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Qualified job candidates per hire: recruiting metrics that matter

Daniel Howden
Daniel Howden

Daniel was a VP of Comms at Workable. He writes about the world of work. He was formerly with the Economist and Guardian.

How and what we need to measure in recruiting remains an active discussion. While there is plenty of data on offer from key recruitment metrics, interpreting that data in a way that will improve your hiring process is complicated. Take an in-depth look at these key performance indicators (KPIs) that are worth tracking in recruiting.

What’s the definition of qualified candidates per hire?

The number of candidates who make it past the first stage of your hiring process

This is one of the best recruiting metrics because it that tracks your overall recruitment marketing. This relatively simple number tells you how many of the candidates you sourced, or who applied for your job, are worth an initial conversation. In Workable’s default hiring pipeline (which our customers customize to their own preferred stages) this means a candidate who was moved from “sourced” or “applied” to the “promising” or “call” stage.

For this to happen a member of the hiring team has to have checked the candidate’s profile, which includes their resume, answers to questions on an application form, as well as publicly available social and professional profiles, and decided they were worth talking to or having other team members evaluate.

In sales terms, the qualified candidate is equivalent to the qualified lead.

Qualified candidates per hire is a spot check on the health of your sourcing and advertising strategies, as well as the effectiveness of your employer brand. If there’s something amiss in one of these three it will quickly turn up in the qualified candidates per hire metric.

Benchmarking qualified candidates per hire

Qualified per hire (job function) US average UK & Ireland Rest of Europe Rest of world
Customer Service 24 23 17 20
Engineering 40 26 29 49
Healthcare 15 14 7 15
Human Resources 63 50 30 42
Information Technology 40 28 32 41
Marketing 53 39 40 46
Product Management 55 46 40 56
Sales 35 32 32 25
Other 26 25 28 26

How to benchmark your recruiting metrics

Just as there is a wide variance between industry and area be aware of the variance between different jobs in the same industry. Benchmarks should be used as a starting point to ask useful questions about your hiring process, not as an absolute measure of what is a complex process.

Nonetheless, if your numbers are completely out of touch with industry benchmarks or other businesses in your location, here are some things you should consider to improve your qualified candidates per hire:

  • The first step is to delve into your job advertising. Cross reference your Qualified candidates per hire with a candidate source report. If you’re using paid job boards, check which ones are bringing you qualified candidates. Double down on the sources that are working for you. Cut your spend on those that aren’t. If you’re using free job posting sites, it may be time to increase visibility using a premium job board.
  • Revisit your sourcing strategy. Does your recruiting team (or whoever is doing the recruiting for you) properly understand the role you’re hiring for? Could you do a better job of describing the role? If you’re not sourcing enough candidates, is is time to add to your recruiting team?
  • If you’re not getting enough qualified candidates, your job descriptions could also be at fault. Make sure you’re writing about the job in a way that will appeal to the kind of people you’re looking for.
  • Review your recruiting budget to ensure that you’re spending in the most effective recruiting channels.

The top recruiting KPIs

The recruiting metrics that matter:

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Average time to hire: key recruiting metrics to track

The most important recruiting metrics include time to hire, which measures the duration from engaging a candidate to accepting an offer, and time to fill, which tracks the period from job posting to hiring. Other key metrics include hiring velocity, qualified candidates per hire, and interviews per hire.

Daniel Howden
Daniel Howden

Daniel was a VP of Comms at Workable. He writes about the world of work. He was formerly with the Economist and Guardian.

Using recruiting metrics effectively is about finding the signal in the noise. Hiring managers, business owners and recruiters need data that delivers actionable insights.

The proper role of recruiting metrics is to answer useful questions about your business. While superficially similar to time to fill, time to hire starts the clock ticking once you’ve already engaged with the candidate, so it tells you something different about your hiring process and recruiting team.

What is time to hire?

Time to hire is the time elapsed between engaging a candidate and then accepting an offer. By tracking this metric, you can answer questions like:

  • How long does it take you to spot that you have the right candidate?
  • How fast do you move when you find the right person?
  • Where are the bottlenecks in your hiring process?

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Time to hire vs. time to fill

If the main function of time to fill is to inform realistic business planning, then the time to hire metric is about tracking the speed with which good candidates move through your hiring process once they’ve already been sourced or have applied. See how quickly your hiring team are making decisions and look at time to hire for an understanding of how quickly you spot the right candidate when they arrive in your hiring pipeline.

Hiring is a complex activity with too many external factors, from the labor market, to location, to seasonality, for a simple read. But time to hire is the efficiency metric, the one that gives senior management the clearest picture of how the recruiting team is performing.

Time to hire is measured from sourcing until their offer is accepted, not when they start their position, because there are a number of complicating factors. These may include obligations to a former employer, to personal commitments that are often beyond the recruiting team’s control. It’s measured from sourced/applied to the acceptance of the offer.

Should you need additional reporting based on start dates, custom reports can be built using your raw recruiting data in Workable and can be integrated with your preferred business intelligence tool.

More: FAQs about time-to-fill and time-to-hire

What is the average time to hire?

Time to hire benchmarks from Workable
Time to hire by industry benchmarks from Workable [Updated Stats of 2018]

While they can be useful, don’t put excessive weight on benchmarks based on industry averages. Our data at Workable has shown us wide variances by role in most industries, where differences in the labor market can cause lags in closing candidates.

How to improve time to hire:

If your average time to hire is completely out of touch with industry benchmarks or other businesses in your location, here are some things you should consider for reducing time to hire:

  • Track hiring velocity. This metric shows how much time you spend in each step of your recruitment process. With this information, you’ll identify areas for improvement. For example:
    • If your sourcing is working well but candidates are getting stuck in the screening call stage it may be time to add to your recruiting team or divert resources from elsewhere.
    • If there’s a slowdown in the interview stage look at how you’re managing interview scheduling.
  • Break down the time to hire metric by job or department. If there’s an obvious lag in one team or on one role, talk to your hiring manager to find out why. Stress to them the importance of quick decision-making.
  • Invest in an Applicant Tracking System. Instead of manually calculating time to hire, opt for an ATS that tracks recruiting metrics automatically. With detailed reports in your hands,  spot quickly where your hiring process is less efficient and work on fixes. If you’re using Workable as your recruiting software, you can view time to hire reports organized per job or department, for your preferred time frames, or for the entirety of your organization. These reports are easy to share with your team and compare with industry benchmarks and will help you hire faster and better over time.
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What are the recruiting metrics that matter?

Frequently asked questions

The 8 employer essentials on employment background checks

Running background checks is a critical part of the hiring process. They provide valuable insights into a candidate's history and verify the information provided during the application process. This helps employers make informed hiring decisions, mitigate potential risks, and maintain a safe and productive work environment.

Daniel Howden
Daniel Howden

Daniel was a VP of Comms at Workable. He writes about the world of work. He was formerly with the Economist and Guardian.

The definitive guide to pre-employment background checks for small businesses. Who does background checks? How do they work and what are the pitfalls? Everything you need to know – and everything you didn’t know you needed to know – about background checks is here for you.

The United States has one of the most mobile workforces in the world. While Germans stay in the same job for a decade on average and Britons and Canadians’ typical tenure is eight years, the average American switches jobs every four years.

This kind of mobility, which often sees employees move across state and county lines, puts an added burden on the recruitment process. A lucrative industry has emerged to provide background reports on this workforce but it can be hard to navigate, especially for busy small business owners who don’t have a dedicated human resources team to rely on.

1. Who conducts employment background checks and why?

If you’re an employer and you want peace of mind over a potential new hire then you can choose to run a background check. This is normally done when you’re at the point of making an offer but some organizations opt to run checks on several shortlisted candidates as a means of choosing between them. There are a number of roles that require mandatory checks in the United States, from almost all types of school employee and peace officers, to racetrack employees and driving instructors. These regulations differ from state to state. For example, anyone applying for a position in any of the following facilities or organizations in North Carolina needs to undergo a criminal record check:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Mental health facilities
  • Home care agencies
  • Day care facilities
  • Child Placement agencies
  • Substance abuse facilities
  • Any for-profit or non-profit institution that provides care to children, the sick, disabled or senior citizens.

And here’s a useful breakdown for Minnesota.

One of the main reasons that businesses both large and small go to the effort and expense of running screens — apart from mitigating the risk of workplace violence or employee theft — is to avoid liability. A roughly $50 investment could save an employer from hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from a negligent hiring lawsuit. This is the primary reason that some seven out of ten employers said they conducted at least a criminal check on all job candidates, according to a 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management.

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2. What kinds of employment background checks are there?

The most common forms of pre-employment screening are criminal records checks and credit reports. Other forms include driving records, as well as verification of education, identity and previous addresses. Searches can include the sex offender registry, credential verification, reference checks and in some instance searches under the Patriot Act (terrorism watch list). In addition, there are drug tests and even lie detector tests — although these are prohibited in all but a few instances.

3. How do employment background checks work?

Background checks, performed for employment purposes, are generally conducted by Credit Ratings Agencies, and are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well as state and local laws. There is no one, all-knowing database which gets searched. There are county court and federal records, financial records, credit histories and a host of other data sources. These FCRA-compliant data providers, who have access to millions of records, work with reputable agencies to compile reports.

4. What are the legal steps involved in a background check?

There are four main steps that you have to follow to stay on the right side of the law.

  • Disclosure: Candidates must understand that you are conducting a pre-employment screening as a pre-condition of an offer.
  • Consent: You need to obtain the candidate’s consent, typically in written form, as well as making sure they receive full notification of the agency conducting the check and their rights under the FCRA. The candidate must also provide sufficient personal details for the check to get underway.
  • Investigation: The report is compiled once the candidate has provided sufficient personal details for the check to get underway.
  • Review: you will receive the report which will typically be marked “clear” (go ahead and employ) or “consider” (something of concern has been found) depending on the agency you’ve appointed.

5. How much do background checks cost?

This is the tricky part. Many agencies appear to charge a flat rate for packages of checks. But the cost of a background check is inherently uncertain as you don’t know what you’ll find. The best illustration of this is access to county court records.

Some county courts charge a fixed fee for retrieval of criminal records. If a candidate is or has been resident in one or more counties, there will be charges related to access for each county database. In almost all counties the charges hover around $4. New York is the exception with a host of its counties charging $65. Checkr, the agency providing background checks via Workable offers a full list of county court fees.

Some agencies absorb part of these costs but others will pass this on to employers who will find themselves with a bigger than expected bill. Read the terms and conditions carefully before going ahead.

6. What if the pre-employment check reveals something negative?

If your checks come back clear then your next steps are obvious. If it turns up an information that might lead you to reject employment to the person you’ve had checked out, there are a number of legal steps to consider. The name given to the legal process of denying employment based on the results of a background check is “adverse action”. When you decide to take this action, you are legally obliged to inform the candidate of your intent. They in turn have 7 days to dispute the results of the report.

7. What rights does a candidate have during the background check process?

They have the right to dispute the report, which obliges your screening agents to repeat the investigation, paying special attention to the point or points that led to adverse action. This could mean anything from verifying a mistaken identity, to disputing a county court conviction or seeking clarification on professional or educational qualifications. With most agencies this process can be repeated twice if the candidate is intent on disputing an adverse result. As long as the proper steps are taken to inform the candidate and the dispute rules are followed, you can disqualify them safe in the knowledge that you’re FCRA compliant.

8. Should a candidate be disqualified if something negative is found?

Background checks should be used to inform your hiring decision, not to make that decision for you. Every company develops their own hiring policies, and different roles are governed by their own sets of regulations. It is important that decisions are made based on the position for which you are hiring. Remember when you commission a background check, in most cases, you’re buying a guide and not the final decision.

See our Employee Background Check Policy Sample for a starting point in developing your company policies.

Frequently asked questions

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