Hiring teams have two main applicant sources at their disposal: Organic Source of hire and Inorganic Source of hire. Organic sourcing is ‘open’ to any job seeker with internet access and a resume. They include Online Job Boards, Company Career Sites, and LinkedIn Job Posts. Inorganic Sources are ‘Closed Networks’ only available to certain job seekers. They include Referral Programs, Prospecting, and Internal Sources.
Organic Sources enable hiring teams to cast a wide net and reach a large number of qualified job seekers. Inorganic Sources enable hiring teams to narrow in on certain qualified job seekers. Hiring teams use both Organic and Inorganic Sources to attract applicants. However, they don’t necessarily hire from both sources in proportionate measure (i.e., in proportion to the number of applicants they attract).
For this report, we collected hiring data directly from over 10,000 employers for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Looking solely at technology jobs, we analyzed the data for trends. We found that Organic Sources accounted for the vast majority of applicants to tech jobs overall. Yet Inorganic Sources often accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of hires.
→ Although 80% of applications for tech jobs came from an Organic Source of hire, nearly half of all tech hires came from an Inorganic Source of hire (e.g., Sourcing, Referrals, Third-party Recruiters). In fact, referred applicants were 9x more likely to get hired than applicants who applied on Company Career Sites.
→ Unsurprisingly, Mid-level hires (typically requiring between four and 10 years of experience) and Senior hires (typically requiring 10+ years of experience) were most likely to come from Prospecting. Meanwhile, Junior hires (typically requiring fewer than four years of experience) and Entry-level hires (not typically requiring prior work experience) were primarily Organically Sourced.
→ Information Technology (IT) Support, Quality Assurance (QA), and User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) Design were the job types most likely to hire from Organic Sources. Meanwhile, Backend and Frontend Engineering were the least likely to hire from Organic Sources.
One noteworthy trend we found in our analysis was an underrepresentation of Organically Sourced applicants in hires. Organic Sources accounted for the majority of applicants to open jobs. Despite that, they accounted for less than half of all hires.
The preference for Inorganic Sources can get in the way of hiring teams’ diversity and fairness goals. Inorganic applicant pools are often closely tied to employee networks (e.g., Referral programs). They risk exacerbating inequities in tech hiring by excluding large swaths of qualified job seekers outside of these networks.
In our analysis, we used a ratio to gauge whether hiring was skewed towards or against particular sources. The representation ratio we used suggested whether an output matched its input (i.e., applicants in, hires out). A value of 1 suggested similar source representation in hires and applicants. A value of less than 1 suggested that this source under-performed in hires relative to its proportion of applicants, and a value of more than 1 suggested higher source representation in hires compared to applicants.
Applicants from Organic Sources were less likely, overall, to get hired than applicants from Inorganic Sources. The data showed heavy bias towards Inorganic applicants. In fact, prospected applicants were 4x more likely to get hired than applicants to Company Career Sites. Referred applicants were 9x more likely to get hired.
Hiring teams heavily favored Referrals, regardless of the seniority of the job. We expected Senior jobs to skew towards Referrals at the highest rate, but it was actually Junior jobs that did. The data showed that Referrals were 5x more likely to get hired for Entry-level jobs than applicants who applied on the Company Career Site.
We also found that hiring teams favored Prospecting for Mid-level and Senior jobs. And that applicants who applied directly to Company Career Sites were almost twice as likely to get hired than applicants from LinkedIn Job Posts or job sites like Indeed.
We also found a couple of trends when we looked more closely at source of hire by seniority level. The data showed that Organic applicants had a better-than-50% shot at getting hired for Entry-level and Junior jobs. But their chances dwindled as required years of experience rose. Hiring teams increasingly relied on Prospecting and Referrals when looking for Mid-level applicants. When hiring for Senior jobs, Prospects and Referrals had a significantly higher chance of getting hired than Organic applicants.
Software engineering jobs, across Frontend and Backend, tended to have the lowest proportion of applicants coming from Organic Sources. These jobs also relied on Prospecting the most.
Conversely, IT Support, QA, and UI/UX Design jobs relied on Organic Sources the most and Prospecting the least. QA jobs also tended to have the fewest hires from Prospecting.
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