Here’s a recruiting-themed math problem for you. Solve for the following: 

Company X is trying to hire for a brand new position. Two candidates find a job opening on the same day. Candidate A discovers the opportunity through the Company X careers site, while Candidate B enters through a job ad. Both submit their applications around 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and hear back from the recruiter on Friday afternoon. If both candidates travel through the process at a constant speed, how long does it take Company X to select and hire the right one? 

You might be thinking: “How on earth would a recruiter know the answer to that — and why are we doing math?” The answer is that they probably wouldn’t, unless they’re accounting for conversion metrics: an important, yet often overlooked, part of recruiting. 

What are conversion metrics?

Simply put, conversion metrics help recruiters understand how many candidates it takes to move through the funnel and how many they need to source at each stage. Borrowing from our friends at SHRM, the stages of the recruiting funnel are: 

  • Attraction: Job seekers enter the funnel through ads, referrals, careers sites and more.
  • Application: Potential candidates become active applicants.
  • Screening: Interviews, assessments and reference and background checks are conducted.
  • Offer: This is extended once the company chooses a candidate for the position.
  • Offer acceptance: The candidate selects the company for that given role. 

What you don’t see in between those bullet points are the conversions taking place along the way, which narrow down that initial talent pool. This corresponds directly to the number of steps in the recruiting funnel and the types of requisitions you’re looking to fill. 

Whether that means a single opening, like at Company X, or a high-volume scenario where you’re looking to fill hundreds of jobs at a time, you need to know how many candidates to source to make the hires. That’s Recruiting 101, and it's why — math problems aside — conversion metrics matter. Now, let’s look at how to use them.

How to leverage conversion metrics 

You’ve probably heard people talk about “the science” of recruiting; while that certainly rings true, a lot of what we do comes down to the numbers. Here are four tips you can follow to start leveraging conversion metrics:

1. Everything is math. Sorry, but it’s true. When it comes to recruiting in today’s landscape, you can’t put your faith in hope. You need actual proof that your recruiting assumptions match up with your hiring outcomes. 

To achieve this, think back to grade school and follow the scientific method: Make an observation, conduct some research and form a hypothesis. If you believe that in order to fill five open roles, you need to source 5,000 candidates, then get 500 to apply and 50 to interview; test out the theory; and record the data. Once you have that information, it’s possible to draw your conclusions. 

2. Different job; different funnel; different metrics. No two requisitions are alike (no matter what we might think), which makes it a challenge to replicate results across openings. And while the best recruiters have a sense of what to do anecdotally, it’s still better to know than to guess. 

After running through the metrics for one req, repeat that again and again with others. 

Keeping track will help you make comparisons and sharpen your strategy as new positions open up. It will also impact initiatives such as diversity and inclusion, where you’ll need a broader slate of candidates to present to the hiring manager. 

3. Use conversions to inform recruiting budgets. These metrics offer some clear benefits, and improved budgeting is a crucial one. By looking at how candidates convert through each stage in the funnel, you get a sense of the numbers at each stage, too — for example, what it costs to attract versus screen. 

Knowing what it takes to hire successfully gives you the ability to ask for the right amount of money at the outset. 

It’s natural to lowball when you aren’t sure — which results in unfulfilled reqs and makes your work harder. Proper estimating empowers recruiters and improves the experience for everyone involved (candidates included).

4. Communicate the findings. It makes sense that the funnel gets tighter as candidates move closer to the interview. But just how tight and how quickly might not be immediately obvious. Having this level of insight opens up a world of possibilities and works to inform conversations between recruiters, sourcers and hiring managers. 

After identifying where conversions take place and how this correlates with expectations, you can take that knowledge and improve collaboration within the organization. Educate those around you by showing off your funnels and demonstrating what’s happening as you interact with candidates. 

Implementing conversion metrics allows you to take control of recruiting and refine your efforts throughout the life cycle. Without them, you risk becoming Company X: with two candidates leaving the station at the same time, and no end in sight.


William Tincup is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.