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Capacity planning in Recruitment 

Calendar icon 13th March 2024

Navigating the complexities of recruitment in a rapidly evolving job market requires not just a keen understanding of current trends but also a proactive approach to planning and strategy.  

As businesses grow and evolve, the need for a robust talent acquisition strategy becomes increasingly critical.  

This is particularly true for companies looking to scale in competitive sectors where the demand for skilled professionals outpaces supply.  

The question of capacity planning within recruitment teams is not just common but pivotal to the success of any hiring strategy. 


“How do I ensure that my Talent Team has got capacity for our hiring plan?”  


A VC’s Talent Team recently asked me this question and what our approach is to plan against that. Though there are some great tools available, it all starts with analysis of your current team’s capabilities.  


Step 1: Analysing capacity

ATS provider Ashby released a trend report with some fantastic data in August of last year highlighting how hiring has transformed between 2019 and 2023. Hires per quarter were down to 2.5 for technology and 3.2 for business recruiters, and all recruitment teams spend 5-10 hours more per hire on interviews. In light of changing results, it is important to get a baseline of your team’s ability to hire, which reflects your own brand recognition, hiring locations and the appeal of offers you make.  

To do this, you can start by examining past hiring trends, including the volume of applicants, time-to-fill metrics, and seasonal variations. Different teams and different roles will have different metrics, and many make the difference between business and technology hires, though there is a benefit to looking at differences between functions and seniorities as well. By identifying patterns and recurring challenges, a recruitment leader can identify the ability of their team to fill positions over time.  


Step 2: Create a hiring plan

As a recruiter, we frequently hear companies saying they need a hire made “yesterday”. This is frequently brushed off as a cliché, though at the core there is a worrying trend; companies who need hires yesterday are already too late with hiring. This is due to budget sign-offs or other factors, though in an ideal world you give your recruitment team start dates ranging from 2-6 months from today, to factor in delays from running processes and candidates serving notice periods, and to give your teams time to do on-boarding admin.  

Identify crucial hires first; team managers or individual contributors and assign priorities to them. At ZEREN Embedded Recruitment, we operate a priority system of 1 to 3, with 1 being most urgent and 3 a “nice-to-have”. This system can be overruled only by the Leadership team who can assign Priority Zero, where roles are business critical and require full attention of the recruitment team. Depending on the seniority and the time required to run processes, assign ideal kick-off dates for internal teams to run processes.  


Step 3: Identifying the Gaps

Any recruiter should be able to manage c. 7-8 hiring pipelines at the same time. This may differ depending on whether the team is working on Executive searches or roles with a very limited group of candidates. By combining kick-off times, average process length and the prioritisation of the roles, you should be able to forecast what roles should have a recruiter on at any point of time. At this point, it should become obvious where there are potential gaps over the next few months.  


Step 4: Solving the Problem

Recruitment leaders have several strategies at their disposal. For hard-to-fill executive roles, Executive Search agencies offer great solutions that save internal teams a lot of time. If the team consistently struggles with not having enough people, this may indicate a structural problem. In such situations, it might be time to hire more recruiters. On the other hand, for temporary or medium-term shortages, opting for embedded recruitment services offers a fast and effective way to fill in the gaps. 


Step 5: Tracking Progress

Whenever Zeren Embedded Recruitment starts supporting an organisation, one of the first things we tend to implement is a hiring overview – a snapshot of the state of pipelines as well as the prioritisation. We recommend keeping an overview like this to make sure that all recruiters work to their optimal capacity, and to see gaps emerge if plans don’t stand up to reality. We built a sample which you can find here (google sheets link).  We recommend using something like this and adding it in whatever way suits your organisation.  


Creating a hiring plan is a complicated topic and requires data analysis of past performance and accurate forecasting. Yet, hiring talent can be an accelerator to any business, capable of transforming outputs. Hence it is worthwhile making sure your hiring plan is futureproofed.

The art of capacity planning in recruitment is both a science and a strategy, requiring a delicate balance of analysis, foresight, and adaptability.  

By understanding the nuances of your team’s capabilities, aligning with business priorities, and strategically addressing gaps, recruitment leaders can ensure their teams are well-equipped to support the organization’s growth objectives.  

It’s about building a resilient, flexible recruitment function that can adapt to the ever-changing landscape of talent acquisition, ensuring that your company remains competitive and capable of attracting top talent.  

As we navigate these challenges, remember, the goal is not just to fill positions but to empower your organization with the talent it needs to thrive in the future.