The “milestones” approach: The key to better recruiter-operations relations

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We spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers—when they’re on the same page, it creates a better experience and outcome for everyone, and when they’re not…well, it can create a lot of tension and inefficiency. But there’s another recruiter relationship that I’d like to talk about today: the one between recruiters and the recruiting operations/management team.

If you’re at a larger company, you may have a dedicated recruiting operations team, but if not, your management team probably provides a similar function—trying to understand trends across the org and make sure everyone is on track.

This is all great, but problems sometimes arise because recruiters and operations/management seem to be at odds with each other. Recruiters look at the list of reqs that they’re trying to fill and see that each job is different, while operations/management are trying to gather and make sense of data from across the organization.

Recruiters need flexibility while the operations team requires consistency. How can you reconcile these contradictory priorities? Keep reading to find out! I offer a solution you’ll surely want to know.

Identifying the problem

Let’s start by looking at the problem a little more closely, by considering what’s important to recruiters and what’s important to operations/management.

When recruiters look at a job on the individual level, they see how each job is unique and requires a customized process. One role might require three in-person interviews while another might involve two technical assessments. Some roles have video interview components and others don’t. So from the recruiter’s perspective, flexibility is the ultimate priority so they can run the interview process the way they (and the hiring managers) want.

On the other hand, the operations/management team is looking at the overall process. They’re trying to determine whether, at a higher level, candidates are moving through the process efficiently. Their goal is to identify and address bottlenecks. The operations team wants to answer questions like: How many people got past app review stage? What percentage from this job board reached the face-to-face stage? These are seemingly simple questions, but if you have heterogeneous pipelines, they become difficult to answer.

Here’s an example of a pipeline report for a single job. You can see it’s pretty straightforward to look at all the different stages and see how candidates are progressing through them.

Greenhouse Recruiting pipeline report of milestones for a single job

However, when you try to pull a report for multiple jobs, the report is no longer as easy to understand.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Note how many stages are listed in the column on the left.

Greenhouse Recruiting pipeline report of milestones for a single job with filters

There are so many stages because each role is set up differently. Some have two interviews, some have trial projects, and some don’t. So this report makes it difficult to draw any general conclusions, other than the fact that it contains information that’s not applicable to every role.

While recruiters and operations have different priorities, they’re ultimately trying to achieve the same goal: making great hires for their organizations. So the problem is really about finding a way to take all of the customized steps that a recruiter might create for individual jobs and making them easily translate into data points that will be useful to the operations team.

The Greenhouse product is wildly adaptable for recruiters—they have the ability to customize on a per job basis. You can easily change stages, add new names, add take-home tests, etc. This means that some recruiters have roles with 3 stages, and some have 15.

But as you can imagine based on everything I’ve described above, we sometimes get complaints from recruiting ops saying that pipeline reports are useless. They can’t match up each recruiter’s customized pipeline in a way that’s particularly useful for understanding the big picture.

Why “milestones” are the solution

Those of you who use Greenhouse are in luck. Within our platform, “Milestones” allow you to maintain flexibility while also offering more streamlined reporting.

Every pipeline in Greenhouse – regardless of the job – now has five milestones. These five stages apply to all candidates:

  1. Application: allows you to assess the number of people who applied for a given role
  2. Assessment: means the candidate made it through the application review stage
  3. Face-to-face: the onsite interview
  4. Offer
  5. Hire

To see a pipeline report by milestones, simply click on “Milestone” at the top right corner of the page.

Greenhouse Recruiting pipeline report of milestones for a single job 2

Notice how the column on the left is much shorter. This allows the viewer to get a quick snapshot of how the pipeline is doing.

But if you’re a recruiter and you still want to check up on the customized stages of your open roles, you can still do that by clicking back into the “stage” view.

Keep track of interviews with the interviewing activity report

You can access another dimension of milestones with the Interviewing Activity report (shown below). This provides the kind of overview that the operations team and management want to see. For example, at a glance you can determine how many candidates made it to the Face to Face milestone in the past week, how many candidates were rejected, or how many scorecards were submitted.

Greenhouse Recruiting pipeline report of milestones for a single job showing interviewing activity


The milestones approach offers the best of both worlds: It allows you to maintain flexibility within your org to build out different stages on an individual job level, but when you’re looking to identify trends across the organization or get a big picture view, you can simply review reports by milestones to get a clean data set.

I believe this approach is the key to smoothing some of that tension between recruiters and operations. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Drop us a line in the comments section or via Twitter to share your feedback on milestones.

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Jon Stross

Jon Stross

is President and Co-Founder of Greenhouse. At Greenhouse, Jon drives the product strategy and works closely with customers and partners to build a platform that improves recruiting performance. Before founding Greenhouse, Jon served as the GM for and was responsible for the global rollout of the business.