Eight Places to Find Candidates (And No, None of Them Are Under a Rock)

The average job posting receives 250 applicants, most of whom are not qualified. Many hiring managers feel totally overwhelmed and frustrated by both the (high) quantity and (low) quality of applicants they receive. Additionally, it can be very hard to follow up with all of these applicants, which means many of them may never hear back, which can be damaging to a company’s brand.

But, you may ask, how in the heck do you find people to hire?

Our answer: by having a multi-pronged and strategic sourcing strategy.

A sourcing strategy identifies viable (qualified and interested) applicants. Successful strategies are typically composed of multiple applicant sourcing techniques, which are 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 applicants needed (where are the applicants with the skills you want found?)
  • Past success (or lack of success) using that approach (i.e., keep track of your sourcing efforts)
  • Available resources (some strategies are more intensive than others)


  • There are many, many ways to find and attract applicants. Here are a list of eight ways that can work for companies or any size and need:

    1. Referrals – Informal | 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    Although this might seem like an old-school or outdated approach, surveys and anecdotal evidence consistently show employee referrals result in strong hires.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 and behavioral characteristics (e.g., passive candidates).

    Having an informal referral program can be effective enough for most teams, but a company should consider establishing a paid referral program, which can range in monetary amounts (typically anywhere from $100-$2,000+ paid out for successful hire). This kind of referral tends to engage more employees in the recruiting process and boost morale after a hire. You could also potentially have an external referral program, in conjunction with outreach in industry associations and professional groups – just be sure to tie your program to a length of specified length of stay prior to payout.

    However, referral programs often lead to a lack of diversity, in terms of employee background and diversity in thinking because our networks tend to reflect us. It can also cause friction if the team decides not to hire or disciplines referred applicant.

    2. Industry Associations | Professional Groups | Events

    Especially 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 experiences. Generally, professional groups and events are less effective ways to find candidates unless there are long-term relationships and credibility built up with the group. 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 posting, a company’s aim at these events should be to build relationships, which generate visibility for the brand and open postings. Employees can also identify interesting prospects from networking groups, or reach out to their network to expand referral reach. All of this, however, takes time and energy.

    How do you know which groups to focus your time on? There are also a number of professional associations dedicated to a specific industry or roles common across all industry verticals. Many of these associations are large enough to have a national following, with local chapters having regular discussions and events. A company can narrow its search for specific roles if it has employees involved in and focusing on 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, Glassdoor, Craigslist, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, etc.) can be a great way to reach interested applicants who are actively looking for jobs. Although many services are free or will “scrape” off of a company’s site, 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 number of applications.

    However, not all job sites are created equally. A common complaint about general job boards is that they tend to generate too many applicants, a high percentage of whom are unqualified. A blanket approach to job posting 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 and use keywords that applicants interested in these roles would search for
  • 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 for an employer located in congested areas)
  • Convey “must have” attributes for an applicant to be hired
  • Provide factual information about positive (e.g., exemplary culture) and negative (e.g., considerable travel) job attributes


  • 4. Website and social media

    One of the first things job seekers do when searching for work or hear about a job opening is to visit the company’s website. A great way to cultivate applicants is to have a dedicated Careers page on the 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 on an aggressive hiring push.

    A website can be an inexpensive way to convey detailed information, both in writing and through videos. An organization can post detail-rich information about company mission, culture, history, successes, ongoing community involvement, current activities and so forth. On the Careers page, a company should 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 broad range of abilities. You can also let applicants know that employees are treated as vital parts of the business, and that the company truly cares about their job satisfaction and professional growth.

    You can also continue to use social media to drive traffic to your site. Posting on personal and company LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor, or other social pages is a great way to put the word out. A blog post by a current employee talking about a company event that is being celebrated in the organization or an Instagram highlighting company successes can go a long way toward showing applicants why they want to work for you. 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 effect 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 a company already has great talent in its employee pool that is antsy for growth or which has untapped potential that could be used more efficiently in other roles, this can be a powerful recruiting source for open positions. Don’t overlook existing employees!

    6. Recruiting Passive Applicants

    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 there are the right fit for the role.

    The 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 template outreach to everyone!

    Outreach should include:

  • A compliment or comment on profile, accomplishments, or background.
  • Something about the job or company that will get intrigue them.
  • Share a few details about the role, so they will be interested in learning more.
  • If they’re not interested, be sure to ask, “Do you know anyone I might want to reach out to?”
  • Include your contact info.


  • 7. Third Party Recruiting Agencies

    Using a third-party recruiting agency (like Boly:Welch) can be extremely useful for more specialized searches or where the hire is particularly crucial. 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 for 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 30% of a candidate’s first year salary. In a lean, growing business, this is a cost that has to be considered. However, taken 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 | Internships

    If a 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 how its business runs, and hire them when they graduate or after the internship. Additionally, an internship can function a bit like a trial period, to see if a candidate with an untested background is right for a role. It’s a great opportunity for a company to test out a new working relationship. One great place to look for interns in Portland is the Emerging Leaders Internship (ELI) program.

    Or, if a company is determining if it needs more project-based work or a skill that none of their current employees possess, a contract hire can be a great option. These are often highly skilled and experienced (vs. interns) people who can bring new skills and perspectives to their role.

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