Find Employees: The Ultimate Guide to Maximising Applicant Attraction

In this article I discuss how to attract applicants, and how to attract enough of them to test whether your Great Performance Profile is realistic. This increases your chance of filling your job vacancy.

Use Multiple Applicant Attraction Channels

It’s important to attract enough applicants – to have good Applicant Flow – in order to accurately assess if your Great Performance Profile is realistic. You achieve this by using multiple Applicant Attraction Channels simultaneously.

Each Attraction Channel has a direct cost of advertising or an indirect cost of your time (which may be more valuable!). You may need to pay more for specialist and senior applicants because there are fewer of them available, and certain roles bring more value to a company which means a higher salary.

Unfortunately, I often see employers making poor decisions when choosing Applicant Attraction Channels and so failing to generate enough Applicant Flow. In this article you’ll discover the pros and cons of the various channels. There’ll always be trade-offs between the time needed to find and shortlist candidates, the monetary cost of attracting applicants and how long the recruitment process takes. There’s no perfect one-size-fits-all solution – be wary of anyone who claims otherwise!

Use the Correct Order of Applicant Attraction Channels

I’d like to suggest a specific order of Applicant Attraction Channels.

I recommend beginning with employee referrals and employer career pages. Employee referrals are often slow to deliver results, so it makes sense to get the ball rolling early, and these cost little except a small amount of your time. While most small businesses don’t have an employer career page, if yours does it makes sense to advertise the job there as it costs almost nothing and you might get lucky.

After this, move on to job sites or to a flat-fee recruiter. Both are quick and relatively cheap sources of candidates. The most important thing is to work with enough job sites or the right flat-fee recruiter to ensure that your job advert has sufficient coverage, as jobseekers can be almost anywhere. Flat-fee recruiters may also offer additional services such as writing job adverts and filtering CVs, which can reduce the hassle of recruitment.

Then, promote your job through social media by linking to the job advertisement on your employer career page (if you have one) or job site. You can also ask employees to share a link to the job advertisement on their social media profiles (a form of employee referral). For senior and specialist roles, you may want to consider using LinkedIn.

Only turn to recruitment agencies once you’ve exhausted all the other Applicant Attraction Channels or if you have an urgent or confidential requirement. You may be thinking, “Why not use recruitment agencies immediately because they don’t cost anything unless I get a candidate?” There are three main reasons:

  1. Recruitment agencies mainly use the same job sites to attract applicants – and so are likely to have access to the same applicants as you do – but if they submit a CV to you and you later find the same applicant through a job site, you’ll have to pay the job site and the recruitment agency if you want to employ that person. I regularly see this happening, and it’s an expensive mistake!
  2. When a recruitment agency finds you a great applicant, they might submit the same candidate to your competitors in order to increase their chances of earning a placement fee. This may cause increased competition that drives up salaries and, correspondingly, recruitment fees.
  3. Given the choice, candidates often prefer to apply directly because they feel more in control of their application process. There’s also a certain distrust felt by jobseekers towards recruitment agencies, largely created by the minority of salespeople who put their commission before candidates’ careers.

Similarly, you may want to consider headhunters if the talent pool is very small and easy to identify.

Creating relevant and high-quality recruitment blog content can be a slow but occasionally effective way of recruiting over the long-term.

Advertising with the Job Centre Plus, may help you find applicants for blue-collar workers. But don’t be fooled by the free job advertising, the cost is the amount of time you waste with irrelevant applicants.

Job Fairs and Career Fairs are generally a waste of time unless you have a significant and immediate hiring requirement.

Finally you may want to use an HR consultancy to take over your entire recruitment process.

Common Exceptions

The main exceptions to this order are in the following situations:

  • Recurring roles. If you regularly recruit replacement staff or recruit for a growing organisation, I recommend continual recruiting using as many channels as you can. This means you’re under less pressure when an employee leaves. In this situation, advertising anonymously with varying advert copy is a good idea, otherwise jobseekers might think you have a high staff turnover and be put off applying.
  • Time sensitive roles. For these, I recommend trying to source directly without external support for a week and then going to third parties. This ensures you’re not paying unnecessarily for recruitment agencies to send you active applicants that you could easily find yourself.
  • Confidential roles. I jump straight to job site advertising and flat-fee recruiters using anonymous adverts.
  • General retail and hospitality roles. I typically start with a “help wanted” advert in a shop window with a clear call to action about how to apply. Be careful not to damage your consumer brand, though: I’ve seen restaurants advertising for chefs with “no experience required”, which as a potential customer makes me want to find somewhere else to eat!

Avoid These Applicant Attraction Channels

It's also worth mentioning what I recommend avoiding:

  • Newspapers and industry magazines. The fortunes of printed media have suffered with the advent of the internet. As jobseekers started going online, advertising revenue followed them. A few publishers have managed to cling on because of their reputations and many have set up their own job sites. But it’s one thing to write great editorial content, quite another to run a successful job site.
  • Games. You’ve probably seen the likes of MI5 and the armed forces create elaborate games to attract and assess applicants for certain roles. These are often dreamt up by advertising agencies trying to reinvent themselves. They generate a lot of press but waste resources and lead to few hires. This is because solo-player games with a known end point don’t help identify team players who are good at activities with uncertain outcomes. And while the “winners” may be brilliant in one field, they may not have the skills needed for another.
  • PR. Recruitment is about filling jobs, not developing brands or inflating egos. Whilst this technique may work for big brands (eg. Tesco, 2021), your brand is probably not newsworthy enough.

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment