Every year, recruiting agencies leave millions of dollars on the table for one simple reason: they don’t prioritize job orders effectively.

If you’re a manager at a staffing or recruiting firm, you run into this problem constantly. You sit down with your recruiters, ask them how many jobs they are working on filling, and ask them how they are feeling about their chances of filling them. The whole team is optimistic about their chances, so you take them at their word and let them get back to work.

At the end of the month, you check back in, and find that they’re still working the same job orders. A few have closed, but the rest are just sitting there, stinking up the pipeline.

The Problem:

The most concerning part of this scenario for you, as the manager, is that when you ask the logical question, “What’s holding you up?”, your recruiters just shake their heads and say, “I don’t know, I’ve been doing what we always do.”

What we always do” means that they’ve been treating every job order equally, expending too much effort on some that won’t ever lead to new revenue, and too little time on others that would have contributed to their bookings with a little bit more attention.

The question these firms have to answer is, What’s the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff?

The answer is the key to ensuring that your recruiters always invest their time on the right job order at the right time. It breaks down into these three steps:

1. Segment your job order pipeline by stage

The simplest way to organize your pipeline is to segment your recruitment process into stages, and prioritize job orders based on whether they are late-stage or early-stage.

Knowing how ripe the open job orders are in your pipeline helps you to set realistic expectations. Without visibility into the quality of your team’s pipeline, you might fall into the trap of assuming that your recruiting activity is progressing smoothly, when in reality all of your firm’s open job orders are another month away from being completed.

As a manager, you have to be able to catch that type of problem early on so that you can take action, begin to identify key win factors, implement training or tools, and make sure that there’s always enough late stage pipeline to maintain a steady revenue stream.

Understanding this difference helps you determine where you can spend your own time most effectively to support your team and get job orders across the goal line.

2. Consider the Total Lifetime Value of Job Orders

Your ability to maintain a steady flow of revenue hinges on how well your recruiting team can identify and work high-value job orders.

The effort they expend sourcing and preparing candidates for lower-value orders could end up costing them the chance to make a higher value placement, so it’s important to look at the total lifetime value of the job order rather than the gross margin in order to prioritize more effectively.

Recruiters have a bad habit of using hourly margins to organize and prioritize job orders in their pipelines. For example, a recruiter may expend a lot of effort filling a position because she can earn a margin of $40/hour even though the contract only lasts two weeks, and as a result she lets an order with a gross margin of $20/hour over six months slip through the cracks.

Prioritizing by the total value of the job helps mitigate that problem, and makes it clear that a short-term placement with a high hourly margin doesn’t deserve as much attention as a long-term placement with lower hourly wages.

Master Your Job Order Pipeline»

3. Take Client Behavior Into Account

To understand which job orders you should be prioritizing, you also have to consider how you should expect your clients to behave. You should be taking your history with a given client into account when you decide which job orders you should be working.

Recruiting activity only tells half the story of how a placement is made. To uncover the other side of the story, you have to take client behavior into account. Your best clients are the ones that interview a high percentage of the candidates you send them, make decisions quickly, and don’t force you to jump through too many hoops.

Understanding how clients are likely to behave also helps you to forecast accurately for coming months. If your recruiting team begins working on a job order In May for a client that, historically, has a 72 day hiring process, you probably shouldn’t expect to make that placement in June.

Combining that information with an in-depth understanding of how your own recruiting team functions enables you to lay out the job order pipeline so that your team can complete their work methodically and maximize its productivity.


To maximize your recruiting agency’s productivity, your team has to work efficiently. These three steps are the key to prioritizing job orders and making placements as efficiently as possible.

Don’t get stuck wondering why a large chunk of your pipeline falls out at the last minute every month — follow these three steps, stay in the know, and guarantee that your recruiters are always working on the right job orders at the right time.

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