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Are you a commercial recruitment professional?

Posted on from Paskpartnership Ltd

In the third of her series on commercial HR professionals, Debbie Pask examines what it takes to be a truly commercial head of recruitment or resourcing.

How can you stand out from the crowd?

Most of the candidates I now interview for head of resourcing roles are in fact very commercial. It's difficult to be in the recruitment business and not be commercial, given the focus in many companies on the cost effectiveness of the hiring process. It's such a visible expenditure category and yet is an activity that can’t be avoided, so the focus inevitably falls on doing it quicker, cheaper and right first time. So why write an article on identifying commercial heads of resourcing if they are so common?

Well, the challenge is spotting the best ones in the crowd of candidates that come across your desk. The majority of CVs that I see from heads of resourcing do not do justice to their achievements; do not spell out what commercial impact they have made. And so it's difficult for the best to make themselves stand out from the rest.

Focus your expertise and be specific

The most common statements in CVs and interviews are quite general, for example:

  • Introduced new recruitment service provider
  • Improved performance of recruitment team by 10%
  • Restructured PSL


The advice I give such candidates is to focus much more on the key metrics that define the cost-effectiveness of the resourcing process:

  • cost per hire
  • time to hire
  • volumes of internal vs external hires
  • quality and success of hires
  • volumes and costs of direct hires vs agency hires
  • fee structure of the PSL
  • processing capacity of the recruitment team
  • efficiency of starters process
  • relevance of shortlisted candidates
  • advertising spend


These are often referred to but rarely quoted as measurable achievements, which is key to demonstrating commercial impact.

One of the best tips I can give a candidate when referring to a measurable impact is not just to quote the percentage change in an activity or cost but to state what that actually saved the company in cash terms. This demonstrates the candidate’s financial awareness. But they should be careful only to quote savings that were realised by the company rather than hypothetical savings.

Tips to improve impact and demonstrate your ROI

Let’s take a look at what these metrics might look like on paper as statements of commercial impact.

Performance metric: Cost per hire

How it should read: Reduced cost per hire by 50%, from £900 to £450, in 12 months, saving £3.1m. (You could also quote how this compares with the benchmark cost per hire for your sector, using benchmark data from sources such as PWC Saratoga.)

Performance metric: Time to hire

How it should read: Reduced time to hire in income-generating roles by 9 days, from 55 to 46, increasing revenue by 1.2%. (Some roles generate income and the longer the role is vacant, the less income the company generates.)

Performance metric: Volumes of internal vs external hires

How it should read: How it should read: Reduced external hires by 25%, reducing cost per hire by 35% (£1.8m) and increasing internal mobility by 110%. Attrition reduced by 2.5% as a result, saving £2.3m per year in recruitment spend. (If you increase internal recruitment you are probably reducing attrition as well, since more staff are developing their careers with the company.)

Performance metric: Quality and success of hires

How it should read: Improved first year retention by 150%, from 30% to 45%, reducing cost of recruitment by £1.3m per year.

Performance metric: Volumes and costs of direct hires vs agency hires

How it should read: Reduced agency hire rates from 55% to 20%, reducing cost per hire from £900 to £350 in 2 years, saving £3.8m per year.

Performance metric: Fee structure of the PSL

How it should read: Reduced average agency fees from 25% to 18% in one year, saving £2.3m per year whilst maintaining shortlist success rates and time to hire. (It is relatively easy to cut costs with suppliers but you have to show that the business did not suffer as a result.)

Performance metric: Processing capacity of the recruitment team

How it should read: Improved hires per recruiter from 90 to 120 per annum, reducing cost per hire from £400 to £360, saving £1.8m per year. (This is the number of hires that each internal recruiter handles per year. Benchmarks are also available for this figure from sources such as Hackett.)

Performance metric: Efficiency of the starters process

How it should read: Reduced data processing times of new starters by 50% from 70 minutes to 35 minutes, reducing cost per hire by 5%, saving £800k pa.

Performance metric: Relevance of shortlisted candidates

How it should read: Improved offer ratios of shortlisted candidates from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3, reducing cost per hire by £80, saving £1.8m.

Performance metric: Advertising spend

How it should read: Redesigned careers website, increasing direct application by 80% and reducing media costs by 60%, saving £850k pa.

Examples will give you the edge

As you can see, commercial achievements need to be quite specific. When comparing two candidates together, if one is vague and one has examples like those above, it's easy to see how the latter comes across as more commercial and credible. Being vague cannot only disadvantage a candidate compared to others, it can also paint a picture of poor business acumen.

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