DIY: 3 Steps to a Rapid and Effective Talent Acquisition Audit

By Linda Brenner | June 12, 2024

You've read enough articles - and as a business leader, you've personally experienced - the dramatic changes to the talent marketplace across nearly every industry. On the extremes, some industries have shedded tens of thousands of jobs while others seem to be continually adding to staff. Everyone in the middle is experiencing disruption due to skills shortages, creeping attrition, candidate no-shows, return to office demands, and the ever-present financial pressures that include workforce reductions. Across the board however, companies must streamline and improve their ability to hire and retain high performing employees.

Based on our experience completing recruitment audits across dozens of industries over the last decade, we recommend these three rules of thumb:

1. Start with (but don’t over-index on) qualitative research.

In the context of a recruitment audit, the goal of qualitative research is to identify trends in thoughts and opinions about how talent acquisition is working across the organization (or a targeted area of the business.) The intent, therefore, is not to talk with or survey every person who interacts with talent acquisition (which, let’s face it, could be almost everyone in the organization) – but rather to gain insights from individuals who represent key stakeholder groups. With that in mind:

  • Interview or survey a cross section of stakeholders representing senior leadership, hiring managers, HR partners, internal and external candidates, and the recruiting team itself.
  • Ask a structured set of common questions across the stakeholder groups that will allow for the identification of relevant themes.
  • Focus on gaining insights into what’s working well about talent acquisition and what needs to improve.
  • Record discussions (or capture via survey data) in order to report on themes across business units, stakeholders, geographies, etc.
  • Keep in mind that some of the stakeholders may not be familiar with how recruiting should work (e.g., they’ve never experienced talent acquisition outside their current company) – or, in cases where managers use recruiters as an additional administrative assistant of sorts, may report high satisfaction in TA – in spite of actual dysfunction.

2. Work hard to include quantitative data.

Many believe that TA data is hard to access or is inaccurate. And they're often right: talent technologies that aren’t integrated, applicant tracking systems that aren’t used consistently, requisitions that aren’t opened or closed in a timely way – any or all can muddy hiring data. But we've been doing this for over 10 years and our advice: don’t give up too quickly on finding data-based recruiting trends within your organization. Here are, from our experience, recommendations that will help you focus on the most critical and directionally-accurate data.

  • Start with hiring data straight out of payroll, where the data is almost always accurate. Analyze two years of data associated with hiring, terminations and internal moves. Determine where bright spots and problems exist across geographies, business units, senior leadership teams, levels - and especially critical roles. This will help you state the headlines about the implications for talent acquisition and the key priorities. Because you can't solve everything for everyone, data will point to the most important hiring (and retention) areas on which to focus.
  • Stay away from stating – or becoming distracted by – general averages across the organization (for example: “Our overall turnover is only 8%. We’re doing great!”) Dig into the views that are most important to the business – uncovered in the qualitative work - such as key geographies or business units, critical functional areas such as IT or sales, or other classifications of employees – in order to identify meaningful and actionable talent trends.
  • In our experience, the number of reqs opened – and reqs closed – over a period of time (say, two years) can provide important insights into time to fill, percentage of cancelled reqs, req load by recruiter, etc. In our experience conducting 100s of Talent Acquisition Audits, this data within the applicant tracking system (if nothing else) is directionally accurate.
  • Calculating a simple and general cost per hire (overall talent acquisition spend + RPO and agency costs) divided by the number of reqs managed by talent acquisition in a year will also provide a baseline that can be evaluated against industry benchmarks, prior year costs, etc. It’s not going to be perfect – perfection is likely unattainable here and unlikely to be worth the time and energy – but it will be directionally correct and can be drilled down further if merited by the initial look.
  • For extra points, partner with someone in Finance and determine the cost of downstream hiring gaps on the business. What does it truly mean when hiring isn't fast enough or good enough? We find downstream costs associated with temp and contractor usage, increased overtime, agency spend, high sign-on bonuses or referrals, early attrition (no shows on day one through first 90 days), etc. Even suggesting a small percentage (say, 5%) of these overall costs saved over time (and after hiring improvements have been made) can vividly illustrate the value of dramatically improved Talent Acquisition.

3. Start with a DIY approach of conducting the recruitment audit on your own function.

Even the best-intended Talent Acquisition leaders are likely to find themselves in a situation in which motives are questioned at the conclusion of a do-it-yourself recruitment audit. It can be painful to hear negative feedback but, that's typically why an audit needs to be done in the first place. As long as the effort is structured, genuine, balanced and objective, it's worth doing. If the capacity and capability doesn't exist within your org to undertake a DIY recruiting audit effort, hire outside experts like us. Results and recommendations of an audit often indicate next steps such as considering a new TA strategy, redesigning the recruiting process, configuring technology differently, agreeing on new and prioritized metrics and measures, and determing when the org can expect to see a return on investment related to their TA changes. In any even, be prepared to proactive address legitimate concerns – Is he trying to build an even bigger TA team?  Didn’t we just buy new technology a few years ago? Why does she think another recruitment marketing campaign will change anything? What about using AI to make hiring decisions? These can be difficult to address. Whether you hire an outside team of objective experts who specialize in audits and recruitment process improvement – or simply engage a cross-functional team of insiders to complete a structured audit program, bringing others in to lead the recruitment audit will increase the likelihood that the organization will fairly consider and adopt the recommended changes.


Learn more about Talent Growth Advisors' Recruitment Audit and how you can self-fund talent acquisition improvements.

Or contact us to speak directly to one of our senior consultants about Talent Acquistion audits.

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