HR is late to the analytics game by modern standards, and yet, HR metrics is not a new concept. The difference is that modern analytics enable HR professionals and recruiters to measure more things in less time and derive more insight than ever before.

Rosemary Haefner

Rosemary Haefner

“If you’re looking at recruiting, there have always been metrics such as time to hire and cost per hire, but you’re seeing other channels and avenues opening up,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at online employment website,

The “time to hire” or “time to fill” metric measures how many days it takes from the time a requisition is posted until the time an offer is accepted. The longer a position remains open, the higher the cost of talent acquisition. In addition, if a position remains open, an intervention may be necessary to ensure the work at hand is getting done.

If time to fill were the only measure of success, then, in theory, the faster a position is filled, the better. However, as most working professionals have experienced, the person who can be hired the fastest isn’t necessarily (and probably isn’t), the best candidate.

On the other hand, moving too slowly can cost organizations sought-after talent.

“There’s the time to fill, the cost of the person you hire, whether that person is high-potential and what their expected tenure in the organization is. That’s an example of four interrelated metrics,” said Muir Macpherson, Americas analytics leader, People Advisory Services at EY. “HR needs to stop thinking about individual metrics and consider the problem they’re trying to solve and how to optimize across a set of metrics simultaneously.”

Beyond keywords

Talent marketplaces and talent acquisition software made it easier to navigate a sea of resumes using keywords and filters. In response, some candidates stuffed their resumes full of keywords so their resumes would rank higher in searches. If one’s resume ranked higher in searches, then more people would see it, potentially increasing the candidate’s chance of getting interviews and landing a job.

Masterful keyword use demonstrated an awareness that the recruiting process was changing from a paper-based process to a computer or web-based process. However, other candidates who might have been better fits for positions risked getting lost in the noise.

The whole keyword trend was a noble effort, but keywords, like anything else, are not a silver bullet.

With today’s analytics tools, HR departments and search firms can understand much more about candidates and the effectiveness of their operations.

“You can use a variety of big data and machine learning techniques that go way beyond the keyword analysis people have been doing for a while that integrates all of the data available about a candidate into one, unified prediction score that can then be used as one additional piece of information that recruiters and hiring managers can look at when making their decisions,” said Macpherson.

Data impacts recruiters too

Recruiters now have access to data analytics tools that enable them to better match candidates with potential employers and improve the quality of their services. Meanwhile, HR departments want insight into what recruiters are doing and how well they’re doing it. The Scout Exchange marketplace provides transparency between the two.

“We can look at every candidate [a recruiter] submits to see how far they got in the process and whether they got hired. We use that for ratings so [companies and the recruiters they use] can see the other side’s rating,” said Scout Exchange CEO Ken Lazarus.

The site enables organizations to quickly find appropriate recruiters who can identify the best candidates for a position. HR departments also allows HR departments to see data and trends specific to their company.

Bottom line

Analytics is providing HR departments, recruiters and business leaders with quantitative information they can use to improve their processes and outcomes.

“Knowledge is power and having that data is helpful. For me, the first step is knowing what you’re solving for,” said CareerBuilder’s Haefner.

Right now, HR analytics tend to emphasize recruitment. However, attracting talent is sometimes easier than retaining it so it’s important to have insight throughout the lifecycle of employee relationships. EY’s Macpherson said HR departments should think in terms of “employee lifetime value” similar to the way marketers think about customer lifetime value.

“[HR analytics represents] a huge opportunity because for most companies, people and compensation are their biggest costs and yet there has been very little effort put into analyzing those costs or getting the most out of those investments that companies are making,” said EY’s Macpherson.