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The Trick to Hiring Recruiters

A couple of months ago we posted a blog and shared ‘The Secret to Finding Recruiters’. Of course, you can read the blog for all the details and data, but in a nutshell, we recommend not looking for someone with recruiting experience. Instead, you should identify those that want to start a career versus just have a job. They want a new opportunity to grow. And they exhibit the traits of a high-performing recruiters. It boils down to finding your future recruiters in front-end food service and retails jobs. Now you know the secret. But you say, “OK, great. Thanks for the advice. I still can’t find those people.” Now, I’m going to teach you a trick!

The trick is… your future recruiters are not on the job boards, and they are likely not looking at your job postings. I’m not saying don’t post your internal recruiter positions. You should still post the job on the job boards. You should still post the job on your company website. You should still post the job on social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and have your staff post on their social media pages. Postings are one part of a diversified recruiting strategy. Unfortunately, this is where most staffing firms stop in finding their own recruiters. The trick is to focus on the strategy that most likely leads to hiring the recruiter you need now, referrals!

The Data

According to Career Plug’s annual 2022 Recruiting Metrics Report, “Job boards are the most common source for applicants, producing an average of 72% of applications across all industries in our analysis. If absolute volume is your goal, posting your job to job boards is your best bet. But despite being the source of most applicants, job boards do not produce hires at nearly the same rate as other sources.” The report goes on to say, “An applicant who applied from a referral was 18 times more likely to be hired than an applicant from a job board.” Job boards produce only 1% of hires from applicants as opposed to referrals that produces 22% of hires.

Referrals are also faster to hire, which means spending less on your internal labor costs. In terms of saving time, according to a study by JobVite, it takes 29 days on average to hire a referred candidate, compared to 39 days to hire a candidate through a job posting or 55 days to hire a candidate through a career site. In addition, the JobVite reports says, “referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies – 46% stay over 1 year, 45% over 2 years and 47% over 3 years.”

The Tactics

Now you know that referrals are the number one strategy for quality applicants, cost less, and lead to higher retention. You say, “Yes, I’m going to focus on referrals! Uh, how do I do that?” I’m so glad we’re here to help.

The classic referral is employee’s referring people they know, whether that’s friends, family friends, friends of friends, etc., etc. That’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Encourage your team to refer people they don’t know, but they have seen exhibit the traits of a high-performing recruiter and work in front-end food service and retails jobs. I had success with a program where we printed business cards for employees to hand out. The card said “You provide great service! Would you work with me?” There was a place for the employee to fill in their name, phone, and/or email for the referral to contact them about employment. Staff could give it to anyone that they felt would be a great fit for an internal position; a waiter/waitress, bank tellers, cashiers, etc. It was a great way to get referrals and, in turn, give staff referral bonuses.

Speaking of referral bonuses. Remember that it can cost up to a year’s salary in recruiting, selection, training, and lost productivity when you have an open position. This is the value of filling your open recruiter position quickly. We would recommend promoting this value with your staff that make referrals in the form of a sizable bonus. Say you pay an entry-level recruiter $40,000. I’m not saying that is what you pay your recruiter, because that depends on many variables and your market. I’m just throwing out a number for an example. 5% of $40k is $2000. Would you consider paying a referral bonus of $2000? It’s only 5% of first year salary, which is logical and very reasonable for the value of that referral. Wouldn’t you agree? Yet, most staffing firms only pay $500 or maybe $1000 if they’re generous. You say, “what if I pay out a referral bonus and the person quits?” You could provide a split bonus; $1000 at the time the referral is hired, and then $1000 after the referral is employed for 6 months.

OK, back to referring people you don’t know. Use your current database. Your recruiters can search your current database that you’ve built to fill client positions. They can do searches for qualifications and send emails, text messages, and call prospective candidates. If you haven’t already, start building an internal candidate database. Anyone that has applied or applies in the future for an internal position or has the qualifications for an internal position should be earmarked as a ‘Prospective Internal Candidate’. Someone may not be a fit for a job now but may be in a year or two when you have a future opening. You can reach out to these candidates then. You might say, “But we need our recruiters to fill client jobs to make revenue.” I would contend that it is more important to fill your internal positions first than it is to fill client positions, because… you can’t fill client positions without internal staff!

So, there you have it. The trick to hiring recruiters is referrals!


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