Thursday, July 23, 2009

Donut Maker or Top Chef?

Jessica Owens, a lead recruiter at Bungie, sent me this message through LinkedIn. I thought it was worthy of a's a recruiting management question that pops up quite often:

Recently, a co-worker and I were discussing the optimal ratio of recruiters to Priority 1 (hot, must fill, whatever!) reqs. A question came up that went something like this "if a recruiter is supporting 5 distinct disciplines, what is the maximum number of unique reqs that person can support at a time?". And it got me thinking. As a valued member of my recruiting network, I have a couple quick questions for you:

1) How many distinct disciplines do you believe a competent, full-cycle recruiter can successfully support?
2) How many unique reqs, across multiple disciplines, do you believe a competent, full-cycle recruiter can successfully support?

The answer, of course, its that it depends. Lame. But I think I have a good metaphor, and even a math formula, that might help managers figure out
how to deploy recruiting resources. Think of recruiters as chefs in different settings.

A Top Chef, for example, must know many complex recipes and make many dishes, but because they are likely to work at a gourmet restaurant with fewer tables, they don't have to produce as much as a Donut Maker. Top Chef-type recruiters are often found in startup or small companies, or executive search firms.

Conversely, a donut maker only needs to know how to make donuts,
but he has to make many, many donuts. Donut makers have to have a streamlined process. A retail recruiter, focused on hiring sales associates, might fall into this category. Private chefs are rare, indeed. Their repetoire doesn't have to be huge, and they make a few meals a day. I don't know many recruiters who fall into this category, perhaps a few successful consultants who work with a limited number of clients.

Most corporate recruiters fall into the Cheesecake Factory Chef category. Have you ever seen the menu at th
is place? It's huge. And they serve many many dishes in the course of a day. Most recruiters find themselves with many position profiles, and too many open positions. In fact, it may be worthwhile for recruiters to study how each Cheesecake Factory restaurant serves 2000 customers a day.

Many Cheesecake Factory-style recruiters find themselves in impossible situations, overtaxed, too many reqs, candidates, hiring man
agers, emails and phone calls. I've written about this before, this concept of Truth in Recruiting. We're afraid to tell the truth. We can't handle as many reqs (effectively) as we think we can.

To get back to Jessica's question, how do
we figure out recruiter capacity in advance, so that we don't overburden recruiters and evaluate them fairly? I have taken a stab at developing a methodology. I'm sure it's not perfect, just a start. Got criticisms or questions? Add them to the comments, please.

So let's assume that the recruiter on Jessica's team, who works in five different disciplines (I would say that's on the high end) is a Top Chef, that is, while the profiles are numerous and distinct, she doesn't have a huge number of positions to fill all at once. The key to figuring out how many she can successfully support is having a bit of data from past recruiting activities. Looking at 12 months of prior activity, Jessica will need to know:
  • Average number of positions filled by recruiters (for illustration purposes, let's assume that recruiters in Jessica's division each filled 75 positions last year, an average of 6.25 positions per month)
  • Average Time to Fill for each position, or estimate based on average Time to Fill for all positions
  • Position Difficulty, as determined in this 2x2:

So let's make this a bit more scientific (believe me, I have had to turn out spreadsheet after s
preadsheet that tried to estimate recruiting resources needed, so even if you believe that recruiting is more art than science, and "it depends" is a reasonable answer, if you are a recruiting manager, someone is going to ask you to figure this out).

  • Assign a value to Time to Fill (TTF), say 1 for quick 2 for medium and 3 for slow (or Jessica could aggregate the actual Average Time to Fill for all of her positions)
  • Assign a value to Difficulty (D), 1 for easy, 2 for medium, 3 for difficult

Let's assume that the positions in Jessica's org have TTF value of 3 (slow) and a D of 2 (moderately difficult). The hiring managers in her organization don't move fast, and it's not always so easy to source the candidates. Now for the math. If I get this wrong, help me out. There is a reason I am recruiter and not an engineer. Here is the formula I concocted:

Translation: Fills per Month equals Average Monthly Fills per Re
cruiter reduced by time to fill required and level of difficulty. Assumptions: it's twice as hard to hire medium value positions, and 3 times as hard to hire higher value positions. You can adjust these assumptions to appropriately fit your recruiting environment by changing the values of TTF and D. Difficulty can be defined in any way that makes sense for your org (i.e., perhaps there are few candidates with the skills you need, or you have difficulty attracting people to your remote location).

So, in Jessica's case, the recruiter would be responsible for about 1 hire per month.

What do you think? Play around with this...let me know if this makes sense. Do you have a formula or methodology that you use to determine recruiter capacity. How do you evaluate the different types of recruiters in your organization?

Mad props to Jessica for thinking about this stuff and reaching out to her network to get a discussion going.


  1. carol mahoney7:31 AM

    HILARIOUS. As the author of many productivity formulas for recruiters, i sympathize with the difficulty of the task and echo carmen's assertion that any recruiting manager will have to take a stab at this one -- like it or not. So, here's my addition to the conversation. Companies want a Cheesecake model at the Donut price with Top Chef results. I know it's silly. I know it makes no sense. But it's reality. approach lately has been -- give them donuts first. At least you show you can create and live by a model. Displaying "business savvy" will surprise most organizations and has the potential to free you from the vagaries of quarter-by-quarter finance cuts that are not tied to a recruiting demand. As your credibility is established, add in Cheesecake and Private Chef. Not sure this is the best method because once you have established a function that delivers at donut prices, the bean counters want you to LOWER your costs -- not increase them. So, I have not effectively solved the conundrum but I suspect the answer lies in moving strategic recruiting away from a formula. Hmmm...will try it next time :-)

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  3. I was in a cheesecake factory for many years. Hindsight taught me the more you can produce without a crack in the top the more orders you get. I perfected the recipe over time and our other locations adopted it. Lots of bakers came and went because the heat from the ovens was fierce. When my feet got tired from standing all day I took off that apron and kissed the other cooks goodbye. If a company values their acquisition talent they'll leave the Philly cream cheese for bagels.

    Really nice job on this post and all the analytics!


  4. Thanks for the post, I've been looking for more information on executive search firms and your article made my day.