Improving Execution by Auditing Your Recruiting Strategy

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

If the modern business world were static, it would be enough that you dedicated time and effort to craft a recruiting strategy. But the world is not static, and the recruiting strategy you just invested so much time and energy in will be virtually useless if you don’t put into place a process to revisit it, update it, measure its impact, etc. In short, without a method to audit your recruiting strategy you might as well not even craft a strategy to begin with.

Recruiting is just like any other important business function. If it doesn’t start with a sound plan and strategy, it is destined to wallow in mediocrity.

No matter how good your initial strategy is, it will over time need to flex. This need for flexibility is based on the fact that the assumptions about external business factors and data that help form your conclusions can and do change. That’s why it’s critical that you set periodic times to review or audit the implementation or execution of the strategy and the results it is producing.

I recommend at least two midcourse reviews. It’s important to have this “feedback loop” to ensure that your strategy development process improves each year.

Increasing Your Chances of Successful Execution

In order to increase the chances that your strategy will be executed successfully, you must develop a process for making sure that the strategy directly influences other key recruiting processes, such as resource allocation, service priority, and internal rewards and recognition systems. You also must ensure that all of the necessary individuals have access to a usable copy of the strategy. (Making a strategy usable is a topic worthy of it own book, but for the purpose of this article, usable means that it is in a form that is easy for others to refer to periodically, be it in print, multimedia, or online format.)

You must also set up at least one midpoint revision to revisit the strategy and its goals. This step is important because most strategies can be improved (and thus you can improve recruiting’s chances for reaching its goals) if the strategy is refined utilizing the knowledge and experience that are gained during the first months of its implementation.

Auditing Your Recruitment Strategy

Whether you have just developed a brand new recruiting strategy or are attempting to improve and refine a current one, it’s important to undertake a “strategy audit” to ensure that the strategy you painstakingly developed is being successfully executed.

The great majority of the recruiting strategies that are developed are never fully implemented. In fact, most documented strategies are immediately relegated to someone’s top bookshelf and never used. Others fail to have the desired impact because the operational processes within HR and recruiting do not change to mesh with or support the strategy.

In order to increase your success rate, you should audit your strategy every three to six months.

Elements of a Strategy Execution Audit or Midcourse Assessment

The following strategy audit checklist can be used as an assessment tool for any recruiting strategy, be it one recently redeveloped or one newly created.

Part 1. ROI and Meeting Your Goals

  1. ROI. Compare the ROI on recruiting activities to date with the pro-rated ROI that was planned or targeted for the year.
  2. Goals met. Identify how many stated goals have been fully achieved. For those which have not fully achieved, identify to what percent they have been achieved.

Part 2. Strategic Elements

  1. Awareness of the strategy. Assess whether the strategy has been widely distributed and completely understood by everyone who participates in the recruiting process. Ask a random sample of hiring managers and recruiters to repeat the key elements of your strategy in order to assess their awareness and understanding of the strategy.
  2. Competitive analysis. Assess how your strategy is superior to your competitors’ recruiting strategy and execution. Has a competitive analysis (a side-by-side comparison) of your direct talent competitors’ recruiting programs been completed? Have changes been made in your strategy or execution based on what your competitors are now doing?
  3. Shift in assumptions. Recheck any assumptions about environmental factors to ensure that they are still accurate. Assess whether the strategy needs to shift its approach as a result of changes in the economy, changes in business goals, and what your competitors are doing.
  4. Ownership. Has your strategy and its implementation convinced line managers, teams, and employees to take “ownership” of recruiting? Ask a sample of your managers and your employees who is responsible for hiring in order to determine if a majority of managers answer that they and their employees “own” and are responsible for effective recruiting, rather than HR.
  5. Technology utilization. Does recruiting utilize the latest technology, your intranet, and the web to reduce costs and increase recruiting effectiveness? Assess whether databases can talk to each other and whether all new recruiting programs involve technology. Is more than 75% of recruiting administration self-service, outsourced, or automated?
  6. Competitive intelligence gathering. Does the competitive intelligence gathering system (and its tools) continuously tell you what the competition is doing in recruiting and retention?
  7. Market research. Has periodic market research (surveys, focus groups, interviews) been conducted in order to identify the decision factors top performers use when they decide to consider another job (or the criteria for accepting a new job when they already have a good one)? Has that information led to an increased hiring and closing rate?
  8. Continuous improvement. Asses whether your recruiting and selection systems have a learning feedback loop that guarantees you learn from (and change your approach as a result) successful and unsuccessful hires and offer turndowns. Do you have a formal, continuous-learning, benchmarking and knowledge-sharing system that keeps your staff up to speed on the latest tools, strategies and industry intelligence? Is there evidence that the best practice sharing system is working?

Part 3. Coordination With Other HR Units and Processes

  1. Strategy and budget alignment. Assess whether budget and recruiter time allocations are being spent in direct proportion to prioritized goals and customers. Budget dollars and recruiter time should be spent in direct proportion to your strategic priorities.
  2. Cooperation with recruiting. Assess the degree of cooperation between recruiting and other HR functions, and the degree of cooperation within the recruiting function, through a survey that asks to what extent people find each of the related functions to be cooperative and responsive.
  3. Coordination with compensation. Do your recruiting strategies synchronize with your firm’s compensation strategy? Is there evidence that the compensation department is closely coordinating its work with recruiting in order to ensure rapid and effective offers?
  4. Coordination with retention. Are your recruiting strategies integrated into your firm’s top-performer retention strategy? Do recruiters get notified when a recent hire quits or is terminated?
  5. Coordination with orientation. Are your recruiting strategies integrated into your firm’s orientation programs and tools?
  6. Coordination with training and development. Are your recruiting strategies integrated into your firm’s training and development strategies and tools? Is there evidence that new hires are immediately getting the appropriate training and development in order to rapidly bring them up to speed?
  7. Coordination with executive search. Assess whether there is an increased level of improvement between traditional recruiters and in-house/third-party search firms. Assess whether the right proportion of high level jobs are allocated to the most effective group.

Part 4. Recruiting effectiveness metrics and rewards

  1. Metrics distribution. Do you distribute monthly results metrics for all important aspects of recruiting to all managers and recruiters, in order to raise their awareness and cause a behavioral change that gets them to act differently?
  2. Time to fill. Has a review of approvals and recruiting processes been completed so that the recruiting bureaucracy is reduced and hiring decisions can be shortened to a shorter period (e.g., less than 30 days)?
  3. Quality of source. Has management periodically assessed the performance (quality) of hires from each source and then reduced the usage of less-than-effective sources (e.g., Internet job boards and newspaper ads) that flood the system with mediocre people? Identify what percentage of key jobs are sourced through the most effective sourcing channels. Is a majority of your “attracting” budget (and tools) focused primarily on the unemployed and the active job seeker, rather than top performers that are currently working at competitors?
  4. Diversity goals. Have you identified the best sources and tools for diversity candidates? What is your success rate in filling key management and executive jobs with diverse candidates?
  5. Employment brand. Assess how effective your employment branding campaign has been in building the awareness among your target population that your company is a great place to work. What success have you had in getting on best-place-to-work lists and speaking at conferences and industry events? Assess whether recruiting coordinates events with PR in order to improve the brand and increase the applicant flow as a result of any good press coverage.
  6. Rewards. Assess whether recruiters and managers are measured and rewarded for effective recruiting. Determine whether bonuses are being allocated in line with strategic priorities and goals.
  7. Manager and applicant satisfaction. Do you have customer service and satisfaction measures for ensuring that you satisfactorily treat applicants like potential customers? Have those satisfaction rates steadily increased?
  8. Time to productivity. Do you calculate the time it takes for a new hire to reach the needed level of productivity (time to productivity), and has that time to productivity steadily decreased? Is there evidence that the orientation and on-boarding functions are contributing to a decrease in time to productivity?
  9. Forecast accuracy. If your strategy and strategic plan include workforce forecasts, assess whether workforce plans or forecasts are within the acceptable accuracy range.
  10. Pre-need hiring. Have the pre-need systems that calculate the need to “pre-hire” been effective? For what percentage of positions does sourcing and hiring begin before a requisition is issued or approved, in order to ensure hires can start on the day they are needed?
  11. Website effectiveness. Is there evidence that your firm’s website actively “discourages the average” from applying to your firm, thus minimizing the number of applications, legal issues, and paperwork? Has the application completion and hiring rate improved among website hits?
  12. Global recruiting effectiveness. Do you have true global hiring capabilities that allow you to hire the best experienced and college hires from each of the countries in which you have major facilities? Is there evidence that the percentage of hires from global sources has increased?
  13. Individual contribution. Recruiting strategies are more effective when everyone cooperates. It’s important to assess teams and functions, but it is equally important to assess individuals on how well they are contributing to the execution of the recruiting strategy. This can be part of the normal performance appraisal, but it can be done more effectively in one-on-one meetings that specifically ask team members to present evidence of their cooperation and contribution to successful strategy execution. This should be a data-driven session rather than an informal discussion.
  14. Cost effectiveness of the hiring process. Most firms measure their cost per hire, but that metric leaves out the all-important factor of new hire productivity and contribution. Assess not just the cost of hiring but also the impact that new hires have had on increasing business output and revenue. It is almost always more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to recruit top performers than it is to recruit average performers. It’s essential that your audit “connects the dots” between recruiting costs and the performance of new hires on the job.


Some studies have shown that just by having a strategy in place you can improve your organization’s effectiveness by over 50%. But you can’t just assume your strategy is working, because if you do, you might end up wasting a lot of time, money, and effort.

The strategy execution audit or mid-course assessment that is outlined above can be used to ensure your strategy is working. It can also be used as a mechanism for auditing the recruitment function independent of any emphasis on strategy. The key to success is to not just to assume something is working, but rather to have a formalized process of checking to ensure that it is.

Obviously, after you complete the audit, it is essential that you revise either your processes, tools, and programs or the initial strategy itself. Nothing in recruiting should be considered sacrosanct or etched in stone.

Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, please take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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