The graphic below shows you my take on the recruiting funnel and how to optimize your journey through it in order to improve quality of hire.

Before you go through the funnel, however, it’s important to note that a great hire at the end of the process is only possible if there was a great job at the beginning. Without this the metrics won’t matter and you’ll never be able to maximize quality of hire.

It’s essential to also recognize that a great job is not a skills-laden list of prerequisites and generic boilerplate. Instead it’s a list of 5-6 performance objectives that define outstanding performance headlined with a clear and true employee value proposition. Something like, “Your advanced knowledge of turbulent Mach 1 airflow will help us design the next generation of high-speed human transportation systems,” is a good first step.

With this as a starting point you need to identify a short-list of high potential candidates. As long as you pre-select ahead of time the people who see the opening as an obvious career move, you don’t need to source a lot of people at the top of the funnel.

For example, for a VP HR at a mid-size company, we found 20 senior directors at larger firms. The VP title and the EVP – Get a Seat at the Strategic Table – was enough to get their attention. About half of these people were direct sourced on LinkedIn and the other half were referred. Tracking response rates is critical. I shoot for over 50% for direct sourced candidates and close to 100% for referred candidates.

Now you need to convert these interested prospects into serious candidates. Start by telling these people the only reason they should change jobs is if the new one offers at least a 30% non-monetary increase in terms of stretch, growth, impact and satisfaction. You’ll be able to get a rough sense of this during the exploratory phone screen by comparing the candidate’s major accomplishments to the key performance objectives of the job. If you can describe some elements of the 30%, it’s easy to get candidates to engage more deeply. Of course, this conversion rate needs to be tracked.

During the interviewing phase this 30% gap needs to be completely defined. The performance-based interview is a good technique for this since it measures exactly what a candidate has accomplished in comparison to what needs to be done. This information is also used to predict quality of hire. One simple way is to just total up the scores for each of the factors in the Quality of Hire Talent Predictor graphic.

The concept underlying this approach is the assumption that if the candidate has a track record of comparable accomplishments, fits within the company culture and sees the job as a true career move, the probability the person will be a top performer is high. This is a critical piece of the closing process since the candidate will be judging the opportunity on its career merits, not just the compensation package.

Obviously the close rate is an important metric to track, but an even more important one is the pre-close rate. As part of our recruiting training we emphasize the point that offers should never be formally given unless you’re 100% sure the candidate will accept it.

One way to test an offer is to just ask the candidate if he or she is seriously interested in the job. If so, ask when the person could start if a satisfactory offer was made. Then ask the candidate to put the compensation in the parking lot and have the person rank your job from a career perspective to everything else the person is considering. If the person is vague, non-committal, can’t even mention a start date or says, “I have to think about it,” the person is not ready to be given an offer. You need a 100% yes on all of these pre-closing conditions before you negotiate the final offer.

It’s important to note that metrics by themselves have little value unless they’re measured as they occur. This is the feedback needed to determine if what you’re doing is working or if changes need to be made. As important is the target. When the goal is improving quality of hire versus shortening time to fill, different actions will be taken. For example, when response rates drop under a quality of hire target, extra time will be spent getting more referrals, but under a time-to-fill goal this same feedback will result in more emails sent to more direct sourced candidates.

Recognize, though, that a great hire at the end of the process starts with a great job at the beginning. Without this mindset all of the metrics in the world won’t matter.