Source of Hire Survey: Not Much Hiring Coming From Social Media

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After two years of looking internally to fill vacancies, companies in 2011 again began to hire new workers, relying on referrals and job boards for nearly 50 percent of their external hires.

Social media, though it accounted for only 3.5 percent of those external hires, evidences a much greater impact on hiring than the numbers would suggest, influencing candidates whose hiring ends up being attributed to other sources.

These are but a few of the findings in the just released 2012 CareerXroads Sources of Hire survey. Conducted now for a decade by the talent consultancy of Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, the annual survey queries the recruiting leaders of America’s largest companies about where they source the hires they make. Additional questions touch on emerging trends.

Nearly 60% of hires filled externally

While Crispin and Mehler caution that the results reflect only the hiring practices of the participating companies, the survey has come to be an industry standard, occupying the top Google results for “source of hire,” and is one of the tools recruiters use in developing their own recruiting strategy.

This year’s survey found that in 2011 the 36 participating companies, which collectively have 1.2 million employees, filled 59 percent of their 213,375 openings externally. It’s a dramatic change from the last two years when half the openings were filled by internal transfers and promotions.

The 18.5 percent drop from 2010, says Crispin, “helps to confirm we are coming out of a recession. It confirms the data we’ve seen this last year.” Still far below 2007 when 72 percent of hires came from outside — “a very hot year,” he notes — it now “looks like we’re getting back to the historic balance.”

Where companies find their new workers hasn’t been changed by either the recession or the recent economic improvement. Referrals accounted for 28 percent of the external hires last year, a percentage largely unchanged over the years. As big a number as that is, it’s probably an undercount, says Crispin.

Somewhat more volatile — the likely result of more sophisticated tracking — is the percentage of hires coming from job boards. Last year, workers who first applied via a job board were 20.1 percent of the external hires.

Like the referral count, job boards almost certainly should be credited with a larger role in hiring.

“In many, maybe most, hiring, there are multiple influencers,” says Crispin. “The companies are getting better at tracking, but there are more things going on than are trackable.”

A few weeks ago, CareerXroads published a survey on employee referral practices, which suggested that referrals have a much greater impact than the direct counts suggest.

The impact of referrals

In the source of hire survey, Crispin and Mehler asked recruiting leaders their opinion on the influence of some recruiting channels. As they anticipated, referrals, social media, company career sites, and job boards (among other channels) are believed by the responding leaders to play reciprocal and influencing roles in the recruiting process.

“These are all underlying influencers. They don’t necessarily funnel candidates, but they help lead them to next steps,” says Cripsin, offering this scenario:

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A job seeker goes to a job board and sees a job at a company where they previous worked. Now the job board has alerted somebody who used to work there. They go to the company site, because that’s where the posting sends them. But they call a friend who still works there, and the friend makes a referral, because the company pays a bonus.

The source of hire gets listed as ‘referral.’

A job board, says Crispin, “is really a lead; an alert. What do you do with an alert? You go back to the career (center) board.” So, he adds, even though the survey attributes 9.8 percent of the hires to company career sites, “most of them got there some other way. That’s why we asked about the influencers.”

Recruiting leaders told Crispin and Mehler that they believe social media, like job boards, plays a role in many of the sources of hire. For instance, 75 percent of the respondents say job boards influence the hires attributed to company career sites. Social media also exerts an influence on the career sites, say 62.5 percents of the respondents. And, as in Crispin’s scenario, career sites, social media, and job boards influence referrals.

The most effective job boards

Of the job boards the survey asked about, Indeed and CareerBuilder turned out to be the most effective. A third of the respondents said CareerBuilder yields between 25 and 50 percent of their job board hires; 9.1 percent said they get as many as 75 percent of their job board hires there.

Indeed, which aggregates jobs from tens of thousands of sites, was every bit as strong a source of job board hires; 32.2 percent of the recruiting leaders reported the site yielded 25-50 percent of their job board hires. Cumulatively, just under 84 percent of the respondents said they got from 1-50 percent of their job board hires from Indeed.

Dice, a niche site specializing in IT positions, was also a strong source of hires, with 58.6 percent of the companies filling up to 10 percent of their positions from Dice. Even Craigslist, a highly local listings site, was cited as a source of hire by nearly 50 percent of the respondents.

Many, perhaps even most, of the hires coming from job boards are the result of job seekers applying to ads. More than two-thirds of the respondents (68.6 percent) said more hires are made from postings than from resume searching. Only 5.7 percent said they make more hires by searching the resume database than by posting jobs.

That’s a significant difference from how recruiters use LinkedIn. There, searching profiles to source candidates has a greater impact than posting jobs, conducting marketing campaigns or company pages.

Tomorrow, part two of this report will focus on social media, intern hiring, and other recruiting influencers.

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.


4 Comments on “Source of Hire Survey: Not Much Hiring Coming From Social Media

  1. Thanks John.  This is 100% consistent with our research from the 2012 Talent Acquisition Factbook.  Social Recruiting is really “Social Employment Branding” – it brings people to the company and opens the door to referral sourcing, but alone it is not enough.  

    LinkedIn however is very different.  It has rapidly become the #1 tool for passive candidate sourcing – which was never really a good use of job boards.  LinkedIn is a disruptive tool, as I discusse here…  (hope you dont mind the links.)  LinkedIn’s recruiting revenues are now greater than Taleo, believe it or not – and Taleo was just acquired for $1.9B.  Growing at over 130% YTY.

    1. Josh – Do you consider LinkedIn to be a “social” source of hires? 

      Can you tell where the hires come from – LinkedIn job postings, or from other Recruiter Solution products? 

      And – what recruiting revenues should we expect from Taleo? It’s a talent management platform – doesn’t offer recruitment advertising products – does it? 

  2. I think our industry gets confused about what is a “source” and what is a “medium” of communication. Asking the question how many hires did we get from Social Media, is like in 1990 when companies wanted to know how many hires came from email or Fax.

  3. Jenny DeVaughn taught a webinar about Facebook & Recruiting. Social recruiters have been trend spotting social networks to build pipelines.  This is particularly true for those tough to fill positions.  If you’re looking for a high tech pro, of course they participate on the social network of their choice.  Why wouldn’t you build the relationships where the candidates are?  Too many recruiters are stuck in the past.

    Time to move forward people.  No, the majority aren’t sourcing on social networks.  That means there’s more candidates for the recruiters who have established a strong presence online.  Doesn’t it make sense for recruiters to compete less for the same candidates?  LinkedIn is saturated.  Facebook has 845 million active users.  Most people list their company, job title, and professional information.  Why wouldn’t you exploit that opportunity?  How about mobile apps?  How about Pinterest?  I’ve been seeing infographic resumes on Pinterest.  I’m also seeing businesses establishing themselves there.  Consumer products are making a lot of money there.  Doesn’t it make sense to explore that too?  Social networks wax and wane in popularity.  It just makes sense to me that candidates should be omni-present.  The goal is to be found, and come up in searches.

    Today, I interviewed Kyle Lacy, author of Twitter Marketing For Dummies, and Branding Yourself on Compassionate HR  We discussed this topic at length today.  I also interviewed his co-author, Erik Deckers (author of No Bull Shit Social Media-he co-wrote this with Jason Falls). 

    Social media isn’t a trend.  It’s the new e-commerce store front, says Chris Brogan.  It makes sense that as businesses grow online, so will job opportunities.  I teach candidates how to leverage social networks, and new media technology to source career opportunities.  I also teach job seekers how to think like a recruiter.  Clearly, they should be sourcing jobs, and building their career pipeline (just like recruiters).

    Gerry Crispin is my hero.  Like me, he’s a candidate experience advocate.  This is a great article John.  I love your articles.  They always make me think.  You also go to great lengths to conduct research.

    Thanks for sharing your data with us.


    Margo Rose
    Founder of HireFriday and HFChat

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