Social Media Recruiting Paying Off at Crowe Horwath

Crowe Horwath has a social media strategy, a plan, and now evidence that its investment in social media recruiting is paying off.

Crowe Horwath 6 mos source of hireA just-completed mid-term report by  Crowe Horwath’s strategic sourcing leader, Michele Porfilio, shows that in the first six months of the company’s fiscal year (which begins April 1) 20 percent of the hires came from  non-traditional recruiting methods.

Those methods include search engine marketing and optimization, the use of job aggregators (principally Indeed and SimplyHired) and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. For company purposes, those sources are grouped as either SEO/SEM/Job Aggregators or Social Networks.

The cost of the hires who came in through these sources is about a third of what the company spends on job boards.

“I would say,” Porfilio reports, “that overall, we’re getting better candidates from these social media sources and we have a much better ROI.”

Porfilio shared some of the findings from the report, which she prepared for the company’s Social Networking Advisory Council. Merely having such a group puts Crowe Horwath among the social media leaders. A CareerXroads survey of its mostly blue chip, Fortune list clients found fewer than half had a social media committee.

Corporate leadership journal logoThe CareerXroads survey is more extensively discussed in a report on social media that will appear in the January issue of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. The report focuses on how companies can inexpensively employ social media in their recruiting programs, and discusses the components of a social media recruiting strategy. Case studies are also presented on how Crowe Horwath and Hyatt Hotels use social media in their recruiting programs.

Overall, she says, the percentage of candidates applying as a result of these non-traditional sources has more than doubled since 2009.

In an earlier conversation, before the report was completed, Porfilio said Crowe Horwath began developing a systematic social media strategy a year ago. For FY 2010, she estimates the company will spend about 30 percent of the recruiting budget on social media and networking sites as well as on optimizing the company’s jobs to make them more easily found on search engines.

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Crowe Horwath 8 months applicants“The ROI from this,” she says now, after preparing the mid-term report, “is very good.”

In two charts that include numbers through November, it’s clear enough that job boards may yield the most number of applicants by far, but employee referrals are the single biggest source (35 percent) of hires.

Job boards are next at 22 percent of hires. The two non-traditional categories together account for 15 percent. These two categories include search engine marketing and optimization, the use of job aggregators (principally Indeed and SimplyHired) and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Social networking sites alone yielded almost 4 percent of the hires.Crowe Horwath 8 months hires

Though most of the dollar amounts are proprietary, Porfilio shared one data point from the report: About 5.5 percent of the hires at Crowe Horwath were sourced from The cost of those hires averaged $1,600. That compares to an $8,500 cost of hire from one of the major job boards.

Even though, she says, she has “decreased my spend drastically in the job boards, there is still a need for them … Will we still be using Monster? Yes, until it becomes completely irrelevant, if that happens.”

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.


23 Comments on “Social Media Recruiting Paying Off at Crowe Horwath

  1. Great news and proof..

    Our society is programmed to the path of least resistance (entitlement).. and the ones who take the “road less traveled” always seem to win…

    Plan + Vision + MASSIVE ACTION = Results

    I have found in my 12 years in the recruiting industry is that my firm does the opposite of what everyone else (the “herd”) is complaining about…. (Social Media Relationship building)

    Kudos to Crowe Horwath re: social media strategy, plan, and now evidence…

    Happy Holidays to ALL…

    Best, Brian-

  2. This article demonstrates that along with their social media recruiting strategy, Crowe Horwath also utilizes key metrics (candidate quality & ROI) to judge the success of their efforts. Unless social media tools can deliver improvements in cost and efficiency, there is no reason to shift spending away for existing tools. This is a great way to make the case for increased use of social media tools in recruiting.

  3. I’m surprised that they would call job boards like Simply Hired and Indeed “social recruiting.” To me, they’re more like job boards since there isn’t really a social aspect. Likewise, SEO isn’t “social recruiting.”

    The opening sentence of the article says they have a “social media strategy” that is paying off. But they’re supporting the social media ROI story with recruiting methods that have nothing social about them. Why is that?

  4. Maybe I missed it, but how are they determining source of hire?

    Also, have they tracked job performance by source, not just applicant numbers? Just curious.

  5. @Blake, I agree job aggregators and SEO/SEM are not social media. I think these tools are deemed ‘non-traditional’ recruiting methods. Unless the tools allow facilitate interactive communication between company/candidate, then it is not social. Leveraging LinkedIn and Facebook to recruit candidates is definitely social.

  6. I applaud Crowe Horwath for attempting to better understand their return on investment but their methodology is fundamentally flawed and as an accounting firm they should know better. The aspects of their methodology which are most troubling to me are:

    1. They’re mixing apples and oranges. Their source of applicant categories don’t line up with their source of hire categories. Is it because they’re tracking applicants differently than hires? That wouldn’t make any sense, but I can’t think of any reason that makes any sense.

    2. They’ve separated out “job boards” from “niche boards” for no apparent reason. Niche boards are job boards. Are some boards going to generate a better ROI than others? Yes, of course. But so will some “vendors” (whatever that means) and so will some employee referral sources. To break apart a category arbitrarily like that is stacking the deck against that category. One has to wonder at the motivations behind that decision. Could it be that whoever broke apart the job board category wanted to reduce the spend on job boards?

    3. They’re claiming to know the source of applicants and hires, but if they’re pulling that data from their ICIMS applicant tracking system application form then they don’t know the source of their applicants or hires because they’re asking candidates to self-identify their source. Studies such as that conducted by Don Firth at JobsInLogistics have conclusively demonstrated that the vast majority of candidates improperly self-identify their source.

    4. As previous commenters pointed out, Crowe Horwath is lumping into its social media category such completely separate groups as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and job aggregators such as Indeed and SimplyHired Each of those are good sourcing tools, but they’re not social media and their SEO, SEM, and job aggregator vendors would be the first to say so. Just because Crowe Horwath apparently regards those tools as being innovative like it apparently regards social media as being innovative doesn’t mean that they should be lumped together. Indeed and SimplyHired much more appropriately belong in the job board group even though they charge per click rather than posting. But gives clients the choice of paying per posting, per applicant, or per click? Does that make us social media? Hardly.

  7. 30 yrs. Headhunting bio life science arena .

    I see this as a free and simple way for Crowe to “crow” and get free attention …..It was and is a marketing ploy . I am on twitter and facebook and I socialize there …….However on linkedin it is strickly business somost of the responses here are spot on in that you do not mix the 2 .

    Google Bertolas if you want . That would be me .

  8. Many excellent points here and very good questions.

    Most puzzling was why Crowe Horwath would combine some of the categories as it does. The short (and partial) answer is that the company is looking at its recruiting marketing holistically. By that I mean recruitment marketing is not in a silo apart from sales marketing, branding, and the like.

    Michele Porfilio and I discussed the rational for combining SEO/SEM and job aggregator spending. Her explanation was that Indeed and SimplyHired are search engines. SEM spend on Google is not fundamentally different than PPC spend on the aggregators. SEO is the other side of the SEM coin; both aid in drawing candidates to specific job openings.

    While some of you might not roll things up that way, I understand the logic. And since Porfilio independently tracks spending on SEO, SEM and on each of the job search engines, she can (and does) calculate ROI for each component.

    I agree with Steven, Blake and others who question calling the combined spend on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and the SEO/SEM/Job aggregator “social media.”

    Michele would agree that PPC spending on a search engine is not social recruiting as the term is generally understood. But, it is part of the overall company social and search strategy that was developed and is monitored by the Social Networking Advisory Committee. The rollup is to allow the internal group to make comparisons across the company and to assess how its overall strategy is working.

    I disagree with Steven on his argument against separating niche and national job boards. He says: “Are some boards going to generate a better ROI than others? Yes, of course. But so will some “vendors” (whatever that means) and so will some employee referral sources.”

    If I was doing the analysis, I’d want to know that information so I could better direct my spending. And yes, I’d factor in other things like volume and quality, which Crowe Horwath does. It’s too early, however, to assess performance when some the hires made under the strategy have only been on the job a few weeks to a few months, at most.

    One last point, before I make a pitch for some help: source identification is a bear no matter what you do. The ATS can ID the referring source of candidates; PPC and SEM sources are tagged, as are the postings that are processed by Crowe Horwath’s SEO vendor. Ditto for Twitter. Facebook and LinkedIn ad are also tagged, but if the candidate doesn’t directly click an ad, and instead gets invited to apply as a result of a referral or a relationship, the recruiter is supposed to note this.

    Now, here’s where I can use some help for an article I’m working on: As is evident from the article and your comments, categorizing spending is one problem; source of hire is another. The latter is only becoming more difficult as social networking grows.

    How would or do you handle these issues? How do you categorize a LinkedIn hire, for instance? Does PPC spend on a job search engine go under job boards or search or somewhere else? How do you calculate ROI on Facebook? How do you determine source of applicant / source of hire with enough confidence to make spending decisions?

    Contact me directly at

    Have a great holiday.

  9. John,

    Your well reasoned and thoughtful response is a credit to you and ERE. We see eye-to-eye on many issues and I don’t think that either of us is at all troubled that we don’t agree on every point. In fact, that’s a positive as it helps all of us learn and improve when we interact with people who know more than we do about a particular topic. That’s why I always look forward to reading your articles.

    Let me suggest an approach for employers who are trying to determine their returns on investment. They first need to define what their measuring. Is it a category of vendor like Google and other general search engines, social media sites like Facebook, or job boards? Or are they trying to measure the categories of tools like search engine marketing ads, job postings, targeted emails, and banner ads? What Crowe Horwath seems to have done is mix these together and that’s created a lot of confusion for the reader and I’m sure inhibited their ability to make correct decisions about where to spend their money.

    At the end of the day, it seems to me that most employers are best served by first measuring the type of tool and then deciding which vendor delivers the best value. For example, Crowe could look at their search engine marketing spend and see that they spent an average of $X per applicant and $Y per hire with Google, Indeed, SimplyHired, and any other vendors which sell that tool. If the $X and $Y are less than the comparable numbers for job postings, banners, etc., then Crowe will likely want to increase the percentage of its budget allocated to search engine marketing but it then needs to look at what it spent per applicant and hire with Google, Indeed, and SimplyHired and determine which performed the best.

    At the end of the day, I think that most employers will be best served by looking at the tool first and then the vendor. In other words, it isn’t as important that you’re spending $X per applicant or $Y per hire with or LinkedIn or Google or Indeed. What is more important is the tool. Once you’ve identified the tools that work the best for you, then you can look at which vendors provide those tools and pick the ones that provide the greatest value for those tools. But this entire process is predicated on fully automated tracking of source. Although iCIMS posted a note on my blog disputing that Crowe Horwath is using the dreaded self-identification drop-downs, they are. Any organization that requires candidate self-identification in order to know the source is an organization that has no hope of knowing its ROI because the data is, pardon my French, total crap.

  10. An update to my comments is needed. Andrew Curtis at iCIMS just posted a comment to that explains why they claim that the candidate source identification is fully automated and yet when I went to their application page I could see two fields that asked the candidates to self-identify their sources.

    According to Andrew, if I were to have clicked through to the application page from an ad, then the source would have pre-populated so I would not have been asked to self-identify my source. If that works well in the vast majority of cases for Crowe Horwath, then this seems to be a well thought out system for identifying the source of application and hire.

  11. A huge Thank You! to Michele Porfilio and the entire recruiting and management team at Crowe Horwath.

    As a job board owner and founder of one of the original source of hire protocol, which many ATS and job boards are using today, it’s great to see employers actually engaged and tracking the Source of Applicants, Source of Hires, Cost per Hire, and Cost per Applicant.

    Even better, is Michelle’s willingness to share their results and methodology publicly for everyone to learn from, and whether the scrutiny of public opinion.

    So, from all us job board owners, ad agencies, consultants, vendors, and recruiters… Thank You!

    Thanks also to Steven and John for the lively debate on the data integrity.

    Yes, there might be issues, but I have worked with several clients who are using ICIMS and the automatic sourcing does work as Andrew mentioned. Kudos to ICIMS for being one of the leading ATS systems that do this for their clients without charging them outrageous fees for something that should be automatically included in an ATS purchase.

    John, when it comes to measuring ROI and source of hire from PPC sites, my recommendation to employers is this…

    If you are advertising or marketing for a specific job(s), those costs should be grouped with job boards. For instance, an aggregator PPC campaign does not send job seekers (or shouldn’t) back to the home page of the company career site. The links are directing candidates back to specific jobs to apply for. This would be similar to most job postings on a job board. In advertising terms, this would be Direct Response, with a clear call to action, applying.

    PPC ads on Google, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), where the link connects back to the home page of a corporate career center is Branding. This is very different, and should be measured differently.

    A good SEO campaign would ultimately link candidates back to individual job postings on a corporate career center. As a result, the links can be automatically tracked, and therefore this advertising, too, is Direct Response.

    When it comes to sourcing, and “finding” candidates on LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, or google, for that matter, the source of hire MUST be checked and confirmed in the ATS. One possible grouping is “sourcing”, with a tag for the actual source. This of course is dependant on the recruiters to maintain, which takes vigilance on behalf of the Director of Recruiting to make sure the data is being entered correctly.

    Great topic. If I can be of help (John), let me know.

  12. It always interests me when people comment on articles that dive into further areas than the topic at hand. In this case, the question was “Is social media & SEO/SEM proving to pay off?”
    Hence the comments, I thought I would elaborate on a few things.

    1. What is shown in this article is only a small piece of a larger pie and sources are lumped into larger categories. The numbers are pulled from a spreadsheet that calculates for every source that is utilized. Crowe is able to measure each tool separately and make decisions accordingly. My interview was about social media & search engine optimization. You can argue that SEO & SEM are not social and I would agree. In addition to John’s explanation, the process behind the source types lumped into one category is based on budgeting and new strategy implementation. Those candidates who utilize social networks also have behaviors that begin on-line job exploration in the search engine space. And although they might see the job and click to apply, more often than not, they will go back to their social networks to further investigate the company.

    2. Crowe Horwath does review overall spend on each category/vendor that includes more that just the cost to post jobs. Crowe also measures the amount of clicks and impressions or views which affects the branding piece. This article was not an extensive detail into sourcing rather the affects of social media and SEO in which Crowe has shared their successes.

    3. Although we’ve decreased our traditional job board spend, Crowe works closely with their vendors to optimize other services outside of the traditional posting and resume banks. Crowe has partnered with several of our job board vendors to accomplish additional initiatives such as branding and diversity campaigns.

    4. Niche sites are not job boards. These may be areas specific to the job, for example, posting a job to the Illinois CPA Society, American Society of Women Accountants or to the National Association of Black Accountants. We separate those areas in order to measure whether they provide increased traffic flow.

    5. As ICIMs has explained, Crowe does utilize auto source tagging, however there are few times where self select is unavoidable. If a candidate does not click on a job posting and visits your site directly at a later time, they are then asked to self select. I do agree this method rarely provides accurate results. In this case however, I cross-referenced entries typed in candidates to match up as accurately as possible.

  13. ICims is not fully capable of determining source of hire or metrics. That is why my previous employer switched to Jobvite. That function is built into the application and is one of the nicer features of the ATS. Its applicant flow processing is not as intuitive or easy to get but incorporating the social media function made it worthwhile. It has a simpler interface and allows employee referrals to occur easily. It showed if it came from an aggregator like indeed or simplyhired so you could define or categorize as you wished for metric purposes and ROI.

  14. Good discussion. I do however caution you in the use of some of these terms mentioned above. SEO (search engine optomization) is the natural listing in search engines. Don’t get it confused with paid search which is SEM (search engine marketing or ppc or pay per click.) In the information Michelle uses SEO as one of the sources for applicants and or hires. However in order to actually capture your candidates from SEO they would have to find your organically. True they could go into a search engine and type in crowe horwath but they would already know if you you right? The true test to find this out is to dig through your analytics and find referring search engines or referring keywords. I don’t see any SEO completed on your site as your title tag is “Crowe Recruiting – Experienced Hires”

    As far as ppc on job engines I wouldn’t consider this SEM either. I would consider it a job board source or job engine source, as these are active candidates looking for jobs. If you were to ask an agency outside of recruiting if they would consider Indeed a SEM I think they would agree that it isn’t. True SEM is conducting ppc across multiple website sources just not a search engine.

    I do however like the progress that is being made. It’s heads and shoulders what other people are doing in the space. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work Michele.

  15. Great conclusion, Jason. Although we can all quibble over the specifics of Crowe Horwath’s efforts, the fact of the matter is that their efforts were fare more extensive and well thought out than the vast majority of employers and they are to be commended.

  16. Thank you to everyone who has posted and a nudge to those of you who have been watching, but not commenting.

    I’ve just talked to the 8th or 9th person for an article that will appear in the March Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. Five of them are recruiters with management responsibilities. They all say about the same thing regarding social media recruiting: Measuring the ROI is a challenge. It is, at best, inexact.

    The source identification is a huge problem. There are many palliatives; but no ironclad solutions. One interesting approach I heard was verification of “first contact” and verification of “direct source.”

    First contact is where the candidate first learned of the company or first expressed an interest in it.

    Direct source is where the hire applied to the job.

    Another approach is continue the historic means of data capture, but at candidate contact and again at onboarding, verify sourcing. This has the advantage of using the historic data to find trends, while conducting accuracy checks.

    Cost accounting is fraught with its own perils. No company I spoke with captures internal recruiter time in any way that apportions it to specific candidate sourcing. Most do account for direct spending in a line item way. All of them roll up the spend in ways that are meaningful internally, but which don’t make for clear comparisons within industry group or otherwise.

    The Journal article will, however, offer specific suggestions for capturing and analyzing the data. Ultimately, though, I think it would be useful for a collaborative to develop standardized guidelines for capturing ROI data and analyzing it.

  17. John,

    You may want to re-consider the use of “direct source” to describe where the candidate applied. As I’ve heard Gerry Crispin so eloquently state, the corporate career site at which virtually all large organizations require candidates to apply is not a source. It is a destination.

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