Why You Should Be Measuring Time to Fill

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
March 10, 2022
9
 min read

Why you should be measuring time to fill

With the labour market changing at a rapid pace, HR departments must be able to easily track and analyse the recruitment process. This has been further exacerbated by the Great Resignation. Not only are approximately 69% of people considering leaving their jobs in the short term, there have also been over 979,000 job-to-job moves between July and September 2021 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), pushing resignation rates to the highest levels since 2009.

For Human Resources departments, this complex landscape puts conventional talent acquisition and retention strategies under significant pressure - what worked in the past is simply not cutting it in today’s environment. This is especially important for niche roles where certain skills or experiences are in high demand. One of the most essential metrics to track is time to fill. In this article, we look at what time to fill means, why it matters, and how to track this metric effectively through your hiring process.

What is time to fill?

Time to fill measures the number of days it takes to find an appropriate candidate for a position, from the date a job is posted to the date the candidate accepts. This metric is used for external hiring processes, as internal hires tend to follow a different process. Internal hires involve candidates where businesses already have a clear understanding of their merits, character, and suitability for a role, which usually makes the process faster. In comparison, external hiring requires engagement with unknown candidates who need to be sourced from a wider talent pool. This requires advertising, initial interviews, introductory training, and more in-depth evaluation.

Why is time to fill important?

So, why does this metric matter? Well, there are several benefits to tracking the time to fill metric:

  • It provides an easy reference point so that you know approximately how long your recruitment process takes to find a new hire.  For example, if your time to fill is much longer than expected based on industry benchmarks, you can look to try anonymous hiring practices and platforms to see if your time to fill reduces significantly. If it does, this makes a strong case for switching to skills and merit-focussed hiring across the organisation.
  • It’s a useful KPI for evaluating how effective your recruitment process currently is, as well as identifying pain points in your hiring process. For example, you may get many responses to job advertisements but experience a distinct drop-off after initial contact. Alternatively, you may get very few responses to job advertisements that are below the industry norm, so your recruitment process is slow off the starting blocks.
  • It’s a warning signal for when your recruitment process is underperforming. For example, tracking whether or not incentives like flexible hours and increased pay are making a measurable difference in filling positions faster. You can also use it to see if certain positions take longer than the industry average - for example, if you are able to hire sales staff quickly but project management staff positions are very slow to fill, so you need to change your approach in that specific area.
  • It’s a useful metric for establishing and controlling hiring and recruitment costs. The hiring process is an expensive one involving marketing, advertising, and onboarding costs, so waste must be reduced wherever possible. In fact, the average business spends £5,433 on logistical costs when hiring for a role. By tracking your time to fill and using it to streamline the hiring process, costs can be better controlled at each stage. For example, if time to fill is consistently below the industry average, your recruitment costs are higher because you’re not getting the talent you need even though you are spending money to find it. This can then support a change to a different recruitment process, for example, a more automated process with predictive assessments that can then be measured for cost-efficiency in the same way.
  • It can be utilised in talent strategies as a forecasting metric and to gauge changes in the labour market or talent acquisition environment. For example, during the Great Resignation, organisations that track their time to fill are better able to determine why positions are not being accepted and make cases for improving incentives and processes to bring them in line with the labour market’s expectations, pulling in talent that less in-touch businesses are losing.

How is time to fill calculated?

This metric shows the average number of days it takes for a position to be filled. You can do this by dividing the total number of days it’s taken to fill positions over a set period of time, for example, 6 months. Then you divide this total by the total number of positions that needed filling during the same period. 

Total number of days for all positions to be filled/Number of positions needed to be filled = Time to fill

You should track the total days from the date when a hiring manager submits a job opening for approval, when the job opening is approved, or when the recruiter first advertises the job opening. It’s up to your organisation when you want this metric to start tracking - it just needs to be consistent for all positions so that you get an accurate result.

For example:

Position 1 – 10 days from recruiter posting job advertisement

Position 2 – 20 days from recruiter posting job advertisement

Position 3 – 30 days from recruiter posting job advertisement

Position 4 – 20 days from recruiter posting job advertisement


80 days in total/4 positions

= time to fill of 20 days


We would also recommend that you limit tracking time to fill for more niche job openings. This is because if you have certain positions that are always open, for example, if you are constantly adding positions to your sales team, this will greatly inflate your time to fill rather than giving you an accurate and useful metric.

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

These two terms sound similar but deliver different insights into the recruitment process. It’s worth using the following definition to get the most value out of these different metrics.

Time to hire vs time to fill

  • Time to fill – The time it takes from when a position is first advertised to the time it is accepted by a candidate. This should exclude weekends and statutory holidays.

  • Time to hire – This is also called time to start. It’s a record of the time it takes from when a position is first advertised to when the hired candidate is ready to start their job. This means that it includes time to fill as well as any orientation, training, and onboarding processes.

Understanding time to fill metrics

To make sense of your data, you’ll need to set it against established benchmarks for your country, your industry, and the position you are filling. After all, is 80 days a long time to hire a senior developer? And would 30 days be too long to fill a mid-level sales position? The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) offer useful benchmarks to take into consideration. Here are some key averages to note.

Position vs Average Time to Fill (chart)


How to optimize your time to fill

Improving time to fill helps to save time and money, ensuring that you can move faster than your competitors to pull talent from the job market quickly. You can streamline this and reduce time to fill by:

  • Tracking this metric consistently so that you have actionable data to work with to refine talent acquisition strategies. A longer time to fill costs your business money every time you need to make a new hire - which can be frequent during this phase of the Great Resignation. Using the data gathered from tracking this metric, you can make a stronger case for shifting your talent acquisition process to appeal to what employees really want.

  • Analysing each step of your hiring and candidate assessment process, from request to hire through to the marketing and recruitment process. The hiring process is a complex one with many steps involved, and it’s essential to give candidates the best impression of your brand. Time to fill metrics helps support additional data such as feedback on interviews and onboarding to help identify opportunities to refine hiring. You can also assist by automating various aspects of the hiring process that are slowing down your time to fill, such as untouched resumes sitting in the hiring manager’s inbox.

  • Ensuring that your recruitment process is skills-focused by making it anonymous, simple to use, and prioritizing candidate experience and job suitability exclusively. Reports consistently show that debiased or anonymous hiring processes that focus only on skill criteria deliver optimal results. By connecting you with candidates that have the skills your position needs without the distraction of unconscious bias or other issues, you can optimise access to quality candidates and find the right fit faster, reducing time to fill. Inclusive organisations are high on the list of priorities for talented candidates and deliver better bottom-line results, reducing your time to fill and increasing profitability at the same time.

  • Taking steps to reduce turnover, including a robust onboarding process that trains new hires to settle in faster and creates stronger teams. Measuring your time to fill against metrics such as employee turnover and employee satisfaction can create a more complete picture of whether your organisation is doing all it can to hold onto high value employees. This can be used to support measures that will reduce the cost of training and onboarding expenses, as well as the risk of productivity lags as new candidates get up to speed.

Applied is a fully anonymous, skills-based recruitment platform designed to streamline your hiring process and optimize your time to fill. This is achieved by creating a streamlined and automated hiring platform that is skills-focussed, ensuring you have access to high-quality hires that have the experience and merits your business needs and identifying talent that would otherwise have been overlooked by traditional hiring methods.

Through anonymous hiring, we help you hire the best talent through better decisions, reduce non-hire events and costs by finding a larger pool of talent, reduce early churn through predictive assessments, and get better results from recruiters by using name-blind processes. This means you get better talent and more diverse teams by creating an efficient hiring process that reduces time spent on hiring, the number of interviews needed to find the right candidate, and by automatically generating usable, practical personal feedback.

Push back against conventional hiring wisdom and find the talent your organization needs fast: book in a demo today.