Referrals Lead; Social Media Thrives; Job Boards Survive as Hiring Source

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.

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.

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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.)

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.

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% hires attributed to company career sites very likely came from somewhere else.”

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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.

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.


42 Comments on “Referrals Lead; Social Media Thrives; Job Boards Survive as Hiring Source

  1. Thanks John. Nice summary. This year we tried to dig a little deeper into the impact social media has on hires attributed to other sources. I’m pleased with what was reported and hope we can extend that analysis even further next year.

  2. @Gerry: Thank you for your report- I always look forward to it. A couple of questions:
    1) Does the report distinguish between “Job Board” hires of candidates who apply to board-posted positions candidates who are found through board-databases of resumes?

    2) Do you have any information how these figures might apply to SMB as opposed to these 36 large companies?



  3. John,

    Well done, excellent information.
    I would also be interested in a break down of applicants from job boards verses candidates found on job board databases.

    QUESTION… Where does Social Media like Linked In and Facebook come into play here? Neither are Job Boards (per say) and both can be used in Referrals.


  4. Seems that job boards are acting in two primary roles for employers: creating visibility for the employer in general (and thus referrals to the employer career site), and generating applications for specific job postings.

    It would be interesting to see how those job boards who have expanded into social media are doing vis-a-vis those who haven’t as far as producing results for employers.

  5. Cannot pass up the opportunity to quote Monty Python here (which actually works well with the study):

    The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead.
    [a man puts a body on the cart]
    Large Man with Dead Body: Here’s one.
    The Dead Collector: That’ll be ninepence.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I’m not dead.
    The Dead Collector: What?
    Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There’s your ninepence.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I’m not dead.
    The Dead Collector: ‘Ere, he says he’s not dead.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I’m not.
    The Dead Collector: He isn’t.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I’m getting better.
    Large Man with Dead Body: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.
    The Dead Collector: Well, I can’t take him like that. It’s against regulations.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I don’t want to go on the cart.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, don’t be such a baby.
    The Dead Collector: I can’t take him.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I feel fine.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, do me a favor.
    The Dead Collector: I can’t.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won’t be long.
    The Dead Collector: I promised I’d be at the Robinsons’. They’ve lost nine today.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Well, when’s your next round?
    The Dead Collector: Thursday.
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I think I’ll go for a walk.
    Large Man with Dead Body: You’re not fooling anyone, you know. Isn’t there anything you could do?
    The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: I feel happy. I feel happy.
    [the Dead Collector glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Body with his a whack of his club]
    Large Man with Dead Body: Ah, thank you very much.
    The Dead Collector: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
    Large Man with Dead Body: Right.

  6. Gerry, great data. This jives with what we’re hearing from the other side, the job seekers, and in our case, from college students and recent grads. Based on 1,500 responses so far, job boards are the most effective in searching for a job, followed by employee referrals (e.g. “speaking to people…”, “speaking to friends and family”) although if you combine these two choices, they come out on top. We’re still not done with the survey, but I wanted to share preliminary data:

    Glad we’re on the right path and while your survey is already robust, this only lends more support to it from the other side of the coin.

    Happy Friday.

  7. @Gerry: I would also be interested in some more granular data:
    1) Are these 36 large companies a representative subset (industies, goeography, etc.) of say the Fortune 50?
    2) Is there any information as to the types of hires made with each segment? Perhaps most of the hires made through referrals are mid-level, most of the website hires are low-level, and most of the 3PR hires are high-level.
    (This is just a hypothetical example- I do not know if this is the case). If there are clear trends here, the community may be able to extrapolate which would be the best uses of their recruiting dollars with this information.



  8. It’s become very “hip” right now to trumpet the death of job boards. It’s something controversial to say and it gets people talking. It’s the equivalent of the music journalists who shout that the record labels are dying; Job Boards are a monolith in the recruiting world and it’s shocking to hear that they may go away.

    But as you can see, the evidence doesn’t support those claims. Most of the articles I’ve seen quote people who have a vested interest in the job board’s death. When you have networking consultants, headhunters or representatives of a certain “professional social network” site saying that the job board is dead, that isn’t a prediction; it’s a marketing tactic.

  9. Excellent article. I hear from customers all the time that the Monster is getting them the most quality hires. As job boards continue to evolve and work with companies like Linked In, my feeling is that they will only get stronger. Social recruiting results have yet to be proven. Monster now offers our customers a way to track the direct and indirect applies. Its amazing to see how much traffic is driven to career sites from Monster. In my opinion, I think that the company career site stat is scewed.

  10. Great article John.

    Although Linkedin and other social media are growing in use by recruiters, job boards are far from dead.

    What is dead is recruiters ability to put more effort and time into their job ads – our research has found that most recruiters just do a cut ‘n’ copy of the job description and use parts of a similar ad they have recently written.

    Poor ads will ALWAYS attract poor candidates.

    We’re trying to rectify this with – giving recruiters tools, copywriting techniques and guides on how to only write ads that will attract the best candidates and deter the rest – It’s a skill, but one that most recruiters are capable of learning – their inbox will thank them for it!

  11. and so interesting to continue to read articles on the doom and gloom around Job Boards Are dead, no they’re not, people just write dead boring job ads – we hope to revive them, if only slightly. Combined with social media, professional networks and know key movers and shakers in the sector they all work together – there is no silver bullet.

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