What is Time to Fill? Everything You Need to Know About This Recruiting Metric

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Time to fill is one of the most crucial recruiting metrics for any organization, irrespective of industry, size of organization, and role. What exactly does time to fill refer to? How does it differ from time to hire, and can you calculate time to fill? And what are some tactics to reduce time to fill at your organization?

Imagine working for a marketing company and having a vacancy for a marketing manager in one of your regions. The knock-on effect of not having a marketing manager in place is that other managers would have to take on extra responsibility – leading to increased stress and frustration. Or if you work in the medical field, and you have a vacancy for a doctor. This would result in other doctors having to work overtime or a frustrated patient base due to a lack of service. Being able to measure the time to fill a vacancy is a crucial HR metric, which also impacts your business bottom line.

What is time to fill?

Time to fill refers to the number of calendar days it takes to find and hire a new candidate is typically measured by the number of days between approving a job requisition and the candidate accepting your offer.

Some companies choose a different moment for the starting point of measuring time to fill. Other options besides having approved a job requisition include:

  • a hiring manager submitting a job requisition for approval
  • publishing a job opening online

Similarly, some organizations consider the starting date as the end of time to fill.

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The key is to be consistent in your tracking and track all your openings the same way.

It is an excellent metric for business planning. Time to fill offers you a realistic view of how long it will replace a departed employee. It helps you plan your hiring efforts better and serves as a warning when your hiring process takes too long. In addition, it has a positive net effect on everyone’s time, as it means less overtime and greater stability.

It is also a crucial measurement for your recruitment experience, as 23% of candidates lose interest in an employer if they don’t hear back within one week. A further 46% become disinterested if they don’t hear anything within 1-2 weeks.

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Time to fill vs time to hire

Two of the metrics that are widely used in recruitment are time to fill and time to hire. Even though they are often used interchangeably, the two should not be confused. They measure different aspects of the recruitment process and serve different functions. We created a table to demonstrate this:

  Time to hire Time to fill
Definition Time to hire starts from the time the candidate applies to the time the candidate accepts the offer. Time to fill starts from the time the job requisition is approved to the time of when the candidate accepts the job offer. 
Purpose This is a candidate-centered indicator of their experience and how fast they are experiencing the recruitment process. You can use it to optimize your recruitment process. This gives you an overview of the speed and quality of your entire recruitment process and candidate experience throughout. You can use it for business planning, as well as for improving your recruitment process.
Time Shorter Longer

Factors such as industry and position impact both metrics. Some roles are much more challenging to recruit for than other roles. The same goes for industries, so it’s essential to keep these differences in mind.

Time to Fill vs Time to HireThis is how time to fill differs from time to hire. However, as we’ve already mentioned, some organizations consider a candidate’s starting date as the endpoint of time to fill.

What’s the value of measuring time to fill?

Data is only useful if it is actionable and applied. The value of measuring time to fill is in its application to business planning and improving HR processes. Some of the benefits of tracking this metric are:

  • It enables you to plan your recruitment efforts better. By measuring time to fill, you understand on average how long it takes to replace someone with similar experience. As an example, let’s say you are replacing a senior economist. After doing the calculation, you understand that it takes 45 days to fill this vacancy. This then allows you to start recruitment efforts at the right time. You’re also able to build contingency plans during the time the role is vacant. It allows you to plan onboarding and handover procedures more effectively too.
  • Resolving inefficiencies in your recruitment process. As you continue to track this metric, you will be able to spot areas of inefficiencies in recruitment and streamline your strategy. You’ll start to understand which roles take longer to fill and which departments take longer to fill a position. You also get a grasp on which talent source is the most effective. For example, some roles are filled faster with an agency, whereas other roles are best filled with a LinkedIn job ad. Time to fill will provide you with the answers as to which is the most effective source.
  • Reducing the cost of unfilled positions. Time to fill helps an organization save money. Firstly, place job adverts cost money; the less time a role is advertised, the greater your savings. Secondly, when a role is vacant, it costs money to pay employees to work overtime. It also increases burnout and stress in the workplace, which is in the long term a very high cost. Finally, the longer it takes to hire someone, the lower your customer satisfaction is likely to be, which affects the company’s overall performance and profits.

How do you measure time to fill?

Remember, when calculating time to fill, you need to adjust the metric to what makes sense for your company. The calculation looks something like this:

To calculate time to fill for one position:

This is the number of calendar days that it takes your organization to fill a specific position. To calculate this, you need to determine the starting point. As we’ve mentioned above, this is typically when the job requisition is approved. However, you may also choose the day the role is advertised. Similarly, your endpoint can be when the candidate accepts the job offer or their first day on the job.

Your formula would be:

  • The number of calendar days between the starting point (manager approves role or day job is advertised) and the endpoint (date that candidate accepts the job offer or until the first day of onboarding).

For example, if Company X advertised the role of a marketing manager on 1 January and decided to use the ‘advertising date’ as the start point. The candidate then accepts the offer and starts on 1 March (onboarding date is used as the endpoint). The time to fill this role is 60 days. As an organization, you need to be consistent in your choices of starting and endpoint – this is so that you can have consistent data and compare it against relevant benchmarks.

To calculate average time to fill:

Average Time to Fill Formula

Your average time to fill provides you with general insights across different roles.

As an example, let’s say you hired five administrators at your organization, and it took you 15, 60, 10, 30, and 40 days to hire them, respectively; your calculation would look like this:

Average TIme to Fill Calculation Example

Your average time to hire would then be 31 days.

You can also make further calculations to measure the effectiveness of your recruitment process on various benchmarks. As an example, you could calculate time to fill

  • per quarter: which would be sum of time to fill for all positions in the quarter / number of positions filled in the quarter
  • and annually: which would be sum of time to fill for all positions for the year / number of positions filled in the year

Calculating time to fill per role and department

When measuring time to fill, you need to consider your needs and various metrics. For example, it is likely to take longer to hire a senior data scientist on average than it is to hire a contact center agent. Therefore, the average time to hire would look different for these two roles. Similarly, your average time to hire would look different when comparing departments (IT vs. legal department). It is best practice to measure against similar roles and departments, as it is a more accurate representation of how long it takes to fill a position.

How do you know what good looks like for time to fill?

Let’s say it takes you 60 days to fill the role of an IT administrator. After measuring time to fill in your organization and improving processes, you bring it down to 45 days. That may be an internal improvement, but it does not have to mean that is a good measurement – you may still be taking too long to fill a role! That is why it is important to look at the time to fill benchmarks. Workable conducted a study and came up with the following benchmarks:

Time to fill US average UK & Ireland Rest of Europe Rest of world
Overall 43 48 53 47
Customer Service 33 34 42 36
Engineering 58 58 56 56
Healthcare 29 29 N/A N/A
Human Resources 45 42 44 45
Information Technology 50 55 57 47
Marketing 43 51 52 47
Product Management 50 67 56 57
Sales 40 47 53 48

While these are useful measurements and benchmarks, you may need to dig deeper and further with your local countries’ benchmarks to ascertain a more accurate number.

Based on understanding how to calculate time to fill and measuring it against external benchmarks, you can start making improvements to your processes. It is crucial that you do it methodically and record all data before making changes and changes you made after. This will give you an accurate indication of your recruitment process and whether or not the changes you have implemented is working.

How can you reduce time to fill?

To reduce your time to fill, consider the following tips:

Reduce common bottlenecks

Common bottlenecks in the recruitment process include a lack of communication between the recruiter and hiring manager. Ensure that there are clear objectives and regular catch-ups and that deliverables are clear. Another example is that if you notice that case studies take too much time for candidates to complete and managers to assess, then consider gamification or use an automation tool to speed up the process.

Utilize recruitment technology

You want to automate every repetitive part of your recruitment process. Some ways of doing this are investing in recruitment software that links your job openings automatically to selected job boards and social media.

A recent study has shown that 62% of senior candidates have left a recruitment process due to scheduling delays. That’s why it might be a good idea to invest into an interview scheduling tool.

You can also digitize other processes, such as reference checking and signing of onboarding documentation.

Rediscover previous candidates for current openings

You can re-approach candidates who are in your applicant tracking system whom you have already pre-screened. It would just be to continue their recruitment process, and you would save on time and money as there is no need to screen the candidates again.

Over to you

Your organization will benefit from shorter time to fill in multiple ways. The first step to this is to set up how you measure time to fill and be consistent. Then you will have more data to plan your recruitment activities and improve the overall efficiency of your recruitment process, as well as contribute to business planning.

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