Time to Hire: A Guide to Strategic Recruiting

Human Resources (HR) metrics are great for building a clearer picture of the hiring process. Their main function is to provide indicators that can be tracked, measured or acted on to inform or improve the recruitment process. Examples could include:

Examples could include:

  • Time to hire
  • Time to fill
  • Cost per hire
  • Quality of hire
  • Offer acceptance rate
  • Turnover rate
  • Retention rate
  • Revenue per employee
  • Employee engagement rate
  • Applicants per hire

One of the most notable HR metrics on this list is time to hire, which gives employers an overview of how long recruiters take to select quality candidates.

But why is it important to know the time frame for recruiting? Well, according to a 2016 survey by Robert Half, the majority of the respondents mentioned feelings of frustration or disinterest when hiring processes either take too much time or have slow responses. This indicates that candidates may have a poorer experience and may even be inclined to drop out.

For employers, having a drastically longer time to hire leaves room for competitors to snatch up top talents who decide to exit the application process. Conversely, a much shorter hiring time poses the risk of rushing in to hire the wrong candidates. 

To avoid these mistakes, we will share all information about what time to hire is, how to calculate it, and how to effectively use it in ways that will benefit your recruitment process.

What Is Time to Hire?

Time to hire is a metric used by recruiters to understand how long it takes to hire a candidate, from the date of application to the date of acceptance. Efficient time to hire allows employers to access a larger talent pool and encourages candidates to stay engaged in the application process, with a lower likelihood of skipping to the next job opportunity.

Time to Hire vs. Time to Fill

Another term you may have heard used interchangeably with time to hire is time to fill. Although the time to hire and time to fill can have the same meaning in some contexts – both involve counting the number of days it takes to accept a job offer – they can also take on definitions where they differ in some respects.

While time to hire starts counting from the time a candidate applies, time to fill starts from when a company lists a job posting. Time to hire provides a look into how candidates follow through with the recruitment process after application as opposed to time to fill, which lends insight into how effectively companies can attract candidates before application. Thus, the time to hire is shorter than time to fill.

Time to hire is useful for seeing how efficiently candidates can be spotted and recruited for a job; time to fill is helps plan organizational needs across various job positions. 

To distinguish time to hire from time to fill, let’s illustrate with an example of how calculations work for each metric:

A job opening is posted on the 1st of September, and a candidate applies on the 7th. After a phone call and an interview, the candidate receives a job offer and accepts it on the 30th. The time to hire in this scenario would be 23 days, while the time to fill would be 29 days.

Why Should You Measure Time to Hire?

Keeping track of your time to hire is useful for indicating whether or not you need to reconsider your recruitment process.

Check out the questions below to find out how understanding your time to hire can help you address hiring, replacement, and budgeting needs.

💭 How long do you need to find the right candidate?

If your recruitment time is too long, you can miss out on high-quality candidates who accept or apply for another job fast. Thus, measuring your average time to hire is crucial to how you line up with competitors who want the same candidates as you do. 

💭 How long does it take to move candidates to the next stage?

By honing in on your time to hire, you can assess how much time each stage of the recruitment process takes. Examples of time to hire stages may include resume screening, phone calling, interviewing, decision-making, job offering, and job acceptance.

Recordkeeping of the time spent on each stage will inform you which stages are moving too slowly and need to be improved on.

💭 How much time do you think you’d need to hire for the same position the next time?

Since the average time to hire differs among job roles and industries, it is also important to separately calculate your time to hire by the department. For instance, a company might implement additional skills assessment tests for its tech positions but not for its sales positions.

In this situation, striving for the same screening time or average time to hire may be unrealistic. By measuring the time to hire for different roles, you can more accurately determine when you need to start recruiting the next time for a particular position.

💭 How many resources are needed to hire for the vacancy?

Once you have measured your time to hire for a role, you can also assess if you need to increase the efficiency of your recruitment process in relation to your resources.

If you are currently enlisting the help of certain resources (e.g., automation software, recruiters, social media networking channels, etc.) that are linked to successful hires, you may consider increasing them.

Average Time to Hire

Keeping track of the average time to hire is important for HR departments to come up with a figure to compare with an industry’s.

Recruiters should be careful of a time to hire that departs too much from the industry average. That is, a shorter time to hire can signal an efficient recruitment process, but it could also result from skipping certain hiring stages or overlooking important details.

In the long run, this could mean hiring unqualified individuals or even lead to repeated hiring—defeating the purpose of using time to hire as a metric for efficiency in the first place.

Below you’ll find a compilation of the average time to hire in the US and Canada compared to countries around the world for 15 different industries or business functions, according to Workable.

average time to hire
Average Time to Hire According to Industries in the US & Canada and Worldwide

How to Measure Time to Hire

To measure the time to hire for your organization, use the formula below:

Time to hire = [day of job acceptance] – [day of application]

Let’s imagine an HR manager lists a job posting seeking two candidates on the 1st of September. The first candidate, Jane, applies on the 6th and a second candidate, Bob, applies on the 10th. The HR team sends job offers to Jane and Bob, which they both accept on the same day, on the 30th of September. 

The time to hire for Jane would be calculated as so:

Time to hire = September 30 – September 6 = 24 days

The time to hire for Bob would be:

Time to hire = September 30 - September 10 = 20 days

Thus, even though Jane and Bob both accepted their job offers on the same day, their application date results in a different time to hire. Jane would have time to hire of 24 days, and Bob would have time to hire of 20 days. 

If the HR team wanted to know the current average time to hire, however, they would add up Jane’s and Bob’s hiring times (44 days) divided by the total number of positions (2 positions) to get an average time to hire of 22 days.

How to Improve Time to Hire

Refer to the tips below to find ways to improve your time to hire strategically.

📈 Analyze data.

One of the most important ways to improve your time to hire is to analyze your data to identify areas you are spending too much time on or need tweaking. 

Examples of useful data that you should keep a tab on include the number of qualified vs. unqualified applications, the amount of time each hiring stage takes, or the length of time for the final decision-making stages. You could record your data in a spreadsheet or an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Check for outliers or substantial differences in your data to find areas that need attention. 

💻 Utilize ATS.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is a great software tool for recruiters to optimize different stages throughout the hiring process by offering automation and analytics options. In effect, this reduces the time spent on redundant administrative procedures. 

Some automation features may include posting job openings, screening application keywords for suitable candidates, filtering out unfit applicants, providing interview booking, or sending customized emails.

ATS systems also track applicant information and time to hire metrics so recruiters can more easily compare the performance of job postings or reassess hiring stages for job openings with longer vacancies.

🎯 Set clear goals.

You can set metrics or clear goals to reduce your hiring time by pinpointing anomalies in your data. For example, if you are receiving a large amount of unqualified applications, this could signal issues with your screening stage that you might want to improve on to bring up the number of qualified applications. 

You can also compare your time to hire – for a job or in detail – to benchmark figures. This could be the industry’s average time to hire or the minimum/maximum times that you set for each stage of the hiring process. As an example, you may discover that your longer-than-average time to hire is attributed to the sourcing stage and decide to set a goal of reducing it rather than by targeting the interviewing stage.

By drilling in on the areas that need work, you will have a greater chance of finding methods that will effectively reduce your time to hire.

What to Keep in Mind When Using Time to Hire

Time to hire can prove to be an invaluable metric when it comes to identifying delays or prolonged activities in the recruitment process. However, HR departments should keep in mind that time to hire is not an all-inclusive indicator of hiring performance and make sure they’re also selecting suitable candidates. 

To balance efficiency and accuracy, you could narrow down the selection of your applicants.

For example, you could implement pre-employment assessment tests or ensure your job descriptions reflect the work environment and expectations. By doing so, unqualified candidates who find themselves unfit for the role are less likely to apply, and recruiters can properly allocate their time toward meeting the right candidates.

Instead of hiring candidates one by one, another option could be to prepare a slate or a panel of candidates to compare and contrast which individual has more of the qualities you’re looking for. 


🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Time to hire can serve as a helpful metric for employers to assess and improve their recruitment efficiency.
  • Time to hire is different from time to fill in terms of starting time, duration, purpose, and insight.
  • Improve your time to hire by checking your data for deviations, using ATS systems to manage recruitment processes, and setting quantifiable goals. 
  • Make sure you don’t lose sight of selecting competent candidates in the process of reducing your time to hire.

Want to read more HR blogs and recruitment news? Follow our blog for more! Cake is one of the best professional resume builder tools in the market. We also offer other HR-related services like Job Search, Job Posting, Talent Search, Recruitment Services, and Employer Branding.

— Originally written by Flora Lai —


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