Why Time to Hire is the Worst Recruiting Metric of Them All

I’ve complained in the past about certain old skool HR metrics that are still hanging around in our organizations even though they don’t really matter (at best) or actually damage an organization (at worst). But many of us still diligently report on them regularly even though deep down we know they don’t mean jack. Now I’ll be the first to admit that until recently I thought that tracking and reporting on time to hire was important. I mean, finding the right people as quickly as possible is important, right? Well, I still believe in half of that statement – finding the right people is critical. But I’ve become less sure that time element is as critical for several reasons:

It places the emphasis on speed and not quality.  If you’re trying to build a long-term, sustainable business (which I assume we all are trying to do) then does it really matter whether it takes you an “extra” few weeks to fill a role?  If you answered yes, then I question whether you are really thinking long-term.  Before you know it, success becomes “improving” your time to hire metrics and you lose sight of what really matters – was the person a high performing, long-term employee?  Which leads to my next point…

On average, it ends up being in a pretty tight range.  Let me guess – for most of your positions it takes somewhere around 60 days to fill an open position.  Yeah, you have the occasional 30 day fill and you have occasional 90 day plus fill but for the most part you end up right around 60.  Unless that number dramatically changes (and I don’t mean we “improved” from 60 to 58 days) then I’ll assume it’s around 60.  Maybe it’s not 60 days for your industry but you get the point.

It takes time to recruit top talent. The best of the best generally out pounding the pavement looking for a job.  Instead, they’re happy where they are working, are compensated very well, and need to be convinced to leave.  It’s kind of like the girl in high school you asked out 25 times before she says yes – it takes persistence, little (or no shame) and most of all time.  True top talent have many choices about where and with whom they want to work.  If you hire “top” talent in less than a month then a)you got really lucky or b)you ain’t recruiting top talent.

You need time to get to know someone.  In reality you knew really know but what I do know at this point in my life is that it takes more than just one round of interviews to get a true picture.  First round is interview mode – you don’t see the real person (most of the time).  Second round, you see a little bit more of the real person, they’re more relaxed and we’ve gotten over the standard interview questions.  See them a couple more times and you start to have a normal conversation with them and let’s be honest – yes, skills matter, but if you have made skills and you’re a jerk it doesn’t matter.  You need time to sniff out the jerks!

Ok, so what?  Well, this is going to sound pretty simple but sometimes simple works best.  Figure out which positions in your company are dependent on relationships for their success and design a process where you give the key people the new hire will be working with multiple opportunities to meet the candidate.  It’s like dating in a way.  You decide over the course of several weeks if this is someone you want to hire (date) and you do that by getting to really know the person in different settings.  Take them to lunch.  Take them to dinner or drinks.  Go for a run with them.  See them in groups, see them one on one.  You get the point.  In my opinion you only get to know someone when you get to see them from different vantage points.  No, this process doesn’t make sense for every position you’re recruiting for but it sure does for the mission critical ones.

FOT Background Check

Andy Porter
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.


  1. Darren says:

    Thanks Andy. I always tell people you need to hire the right person. The right person may be the 1st interview or the 100th interview but you still need to wait for them. It is more painful for the business and the manager to not be patient.

    • Justin says:

      I also agree you have to find the right person and not settle, but you have to wonder if you’re at 100 interviews, where is the disconnect.

  2. Justin says:

    I both agree and disagree with this. I think it’s very important to find the right fit, and I think hiring managers will like to take their time to do so. But there are a couple reasons to measure time to hire. For one, you can see whether there are some sources lead to a speedier time to fill than others. For example you might find out that in your organization, internal referrals lead to a shorter time to fill, or that another method leads to a much longer fill than average. Also, it’s good to have a benchmark so that you have an idea in general how long it might take to fill a certain type of position, so that you can keep an eye on trends, if that number should change drastically, you can be aware of it and evaluate the reason why. Another reason to pay attention to time to hire is that though you do want to find the right fit, you also need to remember that at certain times business can’t achieve its goals without the headcount. A group may lose out to opportunity to make money because they don’t have enough people to do the work. If a position is open for a long time, you can look into whether it is really relevant to accomplishing immediate business objectives.

  3. John P says:

    Time to hire is not ‘ the worst recruiting metric’ by a long way. Two uses that are not going to rush the wrong people in the door
    a) are there inefficiencies in the internal process? everyone has applied for a job before and waited (and waited and waited..) if hiring managers aren’t getting to the interviews through Comp not approving the salary quickly enough – time to hire surfaces those issues
    b) OK so we’re not hiring factory workers but the Gen 2.0 moody creative types that must be convinced to work for the company. So we’re not going to crush the recruiting timeline for these guys but perhaps we are spending not enough time to nab them, as evidenced by the subsequent flame-out rate? or we now know that the Organized Marketing Chaos department hires need a 5 month rather than 2 month timeline so lets add that to the critical position list

    I also agree with Justin’s examples re: open positions and relevance to headcount and operational success.

    in summary, if your Time to Hire is a one-dimensional lets-make-this-faster indicator then its not being used to the fullest.

  4. Rory Trotter says:

    Andy, I was nodding my head the whole time I read this.

    Days to fill is a horrible metric not only because it gives recruiters the wrong sort of incentives (as you said speed not quality), but it’s also a bad metric because there are so many factors outside of a recruiters control when it comes to sourcing (location, the job description put together by the manager, the pay range being competitive etc.) that the metric is all but worthless.

    Very good read. Thanks for sharing, and keep posting.



  5. Sangita says:

    I think it depends on how senior/ critical is yr hire, and how large are yr recruiting needs. For critical/ senior chaps – yes ofcourse its imp to have the exact / right fit, even if role is unfilled for a few weeks longer than it shd be. But when you talk scale hiring for large process companies, the TTH metric becomes a HUGE element of operational cost – and operational success!

  6. Agree that for most organizations, quality of hire is a much more effective measure than time to hire. However, for many organizations with high turnover or high-volume hiring needs such as call centers, time to hire is critical. Call center agents often have to complete many weeks of training before they are allowed to interact with customers, so the faster they are hired, the better. For most of these companies, quantity is slightly more important that quality and time is of the essence.

  7. Paul Phipps says:

    When I need help I don’t have time to wait 60 days. I need someone to help within a few weeks. If you hired the wrong person, you let them go quickly. That’s what at-will employment was made for.

  8. AdrienneK. says:

    The time to hire and time to fill metrics have their uses. The first can indicate a competitive market for a particular position, whether because you seek bilingual candidates, or you learn from your failures to attract the best matches that you’re not competitive in the market, or the job isn’t well-defined, or as mentioned, it’s an internal issue and the hiring managers are 1) not following though with screens and interviews 2) are not seasoned and their interviewing skills aren’t up to snuff and they either don’t see a candidtate’s full value range or they dismiss a candidacy or 3) there’s a supervisor over the hiring manager who has to micromanage the whole process…and thus slows it down. Time to fill is a different indicator.

  9. Jan says:

    TtH is not the worst KPI. In fact it is a good one. It measures the quality and efficiency of the hiring processes in HR. Has HR ever hired important positions? No. It’s the hiring manager. The hiring manager will never reduce his quality requirements just because the HR department has a TtH KPI. Do longer TtH create better results? I doubt. Normally it’s better to have the best results fast. Having the best people on board as soon as possible is an important question for the whole company.

  10. Milana says:

    Oh Justin,
    Had I only read your article sooner. I am a manager of a small bathroom remodeling contractor, who recently signed up with Time To Hire. It was such a waste of time and money; I wish I had never even heard of them. They advertise that they will find people who are looking for a specific type of sales job (commission-only in our case) and they guarantee that a certain number of these people will call. Well, they do call. ALL day, they call. And out of the 40+ people who called, only ONE person was even interested in commission-only sales. They sent a follow-up email to me, to check on how we did, and I let them know how terrible the experience was. They told me that using the service repeatedly is how their clients get the best results. So I am supposed to waste hundreds of dollars, multiple times, to get one person per campaign who might be interested? No thanks. Thank you for writing an article that sheds light on the uselessness of this company, as all their reviews around the web are glowing recommendations.

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