Working in the digital recruitment space for the past five years, I’ve found it interesting how many companies unknowingly leave money on the table; simply because they don’t truly understand their processes or fail to realise a change may be needed to their system. 

Many times, if these companies simply looked into the data their systems are already providing, they could find a way to save a bit of time and money in what they are trying to accomplish. Sadly, many either fail to collect quality data or have never looked deep enough into the context around their data to understand where changes actually need to happen.

This isn’t meant to call anyone out, rather it's designed to raise awareness about the importance of understanding not just whether you’re filling roles or not, but if you’re doing it in the most time and cost efficient way. 

For many of you reading this, you’re probably wondering 'how do we actually save time and money in our recruitment strategy?' The answers lie in data, and specifically a few vital KPIs. Interrogating the right data and reacting accordingly has enabled us to help Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies save time and money in their recruitment processes. 

The most common KPIs we use are the following:

Cost per Application (CPA): The actual cost of your overall media buy or strategy divided by the number of applications over a set period of time. The lower the CPA, the better. Although, if you have a high CPA, but a low Cost per Hire (see below) you should still consider that a successful media or strategy.

Cost per Hire (CPH): The actual cost of your overall media buy or strategy divided by the number of hires over a set period of time. The lower the CPH the better, but you also want to look at this stat in conjunction with Applications to Hire (see below), as it may be better to have a higher CPH if you have a lower Apps to Hire ratio. That depends largely on whether the saving in recruiters' time or money is more valuable.

Time to Hire (Applicant specific): The time from a candidate's first interaction with your brand all the way through to hire. For companies with longer Time to Hire trends we may focus on Time to Offer instead. There are a few different ways to look at this stat, but you want this to be as low as possible. Usually, this will be broken down by media type, hiring area, location, and so on…

Applications to Technically Qualified (App to Tech): Many companies tend to focus a bit too much on number of applications, instead of qualified applications. This is a ratio of the number of applications one needs to go through before finding an application that meets your qualifications for a particular opening. If we see that we are getting high numbers of applications, but few technically qualified applicants, it raises a red flag that we need to change what we are doing in that specific area. Often, simply looking at this metric at a micro level will help you understand where the non-qualified applications are causing you trouble.

Applications to Hire (App to Hire): Similar to App to Tech, App to Hire looks at the number of applications needed to go through before having an offer accepted by an applicant. For many companies looking to optimise media spend, App to Offer may be a better qualification as it leaves out the possibility of human error, for example through not accepting or handling the applicant through the process correctly. We want a low application to hire ratio; usually this will be broken down by media type, hiring area, job title, location, and so on, as this can help us lower the number of applications, but increase the number of hires.

Example CPA vs CPH/ Apps to Hire

Example CPA vs CPH/Apps to Hire

While these metrics described above are important KPIs, they need to be sliced and diced further to yield the most insight. Typically, they would be broken down as follows:


vs Job Category/Division: By breaking down your CPH or Apps to Hire by job category, division, or job title you’re able to better understand if a certain job board or strategy works better for each specific hiring area. This allows us to stop spending time and money on media that doesn’t work for certain types of jobs. For example, we know from experience that certain job boards work better for hourly high volume positions, while other job boards may be more effective for highly skilled salary positions. 

vs City/Building/Shift: Very similarly, breaking down your KPIs by location, building, or even shift helps you further understand your strategies. By making a few tweaks you can accelerate the recruitment process by focusing on strategies that are providing us with the most technically qualified applicants and hires. 

With these metrics in full context, we’re able to start seeing where time and money is being wasted. 

Data in practice - an example

Recently, we were tasked with helping a client reduce their media spend and improve hiring efficiency.

At the time, they knew some of their basic KPIs such as CPA, but didn’t have enough context around the data to use it to make decisions which could increase their recruitment ROI. Every year they would do the same media buy across multiples sources as it always provided them with the number of hires they wanted; whether they were doing so efficiently they had no clue.

We implemented a cookie-based analytics system, which allowed us to follow the applicant path of any applicant who interacted with one or multiple of their media/jobs boards. Over the next few months, we were able to splice the data by location and job category. By looking into each of their media by job type and location, while switching some of their spend to targeted PPC-based media, they were able to optimise their hiring in targeted areas, increasing hires by 20% and lowering their media spend by almost half. 

Not only were they able to decrease spend and increase hiring in their targeted areas, but they also lowered their Application to Hire ratio, and that meant their recruiters were now spending less time filling roles. All of this happened in just over a year's time.

Understanding your data and metrics will always provide you with the tools to lower your spend, speed up your time to fill, increase hires, etc. Those tools, combined with the right strategy and motivation, can completely revolutionise your recruitment strategy. 

There is only one way to move forward, and that’s by taking the first step. Depending on your ATS/Job Distribution Tool/3rd Party analytics, you might already have some insightful information available. So instead of just letting it go to waste: grab a coffee, block a few hours out of the your day, and see if you can find where you’re able to make your next move. 

Feel free to reach out if you would like any guidance or just a point in the right direction, by emailing

Digital Strategist, Metrics & Campaign Management

With more beans than a quadruple espresso, Patrick is constantly driven to explore and learn. After a sporadic journey working in video and digital healthcare marketing, he finally found his way and passion helping others to analyse and interpret their own data. As a Digital Strategist at AIA, Patrick works with clients to help them better understand how their recruitment strategies are performing, from basic website analytics to full-fledged cookie based campaign management efforts. 

Say hi to him on Twitter, where he's happy to chat data, tech, branding and where to find the best coffee in London.