Recruiting: Chop Advertising Costs

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February 2009 CoverVictoria Johnson, PHR, tried traditional recruiting routes; she posted positions with some of the high-profile job sites. But the experience didn’t produce any hires.

"For the money we spent with the ‘big boys,’ we weren’t getting the quality and results we needed," says Johnson, director of human resources for Fellowship House, a not-for-profit psychosocial rehabilitation center in South Miami, Fla. "We just had to get more creative."

The 35-year-old organization—formally, the Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Center Inc.—employs 156 and annually serves about 850 adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Johnson mainly recruits for professional social work and mental health counseling positions requiring at least a bachelor’s degree in human services.

Other factors added to the need to change recruitment tools: As mental health systems move from a fee-for-service approach to a managed-care model and as new Medicaid rules mandate a minimum of one year of experience with the targeted population for case managers, service organizations compete for a select pool of applicants.

"It seemed prudent to find more-economical sources to access a large but selective applicant pool and find new and better ways of getting our positions noticed among job seekers," Johnson says. So she now employs a three-tier strategy of tapping nontraditional recruiting sources—most with a cost-effective spin:

Free or low-cost resources. Fellowship House posts jobs on; on the local market site of, where it runs continuous ads for high-turnover professional positions such as case managers and counselors; and through the One-Stop Career Center’s Employ Florida Marketplace, a free, state-sponsored workforce services resource, where Johnson says she fills professional, administrative, transportation and maintenance positions.

College contacts. Representatives attend career fairs three times a year at local universities, where they attract entry-level and experienced professional candidates. Liaisons with the universities’ career centers serve as some of Fellowship House’s key recruiting relationships, Johnson says.

Internal tactics. Johnson supplements these resources with in-house job postings, incentives for employee referrals, employment postings on the organization’s web site and internships. These easy-to-use, relatively inexpensive tools bring in applicants, she says.

Bottom line: "The ROI [return on investment] for the minimal-cost sites is beyond excellent," she reports. "It may take a little more work going through the resumes for qualified candidates, but the ones chosen for interviewing better suit our needs, while reaching a larger pool of applicants for much less expenditure—both in time and money."

The results: $45,000 in recruitment advertising savings from 2005-07, and at least $5,000 in savings during 2008, according to Johnson.

Will these tactics work for every organization? No. For example, a company that needs technically trained employees would more than likely benefit from trade-related resources. However, Johnson says that "most companies could probably use these sites with ease and reduce recruitment costs dramatically."

Re-evaluate and bolster all strategies, suggests Peter Weddle, chief executive officer of Weddle’s LLC, a Stamford, Conn.-based research and publishing company specializing in recruiting.

"There’s some dealmaking going on," he adds, and HR professionals "should be proactive about asking for deals with recruitment sites," for example, perhaps asking for a one-year discount rate on a six-month contract.

In addition, he recommends developing existing assets such as resume databases and candidate referral programs as well as leveraging and improving corporate career Internet pages.

The current drive for cost reduction, Weddle says, shouldn’t displace long-term goals and strategic plans. "Companies that have invested smartly will rise ahead when times are good once again," he concludes.

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