Decoding Time-to-Fill: How Sub-cycles Impact Recruiting

Decoding time-to-fill

Understanding your time-to-fill (TTF) can drive significant business impact

Time-to-fill is important because in today’s competitive hiring environment speed is critical to success. However, most organizations don’t truly understand what the metric is composed of, or how to improve it.

It cannot be looked at as a generic measurement. A recent Robert Half survey found that it can take up to 11 weeks, on average, to hire for an open position – but that doesn’t really tell us much. This survey polled over 2,000 hiring managers, from different companies, with different processes, and hiring different roles. Knowing the average of them all is an interesting piece of trivia but gives little help in understanding if a company is doing well when compared to the average.

Let’s talk more about why time-to-fill is a valuable metric and how breaking it down into sub-cycles (or the individual steps) can shed light on ways to improve it.

What is Time-To-Fill?

Time-to-fill is the time it takes to fill an open position. It measures a few things: how efficient your process is, how well you source and engage candidates, and how effective your organization is at managing the various stakeholders and vendors.

What’s interesting is it also reflects the current state of the employment market. When competition for talent is high and the candidate supply is low, TTF goes up. Alternatively, if hiring wanes and the candidate supply loosens, time-to-fill drops. Different industries can bring their own nuances to the hiring timeline as well.

For TTF to be useful, what is being measured must be defined first. For your organization, does it start the day a requisition is opened? Or when the position is posted? Do you consider it ending when an offer is accepted? Or on the start date?

While there isn’t a best practice across the board, it can be most useful to look at TTF from the day it’s assigned to the recruiter to the day the offer is accepted. Why? Because that tends to be the portion of the recruiting process an organization has the most control over.

TTF does not exist in a vacuum, it is the sum of its parts. Understanding those parts is the beginning of transforming TTF from something merely measured to something that can serve as a strategic business driver.

Why is Time-To-Fill important?

Recruiting exists to hire the best talent. As soon as an organization says, “we’ve budgeted for this and we want to hire someone,” the clock starts. They want the position filled ASAP. For every day it’s not filled, they’re potentially losing revenue, straining the current team, delaying a product launch, etc. 

More than ever there’s a crunch for talent. Companies can’t afford to lose candidates because of inefficient processes. And they cannot afford the prolonged cost of vacancy. Time really is money.

  • It’s common to pay “regrettable overtime” to hourly workers due to lack of FTEs.
  • Insufficient FTEs can force companies to turn down revenue opportunities.
  • Long TTF increases turnover risk. If existing workers must pick up the slack for open roles, they can become burnt-out.
  • Long TTF hurts employer brand—increased turnover and negative word-of-mouth makes it tougher to recruit in the future.
  • Inability to fill roles can lead to a costly imbalance of contingent labor.
  • If the hiring process takes too long, candidates will disengage and apply elsewhere.

TIME = $

Time really is money (IMAGE)
Time really is money.

Dig deeper to understand your Time-To-Fill

If you see a house for sale for $1M, is that a good deal? Well, it depends. What’s the square footage? How many bedrooms does it have? Where is it located? What shape is the roof and the foundation in? There are a lot of variables that determine the answer.

It’s the same for TTF. You can’t definitively say that if your TTF was 27 days, and a competitor was 38 days, your metric is “better.” There are many variables that impact TTF, from the type of role being filled to the level of competition or the location. Like cost-per-hire, you have to look at this recruiting metric in context.

These variables are often specific to a company or their recruiting process. Some, like the time it takes to complete a required background check, cannot be changed. Others, like how many rounds of interviews are conducted, are more malleable. In the end, it’s never an apples-to-apples comparison, whether looking at similar organizations within your industry or looking across the various roles within your company, each has its own nuances.

The key to improving TTF in a way that benefits your organization lies in recognizing the multiple sub-cycles that take place within your defined TTF timeframe, then analyzing them for improvement opportunities.

7 Common Recruiting Sub-Cycles to Analyze Within Time-To-Fill

While every company’s workflow is different, the following phases represent the most common sub-cycles for organizations. By breaking down your overall TTF this way, you gain a deeper insight into your overall process effectiveness and can start making meaningful improvements.

1. Requisition assignment to recruiter-hiring manager intake

The time between requisition assignment and the recruiter-hiring manager intake, most applicable for non-repeatable positions.

2. Job application to candidate phone interview

How long it takes the recruiting team to review applications or resumes, and then schedule phone interviews.

3. Phone interview to hiring manager’s slate

How long it takes to move qualified candidates to a hiring manager’s slate following a phone interview.

4. Slate to hiring manager Interview.

Hiring manager responsiveness to review candidates and scheduling an interview.

5. Interview to job offer

Hiring manager response, plus the time it takes the recruiting team to create and send an offer letter.

6. Offer to contingencies.

How quickly a recruiting team can coordinate contingencies between a candidate and a contingency provider (e.g., background checks, drug screens, physicals, credit checks, etc.).

7. Contingencies to hire

The time it takes contingency vendors to complete their tasks before the candidate can officially be hired.

Start evaluating and monitoring your Time-to-Fill

Start where you are. Begin by defining what TTF is for your organization, when does it start and when does it stop? Then evaluate your process “from stem to stern” to get a clear picture of your specific TTF sub-cycles, who owns them, their times, and what impacts those times.

Identification must come before optimization can occur.

Once you’ve broken down the components of your unique TTF process, put a plan in place to continuously monitor each sub-cycle via weekly or monthly reports. This creates benchmarks from which you can start analyzing and identifying optimization opportunities.

Be patient. Make sure you’re thorough in your vetting of TTF sub-cycles. And, please, be sure you intend to do something with the data once you optimize it. Otherwise, redefining TTF becomes merely a time-consuming exercise with no beneficial output.

Considerations when evaluating your Time-To-Fill

When weighing whether to refine your TTF numbers, or when moving forward with a plan to reduce it, keep these thoughts in mind:

  1. The hiring process differs by industry. In some financial organizations, they must complete a credit check on candidates before they can be hired. For some roles with government contractors, candidates need security clearances, which can add an additional three to four months to the process. These nuances must be weighed in determining a realistic TTF.
  1. It is possible to go too fast. Don’t cut time just for the sake of cutting it. You may realize that, for your business and the roles you’re filling, you’re doing well on TTF. If reducing TTF leads to sub-par hires, it could mean you’ve gone too far by losing key decision points or a sense of the candidates.
  1. Not every role should have the same TTF. The amount of time it takes to hire a mid-level manager is different than the time it takes to hire an entry-level warehouse worker. As it should be. One likely requires multiple hiring manager interviews, the other may have none.
  1. ATS setup matters. Your ATS is the backbone of recruiting. It’s where the rubber meets the road for measuring TTF. If it isn’t configured to reflect your specific workflows and statuses, including TTF sub-cycles, you may not be able to accurately measure them.
  1. TTF can be a performance management tool. When measured correctly, it helps you see which team members are hitting it out of the park, and which need help. If a recruiter is consistently 30% shorter on their TTF, learn their secret. If a hiring manager is averaging three days longer than others to make decisions, offer additional training.

How RPO can optimize TTF and increase Speed-to-Hire

It’s surprisingly easy for TTF to get away from you, especially for reasons you might not expect. Working with an RPO can help. Here are examples of ways we’ve helped organizations creatively approach TTF optimization.

Example 1: Losing candidates late in the process

One of our clients was frequently losing candidates later in the process to other companies who were paying more. Realizing our client was consistently paying below market value, we guided them toward a strategic decision to raise salaries. This RPO partnership helped them achieve:

  • 20% reduction in the number of applicants needed for a hire
  • 23% reduction in the number of interviews needed to make a hire
  • 13% reduction in the number of offer rejections

In sum: All of which combined meant less time to move candidates through the hiring process, for a greatly reduced TTF.

Example 2: Hiring managers keep asking to see more candidates

We found that hiring managers for our client were consistently asking to see more candidates, despite nearly always hiring those presented by recruiters earlier in the process. This was dragging out their overall TTF. What we did as their RPO partner:

  • Built hiring manager relationships and trust
  • Reduced the interview-to-hire sub-cycle ratio from 4.5:1 to 2:1
  • Spent less time sourcing and screening candidates
  • Hiring managers conducted fewer interviews.

In sum: This all resulted in a reduced TTF for our client.

If your organization is struggling to optimize TTF, now’s a good time to explore how RPO solutions can help you more strategically approach your efforts and uncover hidden TTF roadblocks. 

What is RPO anyway?

Now that you know TTF, do you know what RPO is? RPO is a way to outsource some or all of your recruitment process to a team of experts. It can extend your team’s recruiting capacity or add the expertise you need to optimize your approach to talent acquisition. But that’s just the beginning. Learn why RPO is your company’s best defense against the moving target of the biggest business and talent challenges today.

> Download your Guide to (Finally) Understanding RPO