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Recruiting Metrics: Time to Fill vs. Time to Start

As part of our recruiting metrics series, we’ll dive deeper into the difference between time-to-fill and time-to-start, outline why they are important, and explain how you and your recruiting team can use these metrics to share the effectiveness and impact that recruiting can make on your organization’s productivity and bottom line.

First, to avoid any confusion, it’s important to understand that the difference between time to fill and time to hire is the point you start counting. You may start counting time to fill before a job is published, but your time to hire timeline starts when your best candidate applies or gets sourced. So, time to fill tells you how fast your hiring process moves. Time to start differs from time to hire because it measures the time between when your candidate accepts the offer and their first day as an employee.

  • Time to fill is the average number of days the position is posted to the time a candidate accepts a job offer.
  • Time to start is the average time between when a candidate accepts an offer to their first day as an employee.

Recruiting Metrics: Time to Fill Key Points

Measuring time to fill is an important way for recruiters to demonstrate their efficiency. The longer a position goes unfilled, the more productivity will be disrupted, and the more the responsibilities of that job will be distributed to other staff members. By accurately measuring time to fill, you can evaluate the speed of your team’s recruitment processes and provide hiring managers with realistic time frames for filling their vacant positions.

The time to fill metric also provides insight into your recruiting strategies, as well as guidance for resource allocation and budget planning. Longer time to fill periods may lead to higher cost per hire figures, as more expensive recruiting practices might have to be employed after a position has been vacant for too long. Analyzing metrics like cost per hire and time to fill, along with the individual recruitment stages that make up time to fill, can help identify the most time consuming and costly aspects of your talent acquisition strategy. And it can help direct your budget and resources to the most efficient and effective strategies.

To accurately analyze and reassess your time to fill KPIs, it helps to break this metric down into segments, such as:

  • Time to advertise an open position on all channels
  • Time to select acceptable candidates
  • Time to complete all interviews
  • Time to complete background checks (if needed)
  • Time to create and extend offers
  • Time for candidates to accept offers

By separately analyzing these segments, you can identify the weaknesses in your talent acquisition strategy and focus on the areas in need of improvement. For example, if your time to identify an acceptable candidate is increasing for certain positions, you might consider reevaluating the job description’s required qualifications or your screening process. It could mean that your hiring manager has unrealistic expectations for quality of hire based on the current marketplace, or that there might be a flaw in your employment strategy when it comes to the quality of candidates you’re reaching with your job posting.

Recruiting Metrics: Time to Start Key Points

If it takes weeks or months before a new hire starts, your company is losing productivity. So what can you do to decrease the length of time between a candidate’s acceptance and their first day? When it comes to reporting, time to start may be a more significant metric if you see excessive “position vacancy days” based on industry benchmarks or if it begins trending higher. This is because delayed start dates negatively impact revenue generation and productivity.

Time to start is typically impacted by things that are outside of recruiting control including orientation dates, background checks and other post-offer processes. Time to start is great metric to measure because it helps shine a spotlight on process challenges and bottlenecks that exist that non-recruiting leaders might not be aware about.

In order to reduce the time involved from a candidate’s offer acceptance and their start date, it takes a bit of creativity and flexibility. There are few internal factors you can streamline, so you’ll want to focus on 1) expecting candidates to put in two weeks’ notice at their current job (and potentially wanting some down time before starting at your company) and 2) what you can legally ask of the candidate during the period of time before they officially onboard.

If your company can be flexible with assigning a “pre-start” date based on setting a candidate up on payroll immediately or offering a bonus to the candidate for an “overlap period,” you can work with your new hire to begin their onboarding and training while they are still technically in their notice period with their current company. You can arrange to meet with your new hire outside of their current company’s hours or on a weekend to get this started, or ask the candidate to begin your online training courses on their own schedule.

Consider setting up a “meet the team happy hour” for your new hire with their coworkers-to-be. Offer food and refreshments, or hold the event off site. This will give the team a chance to interact with their new team member, and the new hire a chance to get to know who they’ll be working with.

As long as your new hire is able to be flexible and your company leadership understands that these activities may kick off pay for active employment, these can be very effective methods to speed up time to start.

Finally, don’t attempt to entice a candidate to avoid working out a notice period for their current employer. After all, when an employee leaves your company, you’d expect them to give notice. Would you want to hire someone who was willing not to give their current company notice?

Time to fill and time to start are two of the most difficult gaps to close in your recruiting metrics, but it can be done, and done ethically. When you can demonstrate success to your company leadership by moving these numbers in a positive direction, they’ll be even more invested in your recruiting team’s efforts and the impact on company productivity and the bottom line.