Methods of recruitment

With the job description created, the following tables list the pros and cons of internet recruiting, press advertising, public and private sector agencies (including recruitment agencies), search consultants, social networks, unsolicited applications, and apprenticeships.

Online recruitment

General job boards and specialist sites (e.g. run by professional associations) may be particularly useful for organisations without a strong employer brand that may be unlikely to attract candidates directly to their website. Many organisations, large and small, already have a dedicated ‘vacancies’ section on their websites.

• cost-effective
• potential large numbers of inappropriate applications if care not taken drafting the job description and person specification
• can speed up the recruitment cycle and streamline administration
• a badly designed website or technical difficulties can turn-off potential applicants and damage your brand
• technology helps manage vacancies effectively and coordinates processes
• it could be seen to be discriminatory where candidates are not computer literate
• global reach, instant applications
• use of CV keyword search can also lead to allegations of discrimination.
• makes internal vacancies known across a wide range of sites and divisions

• supports branding with ‘soft’ information on workplace culture, e.g. though videos and blogs

• handles high-volumes of applications in a consistent way and records volume of response easily to feedback which phrases and job advertisements work best.

Press advertising

Specialist/trade journals, national and local newspapers are still valid methods of recruitment: people with specialist skills often look for vacancies in the relevant professional journal first, which are increasingly likely to have an online presence besides a printed edition. Recruitment agencies can often negotiate special rates with media groups.

• positively communicates your recruitment messages and brand
• high upfront costs and no guarantee of success and return on investment
• reinforces your corporate message and helps build brand awareness
• high administrative cost of sifting applications – internal time – and resource-heavy
• sends a positive message about the company’s fortunes to the marketplace
• often a slow process, especially if using trade/specialist press
• trade publications target candidates with specific skills or experience
• cluttered environment, no control over where your ads are placed within the press environment
• may encourage people to apply who were not considering moving
• limited to those who read that particular newspaper or journal
• fixed costs, although adverts may need to be repeated
•  limited tracking and reporting on success, as there is no automated/measured response mechanism in printed editions.
• many publications offer a print/online package.

Recruitment agencies

Private sector agencies that provide temporary and permanent placements.

• specialist expert knowledge of target recruitment market – particularly useful if unfamiliar to the employer – and of business sector and competitors
• one agency can mean only one database, though agencies will also advertise your positions externally on your behalf
• speed of response from dedicated staff
• less reputable firms may adopt a ‘scatter gun’ approach – sending too many candidates, some not meeting employer requirements; may also be more motivated by short-term gain (i.e. the fee) than long-term relationship
• only pre-screened and pre- referenced candidates, therefore of a higher quality
• candidates may prefer to deal directly with the potential employer
• many candidates prefer dealing with an agency rather than direct with an employer
• can seem costly – fees typically 20% of the appointee’s salary.
• minimal administration as the agency performs many of the recruitment tasks, including external advertising

• database of people who have expressed a desire to move, so able to react quickly

• agency staff can become very familiar with an organisation’s ethos and culture and source candidates who match the company and the hiring manager as well as the role

• the vacancy does not become public knowledge

• no hire, no fee, no risk.

Search consultants

Search consultants (or ‘headhunters’) may be employed when a vacancy is not to become public knowledge, usually where the post is very senior and/or there may be market sensitivities.

• specialist knowledge of recruitment market
• costly
• discretion
• limited pool of candidates (often the case at very senior levels)
• identifies the people who could do the job
• shortlisted people may not be available.
• consultant develops a detailed knowledge of the organisation

• consultant builds personal relationships with senior executives so knows at the outset likely best candidate(s).

• no hire, no fee, no risk.

Employee referral schemes

The CIPD reports this as the third most effective method for attracting applications after corporate websites and recruitment agencies for private sector companies, who use employee referral schemes (also known as co-optation or internal referrals) far more than the public or not-for-profit sectors.

• credible direct ‘sell’ of the vacancy/organisation
• limited pool of candidates
• high-quality candidates
• may distract employees from other duties
• better retention rates
• rejection of a referral may demotivate the employee who made the recommendation
• likely to cost less than other methods of filling a vacancy.
• potentially fails to create a diverse workforce, as it limits the pool which may not be representative of the external workforce overall.

Universal Jobmatch

Advertisements are placed via the government website Universal Jobmatch. 

• vacancies posted quickly
• not the first choice for the employed, especially managers and professionals
• extensive national network backed by the government
• does not pre-screen candidates
• access to potential job seekers across the European Union
• vacancies tend to be low-level.
• main services are free

• commitment to equality of opportunity – helps avoid discrimination

• helps employers access grants for hiring staff, particularly the long- term unemployed

• will provide help in sifting applications

• will help employers deal with redundancies.

Recruitment events

These can range from face-to-face fairs, often at universities and colleges to open days or webchats, where potential applicants can ask questions online.

• good way to meet a lot of people in a short space of time, cost-effective if you have numerous roles to fill
• no chance to sift candidates
• demonstrates your employer brand
• at fairs you will be competing against many other would-be employers
• increases awareness of your organisation.
• can be difficult to stand out – those that do tend to have spent most money

• query over cost-effectiveness if you have few vacancies.

Social networks

Professional networks such as LinkedIn have seen a steady rise in the number of organisations using them for recruitment, reflecting the rise of online recruitment.

• good way of connecting with the connected generations
• can blur the private and professional spheres, a problem for employers who discourage staff from discussing the company on social media
• good way of connecting with the connected generations access to a wide, virtually unlimited, network of contacts
• some organisations fail to recognise the difference between personal and professional life and have refused to interview people because of activity on social networking sites
• can build relationships with potential candidates
• labour intensive: requires the personal touch, not automated responses
• gives candidates a view of organisational culture
• some recruiters find the long- term nature of social media recruitment a challenge when compared to traditional CV gathering and sifting
• allows you to promote your brand
• a poorly managed presence may put off potential employees.
• measurable using digital analytics tools.

Unsolicited applications

The better known a company, the more likely it is to receive speculative letters from jobseekers. To develop a reputation as an ethical recruiter/employer with a strong employer brand, it’s important to establish a process for reviewing and responding to these applications in an efficient and professional manner.

• applicants have already bought into your brand
• difficult to keep track of applicants if there is nothing available immediately
• no up-front costs
• can be difficult to ascertain the quality of candidates.
• allows you to create your own database of applicants.


The number of organisations offering apprenticeships is on the increase, largely thanks to government support in this area combined with a growing appreciation by employers of the value of training and developing their future workforce, and an awareness of the employee brand benefit. 

• can develop scarce skills in-house
• time developing a scheme to ensure it meets organisational needs
• apprenticeship grants offset some of the costs
• not always suitable for candidates who are better at classroom learning.
• boosts loyalty – many apprentices go on to become managers

• commitment to community has a positive impact on brand.