Time to hire: your guiding hiring metric

Last updated:
July 7, 2021
December 16, 2021
min read
Adrie Smith
Table of contents

Recruitment is becoming increasingly data-driven. Time to hire, time to fill, offer acceptance rates… these are just a few hiring metrics in-house recruiters and HR managers are beginning to regularly assess. However, as recruitment starts to mirror sales and marketing by producing an increasing amount of performance data, it may also face a similar conundrum: which hiring metrics actually matter and which should be prioritized?

Some marketers solved this issue by proposing a north star metric, which is the one metric that guides your optimization strategy. The idea behind a north star metric is that all optimization efforts should focus on improving just this one metric. This is an idea that can easily be adapted to recruitment and hiring metrics. The benefit of focusing on improving, optimizing or impacting one hiring metric is clear: with uninterrupted focus, change is more likely to happen than with resources spread across multiple metrics.

While many in recruitment are still settling into collecting data on the hiring process, optimizing your processes with this data is just on the horizon. To guide your improvements, we suggest starting with an age-old recruitment favorite, time to hire, as your guiding hiring metric.

Time to hire definition

In a nutshell, time to hire (or time to fill) refers to the time between the initial contact of a candidate to the moment that candidate accepts the job offer. That sounds simple enough, right?

The definition is. It’s an easy thing to get your head around.

However, tracking it through data and understanding its impact on your company is where time to hire begins to get a little more complicated.

How to calculate time to hire

Time to hire is usually divided out by role as different roles may require a different number of steps. For example, a developer position may require an additional technical assessment which adds time to the recruitment process. But it can also be averaged across roles in the business in order to give a broad overview of the speed of your hiring process.

As each role will vary in the number of steps, it makes calculating an exact time to hire almost impossible. Instead, you need to calculate the average time to hire for the company.

You do this by adding the time it took to hire for open vacancies and dividing them by the number of roles.

You can then dive deeper into the specifics by comparing the time to hire across different departments, locations, under specific management, and the differences between seasons.

Why is the time to hire metric important?

Time to hire is one of the most common hiring metrics for recruitment. It’s also one of the most important. Why?

Next to communication, time to hire plays one of the biggest roles in the candidate experience. It represents the speed of your hiring process and how long a candidate can expect to be in process for your vacancy. Long times to hire may demonstrate bottlenecks in your hiring and risk a poor candidate experience. No candidate wants to wait over a month interviewing and waiting on next steps.

This is also a hiring metric that indicates the efficiency of your recruitment process. If it takes too long to select candidates to invite to a phone screening, or there’s a lag between the final interview and extending an offer, these will impact your time to fill and cause you to miss out on talented employees.

Time to hire is also impacted by a number of factors that often require optimization such as:

  • follow-up with candidates,
  • internal decision-making and communication,
  • oversight over talent pipeline,
  • process tracking,
  • and document gathering.

Issues in any of these areas can negatively impact the length of your recruitment process. In turn, long times to hire will result in a poor candidate experience and increase the likelihood of candidate dropouts or offer rejections.

What is the average time to hire an employee?

Spark Hire surveyed in 2018, where they questioned 500 recruiting companies across the USA. The results found that 49% took 1-2 weeks from their application to getting their job offer.

Shockingly, 24% of the respondents found that it took an average of between 15 and 31 days.

The statistics vary, which tells us something crucial: many factors impact the time to hire. This could be industry type, location, company representation, or the demand for the role.

Average time to hire by industry

DHI Indicators released the average time to hire according to industry:

Industry Average time to hire (in working days)

Construction - 12.7

Business Services - 25.2

Resources - 17.9

Education - 29.3

Hospitality and Leisure - 20.7

Manufacturing - 30.7

Non-Farm - 28.3

Warehouse, Transport, and Utilities - 24.9

Other Services - 31.2

Government - 40.9

Financial Services - 44.7

Health Services - 49

Information - 33

Wholesale and Retail - 24.6

Steps to improve your time to hire

Time to hire covers the entire hiring process from application to offer. This makes it representative of your whole process and great hiring metric to track. But how do you begin to make an impact on it? Here are a few steps to help you work towards optimizing this particular hiring metric.

how to improve your time to hire

1. Measure time spent per stage

The hiring process can be broken down into stages of your candidate journey: CV selection, phone screening, interview, assessment, offer etc.

Break your time to fill down into stages as well.

Find out how long it takes on average for a candidate to move from one stage to the next.  This overview of the time spent between hiring stages can help you identify where your bottlenecks are.

Are you taking too long between CV selection and phone screening? Or maybe between the final interview and offer?

Breaking it down by stages means you can clearly see what percentage of the overall hiring process is spent per stage. This outline will lend you better insight into where you may want to make improvements or address delays.

2. Segment per role or department

As mentioned above, some roles may vary in the standard process- some may require a writing sample or technical assessment, which could add days onto your hiring process.

Segmenting your time to fill by role or by department can help you refine your overview. It’s important to understand not only where you may be taking the longest time in regards to stages, but also in regards to role or department.

Delve into why specific roles have longer times to hire than others. Is it because of an extra step, or is it because they need an extra layer of approval before offer? With this information, you’ll improve and streamline your processes to reduce your time to hire metric.

3. Assess the quality of your applications

Sometimes issues impacting time to hire begin even before the clock starts on this particular hiring metric.

It may be worth looking at the quality of candidates that apply to your vacancies. Often, the length of your recruitment process can spiral out of control if the quality of candidates’ quality is low or if there is not enough selection.

If there is poor selection, some teams may prefer to keep candidates in the pipeline without fully rejecting them until they a better-suited candidate. This will inevitably negatively impact both your candidate experience and length of your hiring process.

You may want to consider maximizing your social channels or addressing core causes of why you may not be receiving more candidate applications for your vacancies.

4. Build an accessible talent pipeline

Delays in the hiring process are often due to poor internal communication and limited oversight into the recruitment cycle.

Delays in decisions because of this will directly impact your time to hire. While internal communication may need to be considered separately, it can be bettered by improving insight into your talent pipeline.

With an ATS, like Recruitee, you can build an accessible talent pipeline that can be viewed by select people involved in the hiring process. This can be done by granting users access. In addition to accessing candidate records, they can see the talent pipeline for that vacancy or multiple roles. This can:

  1. Help hiring managers see how many and which candidates are in each stage.
  2. Identify areas to delegate parts of the hiring process to users to eliminate delays.
  3. Grant other team members oversight into bottlenecks and the overall process.
  4. Cut down time spent gathering feedback, documents, and other necessary information from the hiring team.

5. Use questionnaires to speed up the process

Delays can sometimes be a result of lack of information from the candidate side. Sometimes you may need additional information to make a decision to move a candidate to the next stage, or you may require them to send in documents. This can easily add additional time to your hiring process.

Questionnaires can be a good solution to help speed things along. You can use questionnaires at various stages, and they should be a time-effective replacement for phone screenings when paired with video answers.

If used with a document upload question, they can also help collect the required documentation from candidates near the offer stage and help you save time by having their answers automatically synced with their profile.

Steps towards data-driven recruitment

Finding out which hiring metrics work carry real value in helping you attract, hire, and retain the best talent is a process, especially if you are only just now beginning to track data.

It’s important not to overwhelm yourself. Optimization must be carried out with confidence and consistency to ensure long-term results. Start with selecting one metric and working to understand the issues impacting it and making minor improvements.

Time to hire is a great place to start as it’s commonly tracked recruitment metric that carries real weight when it comes to the candidate experience and securing the right talent.

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