If You Don't Find Me First, You're Too Late
There are three basic types of metrics that should be used by recruiting departments to see how well they’re performing. Historical metrics like cost per hire and time to fill, tell you where you’ve been, but not where you are or where you’re going.

While the trends of these are important, the information is too late to take preventative action. Process control metrics like interviews per day and job postings viewed and clicked on daily, tell you what’s happening right now. Forward-looking metrics like forecasted changes in hiring requirements over the next few quarters tell you ahead of time what will happen.

All of these metric types are important, but process control metrics are essential if you want to get better quickly, since you’re monitoring essential activities while they’re occurring. Factories and call centers track just about everything to ensure they’re operating at peak efficiency 100 percent of the time. Recruiting departments should be doing the same thing if they want to maximize quality of hire, time to fill, sourcing channel effectiveness, recruiter productivity, or any other important performance objective.

While I have a bunch of favorite process control metrics, the most important of these is tracking how long it takes to find candidates once they enter the job market. You can start tracking this right away by asking your candidates how long they’ve been looking once you get them on the phone. If most of these people tell you they’ve been looking for a few weeks or longer, you need to ask yourself why you didn’t find them sooner.

This becomes a real problem if many of the best people you find tell you they've just accepted another job, or are close to it. It means you have a leftover sourcing strategy in place by default. This is not good, since it means that there are probably of lot of strong people who never heard about your opening and accepted another offer before they ever found you. Tracking “how long prospects have been looking” tells you exactly how well your sourcing programs are working in real time. More important, you can quickly watch whether the changes you make are helping or not.

Understanding job seeking behavior helps clarify why this is such an important metric. The best people who are less satisfied with their current positions, tend to look for new careers in a particular way. This starts by networking with close associates, calling former co-workers (a.k.a. your employees), or calling a recruiter or two, to see if anything is available. If these early efforts don’t bear fruit, they'll expand their networking efforts, start Googling for jobs, do some company and industry research, and maybe start looking at some niche sites. One of the last things they'll need to do is look at a company's career site and apply for a job. It’s obvious that the best of this group will find new opportunities early in their quest for a new position. This is a huge competitive advantage for the finder, since there’s less competition and you have the advantage of extra time. While you won’t close them all, your goal should be to find these people the moment they enter the market, on day one if possible, but certainly no later than week one.

Asking your candidates how long they’ve been looking and trending these statistics over time will tell you whether you’re in the ideal 1-5 day target range, and if things are getting better or worse. As the economy recovers, expect a surge in voluntary turnover coupled with an increase in new hiring requirements. This double-whammy will overload both your current sourcing efforts and your recruiters, so getting candidates first is essential if you want to raise the overall quality of the people you hire. If you get them too late, you’ll just be filling seats with average performers.

An early-bird sourcing strategy is based on the idea that you want to connect with the strongest people as soon as they start thinking about a new career opportunity. There are a number of ways to do this. One easy way to do this is to implement PERP – a proactive employee referral program. The idea here is to have your employees reach out to the best people they’ve worked with in the past and make sure they’re connected via LinkedIn or Facebook. Then have your employees suggest that they be contacted first if these former co-workers ever get the urge to consider something new. Implemented properly, this type of program can improve quality of hire, drive down costs, and minimize time to hire. You can do something similar with your former candidates as long as you’ve put them in some type of proprietary talent database. Not only can you advise them of openings when they become available, but you can also suggest they contact you if they’re planning on looking for a new job.

Using a process control metric like “average time to find candidates after they’ve entered the market” will give you a great sense of your overall sourcing effectiveness. It takes a lot of work to drive this down to “week one,” but it’s well worth it. Not only will you have your choice of the best candidates to pursue, you won’t have to hear your best prospects tell you they’ve just accepted another job or that they wished you called them sooner.