Measuring Word-of-Mouth in Recruitment: Source of Source of Hire.

When I led a discussion last week on social media in recruitment – one of the challenges that marketers and directors within recruitment organisations experience – is putting a measure on social media activity. I wrote about Social Selling recently, but what is the effect of good social media marketing and business presence?

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You see it cannot be a blunt measurement like ‘we got this hire through Twitter’, and tick a box. That’s too basic. We advise that organisations should have content and presence across all relevant channels; and that social media is not a post & pray environment, but one where you build a profile of credibility and visibility. There’s a degree of consistent and subliminal marketing to it; rather like why brands still spend large portions of budget on billboard advertising. Pretty un-measurable stuff, that has a combination of variable speeds of impact across different channels.

But of ‘Source of Hire’ is a phrase we hear about. When we collect data on the candidate’s way in, we often ask “where did you hear about the job?”; or indeed track the link of where the application came from. Easy measurement.

However, I’m not convinced this sufficiently tells the story.

“Your website” is sufficient for your website manager to be proud; but insufficiently accurate to denote the actual source of hire. What directed someone to the website? Equally, when someone quotes “recommendation”, well great, that’s awesome for company profile stats – but, from where and why did that recommendation come? Are tracking this.?

The actual source of hire, therefore is the SOURCE of the source of hire.

To get a good one-dimensional idea of how effective our marketing is – we can measure direct source to apply/hire. But in doing so, we merely support our website portals and basic application behaviours. If we really want understand how our marketing, especially across social media marketing; is working, then we need to consider how word-of-mouth behaviour takes place and where the key activators are.

So who is sending people to our jobs? The reality is, that the source of source of hire, is rarely a platform – which most metrics would ask us to measure impact from – but instead it is a series of people. Social Media marketing is not so much about platforms – it’s about the people who use those platforms and working out their behaviours, and attempting to influence their decisions.

Taking that a step further then, identifying the people whose behaviour on platforms is sending people to our jobs, or to our website to raise a query; is pretty important right?

These, ladies & gentlemen, are called your advocates. Yes, if you have strong brand and word-of-mouth working for you in this way, then you have advocates. Offline and Online. Sounds nice. But we will never know who these people are, unless we start to look at asking for the source of the source of hire.

So what of them? What of these ‘advocates’ I speak of, or ‘activators’ – that places like McKinsey call them. Well there could be many of them, but they are pretty special people. They willingly, without reward or intent of thanks, recommend you as an organisation or recruiter – maybe because they have had a good experience, maybe they support your online presence, maybe they can just see you are a credible player in their field. They are a channel of leads, candidates and also quite likely, new business. And, they have influence – they influence the behaviours of others to act. Yet, more often than not, recruitment teams rarely venture to find out who these people are.

Well, I propose that when you get working on your Social Media presence; you start to understand these people.  Start asking questions beyond the obvious, and recognise who ignited the relationship.

Then what? – Well don’t ignore the people who have been recommended– they deserve a dose of VIP treatment whether you can place them or not. And start to spend some more time appreciating your advocates – they are your non-paid, all-willing external sales people. We always schmooze our clients and key candidates; but never think to understand or reward the people who deliver us both. They are often your Source of the Source of Hire, and can become a part lifeblood to your business without even trying. 


Steve Ward has just ended a 21 year career in the recruitment agency industry, and is a Social Recruiting Strategist, Trainer & Retained Consultant. Integrating Social Media into actual and natural day to day processes within agencies and in-house to impact inbound business & candidate flow is his specialism. Please do drop a line to request how he could work with your recruitment team or marketing function. 

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