The Science of Recruitment Industry Success- Part 2  

In my previous article (, I wrote that recruitment industry success is a combination of art and science. I shared my experience that most staffing & recruiting firm owners under-utilize the science aspect of the business. This decreases your profitability and stability while increasing your stress.  Let’s consider how to use the science side of the business as a recruitment strategy to consistently increase your recruitment fees. 

When using key metrics, it’s important to separate “leading indicators” from “lagging indicators.” Leading indicators are the activities that happen first, which you can directly control. Lagging indicators happen later due to these activities. You don’t control lagging indicators because other people are involved and do things that impact your results. 

Leading indicator metrics to track

Telephone outreach attempts (dials) per job order. It’s essential to separate your electronic outreach attempts (e.g., emails and LinkedIn) from your phone outreach. Electronic outreach is less of a recruitment strategy and more a marketing tactic to build awareness and credibility. They help you turn cold calls into warm calls instead of cold calls. With rare exceptions, I don’t believe that you have “true job orders” until you speak directly with the hiring manager via phone, zoom, or in-person.

 Track the average number of dials you need to make for every live conversation with a hiring manager Also, track the average number of live conversations you require per job order you write. Ultimately, you want to know how many phone dials it takes to write a job order. Then you can calculate how many dials you need to make to meet your job order goal for a given period. The number of dials you make is the only element that you truly control. This is an example of the “science of success” that is an important element of how to be a good recruiter. 

The number of candidates you speak to per job order submittal. Just as the client/job order side of the business, separate your electronic outreach attempts (e.g., emails and LinkedIn) from your phone outreach. I’m referring here to the number of initial conversations with candidates before you interview them to determine fit and interest. You have more control over this metric than you do the number of candidates that you interview. If you’re working in a specialty that requires many candidate conversations to find one legitimate submittal, you’ll need sizeable fees with exclusives and/or retainers. Otherwise, you’re not following recruitment best practices and your business model won’t be sustainable. 

Lagging indicator metrics to track:

Job order fill ratio: In my opinion, this is the single most important health indicator for your business because it tells you the percentage of time your firm is successful. Increasing this metric is a critical element of any successful recruitment strategy. Unless you have an unusual business model, filling jobs is the only way for you to make money in the recruitment industry. Job order fill ratio is the culmination of every metric you track. If it’s too low, you know that one or more of your other ratios is not in the healthy range. 

The number of first time client/candidate interviews per placement: This metric tells you one or more of the following: the quality of your candidate recruitment strategy and processes, the quality of your clients and job orders, and/or the performance of your client-facing people are doing. 

The number of candidate submittals per first time interview: This metric is a good indicator of your firm’s candidate quality processes. If the candidates submitted fit the job order specs but you struggle to get them client interviews, it tells you about your performance on the client-facing side of your business. 

Average fee per placement (average net margin per placement for temp/contact): This metric provides critical data to calculate the dollar value of each unit of activity. It also helps you gauge the health and viability of your current business model. For example, if your average fee per placement is low, you must write a lot of job orders with a high job order fill ratio, and your cost per placement needs to be low. If any of these metrics is off, you’re not applying recruitment best practices and your risk business failure. 

Putting it all together 

When you track the above metrics, you can put the science of recruitment industry success to work for you. This is because you’re now able to calculate the number of specific controllable actions you need to take to reach your goals on both the client and candidate side of the business and set you and your recruitment consultants up for success. 

Here’s an example for the client-side of the business: Let’s say the annual goal of a full cycle recruiting consultant named Sue is $500,000, and the following metrics apply based on Sue’s past performance.  

  • The average placement fee is $25,000; therefore, Sue needs to fill 20 jobs in a year ($500,000 /$25,000).
  • Job order fill ratio is 25%; therefore, Sue needs to write 80 jobs in a year (20/.25)
  • The average number of “live sales conversations” per job order written is 15/1.
  • The average number of phone call dials per live sales conversation is 10/1 

This data translates into Sue’s most controllable activity- phone call dials/job order = 150 (15/1 X 10/1). Thus, Sue needs to make 12,000 phone calls in the year (150 X 80). If she works 48 weeks/year, she needs to make 250 outbound dials per week or an average 50/day. Despite the ups and downs, hot streaks and cold streaks, Sue can feel confident that if she stays committed to consistently make these dials consistently and catching up if she falls behind, she is likely to produce very close to $500 in revenue. 

The metrics on the candidate-side follow the same logic and translate into the number of candidates Sue needs to speak to per week to meet her goals. 

Another advantage of adopting the use of key metrics as a recruitment best practice is that it allows you to identify and solve your critical business problems at the root cause level. For example, if your job order fill ratio falls from 30% to 20%, you can review your other ratios to identify the underlying issues. From there, you can correct the problems at their source. Make collection and analysis of key metrics part of your recruitment training. When you and your recruitment consultants make this a habit, you’ll execute sound recruitment strategy. Otherwise, you’ll resort to hunches and guesswork.

BTW, I have a new free tool to help you get an objective view of your operating process to identify what you’re doing well and where you need to improve. Click here for your free download:

Learn more about the best practices for recruiting with our business coaching.


1 Comment

  1. Julian Schrenzel

    Thanks again Brad. As I read this, I was thinking of my practice, which is different from the sample model you are referring to in that mine is a retained agency (we fill 100% of the jobs we take on), and we only take on roles that are extremely difficult to fill (we effectively “burn the boats” behind us.)

    I see your example of the # of calls that Sue has to make is being a helpful guide, but one thing metrics can’t consider, in this case, is if Sue is rushing to get in her 50 calls per day, is that sacrificing the quality of her conversations? In other words, is she leaving good leads on the table for lack of her focus on good pre-call research and closing the prospect well due to the fact that she’s rushing to meet her daily quota? Having Sue commit to 25 researched and thoughtful calls per day may actually win more business in this case!

    My point here is that a focus on the data CAN be beneficial, but that same focus, especially when the process and context is not considered and constantly re-considered, is often the very thing that causes leaders to miss the forest for the trees and loose good employees and good opportunities.

    Thank you again Brad.