Blended Sourcing, Part 2: Tracking

My previous article on blended sourcing looked at the concepts and principles of blended sourcing: combining high-touch sourcing techniques, like personal networking, that have deeper individual penetration with high-yield, scalable sourcing techniques, such as job boards. As a review, here is our simple source list with examples of high touch vs. high yield sources on this continuum. A blended sourcing approach should have a good mix of both high-yield and high-touch sources.

In this article, we’ll focus on tracking a blended source program to help you allocate your sourcing efforts most effectively. What to Track In the words-to-live-by category, “What gets measured gets done.” Most companies have some form of source tracking, but there is always a percentage of sourcing efforts that don’t get tracked, either because it’s too hard to track or because there is no process set up to do the tracking. There are four basic characteristics that are desirable for source tracking:

  1. General source (e.g., job board, university, agency)
  2. Specific source (e.g., Monster, Princeton, Best Staffing, etc.)
  3. Event (e.g., campus interview day on 10/20/03, newspaper ad #2018, local oracle users group meeting, etc.)
  4. Cost (e.g., per ad, per event, per posting)

Once you have captured at least the general or specific source, then you can have fun with metrics such as:

  • Number of candidates per source (this does not speak to hires or quality, so be careful)
  • Number of hires per source (by job category, by geography, by job level)
  • Number of interviewees per source
  • Sources for highest potential or highest quality hires (these are often high-touch)
  • Sourcing cost per hire

All of these source details are not possible for all organizations. The best way to approach tracking is to start simple, with the overall general source. Costs are important to capture any time (more on that upcoming). For general sources, I’ve seen exhaustive lists at some organizations, and others that were very general. Work with your team to come up with a list that reflects your general avenues of sourcing. Just be sure to include high-touch sources if they are part of your practice. This list should not exceed about 20 categories, but the fewer the better if possible. In the old days, “Internet” used to be a general source. Now Internet has splintered into several general sources, such as job boards, corporate career sites, news groups, third-party resume databases, etc. Make sure your general list is easy to upgrade and change as you watch your source trends. In addition to your corporate website, examples of high-touch general sources could be professional association events, recruiter networking, non-professional events (such as sporting events), and others. Specific sources may only apply to some general sources. Event-level tracking may also only apply to some sources (such as campus career days) and not others (such as job boards). High-touch source tracking is less obvious than high-yield source tracking. Here are suggestions on building out your source list:

  • General = Recruiter Networking (Headhunting)
  • Specific = Competitor Name
  • Specific = Magazine article (other media announcements, like wedding, graduation, etc.)
  • Specific = Personal Contact (could be any person met in life ó for example, at the grocery store, a party, a movie, a community event, etc. ó that the recruiter has been able to gain information on through their own networking ability)
  • General = Professional Association
  • Specific = Local Oracle Users Group
  • Specific = Regional Chapter of Mechanical Engineering Association
  • Specific = Local Chamber of Commerce

How to Track If your organization has the support of an HMS or enterprise staffing solution that integrates and measures a number of sources for you, half your battle is won (if you utilize the functionality). If you don’t have access to any automated source tracking, then you will have a manual challenge on your hands. However, there are things you can do to track sources. For automated source tracking, the first rule is garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t get the information in the system, you don’t get to report on it. Automated source tracking can actually be more reliable in some cases than a verbal indication from a candidate. Many candidates really don’t remember where they first saw the job. In a study I read on radio advertising, a company put a “radio-only” job on a particular radio station, yet those who responded to the ad were later interviewed and many said they saw the ad in the newspaper. With automated source tracking, your objective is to have the “unknown” sources at zero percent. With that objective in mind, here is a checklist to make sure you have processes in place to track all possible sources:

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  • Be sure to add source tracking on your careers site. Make it a simple question and have a selectable source list that a candidate can easily understand.
  • Be sure to add source tracking for candidates entered manually into the system. Make sure there is a place to attach a source to the candidate. Sometimes data input roles are not close to the process, so make sure everyone understands the source list. Recruiters handing paper to any support person should note the source somewhere on the candidate paperwork. Ideally, there would be some type of form if this is a manual process.
  • Be sure your resume processing operations (either internal or outsourced) that handle batch email and paper resume entry understand the source tracking procedure thoroughly. Have a process in place for unknown sources. Make sure the cover sheet for resume processing clearly states the source for the operators to decipher.
  • Ask the candidate during the interview to check if their source recall is the same as was tracked in the system. In some cases, you will update the system to the correct source.
  • Try to use the “freshest” source available for that sourcing effort. There is a benefit to tracking “initial source” as well as “most recent” source. But in general, most systems report off the most recent source.
  • Track source as early as possible in the process. If the source is still unknown by the time you get to the offer stage, it is unlikely you will get an accurate one at this point.
  • Utilize job board features that help you track sourcing. Some job boards offer automation that may help your organization track sources, whether you are stripping references from a return email into a source field or having the job board’s apply page return to your career site, with the job board already filled in the source field.
  • Evaluate your sourcing metrics at least once per quarter. Print out the names of the unknown sources and go directly to each recruiter for the information. You can even phone each hire to complete the source information.
  • An ATM or HMS source tracking report is good if it reflects ALL the sourcing activity. If not, then the results of this report should be combined with other ad hoc data to give the truest and fullest picture of sourcing activity possible.

For manual source tracking, formalize a process that each recruiter must follow and review it regularly. This could include a master source list that tracks candidates on individual Excel sheets, a code to put in the Outlook subject line, or a checkbox on a form that goes in with candidate file. Designate someone to consolidate sources on a quarterly basis. When the source metrics are tracked, there must be an analysis for two primary reasons:

  1. The good sources that yielded the most consistent hires combined with the most quality hires need to be identified so recruiters can continue to provide a qualified pipeline for the organization. One caution here is that some good source pools do dry up, so top sources don’t always stay on top.
  2. Dollars need to be allocated and budgeting decisions need to be backed up with the best data available.

Analyzing and Budgeting Sources Budgeting is sometimes done once a year on projected source expenditures. The past results as well as the future needs must be evaluated in determining budget. Keep in mind, continued efforts to leveraging your brand will help reduce source costs overall. Here are myths and guidelines to look out for when budgeting your source program:

  • Myth #1: The bigger the better. Just because a source yields a lot of hires, that doesn’t mean it should be the pivotal point in the source program. The source that brings on the key players and highest quality for your organization is equally important.
  • Myth #2: Last year’s successful sources should be duplicated for next year. Even if you’ve identified five great sources for last year, it doesn’t mean these will work for next year. This could be due to organizational focus, such as geography, mergers, acquisitions, or labor or job market conditions, or the stability of the source itself (such as a teetering job board).
  • Myth #3: Wipe out all the poor performing sources. If sources, especially high-yield ones such as a job board, don’t meet expectations, don’t break ties with the majority of your sources and try all new sources in the same year. Remove one or two job boards and reserve money to introduce one or two new ones to try (like niche boards) instead of changing your job board list completely.
  • Myth #4: Keep the budget the same, just change the sources. The budget should align with your organization’s goals. If there is a management decision to decrease agency or newspaper spending in the next year, then dollars to those sources should be shifted or reduced and other creative source expenditures should be on your list.
  • Myth #5: Just spend on the hard sources. A blended source program should be reflected in the budget. Softer sources, like association fees or fund-raising events, are harder to predict and quantify. But you should still make sure some money is reserved for recruiter networking activities, such as attending conferences or lunches. How much would it encourage administrative recruiters to step up their networking activity if you handed each one a $1,000 budget each year?

Tracking Costs Finally, when thinking about sourcing costs per hire (not to be confused with cost per hire), there are some challenges. For example, job board contracts don’t always align with how companies track costs; financial information on agencies may be maintained by procurement or accounting areas, not the recruiter; expenses for ads placed by the ad agency may reflect more than one job per ad, etc. When tracking costs, it is not often possible to track the nickel and dime transactions for each hiring activity (although for a smaller organization without large budgets or diverse sources, this may be a reachable goal). To help obtain some idea of costs, use a sourcing cost per hire metric. This metric requires analysis of, let’s say, a year’s worth of hiring activity. Some fees are fairly straightforward and can be tracked easily through accounting records such as agency fees, etc. Others, such as job board hires, could take some computation, such as the Overall Investment / # of hires = sourcing cost/hire. Example $20,000 / 10 = $2,000. This type of calculation may be needed for several source categories. With all these costs, it should be noted that 1) there are candidates not yet hired that the source may still produce, and 2) the quality of the candidate is a different factor, and costs should not be assessed in a vacuum. These are some ideas that you can put into place to help develop, track and evolve a blended sourcing program. I welcome any of your ideas and comments on this constantly changing topic.

Gretchen Sturm ( is Knowledge Manager of Services with Recruitsoft, the leading provider of Internet-based recruiting solutions for major corporations. She manages the implementation, eLearning and product knowledge transfer for Recruitsoft's consulting services and global client base. Her career has focused on integrating technology into the full hiring cycle and establishing effective Internet recruiting strategies. Previously, Sturm managed the recruitment technology and online recruiting areas of the Unisys worldwide recruiting team and oversaw recruiting technology and sourcing for CIGNA Corporation's US-based operations.