Source of Hire Study: Social Media Thrives While Job Boards Survive

Job boards are far from dead.

For the second consecutive year, internal transfers and promotions were the primary source of hire. A quarter of the companies that have a contingent workforce have no idea how big it is. More than half the companies use social media exclusively or as a significant part of their direct sourcing programs.

And finally, and least surprising of all, referrals continue to be the leading source of external hires.

These are among the highlights of the 10th annual Source of Hire study by CareerXroads. Released today, the study reports the results of a survey of 36 large, “well-branded” but anonymous U.S. companies who cumulatively employ 1.32 million workers and hired not quite 133,000 employees in 2010.

Referrals still leading source of external hires

This is the 10th year that Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler have conducted the survey to see where companies source their hires. As has been the case from the beginning in 2001, referrals from employees, vendors, alumni, customers, and other sources was the leading source of external hires. Last year, the surveyed companies reported 27.5 percent of their external hires came from referrals. The percentage has fluctuated only modestly over the years.

What is somewhat surprising about the referrals, is that 51.7 percent of the responding companies said that up to 20 percent of their referral hires come from sources other than employees. On the other hand, 45 percent of the respondents said ALL their referral hires were recommended by employees.

As strong as that number continues to be, job boards in 2010 took a big leap into second place, with almost a quarter of all external hires being sourced there.Last year, 13.2 percent of external hires came from job boards, a percentage more in line with the historic data.

Monster and CareerBuilder were the leading suppliers of hires, with 88.9 percent of the responding companies reporting they made at least one hire from Monster alone. (The similar stat for CareerBuilder was 85.7 percent.)

Career sites “likely to be the end point”

In past years, corporate career sites occupied second place, as a source of external hires. However, Crispin and Mehler have regularly observed that candidates come to corporate sites often by clicking on job postings on job boards or search engines.

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The current report makes the same point. “Career sites are critical but they are more likely to be the end point, not the beginning or middle,” write Crispin and Mehler. There’s a diagram in the report from Jobs2Web, which, they note, “helps to illustrate that the 18.8 percent hires attributed to company career sites very likely came from somewhere else.”

Getting a handle on the originating referral source is still a challenge for most companies in the survey. Two-thirds of them simply don’t track their search engine marketing or optimization efforts.

The picture is much the same when it comes to their social media efforts. Most companies are able to identify candidates sourced through LinkedIn, but half can’t when it comes to other social media sources, particularly Facebook and Twitter.

Social media important in direct sourcing

Nonetheless, 57.1 percent of the respondents reported that social media played an important part in their direct sourcing program. That was the percentage reporting they researched candidates on social networks. Asked to rank the impact of social media on various parts of their recruiting program, respondents said its influence was greatest on direct sourcing, college hiring, and on hiring from job boards.

The report contains dozens of other data points, including contingent worker hiring, RPO use, and talent community management. Even with the small number of companies reporting, the report is now a classic, identifying trends and offering pints of comparison for recruiters everywhere.

As Crispin and Mehler note, “The set of conclusions from our February, 2010 9th Annual SOH Report is still valid. The 2010 data presented here merely underlines the need to continue improving how we measure the interaction of multiple sources i.e. the channels of influence that result in a hire.”

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


3 Comments on “Source of Hire Study: Social Media Thrives While Job Boards Survive

  1. John,
    Great Summary of the report.

    Kudos to Mark and Gerry for their tireless efforts to get to the real facts of how employers are hiring.

    Also, a thanks should go out to all the VPs, and Directors of Recruiting who are willing to share their hiring statistics.

    Jonathan Duarte

  2. To pick a nit re: the primary source of hire – while they do “fill openings” transfer or promotion aren’t “hires” in the sense most folks use the term.

  3. I’m guessing the deflection from career site/job boards is from the seemingly black hole if submitting a resume to an opportunity. Which is a good thing because job boards aren’t always compatible with employer applicant tracking systems. Meaning, if you submit a resume, it’s not always captured on the other end when the employer searches your application.

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