Review a Recruiter

The Shortcomings of Net Promoter Score (NPS) in Measuring Recruiting Experiences

by | Jul 14, 2022

Since its introduction in Harvard Business Review in 2003, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) has become a foundational metric for business of all sizes, and in all sectors. 

In fact, a survey from Referral Rock indicates that 53% of companies send NPS surveys to all their customers. 

In the recruiting sector specifically, many companies use NPS to measure candidate satisfaction, brand equity, and recruiter performance. Although it’s a popular metric, NPS has some serious shortcomings, especially when it comes to measuring the impact of the experiences you create for candidates and clients. 

To learn about those drawbacks—and an alternative to NPS—read on.

What is Net Promoter Score (NPS) & how is it measured?

NPS measures customer loyalty through a single-question survey: How likely is it that you would recommend [organization/product/service] to a friend or colleague?

Respondents then answer that question on a scale of 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). Then they’ll fall into one of three categories:

  • Promoters (9-10) are loyal and enthusiastic customers
  • Passives (7-8) are satisfied, but not enough to be promoters
  • Detractors (0-6) are unhappy customers who will not buy again, and probably will discourage others from buying from you

The primary reason that NPS is so popular is because it’s a simple, easy to understand metric. For agencies without sophisticated technology infrastructures to collect and analyze data, this can be attractive. 
The problem is that NPS has some pretty serious shortcomings that can hinder your ability to measure and improve your agency’s experiences. In that case, you need a more robust feedback mechanism in place.

Where does NPS come up short?

Let’s take a look at where NPS comes up short, and why you can’t afford to miss out on these critical insights to grow and succeed as a recruitment agency. 

1. NPS doesn’t show you what needs to be improved

NPS is great at showing where candidates and clients fall in terms of being promoters, passive, or detractors. But because the survey is limited to a single question, it does nothing to tell you why people fall into those categories.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that understanding the “why” is essential to fixing the issue at hand: 

  • Did the recruiter handle an interaction poorly? 
  • Did they not follow up with the candidate quickly enough? 
  • Was the client dissatisfied with the candidates matched with them? 
  • Was the candidate or client simply a bad fit or ill-tempered?

If you can’t get to the bottom of these and similar questions, you don’t have a chance at fixing the problem. This means that it will certainly persist, and you’ll be stuck. 

To fix those problems, you need to understand the “why.” This means having a feedback mechanism apart from NPS. 

2. NPS only collects feedback from current relationships

Because of the way the question is phrased, NPS only works for current candidates or clients. But there are plenty of people who choose not to work with you who can provide insights to improve your process. 

After all, knowing why someone won’t work with you is just as important as knowing why someone would. 

One way to fix this issue is to deploy surveys at every step of the candidate or client journey, tailoring your questions to those particular moments:

  • Initial call or interaction
  • Post-screening or qualification
  • Upon placement
  • Periodically after placement
  • When a client or candidate exists the pipeline

Having a robust system in place to capture feedback at all the most meaningful moments can help you overcome the limitations of NPS. You’ll gather insights that you can act on all along the way. 

3. NPS results often aren’t real-time

For most agencies, NPS studies don’t happen quickly, especially if you’re outsourcing with a third party. In many cases, they will only collect survey data at an arbitrary point in the year (usually year-end), rather than at the most critical moments in the candidate or client journey.

But we all know from experience that our most honest feedback on a particular interaction comes when it’s fresh in our minds. That’s just human nature. By waiting until months after the interaction is over, you risk getting a skewed view of what the candidate or client actually thinks.

What’s more, if there’s a bad interaction with a recruiter and your only feedback comes through an NPS survey, there’s a serious lag time. That’s time you could’ve spent fixing the issue that’s now become a problem. 

4. NPS is time-consuming and potentially expensive

Recruiters are an aggressive, fast-moving bunch. NPS studies often are slow-moving and expensive. The two aren’t a match made in heaven. 

Because NPS is such a specific metric and methodology, you’ll probably need to bring on a specialist to design and execute the surveys, then review and analyze the data. This can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year—and that’s to get months-old insights that don’t tell the whole story.

Final thoughts on NPS for recruiting agencies

If you’re going to go to all the trouble to collect feedback on your recruiters and teams, you should be able to act on that feedback in real time:

  • Reward recruiters who have high review averages
  • Coach recruiters as they make mistakes in real time
  • Share the best testimonials with your audience to grow your brand equity
  • Start reaping rewards immediately—no need for costly delays

Although NPS is a popular metric, it falls short for recruiting agencies in a number of ways. It’s costly, only shows a small part of the picture, and gives you nothing to act on. 

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