Print Ads Make a Minor Comeback

Recruiters who think that print media advertising is going the way of the dinosaur could be in for a surprise, according to findings from the CareerXroads 2006 Sources of Hire Study. The report, which surveyed 40 “name-brand” companies, each with a workforce population of more than 5,000, reveals that print advertising is reversing the downward spiral that plagued the industry for many years. Collectively, the survey participants employ nearly 1.3 million people and filled 188,062 positions in 2006. About 35 percent of those jobs were filled internally.

Survey respondents cited print advertising as a recruitment source for almost 7 percent of their external hires in 2006, up from 4.6 percent in the 2005 survey.

“Those are the highest numbers that we have seen for print media in a decade,” says Mark Mehler, principal at the Kendall Park, New Jersey, recruiting consultancy. The upward trend is partly explained by the alliances between job boards and publishers, which enables them to use the two platforms, he explains.

In addition, Mehler thinks that recruiters are increasingly becoming more aware of the need to cast a wide net.

“Job applicants aren’t just going to rely on a single source to get their job,” he says. Print advertising is more effective when it comes to recruiting employees for hourly positions, as those job seekers are more likely to first turn to the newspaper when looking for work.

Despite the uptick in print, by far the highest source of external hire is referrals. Nearly 26 percent of new hires in 2006 were referred, almost overwhelmingly by the company’s own employees. Company Web sites were the source of hire for 20.7 percent of new employees, up markedly from 12.2 percent in CareerXroads’ 2005 report but about on par with the consultancy’s 2003 report, when company Web sites accounted for 20.6 percent of external hires.

The resurgence of print media is not the only burgeoning trend that the study uncovered. It appears that a small but growing number of companies are beginning to experiment with buying search engine advertising. This entails purchasing a key word—such as “chemist” or “nurse”—that an employer believes candidates might type when conducting an online job search. Survey respondents report that 2 percent of all external hires can be attributed to search engine advertising.

Mehler believes that companies will continue experimenting with purchasing key terms on search engines like Google and Yahoo. “The mere fact that companies are beginning to collect data on search engine advertising is an indication that something is emerging,” he says.

The survey also sheds light on “boomerangs”—or the rehiring of former employees. Survey participants report that 5.4 percent of external hires were actually former employees.

“It used to be that a bridge was severed once an employee left a company,” Mehler says. “This is clearly not the case anymore.” He anticipates that there will be a surge in alumni networking initiatives.

This is the first time that CareerXroads has collected data to measure search engine advertising and rehires since it began administering the annual survey in 2000. The company asked the questions in response to feedback from clients and its own industry observations. “It could be a barometer for what we can expect in the future,” he says.

Regardless of what novel recruiting strategies the future may hold, there is one constant that employers can’t lose sight of—the importance of internal transfers and promotions, which accounted for more than a third of the positions filled in the survey.

The lesson is that companies need to continuously strive to improve training and succession planning strategies, Mehler says. “Their well-being depends on internal mobility.”

Gina Ruiz

Click here to read the full 2006 Sources of Hire study from CareerXroads