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Why “number of hires” is a bad metric for recruiters

At Spotify, we don’t measure recruiters on hires.

What is the best way of measuring success for a recruiter? The traditional way of doing it is to measure the Talent Acquisition team members on how many hires they make. And for many reasons, it seems like a reasonable way of doing it. It’s easy to measure. It sounds very efficient, you just flash a figure when someone asks how the team is performing. And it seems fair and easy to compare. You are here to bring people in, the more people the better, right?

But if you look a little deeper, the number of hires doesn’t tell me what I need to know about my team and here is why:

Different recruitments require different effort

It takes hard work to find all great talent, but some take more time than others. Finding and landing a senior expert with a specific experience can take three times as long as finding an amazingly promising intern. That doesn’t mean I worked three times harder or better at finding the intern. It just means these are two very different tasks and that it’s unreasonable to measure them like they are the same thing.   

Fast decisions are not necessarily the best ones

I want my team to take the best hiring decisions. And sometimes the best decisions for the long run are the ones that are uncomfortable in the moment. For a recruiter to say “good enough is NOT good enough, we need to look further” requires guts. That decision is hard enough without the added pain of knowing your performance record will suffer from it.

And a recruiter who is measured on number of hires will be more inclined to set up a recruitment process designed for candidates to get through it quickly, instead of a process in which only the right candidates will succeed.

Trust is not a number

I trust my team to make the best decisions for the company. To be able to do that I need goals and metrics based on behavior. Because the right behavior, decisions, and processes will get you good hires, but not necessarily many of them every month. So measuring the number of hires does not get me the information I need to help my team perform their very best.

Here is what to measure instead

I focus on letting my managers evaluate the behaviors I need in my team. I need courageous team players, people who act as true talent acquisition partners to the organization and who I can trust to take the hiring decisions that are right for the company in the long run. 

So I measure that. Each team member, no matter their level, has a list of things they discuss with their manager in feedback sessions. Actions they need to take, behaviors we want to see, skills they need to evolve. Feedback is given based on where they are in the performance and development for each item on the list. And there is never a bullet point that states a number of hires goal. Because I trust my team to hire as many great candidates as they possibly can. But only the right ones. The ones we want to hire because they are right for us, and not because someone’s monthly quota needed to be filled.

So, how’s that working out for Spotify?

I knew this before, but still, the power of putting great trust in great people still amazes me. It feels good to be trusted, people grow when you trust them. And it makes work a better place to be. Since we stopped measuring recruiters on hires a couple of years ago, our average time to fill has gone down, the number of hires has gone up. Also, the employee survey results for the talent acquisition team are soaring. In short: autonomy and trust are paying off for us.

So I encourage anyone leading a talent acquisition team – in-house or at a recruitment agency – to consider abandoning the number-of-hires approach to measuring individual performance. You will still need aggregated numbers, of course, your stakeholders probably require them. But avoid letting the hire numbers dictate how you measure individuals! The things you leave behind, like the stigma around hires, the anxiety around “needing to sign someone”, and the all-too-hire-centered discussions, will never be missed. Let them go and spend some of that time talking about how to really get better as an organization instead!

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