One of the first questions recruiters often ask candidates is how they heard about the position. In recruiting, we call this the source of hire. This is the source from which the candidate came to apply for the position. More specifically, the source of hire is simply the source that led directly to a job application. But what lead the candidate to that source and what was it about the source that motivated the candidate to apply?

Job candidates are discovered through a variety of activities and sources: job ads and postings, social media postings, tweets, job fairs, e-mails, resume databases, networking, outreach, direct calls, referrals, LinkedIn, job boards, etc. You get the idea. Job seekers and potential job candidates are all around us and there are a multitude of ways to identify and attract talent to your organization.

When HR professionals refer to the metric source of hire they are most interested in the specific source that led to the candidates job application. The thinking is that if we know the specific source, then we can focus all of our recruitment efforts on those sources and eliminate spending money on all the other sources and recruitment activities.

As it turns out, the source candidates often list as the source of hire is not always the only source that led them to apply or the source that most motivated them to apply. Here at The WorkPlace Group we are able to track the recruitment channel that drove the candidate to us. For example, we can see that a candidate clicked on our job posting and then applied to our recruiter position. However, their job application might list referral as the source of hire. In this very common example, which source would you count as the source of hire? Was it or referral? Objectively we know it was However, the most influential source that motivated the candidate to apply was likely the referral.

How Does a Source Come to Attract the Attention of Candidates?

Lets start with the basic concept of priming. Psychologists describe priming as a memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences response to a later stimulus. Two important aspects of priming are perceptual (first noticing the stimulus) and conceptual (attaching meaning to the stimulus). Priming is one way we come to associate words and symbols like the name of your company with its logo. For example, when you see the Golden Arches you know its McDonalds or if you hear the slogan Just Do it you think of Nike.

Priming is like effortless thinking – through repeat exposure to the pairing of words, symbols, and slogans, we come to automatically recognize, attach meaning and respond to them. For example, have you ever had the experience of feeling like you noticed something unique for the first time (like a car you are thinking of buying) and then all of sudden you notice it (the car) everywhere? The thing you never noticed before now seems quite common. You came to recognize it automatically, almost as automatic as breathing. It is so familiar that you no longer have to dig into your memory bank to recall it.

When we advertise job opportunities on multiple sites, across social media, through direct emails, networking and calls to candidates you get the idea we are priming candidates to respond (Van Hoye & Lievens, 2007). To prime the right, qualified candidates we need to repeatedly expose candidates to our job opportunities as well as manage the message so the right candidates respond and apply.

Create Positive Memories for Candidates

Candidates are more likely to apply to subsequent job opportunities and refer others to do the same when they are repeatedly exposed to positive messages about your company from multiple sources (Turban, 2001). Recruiters not only have the chance to expose candidates to the job or company, but they also have the opportunity to create positive memories for the candidates through positive recruiting efforts. In other words, the ball is in the court of the employer and recruiter when it comes to creating a positive recruitment experience and employer brand messaging for the candidate (see How Important is the Candidate Experience During the Hiring Process for more on this topic).

Consider the Value of All Sources of Hire

Rather than a source of hire, consider sources of hire. Identify sources that facilitate links to your career site or job application versus sources that influence or motivate candidates to apply in the first place. One without the other is like the chicken and the egg adage of what came first: some say the chicken, others say the egg. In either case, both are relevant, and without either, you wouldnt have a chicken – or in the case of recruitment, an applicant.

Recruitment analytics can help determine which sources are working for or against your investment. The WorkPlace Group has extensive experience working with recruitment analytics and helping clients determine where recruiting budgets should be focused in order to maximize each dollar spent. For more information about how to incorporate strategic recruiting analytics, please contact a WorkPlace Group associate today at

Works Cited

Van Hoye, Greet, & Lievens, Filip. (2007). Social Influence of Organizational Attractiveness: Investigating If and When Word of Mouth Matters. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 37(9), 2024-2047. (

Turban, D. (2001). Organizational Attractiveness as an Employer on College Campuses: An Examination of the Applicant Population. Journal of Vocational Behavior. 58, 293-312.(

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