Chris Russell

3 min read


What are the 3 Types of Recruitment?

From job board postings to employee referrals, texting to talent pools, twitter announcements, LinkedIn messaging and scouring lists of conference attendees, these are just a sample of how recruiters try to attract candidates.

As varied and creative as these tactics are, for our purposes we’ll sort them into three broad, yet basic types of recruiting:

  • Inbound
  • Outbound
  • Internal

These may appear to be distinct methods of recruiting workers, and they can be. More often employers use all three, announcing openings on company intranets to encourage internal applicants and employee referrals while simultaneously posting to job boards and reaching out to previous candidates and others sourced from business and social networks.

Let’s take a deeper look into each of these categories.

Inbound recruiting

In its simplest and most basic form, recruiters post openings to job boards and then review, rank and select candidates from the resumes and applications they receive. 

Referred to as “post and pray,” this type of reactive recruiting – reactive because recruiters react to the incoming applications – now is part of a broader and sophisticated recruitment marketing program.

Inbound recruitment today is a year-round strategy that begins with building a strong employer brand. It’s a program of continuous attraction and awareness that encourages the best talent to want to come to work for you. As they apply – even without a specific opening – they become part of a pool of talented people already interested in working for you. Then as jobs come open, recruiters tap the pool inviting candidates with the right combination of skills and background to take the next step.

A solid inbound recruitment strategy includes showing what it’s like to work for the company, demonstrating the organization’s sense of social responsibility and providing an objective perspective on employer review sites.

Posting jobs, participating in job fairs and college recruiting and similar recruitment tactics are all part of a comprehensive inbound effort.

Outbound recruiting

This type of recruiting is sometimes called sourcing, even if sourcing specialists insist the term should only be applied to them. It involves searching for people with special skills and unique backgrounds for jobs that are particularly hard to fill simply by posting a job ad.

When the inbound effort fails to produce the right kind of talent, or the job is especially unique or senior, a recruiter will go hunting. They are looking for passive candidates, the people who aren’t job searching and might not even be considering a job change. 

More than a few studies tell us that 75% to 85% of professionals fall into the passive category. These are the candidates most coveted by employers for reasons both understandable – no one else is competing for them, and if they are working for a competitor, all the better – and less realistic – they must be good otherwise they’d be looking. 

Finding these passive candidates may be as simple as searching LinkedIn and texting them a compelling message. (Texting gets a much better and quicker response than email or voicemail.) 

Or, as is true in more cases, sourcing for especially challenging positions – the most difficult are called a “purple squirrel” hunt – may take weeks and involve scouring conference attendance and speaker lists, academic paper authorships, association directories and dozens and dozens of contacts. 

Once potential candidates are identified, the second step is to convince them to become applicants. That involves skills closer to sales than to recruiting. Though the statistics on converting a sourced candidate to an actual applicant run as high as only 1 in 30, the ratio of hire to sourced applicant at 1 in 43 is much better than for inbound candidates.

Internal Recruiting

Of all sources of hire, internal recruiting has historically been the weakest. That’s changing as employers recognize the value of promoting workers already familiar with the company culture and procedures and who have a verifiable work record.

Many years ago, the tech company Cisco surveyed its entire workforce to inventory the skills and talents of each employee. Not only did Cisco want to know about the talents they use on the job, but what other skills and abilities did they have. The company then used this information to recruit first from its existing workforce.

More commonly, recruiters will simply post job opening notices internally. A majority of companies, including many SMBs, have referral programs that pay a bonus to employees for recommending people who are later hired. Other companies leverage their alumni networks for this same purpose.

The biggest challenge to internal recruiting is the reluctance of managers to part with their best talent and their eagerness to suggest the less able. To get around that problem, smart employers provide incentives to managers for mentoring and nominating employees for promotion.

A combination of all three

As we said earlier, at all but the smallest companies, recruiters employ all three methods in their efforts to find and hire talent. Building a positive employer brand and showcasing it on the company website and social media not only helps attract quality active jobseekers, but helps convince the passive workers your source to join the company.

And no recruiter should overlook the top talent that may be working right down the hall.

About Emissary

Emissary is a candidate engagement platform built to empower recruiters with efficient, modern communication tools that work in harmony with other recruiting solutions.

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