the “right candidate.” 

  • If the requirements are too high or demanding – it is harder to find a fitting individual. So that’s another thing to optimize. 

Here’s the thing you need to keep in mind.

  • It doesn’t mean you have to hotshot through the hiring process. Faster is not always the better. 
  • It would be best if you kept the proceedings’ speed at a reasonable pace according to hiring requirements. 

You can read more about optimizing the “time to hire” aspect of recruitment in this article. 

2 How long does it take you to move candidates in the process?

After finding the right candidate, you need to track how long it takes to proceed with him through the recruitment pipeline.

One of the challenging things about establishing an effective recruitment pipeline is to nail down the details. It gets much more complicated when the company works with the recruitment agency.

The thing is – the way your recruitment process is organized directly affects two aspects:

  • the efficiency of the workflow;
  • the candidate experience.

That’s where it gets interesting. Let’s say it takes a week to process a candidate. But why? Let’s break it down.

  • The standard recruitment process consists of CV screening, initial interview, candidate assessment, in-depth interview, feedback elicitation, and final decision-making.
  • You can handle CV screening in a matter of hours. The same goes for an initial interview.
  • Candidate assessment can take more time as you need feedback from domain experts (in the case of recruitment agencies, time to present the candidate to the client);
  • Furthermore, an in-depth interview itself can be an hour or two. Sometimes it can take days before the candidate, or another involved party is available and ready to commit.
  • Post-interview also takes a lot of time, especially if the candidate flow is intense. It can be days or weeks before you get all the feedback you need, and you can proceed down the pipeline.
  • Final decision-making is tricky. It’s twofold. 
    • The time required for the company to decide to make an offer. It might be a week or so (depending on a position level and urgency);
    • The time required for the candidate to accept or reject said offer. Usually a couple of days or ambiguous “time to think ‘til the end of the week.”

The numbers can stack up, but it is much easier to keep under control when the process is structured. 

3 How much time do you need the next time you have to hire for the same role?

This submetric grows out of the previous two. In a way, it is a reflection of the workflow’s structure and its clarity. 

Overall, this metric can illustrate the timeline of a possible recruitment pipeline for a specific position. 

If it is well-defined, tracking is easy, and you can correctly estimate how much time it would take to hire specialists in the same position.

  • It is critical to know that you can find out only a part of the equation through internal metrics. 
  • The other half entirely depends on the market situation and requires thorough knowledge of trends and patterns. 
  • It is one reason why companies tend to collaborate with recruitment agencies when it comes to hiring high-profile in-demand specialists.

4 How many resources do you need to hire for a specific role?

This is the other submetric that emerges from 1&2 calculations. In this case, it is a breakdown of resources required to close a specific position stage by stage. 

Overall, this submetric serves as a roadmap of sorts. The context may change, but the operating procedure stays the same.

In essence, this metric concerns how much time do you need to find and hire a candidate within the standard operating procedure? 

It is important to note that you can calculate the required resources only if your workflows are well-defined and clearly structured so that you can track the length of the proceedings within each stage. 

Otherwise, you will rely on approximations too much, and that’s not going to be efficient.

In conclusion

Establishing proper recruitment metrics is integral in turning scattershot recruiting efforts into a full-fledged data-driven recruitment operation. 

If you need help establishing your recruitment metric or optimizing them to their full force – our HR consultants can help you.

Next time, we will explain in detail another recruitment metric – time to fill. You can also check out our piece on optimizing the “time to hire” aspect of recruitment.


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