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Recruiting: Knowing your sources

Posted by Aaron Green  August 15, 2011 08:24 AM

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Knowing what sources bring prospects to your organization is quite important to companies with ongoing hiring needs. If you know what is working, you can direct more resources toward these successful sources and/or save money by reducing expenditures on low-yielding sources.

Unfortunately Source of Hire Data is Typically Wrong

Most HR professionals I speak with feel their source of hire data is inaccurate and they want to know how to improve their system to capture the correct information. In getting to the solution, we first need to understand why the data is wrong; some of the typical reasons include:

  • Recruiter apathy -Not all recruiters value the source of hire information, therefore coding applicants accurately is just not important to them. For instance: maybe coding activity is done inconsistently, maybe it is not done at all, maybe the first drop-down selection for source of hire is picked.
  • Incentives/conflict of interest - If management values a particular source over another, recruiters may provide biased responses. Some recruiters even think the information will be used against them, or to make them seem less necessary.
  • Inconsistent system - If the way the question is posed to candidates is inconsistent, the results will be less reliable. Who is asked (recruiter vs. applicant) and when it is asked matters.
  • Applicant bias - Applicants may tell you the answer they think best positions themself to get the job. If you record the response at the wrong time you run this risk. For instance, the applicant that has been desperately calling for weeks and applying to multiple corporate website postings might think they have a better chance of landing the job if they say a recruiter called them.

An Easy and Effective Solution = Ask the New Employee Post-Hire

New employees will respond more thoroughly to questions because they often want to help their new employer. Furthermore you are getting the information straight from the source without any recruiter bias or apathy.

I would suggest asking the new employee during onboarding. First explain why you want the information to get maximum cooperation. I recommend not limiting possible responses to just one answer. Instead, provide choices of multiple factors based on responses from past hires and also leave a blank field. If the new hire does have multiple responses, ask for the responses to be ranked.

Two questions on source are necessary:
1. What source originally made you aware of our company?
2. What source made you aware that we had a current opening in your field? Or, if you were not aware of an opening, what source made you think to contact us? Or if we contacted you, what was the source of contact?

Lastly, don't forget to ask for referrals. The best time to ask is when a new hire starts employment. Correction, the best time to ask is anytime, but it is really effective to ask new hires.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at or (617) 250-1000.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.