Clozapine is the only licensed pharmacotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. However, response to clozapine is variable. Understanding the demographic and clinical features associated with response to clozapine may be useful for patient stratification for clinical trials or for identifying patients for earlier initiation of clozapine. We systematically reviewed the literature to investigate clinical and demographic factors associated with variation in clozapine response in treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Subsequently, we performed a random-effects meta-analysis to evaluate differences in duration of illness, age at clozapine initiation, age of illness onset, body weight and years of education between clozapine responders and non-responders. Thirty-one articles were eligible for qualitative review and 17 of these were quantitatively reviewed. Shorter duration of illness, later illness onset, younger age at clozapine initiation, fewer hospitalisations and fewer antipsychotic trials prior to clozapine initiation showed a trend to be significantly associated with a better response to clozapine. Meta-analysis of seven studies, totalling 313 subjects, found that clozapine responders had a significantly shorter duration of illness compared to clozapine non-responders [g = 0.31; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.06–0.56; p = 0.01]. The results imply that a delay in clozapine treatment may result in a poorer response and that a focus on prompt treatment with clozapine is warranted.