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Sourcing’s Sweet Spot

A new report unlocks the truth behind the source of good hires.

By Thomas Boyle  
Even in periods of high unemployment, companies often struggle to attract top-quality candidates in sufficient volume to fill open positions and prepare for eventual growth or changes in their business direction. Forward-looking companies are, in fact, almost always hiring, investing millions of dollars to advertise job openings.

But how do they know with certainty where to spend those precious recruitment dollars? In good times and bad, this question remains one of the most important to be answered by corporate recruiters, human resource leaders, and talent acquisition directors.
Striking the right balance between volume and candidate quality is crucial to achieving both effectiveness and efficiency for any recruitment marketing strategy. But even when you know the results you want to achieve, you need hard data about source effectiveness that will help get you there successfully.
The problem has been that, until now, the industry has lacked the hard data to be able to empirically and factually identify the most effective sources of recruitment marketing. SilkRoad’s new report, Recruitment Marketing Effectiveness: Meaningful Metrics Straight from the Source, provides quantitative data about recruiting source effectiveness extracted directly from the talent management systems of some of the world’s largest companies and leading employer brands. For all of 2011, the data for the report included more than 9.3 million applications, 147,440 interviews, and 94,155 hires.
Straight from the Source
Among the studies, opinions, and beliefs that have previously defined effective recruitment marketing sources, and the findings of this report, how have recruiters measured the effectiveness of recruitment sources? Four metrics are commonly used to measure source effectiveness: applications, interviews, offers, and hires. SilkRoad asked respondents which of these they believed were the most important in determining the quality of recruitment marketing sources. Their answers: interviews and hires.
The job of any recruitment marketing source is to drive a sufficient volume of high-quality candidates to apply for job openings. How do you measure the quality of candidates? Interviews are more crucial than applications, survey takers reported.
Hires, meanwhile, are the second key metric that companies commonly use to measure source effectiveness, even beyond sources of hires. One reason for emphasis on hires as a measure of source effectiveness is that cost-per-hire is perhaps the most broadly used measurement of recruitment return on investment (ROI) and the single most widely used determinant of how companies will allocate their recruitment advertising dollars.
So how do external (specific job search engines, branded and unspecified job boards, print advertising, and jobfairs) versus internal sources (referrals, inside hires, walk-ins, and company career sites) compare? SilkRoad’s OpenHire applicant tracking system (ATS) data for this report came from nearly three dozen external, and more than a half-dozen internal, recruitment sources. The report found that external and internal sources equally account for interviews, but 63 percent of internal sources are responsible for hires.

Of the internal sources, referrals remain the strongest base for effective recruiting, followed by inside hires and employer career sites or company portals (See Figure 1). Together, these three recruitment sources accounted for almost 95 percent of all interviews and 99 percent of all hires from internal sources as reported by survey respondents.

Among all of the external recruitment marketing sources survey takers use, online sources (job search engines, job boards, and professional organization websites) were far and away the most effective (See Figure 2). They produced 94 percent of the interviews and 86 percent of the hires. Offline or non-digital sources included campus recruiting print advertising and recruiting agencies.

Online Power
A recurring and compelling thread in the data behind this report is that online recruitment marketing sources are crucial for generating a significant volume of qualified candidates who move to the interview stage. Online sources accounted for 42 percent of all interviews and 28 percent of all hires.
Employer websites were the leading online source of interviews and hires, although Indeed, a job search engine, provided nearly the same amount of interviews (see Figure 3). The bottom line is that regardless of the rest of an organization’s recruitment marketing portfolio, a great company career site is critical.
A high-quality employer career site serves the job seeker and the organization by providing information for job seekers to learn more about the company, and, in turn, yielding higher-quality applicants. It also makes it easy for candidates to find and apply for jobs. But a good career site is more than just a page of job listings. It’s a portal to a knowledge base about a company.
A great company career site is also an organization’s “storefront” and represents its employer brand. Candidates get a feeling for a company from its career site just as they did when they would walk into the company 20 years ago and apply in person.
Elements of a great company career site depend on an organization’s industry, culture, and employer brand, but some common denominators exist. A great site needs to have content that is relevant to job seekers and specific in its focus, and it must be easy to access and navigate.
Take, for example VCA Animal Hospitals. Their portal, vcacareers.silkroad.com, houses a very diverse group of positions: general practitioners, specialists, hospital staff, corporate positions, and veterinary students. Each job is powered with content and media (like videos) that help bolster the decision-making process. There are also links to information on the company, its culture, and its social networking sites.
Among all of the online recruitment marketing sources that respondents identified, only two—Indeed and SimplyHired—are job search engines, which differ from job boards in that they give job seekers access to millions of jobs from thousands of sources across the web in a single search.

The sheer number of interviews and hires that these job search engines generated is striking, producing 36 percent of all external interviews and almost 34 percent of all external hires. By comparison, all job boards combined produced 56 percent of all external interviews and 49 percent of all external hires.
Job search engines also have the ability to deliver candidate traffic directly to company career sites, where candidates can research and apply directly to jobs. Job search engines also send job seekers to postings on job boards. For this reason, the volume of interviews and hires attributed to job search engines is arguably always understated.
Data-Driven Decisions
Reliable recruitment analytics are crucial in determining the most effective sources for hiring. More than that, objective recruitment analytics can help recruitment and HR leaders develop meaningful business analytics—the kind that can prove recruiting’s impact on the bottom line and show its alignment with strategic business goals.
To get a valid measure of effectiveness, recruitment source metrics must be drawn from an applicant tracking system (ATS) that measures results as accurately as possible. Reliability must be built in at the root of primary data collection. Recruitment advertising sources must collaborate with an ATS to ensure that automated tracking works.
In most cases for online sources, the source site needs to pass along a value in the job URL that identifies the source. When this is done effectively, the option for candidate self­selection is removed. The source is “passed” into the ATS automatically, and more valid source­effectiveness data is obtained. Put another way, a job search engine is only credited for candidates that it sends directly to a job on an employer’s career site.
An ATS with automated source tracking works behind the scenes. The system identifies the source and reports it, removing any subjectivity or interpretation on the part of the job seeker. The benefits are more accurate recruitment source data, more reliable data to measure sourcing effectiveness, and a faster application experience for the job seeker.
Source data is dynamic; it shifts over time and varies throughout the recruiting process and among job categories. That’s why recruitment marketing data must be routinely reviewed, and marketing strategies must be adjusted accordingly to remain effective and to continue producing an acceptable ROI.
Even then, with current primary-level data in hand, many organizations delay or completely fail to take the next step: adjusting their recruitment marketing strategy and budget based on the candidate source data they have collected. Reasons include brand loyalty, mistaken perceptions of the brand power of a specific recruitment source, lack of faith in the hard data that’s been collected, and failure to effectively communicate the results of the data.
Key Takeaways
Having objective data, tracking it regularly, measuring campaign results, and adjusting budget allocations accordingly are all essential to effective recruitment marketing. Key components of any effective strategy include automated source tracking, measuring results and allocating recruitment marketing budgets to the best­performing sources, a great company career site, a strong job distribution service that pushes jobs to top-performing job search engines, and an effective employee referral program.
Also of note from the report:
• Interviews and hires are the most important metrics in determining source effectiveness.
• External and internal sources result in the same share of interviews.
• Internal sources produce almost twice the share of hires compared with external sources (56 percent compared with 32 percent).
• Of all internal recruitment marketing sources, referrals remain the strongest base for interviews and hires.
• Among external recruitment marketing sources, online sources are far more effective than traditional print or other offline sources for interviews and hires (94 percent and 86 percent of external sources, respectively.)
• Indeed is the leading external source of hires, providing 72 percent more hires than the next largest source.
• Of the online sources—internal or external—company career sites are the primary single source for interviews (16 percent) and hires (13 percent).
• Job search engines are singularly far more effective than job boards; job search engines alone accounted for 36 percent of all external interviews (more than 94 percent of which were from Indeed), and almost 34 percent of all external hires (93 percent of which were from Indeed).
• Among external sources, Indeed was the top single source of hires in six of seven major job categories.
• CareerBuilder was the leading source of interviews and hires among job boards, providing 238 percent more interviews and 132 percent more hires than the next
largest source.

Thomas Boyle is director of product marketing for SilkRoad Technology.

Tags: HRO Today Forum APAC, HRO Today Forum Europe, HRO Today Forum North America, HRO Today Global, HRO Today STA, RPO Staffing, Screening Selection, Talent Acquisition

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