June 21, 2007   view past issues

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WEDDLE’s Research Factoid: How Good Are Employees Sourced Online?

WEDDLE’s continuously conducts both primary and secondary research on the Best Practices in employment and HR leadership. Recently, we began to explore what kind of results recruiters are actually achieving online. Previous WEDDLE’s research revealed that that over half of all employers now fill over a quarter of their openings with candidates sourced on the Internet. But, how good are those hires? How do they stack up against employees acquired from other sources?

The responses below were collected between March 10 and June 20, 2007 for the following question: “How would you rate the caliber of your new hires sourced online?”

  • 31.3% said they were among their best employees
  • 47.9% said they were above average employees
  • 16.7% said they were average employees
  • 2.1% said they were below average employees
  • 2.0% had no opinion
  • What the Findings Mean

    For some years now, there’s been a debate about whether the Internet actually delivers new hires. Pundits and bloggers have opined, one way or the other, about the efficacy of online sourcing and recruiting methods, especially job posting, datamining and electronic networking. The issue is important, of course, given the limitations that continue to be imposed on staffing budgets and resources. The key question, however, is not if the Internet delivers, but rather, how well it does so. These results indicate that the Internet is among the most effective methods recruiters now have for acquiring top talent and, ultimately, for winning the War for the Best Talent.

  • Almost eight-out-of-ten (79.2%) of our respondents rated the new hires they sourced online as above average or better. No less important, fewer than one-out-of-five of the candidates sourced online were rated as average, and a miniscule two-out-of-one hundred were considered below average. These very positive results rival the high marks given to employee referral programs, which are often viewed as employers’ best source of quality hires, and networking, which staffing firms typically consider their most reliable source of top candidates.
  • Online recruiting typically requires a financial investment (at least for job posting) and a commitment of both recruiter time and effort. While this input is typically less than that required by other sourcing methods, it is not insignificant. As these findings indicate, however, the return that online recruiting yields–the superior employees it delivers to the organization–more than justifies the investment. They provide the empirical data necessary for making the business case to continue investing in the Internet.
  • These results also pose an important question: If Internet recruiting is so effective, should we ignore other sourcing methods? The answer, of course, is absolutely not. The Internet performs best as a source when it’s integrated into a multifaceted strategy that enables you to reach into the prospect population from a number of different but mutually reinforcing access points. For example, search engine marketing and banner ads on job boards will promote your organization’s employment brand which can increase the yield you generate from career fairs and campus visits as well as drive traffic to the Career area on your corporate site.
  • Finally, these findings also testify to the growing expertise and sophistication of recruiters online. Whether they are working for a direct employer or a staffing firm, using the Internet effectively is now one of their core competencies. And there’s the rub. The capabilities of technology and its application to sourcing and recruiting requirements are constantly evolving. In addition to their heavy workload, therefore, recruiters must also find the time to refine and expand their skill set and do so all of the time. In other words, investing in online recruitment involves more than the advertising fees you pay and the money you spend on an applicant tracking system. To produce the best results, it should also include an organizational commitment to continuous recruiter and sourcer training, backed up with a rigorous performance appraisal process and a meaningful, performance based compensation system.
  • There is no debate about the importance of high caliber talent. The organizations that have it have the potential to win; the organizations that lack it can only lose. Internet-based recruiting enables organizations to achieve their potential. More than a means of simply filling requisitions, it has proven itself to be a powerful resource for finding, connecting with and ultimately recruiting the top talent every organization needs and deserves.

    Please Note: As a part of our ongoing research, WEDDLE’s has been surveying both job seekers and recruiters on the Web since 1996. We’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of data elements probing:

  • what they do and what they don’t do,
  • what they like and what they don’t like,
  • and most importantly,

  • what they think works best.
  • To add your insights and opinions to our research, please visit the Polling Station at the WEDDLE’s Web-site.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Hodes Interactive

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Hodes Interactive from Bernard Hodes Group.

    Interactive Innovations

    Interactive is more than just the latest widgets, it’s connecting with candidates in new and meaningful ways. Whether it’s a recruiting blog or a corporate career site, online ERPs or simple SEO, Hodes Interactive has the tools to reach top talent. Browse our solutions, case studies, and portfolio at

    Discover Hodes Interactive

    Then, check out our free podcast series:

    The Effect of Social Media on Recruiting.

    Section Two: For Your Consideration

    Peter Weddle has been writing columns for his own newsletter and for the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal since 1999. The following column has been drawn from that work and updated for 2007. For a complete collection of Peter’s writing, please see our book Postcards From Space.

    The Tipping Point in Recruitment

    If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, you know that in certain human endeavors there comes a point when the future course of events is decided. That point occurs when a critical mass of influential factors is reached, and the ensuing events are tipped in one virtually unstoppable direction. While Gladwell focused his book on product marketing, I think it holds an important message for recruitment, as well.

    The typical recruitment ad includes a range of information that describes the responsibilities of a particular position and the capabilities required of a person in order to be able to perform it. It includes such facts as:

  • the type of work that will be performed,
  • what is expected of the person in performing the job,
  • the skills and competencies necessary for successful job performance, and
  • the type of person the organization wants to hire.
  • All of that information is vital in describing the employment opportunity to candidates. It does not, however, reach the tipping point for selling them on taking it. It informs them, but does not persuade them. It doesn’t induce them to make a change. And that’s precisely what an ad must do in order to recruit the best talent.

    There are two truisms about the “A” level performers that we most want to recruit for our organizations. They are almost always employed, and they are passive shoppers for new employment opportunities. Therefore, a recruitment ad can only be successful if it convinces them to do the one thing that humans most hate to do: change. It must activate them to go from the devil they know–their current employer, boss and commute–to the devil they don’t know–your employer and a new boss and commute.

    How can we reach that tipping point in our ads? A 2003 study by the Recruiting Roundtable points the way. It determined the percentage impact various factors would have on changing the behavior of employment prospects. In other words, it found which factors would most likely influence passive shoppers to become active consumers of an organization’s employment value proposition. Here are the results:

  • the type of work that will be performed–4.5%,
  • what is expected of the person in performing the job–12.4%,
  • the skills and competencies necessary for successful job performance–2.5%,
  • the type of person the organization wants to hire–13.0%, and
  • the day-to-day experiences a person will have as an employee–19.1%.
  • In other words, describing what it will be like to work in your organization is 4 times as powerful in inducing a change among employment prospects as describing the type of work to be done. Does that mean that information about the job is unimportant in recruitment advertising? Of course not. It means, instead, that an “A” level prospect looks first at the whole of the employment value proposition. Why? Because they are (and will be) offered lots of great jobs during their career. The tipping point for them, therefore, is a two-fer: a great job with a great employer.

    Equally as important, the study also determined that this one factor–the employment experience–was especially important for “A” level performers. While “C” level performers required a persuasion level equal to just 9.9% to accept a new position, “A” level performers were unlikely to move until a persuasion level of 20% had been reached and the first 19.1% of that 20% must describe the kind of experience a person can expect on-the-job. That’s why a traditional “responsibilities and requirements ad” (i.e., one that details “the type of work to be performed” and “the skills and competencies required for successful job performance”) will work for mediocre talent, but doesn’t have sufficient selling power for the best and brightest.

    So, how do you incorporate the employment experience into your recruitment advertising? The following suggestions will get you started:

    Make culture a central element of your advertising message. The average commercial employment site will accept job postings as long as 1,400 words or more. Use that space to describe the work environment and values of your organization as well as the specific opening you are trying to fill.

    Provide employee testimonials on your organizational Web-site. These testimonials should cover a cross-section of occupations, levels of experience, ethnicity and age. They should include both a picture of the person as well as a description of their workday in their own words. And, the testimonials should change every twelve months to reflect the diversity of perspectives and talent available in your organization.

    Make “A” level performers the public face of your organization. Videotape top workers talking about the experience of working for your organization–what they get to do, what they get to achieve, what they get to learn, whom they get to work with. Then, bring those vignettes to career fairs and on campus recruiting trips, and play them constantly.

    Provide a “What it’s like to work here” chat or blog on your organizational Web-site. While this feature can be implemented by a recruiter or a member of the HR Department, it’s likely to have greater impact–at least on “A” level prospects–if the author is their peer. Its purpose is not to present the party line or the organization’s compensation and benefits policies, but rather to paint a picture of the workday–its challenges, opportunities, camaraderie and even its imperfections.

    Create a brochure illustrating a “Day in the Life of ….” For those that don’t have a Career area on their organizational site (or can’t easily add interactive features to a site controlled by the IT Department), this publication can be the next best thing. Make sure that it’s written in colloquial English and not organizational jargon and that it provides an honest and candid picture of a “typical” employee’s workday. Include the brochure in all of your application materials and recruiting packets and make it available for select employees to hand out as they interact with peers at professional and business meetings.

    Winning the War for the Best Talent requires that we reach the tipping point for “A” level performers. We have to provide the information and insight that will overcome their passivity and activate their conviction to work for our organizations. The single factor that reaches that high bar of influence is the nature of the experience they can expect to have on-the-job. Make that irresistible, and you’ll recruit more than your organization’s fair share of the best talent.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation. And, we’ll certainly appreciate it too!

    Section 3: News You Can Use

    Forrester Research released the results of a study of cell phone use among U.S. households. The results provide a cautionary tale for busy recruiters trying to reach prospective employment candidates. According to the study, people who carry their cell phones in a pocketbook or a pouch (the latter, for example, includes 10% of the men in Los Angeles) miss incoming messages 60% of the time. Those who carry their cell phones in their pocket miss their calls an astonishing 30% of the time. What do these findings mean for us recruiters? First, we must discipline ourselves not to assume that the lack of a prompt return call indicates a lack of interest on the part of a prospect. And second, we might want to increase the frequency with which we place our calls to candidates just to make sure that our communication actually rings a bell with the candidate.

    The McKinsey Quarterly from McKinsey & Company published the results of a recent poll that explored the key issues on the minds of business executives and consumers worldwide. Sadly, it found that, once again, business leaders are clueless about what matters most to their customers (including those who might one day become their employees). When asked what three concerns would be most important to them over the next five years, almost half of the consumers said:

  • environmental issues,
  • pension and other retirement benefits, and
  • healthcare.
  • Corporate executives, in contrast, thought the following issues would be most important to consumers:

  • job losses and offshoring,
  • privacy and data security, and
  • environmental issues.
  • This executive-consumer disconnect is a problem, of course, but for us, the more important revelation is the one area where there is consensus: environmental affairs. This finding suggests a way for us to upgrade and differentiate our organization’s employment brand. As CEOs are apparently sensitive to the importance of environmental issues among customers, they may be willing to adopt “green initiatives” as a priority component of the organization’s culture. If they do, that commitment could then be integrated into the organization’s employment brand, enabling it to resonate even more powerfully with prospective candidates (who just happen to be customers, as well).

    The Pew Internet and American Life Project brought out its latest analysis of Internet usage in the United States. Its findings run counter to all of the media and blogosphere commentary about the movement of Americans to a totally wired existence. The study defined hardcore Internet users as those who so relied on the medium that they had at least four ways to access it. In short, they made it an integral part of the way they lived their lives. These power users represented only 31% of the respondents and, surprisingly, even they were not glued to the Net. In fact, just 8% of the study population had all of the devices necessary to access the Web at any time and from anywhere and used the medium actively. Therefore, to make sure that we actually reach candidates for our openings and do so quickly and reliably, we must use redundant communications channels. E-mail should be reinforced with cell phone calls (see above to optimize their use) and even traditional land line telephone messages.

    WEDDLE’s announced the availability of a wide range of training programs that can be delivered on-site in your own facility or in a toll-free audio format similar to WEDDLE’s public programs. You can select a single 75-minute program, pick two programs for a combined 2.5-hour seminar or three programs for a half-day workshop. All programs are delivered by WEDDLE’s Publisher, Peter Weddle. WEDDLE’s training programs include:

  • A-to-Z in Best Practices for Online Recruitment Advertising
  • Best Practices in Sourcing Passive Prospects Online
  • Blink Recruiting: Getting to “Yes” Fast With Passive Prospects
  • Building a Corporate Career Site for Top Talent
  • HR Leadership: the Antidote to Management-by-the-Numbers
  • Optimizing the Candidate Experience: The Secret to Recruiting Top Talent
  • Staffing Metrics That Count in the Corner Office
  • The Sum & Substance of a Great Employment Brand
  • Transforming Your Resume Database into a Candidate Gold Mine
  • For more information and to schedule your private, in-house WEDDLE’s training program, please call us at 203.964.1888. As The Wall Street Journal noted, “The WEDDLE’s Seminar has been held in cities around the country to rave reviews; in fact, more than 95% have said they found the seminars to be both very informative and very helpful.”

    Support Our Sponsor: Hodes Interactive

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Hodes Interactive from Bernard Hodes Group.

    Interactive Innovations

    Interactive is more than just the latest widgets, it’s connecting with candidates in new and meaningful ways. Whether it’s a recruiting blog or a corporate career site, online ERPs or simple SEO, Hodes Interactive has the tools to reach top talent. Browse our solutions, case studies, and portfolio at

    Discover Hodes Interactive

    Then, check out our free podcast series:

    The Effect of Social Media on Recruiting.