Where Do the Best Employees Come From?

Published by:
Jade Allan
July 25, 2019
min read

Where Do The Best Employees Come From?

Who you hire will make or break your business. So the more you know about how and where to find top talent, the more likely you are to succeed. 80% of recruiters would tell you referrals from existing employees are the single best source of new candidates. Meanwhile, 85% of employers say increasing diversity is a priority for their business.

Do you know what doesn’t increase diversity in your business? Referrals from existing employees. 

Since we can’t simply instruct existing teams to ‘be more diverse’ (any more than we can tell them to stop having unconscious biases), we won’t meet diversity goals without being intentional about how we attract talent. 

Hiring within existing networks might feel like the safe option, however the odds are you’ll be hiring someone with a very similar diversity of experience. This may be okay for the first few hires, but as you grow you don’t want to build an organisation of clones or saddle your company with a diversity debt that’s hard to turn around. 

Anyone struggling to achieve diversity hiring goals has felt this tension. The evidence is mounting that diverse and inclusive workforces perform better, are more innovative and foster happier teams (which perform better, are more innovative and so on…).

It seems like this disconnect boils down to a basic agreement about the definition of ‘best.’ If you research the best source of new candidates, you’ll find a focus on what’s well known in startup world as ‘vanity metrics.’ The sort of metrics we pat ourselves on the back with because they make us feel like we’re doing a great job (and we’re being ‘data-driven’ because there’s numbers and stuff). In recruitment they’re things like: ‘total number of applicants’, ‘number of interviews held’ or ‘time to hire.’

Let’s agree that the ultimate goal in talent acquisition is simply to hire the most competent and passionate person for the job. Then it’s a fair assumption that the person who scores highest on competencies, as well as passion and enthusiasm, will be the best person to hire. It’s not a fair assumption that the very best person is already somehow connected to someone already in the business (particularly if you’re a very small team).

What you really need to know is ‘how can I find the best person for the job that may not already be in my network and how can I refine that intelligence over time?’

Put It Out There

When we start to mature as a business, we’ll move outside our networks and start posting on job boards. We’ll meet lots of nice new people we haven’t met before. But if we still haven’t been clear on what we mean by ‘best’, the struggle continues.

Pretty much everything you’ll read today when you look up ‘what are the best job boards for finding developers?’ or ‘what is the best way to advertise a new vacancy?’ assumes by best, you mean biggest, fastest or cheapest.

But you’re more discerning than that, right?

Learn From Other Business Units

The marketing department is a useful ally here. Anyone in charge of a big advertising budget (and they are big, the industry is worth over $300 billion) would never get away with only reporting which channels most people see, bring new enquiries quickly or are the cheapest to run. They need to show it’s the “right” people, that convert to quality customers or bring back more than they spend. (they need to show it’s ‘the right’ people), or which bring new enquiries quickly (they need to show they’re enquiries that convert to quality customers), or which are the cheapest to run (they need to show the cost in relation to revenue generated).

These are measures of quality. And this is how marketers demonstrate their worth. There might be less back-patting, but there’s a lot more impact. We believe the people function deserves the same access to quality data as the rest of the business.

Quality, Quantity and Diversity

Given what we know that about the importance of diverse teams are critical to the bottom line. And adding the gap between the 85% that want to make diversity a priority and the 45% that believe their current recruiting tools do a poor job of helping diverse candidates find them, it comes down to more than just semantics.[13] 

Until now, you’d struggle to know which job boards were really pulling in diverse and high quality candidates. The ones with the highest volume (quantity) are not necessarily sending you the candidates most likely to be hired (quality). Now, don’t get us wrong, if we were a colossal, global job board with 2/3 of our sizeable revenues coming from job postings, we’d probably be happy with this status quo too. But we’re not. We’re a spirited little start-up that thinks ‘People People’ should have access to all of the data on their talent pipeline so they can make high quality decisions that go well beyond vanity metrics.[14] 

Because we focus on helping employers find the highest quality of candidate (in a lot less time, incidentally) by removing the blinkers that make that harder than it should be, we can focus on true quality measures that help you meet diversity goals too. Diversity is about, after all, a question of quality as much as equality.

Here’s What We Found Out

We analysed over 4,000 job postings, with over 25,000 candidate applications and over 200,000 review scores of those candidates. The source of hire included over 140 different job boards. Among them, roles ranged in seniority from intern to director and included industries as varied as  from construction, finance and publishing. Naturally, our data was from job boards our clients had candidates from we only had data from job boards that candidates found our clients jobs through but our initial results are promising. We don’t think you will have seen any of this before.

Great candidates can come from anywhere. So, it's a good idea to look further afield than just considering the usual generic job boards. You’ll get the best diversity by using lots of job boards, but at the same time you want to hire in a way that is efficient and you don’t want to spend your time combing the internet for dozens of job boards.

Just like with marketing channels, it helps to realise that a job board may be good on one measure of diversity but not on another. For example, github has done very well in referring a set of candidates that represents great ethnic diversity but was weak on providing gender diversity. It also does a great job on sourcing candidates who do well in the initial talent assessments.

Escape The City does a great job on gender diversity but is less good on ethnic diversity. They also tend to provide candidates who do well in the initial assessment so depending on the type of job you are hiring for, these job boards would both be worth considering.

Be aware that no one job board may provide the magic bullet for you to build a great, diverse team. Why not dig into the data and see which job boards or group of job boards could help you source the best team?

We’ve made this data available here.

“When we started hiring, we used the large well-known job boards but what we found borne out in the data was that this attracted a fairly random slew of candidates who were very rarely a fit for the role. We then started using much more targeted job boards and have since found 9 out of our last 10 hires from a smaller number of our favourite boards. In general they attract much higher scoring, diverse candidates.” - Andy Babbage, Commercial Director, Applied

Let go of the vanity metrics

As inclusion expert Stephen Frost reminds us, “Unless you consciously include, you will unconsciously exclude.”

And every marketer will confirm, to be intentional in your decisions, you need the data. There’s no excuse for relying on gut feelings - too much is it stake. We’re making this first look at our growing data set available because if we expect people teams to lead the charge in creating and nurturing fully diverse and inclusive teams, we all have to work together. 

Contact us to learn how we can help you hire the best person for the job.