Employer Branding Talent Acquisition Timebound

Hiring Winds Blowing toward Referrals and Networking

How are the bad economic times affecting the way employers hire staff?

There are a few clear trends that we can see and I have decided to look at the five main ways of hiring people; adverts, recruiters, internal recruiters, networking and referral schemes to see what’s hot and what’s not.

Here we go:


When times are good, you’ll see adverts everywhere from companies screaming out for new staff. There will be the consultancy looking for “1,000 new colleagues” – basically an invitation for hopefuls to submit their details. When times are bad, you’ll see less adverts and more applicants for each role. Adverts can cost a fair bit if you choose to post them on the nation’s favorite platforms, and for the money spent you expect a decent result.

The trouble is that it’s ever so simple to send your resume out via a job board these days that less than 10% of the applicants will actually be qualified for your role. Moreover, out of the qualified candidates, you pretty much know that if they applied for your role, they probably applied for another 5-10 similar roles, so they are anything but loyal to your position.

3rd-party recruiters

Again, when times are good you will find that people with the right skills are in very high demand and can pick and choose their next opportunity. A skilled recruiter can buddy up with a candidate and gently ‘steer’ them toward your position, making sure the candidate accepts and stays with your business. Working with an experienced and shall I say persuasive recruiter is very useful when appointing a critical job function in good times. The recruitment service, of course, comes with a price tag.

Internal recruitment teams

Some companies opt for a strong internal recruitment team. This differs from the HR team in that these guys actually go out in the market and search for candidates, as opposed to simply reacting to applications that drop in. You will find a good few ex-recruiters in these jobs as their skills transfer nicely. The trouble here is that internal recruiters may not be as hungry as their agency peers.

The remuneration model for an internal team is typically geared toward stability and team efforts, as opposed to individual achievement which is the case for external recruiters. Let’s face it, people choose to work as in-house recruiters for the work/life balance, not the chance to make loads of money.


The power of your network will always be stronger than any job board or recruiter. When someone endorses your name to a hiring manager, you will instantly be put at the top of the stack of applicants. Sometimes you can have an informal chat with the employer before the interview, just to sound each other out.

Networking includes your entire professional and social network, as well as contacts you strike up using networking tools online such as LinkedIn. Being hired through networking will not be achieved overnight, you will have to spend time at building and maintaining and it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.

Employee referral schemes

The fifth channel of candidates is what I have seen growing over the past few years. This is similar to networking but it works slightly different. The employee referral scheme is all about rewarding your employees for finding talent for your company. Most managers will gladly pay a bounty to their own people than a fee to a recruiter.

The scheme involves everyone in a talent search and really gets people to wrack their brains, rattle their networks and turn every stone to find the right man or woman for a job. It may or not be successful for the role immediately at hand, but it will change the mentality of your employees for the better. They will now constantly be on the lookout for new potential candidates as they know that they get kudos and hard cash for their troubles.

Where are the winds blowing again?

As every expense has to be justified nowadays, the pricy hiring methods are slowly making ways for the free and low-cost options. Adverts will cost, external and internal recruiters will cost lots, networking is free and referral schemes are low cost and in this case the money actually goes to employees. Networking and employee referral schemes are definitely the best ways forward for an employer. They are cheaper than the other options, they get people involved and they are often the quickest routes as well.

So what can I do to get hired?

The fast lane to a job interview is to get recommended by somebody working for the company already. If you are lucky, this may already be the case and you should make use of your contacts straight away. If not, set yourself a goal to network and get to know as many people as possible that work for the companies that you have on your target list. Make use of friends, family, old co-workers to see who knows who. Use social media to your advantage, get active and noticed on LinkedIn, personal branding so that you stand out from the crowd.

All this will take both time and effort but will pay much better dividends than any job board or daily phone calls with random recruiters. So to use a worn-out cliché, getting a job is not about what you know, it’s who you know (and who they know in turn).

What is your experience, what methods have you used and are you likely to use in the future?

Related: 3 Smart Ways to Brand Yourself in the Job Hunt Process.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.