Nearly half of British businesses fail adequately to measure how successful their recruitment methods are, and one in 10 does not even bother to try, according to new research.
The study from recruitment firm Executives Online has found that, while practically every other business discipline is locked into stringent performance measurements, recruitment seems to have escaped, despite its potentially huge impact on corporate success.
Almost 10 per cent of companies had no formal measurement of whether their recruitment was successful and nearly half used arbitrary methods that completely failed to address the real issues, it said.
Just 19 per cent measured the quality of the candidates coming forward, 17 per cent the number of applicants and 10 per cent the speed of the process.
But none of these measures gives any indication of whether the successful candidate meets objectives and performs for the organisation – the real test of recruitment, said Executives Online.
Just over a quarter – 27 per cent – measured the quality of candidate hired to determine whether their recruitment process was delivering, it added.
Gordon Steele, former sales and marketing director of the Post Office, said he was "astounded" at the findings.
"Whilst the vast majority of companies automatically have procedures in place to carefully monitor the achievement of sales, marketing and IT functions, for instance, it is surprising how very little attention is paid to measuring recruitment, given the relatively large budgets involved," he said.
The study of more than 100 major companies also found that it typically costs a company £30,000 to hire a senior executive.
But this figure did not take into account the costs in terms of wasted salary payments and loss of profits because underperformance if an executive fails to deliver.
"Companies wouldn't dream of ploughing thousands into an advertising campaign and then not bothering to check just how effective it has been," said Norrie Johnston, Executives Online managing director. "Yet in effect this is what many they are doing with recruitment."
He added: "It's possible to draw two conclusions from our study. Either recruitment is considered too nebulous to measure, or there is a general apathy in the market.
"Yet companies are missing a trick by taking recruitment lightly. Each executive recruitment decision can have a tremendous impact, presenting great opportunities if the selection process is successful and the new employee brings in fresh ideas, drive and innovation, or huge potential problems if they don't work out."
Companies simply could not afford painful recruitment mistakes and needed to ensure they had not compromised a key position by recruiting a candidate who was failing to deliver, he stressed.
"It's focus that is needed from the start, as soon as job descriptions are drafted, CVs submitted and candidates invited for interview," he advised.
The successful candidate, however senior, should then be monitored three months and six months into their new position.
"We advise our clients to forget the four-page job description; instead focus on key tasks and deliverables. It would then be far easier to measure success by ensuring those tasks and objectives are being met," said Johnston.