Still Optimizing on “Time to Fill”? Time to Stop!

As you talented recruiters know all too well, hire forecasting can be an imprecise art. Passive candidates take longer to close those who are active, teams have varying amounts of bandwidth and investment from their hiring managers, and just when you thought you have an average for a lengthy director-level courting process, a vice president comes along with a referral who closes in 10 days. Meanwhile, as you’re juggling all these variables, your head of finance comes along and asks “What’s our time to fill?”

I can feel your eyes twitching from here. Much has been written about the virtue of time to fill in recruitment, and as we’ll see later there is some high-level business value in keeping tabs on it. But as far as measuring a recruitment team’s efficiency goes, time to fill is, for many reasons, not indicative of talent team performance.

Time to Fill vs. Speed to Hire

Here at Hired, our true north for efficiency comes from a similar but distinct metric, speed to hire. While time to fill considers the total time between an opened and closed req, we define speed to hire as the total time the candidate spends in the hiring funnel from initial sourcing to offer acceptance. Viewing the candidate lifecycle in terms of this window is important primarily because it's the part of the hiring process where the recruitment team can have the most impact. A lightning-quick speed to hire is thus more indicative of recruiting efficiency because it:

- Considers how quickly candidates are actioned and scheduled for interviews
- Proves delivery of great fit candidates who are bullish about the organization
- Illustrates a streamlined offer letter composition and negotiation process
- Lowers the likelihood of losing top talent to competitive offers

Optimizing Speed to Hire

So we’re all on board with speed to hire, right? Swell! Time to optimize this puppy. Towards the end of the hiring cycle, as candidates start to look better and better, there’s an opportunity to compress steps together in the interest of saving time. For example, start conducting reference calls as soon as a candidate makes it to final round interviews. Scheduling and completing these calls can sometimes drag on, and getting a head start might mean shaving a few days off your total speed to hire. For extra credit, use these conversations to uncover material for your interviewing team to follow up on as they make their final assessment.


To further cut down on speed to hire, set reasonable timelines for offer evaluation. An exploding offer is in breach of intergalactic recruiting laws, so instead just ask your candidate how long they think they’ll need to make a decision. We try not to have offers floating in limbo, and usually can agree on 3-5 days maximum. Be proactive when talking about offer evaluation: ask the candidate what they need to consider before making a final decision, as this will allow you tweak the offer if necessary, and in some cases, may help them realize they’ve already made their choice.

When to Use Time to Fill

Okay, I admit, time to fill isn’t completely dead. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of this metric, as it can provide some organizational insights. For example, total headcount projections will be important to your finance team. Further, time to fill is a good measure of how strategic your team is being about opening new requisitions. Roles should be opened in the interest of being closed, and if reqs go unfilled for a lengthy amount of time, there is most likely a misalignment of priorities.

Even in these cases, time to fill isn’t as simple as average number of days from job open to job close. Break it down both by department and level of seniority, as the variation here can be so vast, a single high level metric isn’t illustrative of organizational hiring rate. When this metric is applied to clusters of employees more likely to have reliable times to fill, it provides a more accurate projection of when executives can expect desks to be filled.

As far as calculation goes, you may have to roll up your sleeves to get granular. Find the relevant dates in your ATS, plug them into an easy calendar tool like this one, and Bob’s your uncle.

How important are time to fill and speed to hire at your organization? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Matt Hughes

Head of Talent, Hired