Social Networks and Tracking Source of Hire

John Sumser's Recruiting Roadshow

I got an email from someone who was not only sitting in on Steven Rothberg’s keynote Best Practices for Using Facebook, MySpace and Other Social Networking Sites for Recruiting but she was also taking notes! The question was:

Steven was talking about the data coming from our ATS being 80% inaccurate when it comes to where candidates come from. Where does that statistic come from?

I believe the number was actually higher and that Steven was referring to a whitepaper titled ATS Sourcing Data – 83% Inaccurate, talking about traditional postings. In fact, John Sumser pointed the research out in his Electronic Recruiting News column in December last year:

Having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), HR Executives wrongly assume that the sourcing data has some resemblance to reality. Yet 5 out of 6 Candidates enter inaccurate data.

To the question about who can help with accurately tracking job posting responses Steven suggested a couple of options pointing to Don Ramer in the back of the room. Don’s company Arbita — one of Atlanta’s sponsors — provides a range of solutions worth checking out and publishes a good overview titled Global Jobs Cross-Posting Solutions.

Steven also addresses the issues and related topics in an excellent post, Consolidation in the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Space.

Last, I posted a related item on RCI Recruitment Solutions’ Bells & Whistles blog called The Budget for Stupidity which has a few useful links.

If you have any questions or comments do share them please.


  1. Ami, this is an excellent post, as are the related posts.

    One of the mistakes in Pfeffer’s, HUMAN EQUATION, was the case study on Southwest Airlines. It reported that the thousands of resumes that Southwest Airlines had acquired as a company asset. I think at the time this occurred in the 90’s this achievement was an asset and also indicated the value of the Southwest Airlines Brand.

    In this age of complexity in managing recruitment, much more intelligence has to go into retaining access to a talent pool. This is the value of social network analysis as it stands today as a human art based on science and intangible accounting. There is so much for recruiting professionals and other types of HR practitioners to learn about this and teach to their C-level directors and core group. It is no longer solely electronic base and is growing into learning about the development of social media and integration of voice to voice and person to person dialogue.

  2. From another post on RCI’s Bells & Whistles called ATS Sourcing Data: Can You Trust It? — referencing the same white paper — some useful related reading:

    Surveys Don’t Work: John Sumser’s summary of Jake’s paper on Electronic Recruiting News

    Source of Employment: A Riddle for Recruiters, by Peter Weddle on

    Keeping Tabs on Productivity of Recruiting Tools, by Eilene Zimmerman writing on

    Where Do Candidates Come From?, by Jason Whitman on Recruitment Technology: Beyond the ATS

    Getting Source Tracking Right, by Colin Kingsbury on the HRMDirect Blog

    GO Jobs Enables Source of Hire Recruitment Tracking With New Open Standard, found at OnRec

    Metrics for Executives, by Randall Birkwood found on ERE

    I hope this helps.

  3. Lavinia:

    Thanks for your comment and sending me on a hunt! This is what I found…

    “Pfeffer” is actually Jeffrey Pfeffer

    HUMAN EQUATION” is a book


  4. I found Randall Birkwood’s article is quite remarkable of all the links you provided. I tracked Cisco for a number of years around culture and change, ever since John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO, went public with his view of the harm of downsizing in the 90’s and described the personal transformation he went through working at Wang. Wang was one of the company patterns I studied in my first downsizing study. I have spent as much time studying Chamber’s leadership as I have John Pepper, current CEO of Disney, formerly CEO of P&G.

    I have been reading some blogs this morning on social networking and various tools. It takes me back to the basis for my theory that if as Jeffrey Pfeffer suggests, that we put people first to build profits, this means that
    as Karen Stephenson, , Art Kleiner, (editor-in-chief) and Malcolm Gladwell, have all asserted over and over again—social networking is an art as much as a science and therefore a strategy of relationship more than a structure through which to track data.

    Stephenson work identifies the factors of social networking and articles assert the practice through which these factors are exercised. for a library on Social Network Analysis). Kleiner’s focus on building a archive of thought leadership and case studies on culture & change at has always linked how leaders, experts and people who innovate influence a culture change as a what I perceive to be a pattern of social networking that integrates with market place forces. Finally, in Gladwell’s thinking about Tipping Points and his latest book Blink—-he describes who changes in culture come to be in an instant built up through social networking.

    If we could begin to think of recruitment as an art whereby the recruiter is responsible for shaping a social network in practice where by an organization gains through the conversations and patterns that its social network weaves, in there lies a more important focus for measure on assets and roi, rather than the number of people – candidates, hires, jobs not filled and many indicators that I describe as “dead weight data.”

    The translation of this practice is what I am fascinated with and how it relates to organization effectiveness, team work and high performance, and therefore workforce planning and satisfaction. In this context, Recruiting’s role is to map and shape the workforce ecology
    ( based on company strategy and leadership objectives.

    I look forward to seeing Don’s presentation here.

  5. what kinds of the recruitments are required?

  6. Don Firth of and commissioned a study using candidates from his job boards clicking through to the ATS-powered employment pages of his clients and applying on-line. The employers used the dreaded drop down boxes sold to them by the ATS companies as “tracking systems.” An incredible 83 percent of the candidates misidentified the source.

    Keep in mind that the candidates have no incentive to accurately answer the question and often have multiple sources for a position. If their friend told them about your organization and they saw your office as they were driving by and then saw a text ad on Google and then saw a job posting for you on or any of the other 15,000 sites in our network, what is their source?

    If you don’t use a fully automated system with unique URLs (web page addresses), then don’t bother tracking the source as the data that you will receive will do you more harm than good. Data is not information nor is it necessarily accurate. Just because your ATS tells you that 28 percent come from X Source doesn’t mean that it actually does. In fact, you can pretty much count on it not being 28 percent. The ATS drop downs are that bad.

  7. This is why I took the approach of per-source email addresses for my recruiting tool, Catch the Best ( No choosing by the candidate to muddy the data — just one email address per source for automatic and accurate tracking.

  8. Steve this is remarkable good point.

    Today, (not as a recruiter), I agreed to help a colleague, who I relate to about my business plan. I also share research with him. He extended a job opportunity on and for the first time I used Linked In to assist with a recruitment.

    It is totally fascinating to watch this unfold and see how in the tracking of source of candidate, I actually can be seen and linked into conversation.

    What is not clear is how often people go outside Linked In to communicate by phone, email and other to source
    and generate potential candidates for a job.

    I have much to learn technically about all of this. The job and why I am helping is building infrastructure and mapping through out my entire social network of outreach and I learned in 10 minutes the value of my network to this company.

    Up until now, I have not had ways to test this.

  9. On today John Sumser pointed to a piece published on that further develops the conversation about the problem with dropdowns. Worth a look

    I also came across this on, Drop-Down Glitches Undermine Accuracy:

    Rule No. 1 for those counting on accurate source-of-hire information: Don’t assume that applicants will remember how they found your company.

  10. Source of Hire:

    Again through social network analysis, can you trace the hub of expertise or grouping of people through which you communicate potential jobs.

    Do you know the gatekeeper of the hub who recommendes you as a good employer and knows your company?

    Do you know a pulsetaker who has a handle on what will help you attract the right person from the right network?

    I have yet to find a software program that can tell me that story.

    Now this is the story you need to trace and be aware of for hiring intelligently a workforce that is people responsive and technically in the know.

    If you want “arse’s in seats at desks or bodies with muscle to put product on shelves” that may be more difficulty.

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