The 5 ways employers prefer to fill a position

And what you should do about it.

Consider this scenario. On Friday the position of Sr. Engineer is announced internally. All employees who want to apply need to submit a résumé detailing their qualifications COB on Monday.



Three people feel they are qualified and hurry to update their résumé over the weekend, save for one who doesn’t have a résumé, has never written one. He’ll have to learn how to write one quickly.

By the end of Monday, when résumés are due, the VP of Engineering shakes the hand of the new Sr. Engineer, who is told to keep this promotion under his hat until the staff meeting on Friday.

The VP wants to receive the résumés, just to make a good show of it. She winks at the new Sr. Engineer as he leaves her office. Again, keep this under your hat, he is told.

This is not news to many people who have witnessed one of their colleagues suddenly be appointed to a coveted position in the company. The more senior employees—those who’ve been around for a while—are least surprised by this move.

Generally speaking, there are five ways employers prefer to fill a position.

One. The scenario above is the most preferred way employers fill a position; from within the company. Ideally they have someone who can fill it quickly and with little fuss. Is it fair to the unemployed outside the company? No.

Unfair to the unemployed, but companies have one thing in mind, filling the position with a safe bet; and who’s safer than someone they know?

The hiring manager is familiar with the abilities, and inabilities, of the company’s employees. As well, promoting from within builds good will in the company. An employer that promotes from within is a good employer. So this is a win-win situation.

Two. The second way employers prefer to fill a position is by taking referrals from their own employees. In some cases the employer will reward the employees with a monetary bonus for referring a person who sticks for, say, three months.

When I was in marketing, I referred my cousin to an IT position in a company for which I worked. I recalled years before how he spread the word of his unemployment at a family gathering, so I brought this up to the powers that be. The CIO read my cousin’s résumé, invited him in for an interview the next day, and offered him a job that day.

I was rewarded one thousand dollars, minus four hundred for taxes. I’ve heard of people who received as much as ten thousand dollars for making a referral. Of course the level of the position to be filled matters.

I never would have referred my cousin unless I was confident of his abilities, which is the case with most employees making a referral. People like me don’t want egg on their face if the person doesn’t work out, even if said person is family. By the way, my cousin worked out extremely well.

Three. At this point the employer has tried his best to find an internal candidate or someone recommended by his employees. Nothing has worked out and the position has to be filled yesterday.

His next move is reaching out to people he trusts outside the company. The employer may reach out to former colleagues, partners, vendors, even people who’ve left the company for greener pastures (boomerang employees).

He trusts these people because they know what he’s looking for in job-related and soft skills. They’re the best bet he has at this point.

A recent survey by revealed that 40% of hires were from referrals, which made up of only 7% of sourcing efforts. This is significant, given the other methods used and makes one wonder why employers are wasting their time on, say, job boards.

Four. When requesting referrals doesn’t work, the employer’s next step is hiring a recruiter. This is less desirable than seeking referrals because recruiters are expensive (as much as 20% of a candidate’s first annual salary), but palatable because recruiters are more knowledgeable of the industry. article talks about the two types of recruiters, retained and contingency. While retained recruiters work strictly for the employer and are more knowledgeable of the industry, the contingency recruiters only get paid when they find the best candidates.

The employer’s cost for hiring a recruiter can range from 15-25% of the applicant’s first year salary. A hefty chunk of change.

Either way, the employer is paying for a few candidates to be delivered to the table. It’s still a risky proposition. Referrals are still the desired source of candidates for the reasons stated above.

Five and finally last. Now it’s desperation phase, because this is when employers advertise their positions. There are two major problems with advertising a position, cost and uncertainty of hiring the right candidate.

You may think that it’s the cost of advertising online is the major concern, but it isn’t; the cost employers feel the most is the time spent reading résumés and interviewing unknown people. When I ask former HMs, who have read a great number of résumés, if they like reading those résumé, approximately 98% of them say they don’t.

With applicant tracking systems in place, you’d think the process would be more manageable and pleasant, but this isn’t the case. For some, reading 25 résumés is reading 25 resumes too many.

Even with the advancement with the ATS, poor candidates get past and make it to the interview. What many recruiters and HMs are experiencing are candidates who are not qualified and, in many cases, have embellished their accomplishments.

What do you do as a jobseeker?

The obvious answer is to become a referral by reaching out to those you know in a desired company. This sounds easier said than done, but the steps you take begin first with determining which companies you’d like to work for. And, most importantly, why? Create a list of 15 target companies.

Next identify people at said companies who can be of assistance. LinkedIn is ideal for this, as most hiring authorities are on LinkedIn. Make use of your online time by using the Companies feature and do advance searches. Work your way up by connecting to people on your level. Also, connect with people who used to work at the company; they can give you some insight.

Remember the number two way employers prefer to fill a position? When you find someone who works at a desired company, fairly late in your conversations, ask if her company offers an employee referral bonus. This would be a great incentive for said employee to refer you to a position, providing she has faith in your abilities and character.

If you were an outstanding employee where you last worked, friends of your employer will come to you. I see this often with my best customers who land jobs based on their personal branding. Former vendors, customers, partners, and colleagues reach out to them.

Attend industry groups where people who are currently employed are networking for business. You are there to offer your expertise either on a paid basis or as a volunteer. You are prepared with personal business cards and your personal commercial. It’s my opinion is that the best people to be with are those who are employed.

One of the best places to network is in your community. You never know when you could run into someone who knows someone who works at one of your target companies. Most important is that people know about your situation and that you’ve clearly explained what you’re looking for.

When you least expect it, your lead will come to you. One of my former customers was approached by his neighbor who had heard my customer was out of work. His neighbor took my customer’s résumé to the HM of the company he worked for. Days later he was interviewed for a position.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on applying online and waiting to be brought in for an interview. You must become a referral.

Photo: Flickr, Roger Braunstein


1 thought on “The 5 ways employers prefer to fill a position

  1. Pingback: 4 tools employers use to make the hiring search easier for them | Things Career Related

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