What is Time to Hire? Everything You Need to Know

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Time to hire is one of the best-known recruiting metrics. In this article, we will explain what time to hire is and how it differs from time to fill. We will also list time to hire benchmarks, explain how it can be measured, and end with the five most effective ways to reduce time to hire.

Contents
What is time to hire?
Time to hire vs. time to fill
Time to hire & candidate slate
Average time to hire
5 ways to improve time to hire
Wrap-up
FAQ

What is time to hire?

Time to hire is a common recruiting metric. It measures the number of days between a candidate applying for a job and that same candidate accepting a job offer. This means that time to hire provides information about two important recruiting processes.

  • Recruiting efficiency. The time to hire metric measures the speed at which a candidate is processed, assessed, interviewed, and accepted for a job. A long time to hire indicates a slow and inefficient process with unnecessary bottlenecks.
  • Candidate experience. The time to hire metric is also an indicator of candidate experience. If you were a candidate and could choose, you would prefer a time to hire of two weeks rather than two months. A faster time to hire will lead to a better candidate experience.
Time to hire dashboard

This recruiting funnel shows the time to fill – the number of days between the application
date (f0) and the response date (f6), which adds up to an average of 30 days.

Time to hire is often mentioned in one breath with time to fill. However, there are some clear differences.

Time to hire vs. time to fill

Time to hire and time to fill are often confused, even by leading recruiting vendors. However, they are radically different metrics.

This means that time to fill captures the time for the entire hiring process, while time to hire captures the time between a qualified candidate entering the recruiting funnel and this same candidate accepting the job offer.

Let’s look at an example. A job requisition is approved on the first of January. Bill applies on January 21st. After the first interview, an offer is extended to Bill and he signs it on January 31st. In this case, the time to fill is 30 days, while the time to hire is 10 days.

This example shows that time to hire is more dependent on external factors. Once a sufficiently qualified candidate applies, time to hire is the speed at which this candidate is hired. However, there is a key dependency related to the time to hire metric.

Time to hire and candidate slate

Hiring managers are often eager to interview candidates as soon as they come in, especially when candidates seem highly qualified. Theoretically, a qualified candidate could be hired in just a few days – after the usual phone intake, assessment, and interview process. However, there is another process that is often overlooked. This is the candidate slate.

A candidate slate is a list of candidates who are suitable for the job. Ideally, you will want to wait until you have five to eight candidates before starting the interview process. By the way, this should never take longer than a few weeks.

The idea behind this is that unless you are intimately familiar with the position you are hiring for, you need a comparison. Having five to eight candidates provides you the benchmark to make a good choice. The only exception is if the hiring manager has hired 3 or more people in the same position in the past 2 years. In this case, these interviews form the benchmark you need and you don’t have to wait until you have a full slate.

In other words, it should never be the aim to have a time to hire of less than two weeks. This is only possible if there is already a full slate of suitable candidates or extensive interviewing experience for that specific role.

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Average time to hire

Most of the research on recruitment speed has focused on time to fill instead of time to hire. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports an average time-to-fill of 36 days. 

Another difficulty is that the time to hire will depend on the scarcity of labor in the country, industry, and specific function that you’re hiring for. This makes it impossible to pinpoint an ideal time to hire. However, we do have some data. 

In the same report, SHRM documents an average of 24 days between screening candidates and job offer acceptance. This indicates a similar average time to hire.

Recruiting and hiring timeline benchmark data

Workable, a recruiting vendor, reports a similar average time to hire which ranges roughly between 20 and 30 days. This provides a consistent picture and average time to hire metric benchmark.

Average time to hire benchmark data

5 ways to improve time to hire

Let’s wrap up with five specific ways to improve the time to hire.

  1. Keep track of the different stages in your recruiting funnel. The starting point of improving your time to hire metric is to keep track of all the phases in your recruiting funnel. This is usually stored in your Applicant Tracking System but can also easily be tracked in a simple Excel sheet for a couple of candidates for quick insights. 
  2. Define the desired speed for each stage. For each stage in your recruitment funnel, you can identify an ideal and maximum number of days. This makes it easy to do analyze the difference between the ideal and the actual number of days. In the recruitment funnel dashboard we showed earlier, you can see that a lot of time is spent on processing the applicant before the first review (phone intake). This could be a quick win. 
  3. Time to hire isn’t everything. This article may focus on time to hire, but it is an efficiency metric – it is about speed, not quality. That’s why it is important to wait for a full slate, and ensure you take the time to make a good hire. The quality of hire is a much more important metric to focus on. Any CEO would rather wait a few more days to get a better hire than hurry to bring in a bad hire.
  4. Focus on highly qualified candidates. In line with the previous, focusing on fewer candidates who are better qualified will speed up your hiring process as you can focus on fewer, better applicants. Ways to achieve this include creating higher-quality vacancy texts and showing a Realistic Job Preview before candidates apply.
  5. Effective pre-selection and assessments. Pre-selection tools are assessments that help to identify good candidates as they apply. This saves time on phone intakes and interviews on candidates that wouldn’t pass the assessment round anyway. This way the recruiting team can spend less on admin tasks and spend more effort on the more viable candidates.

Wrapping up

That wraps up this overview of the time to hire metric. For more information, check out our Talent Acquisition Certificate Program where we explain this and a lot more. The program also includes a course on recruiting analytics where you will learn more about different recruitment measurements and how to ensure that you get maximum value from them. 

FAQ

What is time to hire?

Time to hire is a common recruiting metric. It measures the number of days between a candidate applying for a job and that same candidate accepting a job offer.

What is the difference between time to hire and time to fill?

Time to fill captures the time for the entire hiring process, from the approval of the job requisition until the candidate accepting the job, while time to hire captures the time between a qualified candidate entering the recruiting funnel and this same candidate accepting the job offer.

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What is the average time to hire?

Time to hire will depend on the scarcity of labor in the country, industry, and specific function that you’re hiring for. Various reports, however, point towards an average ranging between 20 and 30 days.

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