We keep hearing that “recruitment is like marketing,” but in reality, recruitment is closer to sales. Sales convert leads to customers. Recruiters turn candidates into hires. The process is the same: sifting through hundreds and sometimes even thousands of prospects to find the ones that fit your business, are qualified and want to do the job. As much as they are alike, recruitment is lagging behind sales when it comes to recruitment metrics and analysis. The truth is that for many companies, barely anything is measured and there are very few recruitment metrics to be had. Many processes are still based on gut feel.
Recruitment processes often go as follows:
- A company needs to hire someone;
- the hiring manager gives a very brief (and somewhat incomplete) job description to their recruiter;
- the recruiter posts the job on as many job boards as possible (including some non-relevant sites);
- the recruiter collects a bunch of CVs and sends them to the hiring manager;
- the hiring manager only replies to the ones they like;
- the company rustles together some (pretty random) interview questions;
- finally, the company hires one and dumps the rest of the applicants with no feedback.
Later, when it turns out that the hire isn’t that great, so the company repeats the cycle.
Now, looking at that particular process from sales’ perspective there are some glaring flaws: no targeting, no funnel, no structure. This type of recruitment does not only drive candidates away but also damages your brand. It’s clear that things need to change but who do you go about making that change? Just start with sales techniques. Applying sales principles and analysis to recruitment will provide you the perfect structure to guide and optimize your hiring further through the establishment of recruitment metrics.
1. Leads are candidates.
The situation changes the moment you consider candidates as leads. Candidates express an interest in your product or service: recruitment. Without candidates, your business will fail. As a result, candidates aren’t something to be collected in bulk to be discarded later. They are individuals to connect and build relationships with. Like leads, you need to nurture your candidates. Understanding this parallel relationship will help you move away from collecting irrelevant CVs and to beginning to looking for the “right ones.” Additionally, candidates should become a core recruitment metric to help judge your success.
2. A Buyer persona is your ideal candidate profile.
Sales use buyer personas to identify leads. Use ideal candidate profiles to determine the candidates you need. What would the perfect profile for this job look like? What kind of qualities and skills should they have? Be careful. It’s easy to get carried away and conjure up an unrealistic superstar persona than focusing on what you need. To prevent that, use two lists for each candidate persona:
- a must-have list (with the characteristics required to fulfill the job),
- and a nice-to-have list (with the extras you’d like).
Having this upfront will save you a great deal of time knowing where to post job ads and which applicants to proceed further. Make sure to document these must-haves and nice-to-haves so that all members of your hiring team can access and know what they are looking for (more on this at #8 below).
3. Sales funnel is your hiring pipeline.
There are many variations of a sales funnel, but there is one primary goal: converting leads to customers quickly. The same should go for hiring pipelines. All varieties of a hiring pipeline have one goal in mind: turning candidates into hires promptly. Speed is essential here because the best candidates always have options to choose from, especially when they’re actively looking.
Pro tip: For each vacancy, calculate the average time frame you need to land good candidates and consider ways to reduce your time to hire. The next time you will know how long is too long and you can adjust your hiring pipeline accordingly. Rockstart has found out that two weeks is their golden timeline. Rune Theill, co-founder, and CEO at Rockstart told us: “The goal is two weeks. Otherwise, they lose interest.” Time-to-hire is a core recruitment metric that will help guide your hiring pipeline.
4. Source of customers is your source of candidates.
For B2C sales, it might be obvious where the leads are. With recruitment, it’s not that clear, and that’s the main reason why many companies often can’t track this key recruitment metric. It’s crucial to trace the source of your best candidates, especially those who got hired and later become your top performers. What you will get is a clear picture of where to get quality candidates like them for your future hiring needs.
Combine the sources of hires with your ideal candidate profiles to optimize your job ads. If you are targeting millennials, it’s better to prioritize your ad money for social media campaigns on Facebook or Instagram than rather than paying for traditional job boards.
5. Brand is your Employer brand.
Sales recognize the strength of brand recognition with prospective customers. Your employer brand is also crucial in converting visitors to candidates, at the very top of your recruitment pipeline. While you may not become a household name like Google overnight (drawing in over two million applications yearly!), there are a few things you can do to boost the recruitment metrics around your employer brand.
Your website’s homepage: If people don’t know you, they will always find your website to check you out. Make sure it reflects your vision in such a way that can capture both customers and candidates.
Your careers site: Research has concluded that careers sites are the first place that candidates check you out before applying. Be strategic about what you present there. Get your ideal candidate profile ready and take a good look at it. Ask yourself: What would encourage this person to apply? Then create content that appeals to them. For example, if you want to target remote workers, share stories of how your team works efficiently and bonds well regardless of distance.
Your social media channels: Often, these will show up in a candidate’s search result. Especially with young, tech-savvy professionals, the way you interact on social media will reveal a lot about your employer brand. Make sure nothing embarrassed is out there and be open to communication. For example, NASA held an AMA session on Reddit for all questions related to their astronauts hiring and this extra effort was well-received by candidates.
Your employees: Sales leads look for customer testimonials to determine the quality of the company. The same goes for candidates. They are eager to listen to what your employees have to say about you as an employer. Not only your current employees, but your previous employees can also influence a candidate’s decision (psst, they look at Glassdoor!). Should go without saying but don’t burn bridges.
Improving your employer brand is a long-term effort and will impact your recruitment metrics.
6. The conversion rate of careers site matters just as much as the conversion rate of a landing page.
Sales and marketing pay close attention to color contrast of the lead form on landing pages, including the color of the call-to-action button, the font, the size of the letters, and the images that accompany them all. Why? These things help conversions.
You should put the same care into your careers site. What’s more important: The application form that candidates need to fill out on your careers site plays a crucial role in helping them convert to applicants. The best way to know if your careers site and application forms are good enough? Apply for a job there yourself. The truth might be ugly. Matt Charney did a little experiment: he searched for a random job opening and applied for it. It was the worst 30 minutes of his life.
To get a robust and actionable recruitment metric, calculate the number of unique visits versus the number of applications via your careers site. You will be able to identify the average conversion rate and be able to spot any significant plummet or spike.
7. Qualifying leads is the same as qualifying candidates.
You could target all you want, and there will still be unqualified leads mixed with qualified ones. Just as with sales’ welcome calls, you can call applicants to qualify them. The qualifying stage could begin even earlier if you include screening questions in your application form. Besides, think about including a technical test if the candidate’s technical skills are relevant to your job.
It’s always good to begin the qualifying process with the ideal candidate profile. Use knock-out questions for all the must-haves would be the fastest and easiest way to qualify candidates to the next stage of your hiring pipeline. You can also go over the nice-to-haves and assign points to candidates if they have them. This system of candidate scoring can help speed up the hiring process at later stages. Just make sure that you have a place to save these scores and share them with your hiring team.
Pro tip: Calculate the percentage of candidates who make it through the qualifying round. A low number (below 25%) means that something is not right. You may be targeting the wrong sources of hires or have poorly written job descriptions. Make the necessary improvements based on these recruitment metrics.
8. Demo is an interview.
When Sales leads want a demo, they’re interested in getting to know your product or service better. Candidates take an interview to get to know you better (and hopefully the feeling is mutual!). Demos are structured to provide optimal results; interviews should be too.
Each interview question should be designed to reveal whether the candidate’s answer matches up to your must-haves. Also, keep in mind that you should ask each candidate the same questions. You might prefer to “go with the flow” during an interview because it feels “natural.” But the truth is that this may leave you susceptible to hiring bias. Google has found out that unstructured interviews (aka “go with the flow”) result in worse hires than flipping a coin. There are always methods of spicing up your structured interviews, but make sure you plan it out ahead of time.
Pro tip: Once your team has interviewed the candidates, share observations and impressions. Use a scorecard to help build a comprehensive profile of each candidate. This will help establish a strong recruitment metric for reference. Each team member involved in the interview process can grade the candidate based on this scorecard. Having the same grading system and a place to display it transparently are the best way to engage your team and give everyone a sense of contribution to the big picture.
9. Closing a deal is offering a job.
Like Sales, everything you have done builds up to this moment: closing candidates. A critical factor in this process is salary negotiation (together with perks and benefits). Preferably you have touched on this point during the qualifying process. Otherwise, you are likely to be back to square one by ordering something you can’t afford.
Calculate the conversion rate at this stage as your guiding recruitment metric. Note down the reason(s) when candidates turn you down as well. If your rate is below 25% and the majority of the reasons is money-wise, you know you should revise your budget and expectation as soon as possible.
10. A lead nurturing program is your candidate nurturing program.
Sales don’t throw away leads if they are not a fit at the moment, right? The same goes for candidates: don’t ignore them if they’re not what you’re looking for at the moment. A lead-nurturing program can turn leads into buyers, and a candidate-nurturing program can do the same. When the candidates improve their skills and want to work with you again, or when they know someone in their circle who would be interested in working with you, they know who to contact.
The best way to manage a candidate-nurturing program is to save all your qualified-but-not-hired candidates in segmented talent pools and form your recruitment metrics through the numbers in these pools. Tag their status and review the communication history. When you have a new vacancy coming up, you might know right away who to contact. You’ll save tons of time by merely updating their data. Another recruitment metric to look out for is the number of new hires coming from your talent pools versus the number of new hires coming from other sources. This recruitment metric can help inform your job ad budget as well as time-to-hire expectations.
As W. Edwards Demming once said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” You will only be on top of recruitment when you quantify it. The long history and development in sales can lend valuable knowledge to your recruitment process. So treat recruitment like sales, instead of an unknown gamble. Establish recruitment metrics to guide your process. Embrace a data-driven attitude when it comes to very human interactions.
The good news is that you don’t have to tackle this challenge alone. Get your whole team on the same page: recruitment is like sales, and you need metrics to work towards. When everyone has a clear vision, and a data-driven framework work in, the collaboration will drive better results, faster.