Strong recruitment success done mostly in-house without the use of a recruiter?

Has anyone had strong recruitment success done mostly in-house without the use of a recruiter?

We have been trying to fill an engineering team lead role for six months. It’s a pivotal role to the company and the candidate must be chosen with care. The role is unique because we are looking for an engineering manager who can plan, structure, and guide the team while still contributing on a high-level technically (30% planning and leadership / 70% hands-on coding). The ideal candidate has 5-10 years of industry experience and has previously led a team before. Essentially, we’ve been looking for candidates in a “sweet spot” of their career.

We have been focusing on recruitment without the use of a recruiter. We conduct outbound consistently each week and have explored the use of LinkedIn, AngelList, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and the Stanford Alumni board with a total of less than 100 candidates in six months. We use Lever to manage our funnel and have had the most applicants from our Job site (33%, original source unknown), free LinkedIn postings (29%), and Paid LinkedIn (19%). However, the outbound emails sent by our CTO (6% of applicants) have made up 33% of our strongest candidates. We offer a $2k referral bonus. Results overall haven’t been what we want them to be and we’re curious if anyone else has been in a similar role.


Seems like you realize that internal referrals are your strongest source. Now it’s just a question of how to get those referrals coming steadily, doesn’t seem like your $2k bonus is getting it done.

In order to consistently get employees to think about your open roles and submit referrals there must be a better incentive on an ongoing basis. I suggest offering a weekly raffle for “qualified referrals”. A qualified referral is one that gets a phone screen. Weekly prizes could be electronics, gift cards etc.

We found that the number of referrals grew drastically when there was incentive and reward for referrers and not only for finding the actual employee.

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I have hired many roles without the use of an external recruiter. It all comes down to marketing the role correctly and growing the number of internal referrals (which are usually the best candidates).

With marketing the role, look carefully at the job advertisement. Specifically don’t spend too much saying what “you” want, and instead much sure there is a large focus on what is in it for the candidate. Why is this their dream job? Why is this going to be good for them? What career progression will they have? What influence will they have? etc.

Growing internal referrals requires that existing employees really want to have their friends & acquaintances work along side them. To get the best results I have found you internal employees to be highly engaged, and a sufficient bonus in place.

I hope this helps!

When it comes to supercharging your internal referrals, consider lightening the “lift” for your referrers. The less work they have to do, the more likely they are to connect you with people.

Here are a couple of techniques I’ve seen work well:
•Ask for names and limited contact information only, rather than requiring resumes. Have your internal team go through the process of finding the referrals and reaching out.
•Allow referrers to be anonymous. Sometimes people are reluctant to refer people who are happy and killing it at their job–but those are exactly the people you want.
•Set up time to brainstorm names together. Rather than sending out a blanket email requesting referrals, set up a half an hour on their calendar to have a recruiting/sourcing “hackathon” of sorts.
•Ask your referrers some pointed questions to help them generate names: -Who was the best manager you have ever had? -If you could assemble a dream team of past coworkers, who would be on that team? -Who was considered a top performer at XYZ ? etc.

Hi Alison

I think there a few things to think about here. Firstly what is more important; find the right person AND not use a recruiter to do that, or is it just find the right person?

This is where cost/benefit comes into play. Recruiters can be very inconsistent, though if it is a tough role to fill then they can also be very valuable. The main advantage they have in my view is that they get to see a much broader market of people in their sector, than a an single company. This in itself does not mean they will be a very good recruiter though it is a great start. They can also influence people in those markets vs. other benchmark opportunities. Again comes back to finding a good recruiter which can do this. If they are not working on the opportunity then they won’t be influencing the candidate market. So it may be worth using two channels to market and finding a really good recruiter to run alongside the internal channel.

To provides some thoughts around your initial question, I’d look at what the candidate market is telling you about the role and try and get those pointers as to whether the way the position itself is constructed is attractive. It is specific to suiting a manager for 30% of the time. 70% technical. This sounds like it may be more a Team Lead role and perhaps the match up in terms of expectation vs what the market is perceiving may be why it has been hard to fill. It sounds like you are doing a lot of all the basic approaches in a positive way.

As for the referral it seems a bit low. For your employees to truely help you augment candidate sourcing for the organisation, then you need to find the right value level of money or they are just excited by the organisation they go out of their way to source and refer people. Sounds like it may too low for that to work as well as it could.

Good luck and hope it helps!