Time to fill: what is it and how to reduce it

Last updated:
March 10, 2023
March 16, 2023
min read
Gem Siocon
time to fill
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Time to fill is an important KPI that recruiters need to know to improve their overall performance. Knowing this detail can guide in spotting inefficiency in the current hiring methods to avoid losing candidates to competitors. 

This article will discuss what time to fill means, how to calculate it, the average time to fill, and how to reduce it.

What is time to fill?

Time to fill is defined as the number of days it takes for a recruiter to fill a job vacancy in an organization. The starting point varies: it can be when you submit a job requisition for approval or when the job order is approved. And the endpoint is when the candidate accepts the job offer. 

Analyzing your time to fill will also give you information for determining recruitment inefficiencies like: 

  • Which recruitment phase can be automated. For example, you can install chatbots in  your career website to answer repetitive initial questions 
  • Which sourcing strategy attracts the least number of candidates. For example, you might find that you fill roles faster by using employee referrals than by hiring a staffing agency. 
  • Which recruitment channel costs more money. For instance,  you’ll know that it's more expensive to advertise on LinkedIn compared to using job boards. 

To compute your time to fill, divide the sum number of the days a recruiter gets approval for a requisition or job order and divide it by the total number of days a new hire accepts the job offer. 

Is the time to fill the same as the time to hire?

Time to hire and time to fill are essential to tracking the speed and quality of recruitment activities to improve the hiring process and overall candidate experience. 

It's easy to confuse between time to fill and time to hire, which is another recruitment KPI. But they are two different things. 

Time to fill starts from the approval of job requisition, while time to hire begins from the date the candidate applies for the job. They both end at the time the candidate accepts the job offer. And because job requisition comes first before job advertisement, the time to hire is shorter than the time to fill.


Want to learn more about time to hire and how it can help you optimize the recruitment process?

Find our guide here

What is the average time to fill?

The average time to fill is calculated by adding the total number of days it takes a recruiter to fill each position and dividing it by the number of people who accepted the job offer. 


You're a recruiter for a construction firm, and you need to employ a structural engineer, architecture, and a mechanical engineer.

It took you 30 days to hire a structural engineer, 40 days to hire an architect, and 50 days for a mechanical engineer.

You add all those days: 30 + 40 + 50 days = 115 days. You divide them by 3 (number of people you’re hiring) = 40.

  Based on this scenario, your average fill time would be 40 days.

The average time to fill is 41 days. You can use this information to determine how effective your hiring process is. 

However, exclude recurrent job openings (e.g., nurses, call center agents) from your time to fill computations because they would inflate your average time to fill, which doesn’t accurately depict the efficiency of your hiring process. 

And rather than comparing yourself to other companies, it's better to track time to fill internally and monitor it quarterly or yearly to see improvements

What does a long time to fill mean?

A long time to fill means there is a delay in filling open roles. 

However, please note that the time to fill varies depending on the industry and the organization's size. A bigger company can hire faster than smaller companies because they have more resources.

The tech and healthcare industries, where there is an all-time high of talent shortages, will experience a longer time to fill compared to other sectors like manufacturing or construction. For example, the average time to fill for registered nurses is 54 days

Tracking your time to fill helps optimize your recruitment cycle. By calculating your time to fill, you’ll understand how long it takes to find a replacement for someone with the same skills and experience.

As such, you’ll be able to prepare your handover and onboarding procedures more efficiently. Or create contingency plans while the role remains vacant. 

On a bigger scale, monitoring your time to fill dramatically impacts your business planning, productivity, sales, and profitability.

Good to know:

It creates a domino effect: the delay in filling roles also prolongs or postpones essential business decisions like expanding to new locations or launching new products or services.

If you’re a recruiter for a staffing agency, having a fast time-to-fill rate will result in higher customer satisfaction and repeat business

How to reduce time to fill

Immediately filling your vacancies can save your organization time and money.  Here are some strategies to help you shorten your time to fill: 

1. Create a talent pool

A talent pool helps in reducing your job advertising costs as well as time and effort in sourcing candidates because you already have a database of highly qualified candidates you’ve kept over the years.

Since you already have their information at your fingertips, you can skip the usual job advertising, resume screening, and background checking. 

To build your talent pool, add your sourced candidates, like passive candidates and applicants considered but not hired for previous positions.

Expand your candidate base by including new graduates, former employees, and those in underrepresented groups like second-chance hires and veterans.

Discover how you can attract and retain top talent for your organization's growth and success with talent pools!

Read our guide

 2. Establish employee referral programs

Many studies have shown that candidates hired via employee referrals often perform better and stay longer.

Moreover, organizations can save on expenses because referral fees costs less compared to paying job advertisements. And you can be sure these candidates are highly-qualified because current employees won’t refer someone they’re unsure of. 

To have a successful employee referral program, offer enticing incentives like cash bonuses or gift cards to their favorite stores.

Promote your program while onboarding new employees by asking them to refer their talented friends and colleagues from other companies. Send email and text reminders to employees so they don’t forget about your employee referral. 

3. Continuously source for candidates

Contact passive candidates even if you aren’t currently hiring. Build connections and nurture these relationships that could eventually lead to filling roles for future vacancies.

Don’t just stick with LinkedIn to find highly qualified candidates. Understand your target talent to predict better where to find them online. If you’re looking for developers, go to GitHub. Or if you’re sourcing for engineers, visit Triplebyte.

Meet your future employees by attending job fairs and career events, especially if you’re massively hiring. You can also try doing a candidate referral initiative where applicants can refer their friends and peers to apply for jobs in your company in exchange for a referral fee.

Learn how to host a virtual job fair to find top talent.

Learn more here

 4. Use technology to automate your recruitment process 

Automating repetitive hiring tasks can shorten the time you spend filling open roles by reducing the length of your recruitment process from 1-2 weeks to just 2-3 days. Plenty of recruitment software can help you make talent acquisition easier and faster: 

  • Recruitment marketing can automate the writing and posting of job ads on free and paid job boards and social media networks within a single platform.
  • Candidate texting can reach thousands of applicants fast with customized text messages.
  • Video interviewing software enables recruiters to create pre-recorded job interviews that eliminate scheduling and time zone conflicts.

Learn about applicant tracking systems and how they can help optimize your recruitment process (and find the right talent).

Read our guide

 5. Review your hiring process to find delays and eliminate them 

Hiring a person usually takes several steps: you review their resumes, schedule them for interviews, perform background checks to either reject their applications or extend job offers.

You may find that specific steps take much longer than others because of common roadblocks like:

  1. Too many applicants - screening resumes from hundreds of unqualified candidates can be overwhelming.  To resolve this, hiring managers must be explicit about what they need from the applicant.

    Recruiters must be clear about the requirements in their job postings. Use an ATS with knockout questions to eliminate candidates who don’t fit the job qualifications. 
  1. Too many decision-makers - involving too many people can delay hiring the right person. Not only does it negatively affect candidate experience, but you also risk losing them to your competitors.

    Limit the number of people by selecting only those that are essential in reaching the hiring decision, like the recruiter and the hiring manager. 
  1. Lengthy job interview process - having more than 3 or more interviews when 2 would suffice can drag the recruitment experience. If you really need more than 2 people to conduct the interview, consider having a panel interview.

    And consider using video software where candidates can select their availability for interviews to shorten the waiting time and avoid the unnecessary exchange of emails and text messages regarding interview schedules. 
  1. Lengthy reference checking - waiting for replies from the applicant’s references can be frustrating. 

    Remove this bottleneck by offering multiple contact points. This way, even if they can’t give you a call or vice versa, you can leave them a voice message or send an email. 
  1. Rigid compensation strategy - a rigid compensation or benefits plan can put off the selected candidate. In addition, if the approval for the proposed salary is too slow or strict, the candidate will likely switch to another employer.

    Reduce this risk by streamlining your salary and benefits package. Don’t forget to factor in job market data and expectations for the skills requested to guarantee that you have a competitive offer 

Analyze how long each step takes and the components contributing to the delay so you can work on the solution to shorten the phase.


For example:

For example:

Maybe you can eliminate preliminary phone interviews and just stick to the initial recruiter interview and final interview with the hiring manager to hasten the whole interview phase. 

6. Reinforce your employer brand 

According to Glassdoor, 75% of active job seekers are likely to apply for a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand. Employer brand greatly influences an ideal candidate’s decision to apply for your company.

By communicating what it's like to work for your organization, you’ll naturally attract good-fit candidates, and they’ll likely value the benefits you’ll provide for their knowledge and experience. 

And it begins by clearly understanding people’s first impression of your employer brand:

  • Conduct a brand audit: listen and check what former applicants and employees say about your company in social media, employer review sites and employee surveys.
  • Ask and address negative feedback properly while ask satisfied employees to share their positive work experiences in these sites.
  • Create videos featuring employee testimonials that communicate their stories of working for your company and share them on social media to amplify your brand.

7. Constantly engage with regular emails and newsletters

You may have very talented people who visited your career site but bounced off after finding that there aren't opportunities for them at the moment.

Capture these individuals by having an email signup form where they can leave their names and email addresses so you can keep in touch with them for the next job opportunities. 

Make your newsletter stand out in your candidates’ inboxes with catchy but short subject lines. Keep a balance between being helpful and promotional in the emails you send.

And review the emails you send to determine the types of emails that candidates like to avoid low open rates or unsubscribes. 

8. Offer valuable content 

Stay on top of candidates’ minds by giving them resources that can help them remember that you offer an excellent workplace experience. When creating content, keep in mind the purpose of each content piece and the type of candidates you want to attract. 

A lead magnet is a popular, long-form resource that employers can offer prospective employees in exchange for their contact information. 

Create lead magnets like ebook, guides, and checklists that offers candidates a glimpse into your company’s core values and culture.

Establish thought leadership by providing the latest information on industry trends. Help them become better in their profession by delivering career tips via blogs and short videos. 


With the ongoing talent war and candidate-driven labor market, it's crucial that HR tracks and measures time to fill. This recruitment metric can help organizations evaluate and improve their hiring process to support the company’s overall business goal of employing the best talent at the soonest time possible.

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