SilkRoad Survey Shows Referrals, Job Boards Are Top Sources of Hire

Silkroad sourcing effectiveness chart 2013Update: SilkRoad says there are errors in the report it published Thursday on which the post below is based. The most significant appears to be charts on pages 8, 11, and 15 and in the infographic on the SilkRoad blog showing some sources produced more hires than they did interviews. A company spokesman said in an email: “The issue concerning the numbers on Craigslist was an error and has been changed.  In regards to the information on page 15, that chart only represents the percentage of interviews and hires as a percentage of all external sources and does not take into account internal or offline sources.” Additionally, “There were no sources in our findings with a larger number of hires over interviews.  The issue with the image on page 11 is with the chart and Craigslist.” Note that as of this update, it does not appear the updates to the charts have been made.

Referrals and the company career site are the two leading sources for new workers hired by the 1,054 companies participating in SilkRoad’s just released study of recruitment marketing effectiveness.

Between them, they produced 40% of the more than 150,000 hires the companies made in 2012.

This is the second year the HR software provider has compiled ATS data from its customers to report on their source of hire. This year, the company included interviews as a measure of effectiveness.

The data set came from companies as small as 100 employees and some larger than 10,000; 60% had under 2,000 employees, 30% fall between 2,000 and 10,000, and the remaining 10% are larger. A company spokesman said the employers represent “the entire scale. We have lots of technology, healthcare, higher education, and several other strong verticals.”

As it did last year, SilkRoad found that job boards collectively yielded more interviews and hires than did all other external sourcing efforts. (For the report, SilkRoad classified corporate career sites and inside recruiter efforts as internal, explaining “they are company resources.” Company sites were included because they are “internally controlled element of job advertising.”)

Among the job boards, Indeed yielded more interviews and hires than any other single site. CareerBuilder was second.

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However, internal sourcing (which also included walk-ins, boomerangs, and internal transfers) accounted for 44% of interviews, yet produced 58% of all hires. Like every other study, including CareerXroads’ annual source of hire study, SilkRoad found referrals produced the most hires; 25,5% of all hires were attributed to referrals, a finding that compares to the 28% reported by CareerXroads last year. (The 2013 report should be released sometime next month.)

The SilkRoad report sliced and diced its data to compare online sources, finding that Indeed, the giant search engine bought last year for more than $1 billion, yielded the most interviews, and was second only to the company website, in the number of hires. No other job board or online source came close in either category.

Silkroad Top 10 Online sources 2013LinkedIn, which “showed dramatic increases in numbers in this year’s report,” accounting for “nearly six times as many interviews and three times as many hires as it did last year,” yielded fewer hires than did CareerBuilder, Monster, or CraigsList. In fact, CraigsList was surprising in that it produced more hires than it did interviews. Only agencies and the hourly worker job board SnagAJob had a similar result.

The report didn’t explain how that could happen. One possibility is that since all the data comes from clients using SilkRoad’s OpenHire applicant tracking system, enough of them may not be using it to schedule interviews, skewing the results. It’s also possible that some clients may simply be hiring without first conducting an interview.

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.


16 Comments on “SilkRoad Survey Shows Referrals, Job Boards Are Top Sources of Hire

  1. It is delightful to see objective data on results, so many times there is theory rich and data poor insight on what delivers recruitment results. In so many cases, the beat of the drum is Job Boards are dead, but the truth is that they are not dead but are evolving and are still the best recruitment innovation in the industry. Job Boards delivers one of the best ROI’s and after so many years may only fall short to referrals (As it should or there is other internal issues) A couple notes to think about from this report. What % of jobs did say CareerBuilder have to Indeed. I would bet my first born that the the % of jobs received is not equal in representing an apples to apples comparison. But this is not about who is better in the Job Boards and Yes INDEED is a JOB Board, it is that the Job boards are not dead and if you are not having serious discussions with the Boards on how you can capture value for your company in the acquisition of talent you are missing out.

    Objective data is what should be evaluated and the people beating the drum are typically the same people that financially benefit if this valuable resource of a job Board goes away. Bottom line a job posting is a excellent solutions Proven by this report and will be reinforced with CareerXRoads presents its findings. Learning how they have evolved will only benefit you as a recruiter and the organizations you serve.

  2. Another reason why some organizations are apparently reporting more hires than interviews for at least some of the sources is that the survey included the company web site as a source. It isn’t, never has been, and never can be. No candidate EVER starts their search at the company web site and therefore, by definition, it cannot be a source. It is a destination and a very valuable component in the recruiting path, but it isn’t a source.

    If SilkRoad and the others who make this mistake were to remove from their survey answers the ATS or company web site as a source, I suspect that you’d almost always see more applications than interviews and more interviews than hires.

  3. Steven – I would have to disagree with you on this, the company’s website can be a source of hire. If your company is an employer of choice within their industry, then it would make sense that candidates starting their search will go to their webpage to see what positions might be available there before looking elsewhere. The company that I currently support has a lot of candidates who come to the company website first and in some cases on a regular basis to check for opportunities that are a match for their experience.

  4. Thanks John. I’d be interested to see if there were any more “granular” data about which sources work best for which types of jobs, e.g., “Craig’s List May be better for hiring Finance than Engineering”, or “referrals work better for Engineers than they do for Nurses”…

    Speaking of referrals:
    Folks, I’m still waiting to be taken up on my offer to help put together “Employee Referral Con”.


  5. It’s interesting that Indeed is considered a job board here, considering it’s in fact, a job aggregation website. I’m wondering how many companys’ ATS actually picked up on the correct source of the advertisement when applicants came over from I would bet that a large number of applicants actually came through from Company websites, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, etc., that had their jobs aggregated to Indeed because of the partnerships they have.

    Posting jobs on your company website or a widely used job board will get your reqs up on Indeed regardless.

  6. This data can be problematic, but it’s still useful. In the end though the job board is just an advertising method and it’s hard to tell whether there’s an inherent effectiveness or if it’s just trend driven, or if there’s even any difference between those two things in marketing. All told though, there’s probably a strong parallel between companies posting on job boards and companies handling their own advertising in the papers and phone directories in the past, that is it’s likely amateurish and not so good and could be made to be a lot more effective and to hit a much wider audience.

  7. @Jack – Regarding Indeed, “I would bet that a large number of applicants actually came through from Company websites, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, etc., that had their jobs aggregated to Indeed because of the partnerships they have.”

    The Indeed data in the SilkRoad report is only representative of applicants Indeed sent directly to SilkRoad client career sites. If an applicant came to Indeed and clicked on a SilkRoad client’s CareerBuilder job, CareerBuilder gets credit, not Indeed.

    In fact, Indeed’s results are underestimated in this data, definitely not over-estimated. SilkRoad even talks about this specific point in last year’s white paper (page 15):

  8. @ Richard: Well-said. I’d be interested in finding some objective studies as to how best to craft effective strategies- I’d think that a multiple focus with strong, primary emphasis on well-crafted ERP would be best, but what would the others be, and how to distribute the resources to do them? If boards (and I’d guess most other outbound efforts) are just advertising, does the old saying about advertising by John Wanamaker apply?: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”


  9. @Keith: I think that statement applies. Whenever I’m looking for higher level marketing people I find it amazing how almost none of them ever tried determining the ROI of a campaign. The ones that have concentrate more on ROO plus some basic cost information. Few are willing to admit what I think is the truth, which is you can’t break everything down to that level in a meaningful way. Not practically anyway. I think there are a few ERP systems with recruiting and HR modules that have some potential to be able to capture the needed info to do this, but I’ve only heard about them and inferred the possibility.

  10. @ Richard. Thank you. I think this is actually good news- there’s enough initial verifiable data to come up with a valid initial premise, but *not enough subsequent data to disprove any subsequent things you claim (you should clearly indicate this). In such conditions, there’s lots of money to be made….



    * Do you think that it’s data which just hasn’t been acquired YET (too expensive to do or not strong enough interest), or data which is too “fuzzy” to be acquired AT ALL?

  11. Data which can’t be acquired, period. There could be one or many influences that eventually lead someone to finding your company and considering employment there, so source data as it is seems largely unreliable. I also think it’s better to label it Point of Entry, as in this is where the candidate made the deliberate move to apply. Beyond that though it would take someone with a lot more experience and expertise than me to translate some supply chain concepts and processes to the recruiting industry.

  12. Thanks, Richard. Sometimes it’s as important to learn what you can’t find out as it is to learn what you can…


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