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The Fordyce Letter

Straight Talk for the Recruiting Profession


Business, Business Development, How-To

Fill Ratios Define You As A Recruiter


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I had a lively e-mail exchange awhile ago with a seasoned recruiter on the subject of tracking job order/search assignment fill ratios. To date, this successful veteran has not tracked this particular ratio although he does track several others. When I asked “why” he did not find value in tracking this number he replied:

The reason I never track fill ratios is this: Let’s say that I write a JO and it’s last minute. They have three candidates coming in on Friday and I get one last person in on the same day. He doesn’t get the job.

Or I write an assignment and some internal ‘water walker’ shows up from Australia where he’s been at a different division for two years and gets the job.

Or I write an assignment and the position goes on hold due to bad 3rd quarter earnings. All real situations that I cannot control.

As far as fill ratios are concerned, I most certainly understand, and have lived through every example he provided, and, in some instances, many times during my early career. Those experiences notwithstanding, I have learned my lesson well and this has been further validated through my consulting and training work with thousands of recruiters over the years.

Fully Qualify the Assignment First

Lesson: Most job orders/search assignments go unfilled because they were poorly qualified by the recruiter at the beginning of the process.

  • The recruiter had not established a positive working relationship with the right decision maker.
  • The recruiter had not taken the time to fully understand their client, the client’s organization, and the outcomes that must be associated with successful performance in the position.
  • The recruiter had not established realistic, job related selection criteria.
  • The recruiter had not gained a commitment from the client to work within an interactive, adaptive process which mirrored mutual commitments.

All in all, the recruiters had not differentiated themselves to the point where a privileged working relationship could be established.

Sometimes, Just Say ‘No’

However, where all of these exist, you find nearly one-to-one fill ratios, exclusive working relationships, and many times, front-end money. Nevertheless, almost all of this can be accomplished on a pure contingency basis if the recruiter has the training, competence, and confidence to say “NO” to business that does not meet strict, but realistic standards.

Remember: You should know the criteria that must be met before you will accept a piece of business from a client. This sets the stage for everything that follows

This topic is a hot point for me. I have written volumes on the subject. Yet, in our industry today, most recruiters are still working the “low hanging fruit,” have fill ratios of 1 in 5 or higher, and are satisfied with mediocre income based on annual production of $250K or less, which typically reflects fewer than one filled order/assignment per month, which I consider to be an absolute MINIMUM for someone with more than one year in our business.

Have A “World Class” Ratio

Yes, I am sounding off a little bit. However, I have never met an achievement oriented person in any field of endeavor who didn’t keep their eye on the standard, whether self-imposed or an industry standard. In our industry, that standard is client satisfaction, i.e. how many of the openings they place with us do we actual fill successfully? This ratio, more than any other factor, will ultimately determine whether or not we retain the client long term, and under what circumstances that retention occurs.

If your goal is to build a reputation as a “world class recruiter”, you need to begin by defining “world class.” Against what standard will this definition be formulated? It better be a standard that defines “world class” to your clients and if it does, it most certainly will include your fill ratio. In essence, this ratio will ultimately define you as a recruiter.

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and e-mails are most welcome.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or email him at Terry@tpetra.com.