8 Places to Find Candidates

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The average job posting receives 250 applicants, most of whom are not qualified for the position. Many hiring managers feel totally overwhelmed and frustrated with the high quantity of applications they receive. Additionally, it can be very hard to follow up with everyone, which means many applicants may never hear back. When applicants don’t hear back, it can be damaging to a company’s brand. But, you may ask, how in the heck do you find people to hire if you don’t rely on ads? Our answer: by having a multi-pronged and strategic candidate sourcing strategy.

A candidate sourcing strategy identifies viable (e.g. qualified and interested) applicants. Successful strategies typically include multiple applicant sourcing techniques, used in combination to maximize results.

The way in which these methods are used depends upon a wide array of factors, some of which include:

  • Types of candidates needed (where do you find applicants with the necessary skills for the position?)
  • Past successes (or failures) in using specific methods (i.e., keep track of your sourcing efforts)
  • Available resources (some methods are more intensive than others)


There are many, many ways to find and attract applicants. Here are eight sourcing methods that can work for companies of any size:

1. Informal or Formal Referral Program

Although this might seem like an old-school or outdated approach, surveys and anecdotal evidence consistently show employee referrals result in strong hires. In fact, something like 70-80% of jobs are not advertised because the candidate was identified through networking. Current employees value their reputation, so they generally only refer individuals they believe would make exceptional employees which is, in effect, a form of prescreening. Current employees are also likely to provide referrals with realistic information about the job, so prospective applicants can make better decisions about whether the position is a good fit. Additionally, referrals from current employees are an effective way to bring job openings to the attention of people who are not actively looking for a job, but possess desirable skills (e.g., passive candidates).

Having an informal referral program can be effective for many teams, but companies should consider establishing a paid referral program, which can range in compensation (typically anywhere from $100 – $2,000+ paid out for a successful hire). This kind of referral program tends to engage more employees in the recruiting process and boost morale after a hire. You could also consider an external referral program in conjunction with industry associations and professional groups. Be sure to tie your program to a specified length of stay prior to payout, and make it easy to submit a referral.

However, it’s important to be aware that referral programs often lead to a lack of diversity in terms of employee perspectives (demographic, educational, cultural, etc.) because our networks tend to reflect us. And since we know that diverse teams are more innovative and outperform homogenous teams, relying solely on referrals is a sure-fire way to perpetuate the status quo.

2. Industry Associations, Professional Groups, and Events

If your company or your employees are already involved with organizations in your industry, you should absolutely tap into those networks and stay in front of potential applicants with similar interests and experience in your industry. Generally, professional groups and events are less effective ways to find candidates unless a long-term relationship exists. If a person only shows up when they need something, existing members of that group aren’t likely to be very interested in helping. Thus, instead of popping up at events only when there is an open role, a company’s aim at these events should be to build relationships, which generate visibility for the company and by extension, the company’s open roles. Employees can also identify interesting prospects from networking groups, or reach out to their network to expand referral reach. All of this takes time and energy, but can be successful for those willing to do the work.

How do you know which groups to focus your time on? There are a number of professional associations dedicated to a specific industry or roles that are common across all industry verticals. Many of these associations are large enough to have a national following, with local chapters that have regular events. A company can narrow its search for specific roles if it has employees who are involved in specific groups or associations to which these applicants may belong. As an added bonus, membership can often involve access to local, national, and even international directories of members along with their job titles and company names.

3. Job Boards

Posting openings on job boards (e.g. Indeed, Craigslist, LinkedIn, etc.) can be a great way to reach interested applicants who are actively looking for jobs. These sites often have a pay-per-post or pay-per-click cost associated with them. They are often one of the most effective ways to receive a large volume of applications.

However, a common complaint about job boards is that they tend to generate too many applicants, a high percentage of whom are unqualified for specific roles. A blanket approach to job boards usually creates extra work and wastes money which could be put towards more useful sourcing efforts.

One way to avoid this is to focus energy and resources on local or industry job boards, which generate fewer, but better qualified applicants. Industry or position-specific job boards are also more likely to attract applicants with relevant experience and skills, and a better understanding of what a job in the industry segment entails.

The best postings:

  • are specific
  • use keywords applicants interested in these roles would search for
  • use inclusive language in order to resonate with a wide audience and prevent discrimination
  • provide a salary range or actual salary
  • clearly describe the demands of the role and provide information on job attributes considered significant by applicants (e.g., job duties, work schedule, and location)
  • discuss benefits in specific terms (e.g., number of vacation days) and tailor message to specific information needs of targeted audience (e.g., flexible hours for working parents, ability to telecommute)
  • convey “must have” attributes for an applicant to be hired (vs. education requirements that are unrelated to the job)
  • provide factual information about positive (e.g., exemplary culture) and negative (e.g., considerable travel) job attributes

4. Company Website and Social Media Pages

One of the first things job seekers do when they’re searching for work is visit the company’s website. A great way to cultivate applicants is to have a dedicated Careers page on your website where interested applicants can learn more about a role and submit their application and resume. This is a great way to build up a pool of applicants to review even if a company isn’t planning an aggressive hiring push.

Use your company website to convey detailed information through written content, photos, graphics, and videos. Post about the company mission, culture, history, successes, ongoing community involvement, current activities, and so forth. On the Careers page, highlight the many benefits of working for the business generally, and the open roles in particular. For example, if a company’s staff is small, its employees often perform functions beyond their stated job descriptions. This business need can translate into a career booster for employees, enabling them to rapidly acquire new skills and develop a broader range of abilities.

Use social media to drive traffic to your website. Posting on personal and company social pages is a great way to put the word out. A blog post by a current employee talking about a company event, or an Instagram post highlighting company volunteering can go a long way toward showing applicants why your company is a great place to work. Other ways to increase visibility include employee bylines in business and trade publications, website content on topics in which your company has expertise, and sponsorship of forums or workshops for professionals in your industry.

This is a slow burn method for attracting applicants, but can have some great cumulative effects when used in combination with other sourcing methods. Also, not having a curated and active presence in the digital age is tantamount to not existing for many candidates.

5. Develop Internal Applicants

Pretty self-explanatory, but if your company already has great talent who are eager for growth, or employs people with untapped potential who could apply themselves more efficiently in other roles, this can be a powerful recruiting source for open positions. Don’t overlook existing employees!

Think about growing your employees through stretch projects, paying for education around new skills, assigning a mentor, and allowing them to shadow other departments. Also consider hiring back alumni employees who have grown in other companies!

6. Recruiting Passive Candidates

There are many ways to recruit passive applicants, though the scope typically depends on the skill and experience of the searcher. For example, a skilled sourcer can use targeted Boolean search strings looking for specific skill sets, acumen, and background, while a hiring manager might conduct a more basic web search of potential applicants in similar positions or industries.

Although there are many nuances to finding passive applicants, even a simple LinkedIn search with the right companies or job titles can surface some great candidates.

Once you’ve identified a potential candidate, outreach to them should always have the goal of starting a conversation to see if they are interested and qualified for the role.

A basic formula for outreach is below. Be sure to incorporate these elements in a way that is true to your company voice, or it won’t work. You want to be authentic and engaging – and you absolutely don’t want to sound like you’re sending out the same message to everyone!  

Outreach should include:

  • An authentic compliment or comment on profile, accomplishments, or background
  • Something about the job or company that will speak to their wants or needs
  • Ask to schedule a call to find out what they are looking for – then you’ll know how to best sell them on the position
  • Include your contact information
  • If they’re not interested, be sure to ask, “Do you know who might be interested in this sort of role?”

7. Third-Party Recruiting Agencies

Using a third-party recruiting agency (like Boly:Welch) can be extremely useful for more specialized searches where the hire is particularly crucial. And, they can make every hire easier, quicker, and better. Good agencies have the industry knowledge, network, applicant pool, sourcing and screening skills, and resources to find top talent quickly. The best recruiters will specialize in their industries, so for specific, hard-to-source, or technical roles, choose a recruiter who works on those types of placements.

You are definitely making an investment when you use an agency – hiring fees can be up to 35% of a candidate’s first-year salary. In a lean, growing business, this is a cost that has to be considered. However, compared with the cost of a bad hire, which can be 150% of a candidate’s annual salary, this could be money very well spent!

8. Contractors and Internships

If your company has the time and resources to cultivate talent, think of developing interns. By bringing on employees who are new to the work world or industry, a company can teach them about the business, and hire them in a permanent role when they graduate or complete the internship. One great place to look for interns in Portland is the Emerging Leaders Internship (ELI) program.

Or, if a company has determined it needs more project-based work or a skill that no one on their team is especially skilled with, a contract hire can be a great option. These are often very experienced (vs. interns) people who can bring new skills and perspectives to a project.

Armed with these tips, we hope you’ll find that perfect person for your team. If you need additional assistance, please reach out to us. We’re here to help with any consultation needs or questions you may have.


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