How to report recruiting metrics to senior management

I said it before and I'll say it again: data-driven recruiting is one of the best ways a recruiter can prove their value to an organization. But identifying the right data to use when updating senior leadership isn't always so easy. There's a very fine line between overwhelming executives with details and not giving them enough data to make informed decisions.

If you need to convince leadership to, for example, put resources towards improving time-to-hire, resolve staffing shortages, or approve a budget for a new recruiting tool, you need to present actionable data. Beyond that, the data you share should be related to your organization's goals; it shows that you have a clear understanding of how you and your team are adding value.

When I'm putting together a presentation for management, I follow a few specific guidelines. Here, I've broken them down into a step-by-step process that I hope you'll find useful.

Step 1: Identify the metrics that leadership cares about

When you're preparing a report for executives, it's easy to conflate what we as recruiters think is important with what our leadership thinks is important. But this is a mistake. So many of us make it, and it's surprisingly easy to avoid.

If you want to know what metrics you should actually present to executives, the best thing you can do is ask. Send out an email, stop by their desks, or pick up the phone and ask what they'd like to see. And don't forget to ask why because when you have a grasp on that, you can create a much more actionable report.

For example, you may be focused on streamlining your time-to-hire because it's taking 30 days to fill crucial roles. But your executives may be more focused on hitting a total hiring goal. While this may sound like a misalignment of your goals and theirs, this really presents a good opportunity to make a case for what you need.

If they want to hire 15 engineers in the next 12 weeks, but you can't reach that goal with only three interviewers, you just need to present a need for increased interviewer capacity to actually get this done. This will help you reach your goal of speeding up time-to-hire, but what you're presenting is that adding more interviewers will help you meet their goal of 15 new hires.

In short, asking your leadership what data they want to see helps you present the most relevant information possible. It also shows that you, a recruiter, value their time. And when you ultimately pull all of that data into a report and present what they want to see or how you're working to meet their goals, it shows your hiring efforts match their objectives. That, again, proves just how much value you bring to the organization.

Step 2: Report the data to leadership

How you present your data has a huge impact on whether executives understand it. Your presentation also inevitably influences whether or not they act on your suggestions.

A few tips to think about as you prepare to deliver your data:

Choose the best format and frequency for your reporting

There's no perfect format for presenting recruiting data to executives. The most important thing you want to do is find a reporting format and cadence that is sustainable for you long-term.

I've found that different leadership teams prefer different formats:

  • Face-to-face staff meetings
  • Presentations (in-person or virtual)
  • Email

Again, the best thing you can do here is ask. It really depends on your leadership team and their priorities. If they're pressed for time, a weekly or monthly email might work best. But if they're deeply involved in meeting recruiting goals, you'll probably be scheduling a staff meeting.

You should also be mindful of how often you deliver your updates. Quarterly? Biweekly? If you're aiming to meet a crucial goal, such as hiring 100 new employees by the end of the year, or if your organization is constantly hiring, you may want to give weekly updates — but only if you’re reporting meaningful data!

There's no point in bombarding inboxes or bringing everyone together if you don't have anything new to say. Finding valuable insights in your data and putting them together into a cohesive story takes a lot of your time, so make sure that whatever reporting cadence you decide on is both meaningful and sustainable.

Educate leadership on recruiting terms

When you actually deliver your report, explaining your wins and getting buy-in for your recruiting plans all depend on senior management understanding the data they're looking at. Since they may not be as familiar with the recruiting terminology you use on a daily basis, be sure to define your metrics.

A couple of tips on providing context well:

  • Provide benchmarking data: This helps executives quickly grasp how the data you're presenting is different. You could show data from your company's previous hiring performance or from similar companies in the same industry as yours.

  • Define acronyms and other industry terms: Distribute a definitions handout before your presentation or provide definitions at the top of each presentation slide where acronyms or potentially unfamiliar industry terms appear.

Reduce cognitive overload

Your senior leadership team is juggling a million issues at once. If you throw an encyclopedia's worth of recruiting data at them, they're probably not going to be able to digest what's really important.

If you want executives to understand and engage with your recruiting data, you need to find the story your data is telling and share it with them. When they look at your report, they should be able to immediately see that story and understand why your data matters, what it says about your current hiring situation, and what you're going to do as a team to improve.

Here's an example of what I mean by “finding the story in your data”:

Data: You're trying to fill 10 open engineering roles, and hiring managers have conducted 25 on-site interviews. That's a pretty high number — you'd expect to have hired something like 50% from those onsites. But you learn that you've only hired two people. The 23 others all failed standard engineering tests conducted by the hiring managers.

Story: The quality of the candidates you're bringing onsite isn't what it should be. On-site interviews take a lot of time and energy from your team, so you’ll need to consider implementing better (or additional) screening stages to help improve your onsite to hire ratio.

This is the story you need to tell your executives when you're presenting a status update. The story should also include solutions you've already identified to solve that problem, like adding skill testing between the initial phone screen and onsite interview, or looking for new sources of higher-quality engineering candidates, like referrals or tech-specific job boards.

And if you already know what your leadership team cares about, you can look for metrics that help tell the story they’re most interested in by relating your findings back to your organization’s overall goals. Resist the temptation to simply go through everything that's happened since the last time you reported recruiting data. Being strategic and selective about the data you share can help reduce leadership’s overall cognitive load so they can focus on the most important insights.

Step 3: Inspire leadership to take action

When I'm talking to leadership about what I've found and what should happen next, my main rule here is to always be transparent, explicit, and open. Hiring is a team sport, after all. If managers don't know what's broken, they can't help you fix it.

Here are two tips you can use to get the results you need when you deliver your data:

Present clear solutions

You must propose solutions for any inefficiencies or concerns you've identified and need your leadership to intervene on. I've already touched on this a couple of times, but I really want to emphasize this: You should make it as easy as possible for executives to sign off or say “okay” after you're done with your report.

You may want to present a large number of solutions to the issues you've identified. You may not be 100% sure what the best solution is or may have identified some pros and cons to each option. And that's fine: no one expects you to have all the answers.

But what I've found is that it's best to recommend one, or at the most three, recruiting recommendations based on your data. If you present too many solutions, it's much more difficult for executives to remember what you're advocating for. And you also don't want to burden them with the need to do research or homework.

Sticking to a limited number of strong solutions also strengthens the persuasiveness of your argument. If you recommend one solution wholeheartedly based on your data, you'll have more time to explain why you believe in it. Your leadership will know that you’ve really thought it through.

Here's an example. Let's say that, historically, you see very high attrition from a sales role. There could be a ton of things causing this. But rather than speculating, you present the data and recommend two specific things to improve attrition rates:

  • New training for sales managers: You'll train the hiring managers to look for specific attributes during a second phone screen. These are attributes that correspond with sales team members who have been with you the longest — maybe things like formal education or employment longer than five years in a previous role.

  • Standardizing interview questions: Second, you'll give all the managers doing the on-site interviews a list of the same questions to use. This ensures all the candidates are being held to the same bar, and you're not hiring someone based on factors other than their interview performance.

Because you've already come prepared with two actionable recommendations, it's easy for leadership to give their approval. This also helps you position yourself as the subject matter expert in recruiting since you’re able to identify problems and quickly determine solutions.

Show what happens if you do nothing

Company executives have a lot on their plates — they're balancing a lot of requests and different stakeholders. They need to know why your needs matter just as much as (if not more than) those other requests.

If your executives don't initially “get it,” you'll have to show them what happens if you do nothing. Here's how you can do that well:

  • Show projections for your data. Paint a clear picture of the future: “If we don't cut our candidate decision-making time in half, from 10 days to 5, we won't be able to meet our goal of hiring 20 marketers by the end of the quarter. We'll likely only be able to hire 10.”

  • Don't overstate your claims. Use as much data as you can to back up what you're saying. If you don't have the data you need, research it and get back to leadership later — it's not worth the risk of giving bad information.

  • Stay objective. You're naturally going to be invested in your goals as a recruiter, but becoming emotional weakens the power of the data driving your argument.

Leadership reporting is never static

One final point I want you to keep in mind: What you measure, track, and report to your executives will never be the same. Based on your recruiting, hiring needs, their goals, and the goals of your organization, you're constantly going to be looking at different metrics and generating different reports based on them.

The metrics you're asked to track and report on may not be the most exciting. But if you report on them well, they will bring consistency to your recruiting processes. They'll also bring about the changes you need to do your job better.

A lot of times we get caught up in tracking things like pass-through rates, time-to-hire, cost-of-hire, and so on, and miss what our leadership really cares about. But by simply asking what they want before you start giving them data, you can create great reports, inspire them to take action, and ultimately empower your organization to resolve any inefficiencies you've identified.

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