Data-Driven Recruiting: Q&A with Tiffany Ballve
Phase One’s senior director of talent acquisition discusses recruitment metrics, why they matter, and how they can help you make better business decisions.
Tiffany Ballve is the senior director of talent acquisition at Phase One, a self-described “metrics-oriented” talent acquisition leader with 15-years experience in fast-growth technology companies, and an advocate for data-driven recruiting. We got on the phone to chat about why metrics matter, what numbers matter most, and how to use the data you collect to recruit better.
“The key metrics we’re focusing on aren’t always the same, they’re always evolving based on the lay of the land.”
What are recruitment metrics, and why do they matter?
Metrics are ways that you measure recruitment. The recruiting organization, individual recruiters, the tools you’re using, the applicant tracking system, candidate engagement, branding – how are all of these performing? Tracking this data helps you know when you need to adjust what you’re doing, invest differently, or keep on doing what is working well.
How do you know what recruitment metrics matter most?
It’s different for each organization, and sometimes different from year to year. My own approach to data collection and analysis has really evolved over the years. Instead of strictly focusing on the same metrics all the time, like time to fill, source of hire, and hire per month by recruiter, I look at it more as “trending topics”. How are we looking to change our performance right now? What did the numbers look like last year, and how do we want to improve on that this year?
For example, for us at Phase One it was agency hires. Historically, the company did not have a robust recruiting function, and relied heavily on agencies. Obviously paying those fees affects the bottom line. So, the metric I’ve focused on in my first year here is sourced and inbound applications resulting in hires versus agency submittals resulting in hires. Those numbers are changing: we’re tracking downwards on agency hires, which is great. And maybe next year we’re focusing on something else. So the key metrics we’re focusing on aren’t always the same, they’re always evolving based on the lay of the land.
Once you have data in hand, what do you do with it?
These data points are really there to provide an indicator when something’s going wrong, or confirm when something’s going right – so you can stay on course, or shift accordingly.
It’s probably old school, but I track everything in an Excel spreadsheet. I track numbers on a monthly basis so we can pivot quickly and keep ahead of problems – so we’re not waiting until the end of the year and get stuck saying, “Oh, that’s why that happened.” I know exactly where all of our hires are coming from, who sourced them if they were sourced, what divisions and locations they’re being hired into.
If, for example, I’m starting to see our agency hires trend up when we’re trying to bring them down, I can drill down in the data to uncover why there is a spike. If I’m seeing that one job board in particular is providing lots of candidates, then I can make sure we allocate more budget towards it versus other tools that aren’t performing as well. If I see that in certain months we get fewer employee referrals, then maybe that’s when we can try holding a contest. I can also use the data to validate our efforts to executives. So if, for example, we held an employee referral contest and saw a 200 percent increase in referrals, I can show that ROI for our dollar spend.
Are there any common metrics that are given too much importance? Or that are attributed to recruiting, but shouldn’t be?
Time to fill: There’s kind of an old school mentality that it should be the main metric you focus on. If you look at it holistically, then yes, time to fill can definitely help you see the bigger picture and confirm you’re obtaining quality talent while building your employment brand and running a lean recruiting machine. You need to consider all the other factors beyond recruiter effectiveness that affects the metric, like your value proposition, the infrastructure you have in place, how well your applicant tracking system is being used, if your hiring managers are providing timely candidate feedback. I don’t agree with using time to fill to make recruiting a scapegoat when a role takes a hundred days to fill.
Attrition: Some companies assume that if an employee leaves within the first year, then they were a bad hire. They point the finger at recruiting, and ask why that person didn’t get filtered out during the recruitment process. But the onboarding experience plays a huge part in the success of a new hire. If that process is clunky, if there are holes, if the hire is left to figure out where even the supply closet is, that’s not a great experience. You kind of waste the time that the recruiter spent landing that stellar candidate by throwing them against the wind, hoping that they decide to stay.
“Communicate the importance of data to your recruiting team, why it needs to be clean, and how the data helps them.”
What advice would you give to talent leaders in companies that don’t yet have a system of measurement in place?
If you haven’t invested in an applicant tracking system, and you have the budget to do so, start there. An ATS is a great place to start capturing data.
And make sure you’re collecting clean data in your ATS. When I came to Phase One, our system was not leveraged to its full capacity. We’ve had to revamp the workflow, make it easier for recruiters to use, make it easier for hiring managers to access, and make sure we are collecting the correct data points we need for the reporting we want.
Communicate the importance of data to your recruiting team, why it needs to be clean, and how the data helps them. For example, I’m always reminding our team that if they find a candidate on a particular job board, don’t just record that it was a job board – record the actual job board. That data helps us decide where to focus our budget, what tools we should spend on. This keeps them engaged, because they all have their favorite tool.
Finally, don’t be afraid of data collection and analysis. You don’t need expensive tools – I use Excel. It creates great graphs, which you can use to keep hiring managers engaged, or put into a deck to show to executives. It’s always a work in progress, so just make a point to collect all the data you need on a monthly basis. Choose one or two things to focus on, and check to make sure your data is clean and consistent. Go into it to see what trends you uncover, and use it to make changes as needed – so you can stay ahead of the game, instead of falling behind.
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