The 8 Best Untapped Sources for Quality Applicants

If you’ve read our 2022 Recruiting Metrics Report, you learned that custom sources are a ridiculously underrated source of high-quality applicants. 

We define “custom sources” as websites beyond the major job boards where employers post their jobs. A custom source can be specific to your location, your industry, or the job seeker niche you want to target. 

Our data shows that while the major job boards produce the vast majority of applicants at 72%, only 1% of those applicants actually become hires. Compare that to customized sources, which only produce less than 1% of applicants overall, but a staggering 22% of those applicants become hires.

To put it another way: Applicants from custom sources are hired at a rate 17 times higher than applicants who come from job boards. 

And while these niche custom sources produce high-quality applicants, many small business owners too often neglect to target them because they don’t always provide the volume of a major job board. 

But consider this: Is the problem really that you need more applicants, or that you need better applicants? After all, you’re not posting a job to win a prize for most applicants received; you’re posting a job to make a hire.

As our data shows, it’s worth the time and effort to develop a recruiting strategy that doesn’t rely solely on the major job boards. Custom sources can be your secret weapon when it comes to proactively sourcing higher quality candidates. In this article, we’ll share our suggestions for the best sources of high quality applicants.

1. Industry-specific job boards

Job seekers on the major job boards tend to be applying to many jobs in short order, sometimes with little consideration about their fit for the role. Much the same way employers look to these major job boards for a high volume of applicants, applicants look to these job boards to provide them with a high volume of job opportunities. 

On the other hand, industry-specific job boards attract candidates who turn into hires at a greater rate. Examples of these include myCNAjobs for the home healthcare industry, for insurance agents, and Culinary Agents for restaurant jobs.

Savvy job seekers think outside the box and actively search for opportunities off the major job boards. These candidates who take the initiative to better understand the professional landscape of their industry tend to be more motivated to seriously pursue a career in that field.

If you’re unfamiliar with the industry-specific job boards for your business, you can start your research by simply typing into a search engine: “[your role] jobs.” For example, a search of the term “mechanic jobs” will first bring up the results of the major job boards like Indeed and Monster, but if you scroll a little further down in the results, you find a job board called Technician and Mechanic Jobs

example of industry specific job board

CareerPlug’s Senior Director of People, Natalie Morgan, advises: “You want to be where job seekers are looking. Try to match what job seekers are searching on Google and take their perspective into account. If they’re searching for a particular job title and area, what’s showing up for them? Which sites are they most likely to be visiting based on the top search results on Google?” 

2. Local job boards

Local job boards get the attention of employers and job seekers with a keen interest in their own communities. There are fewer “eyeballs” on these posts than a major job board, but oftentimes that means that your job posting has more visibility among the candidates who are there.

Facebook is one easy place for employers to begin their search for local job boards. In the “Groups” section of Facebook, just search “[Your City] jobs.” For example, here are the first few search results for the term “Portland jobs.”

how to find job groups on facebook

Note that each group has several thousand members, making it a viable option for sourcing candidates who are active in their communities. These groups are also a great way to network with other local business owners and keep up with the local jobs landscape.

Communities may also have job boards through their local chamber of commerce. And they’re usually not quite as difficult to uncover as you might think! A quick Google search for “job boards in [your area]” – or a phone call if you’re the chatty type – can point you to some great local sources of applicants.

“If you’re in a more rural area especially, people often use local job boards more than the bigger national job boards. I live in a very rural community and the newspaper is still a big source for job listings!” says Natalie Morgan.

3. Niche job boards

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a priority for many businesses in 2022 – and one that’s long overdue. There’s plenty of evidence that proves diverse companies perform better. This has led to the growing popularity of niche job boards aimed at proactively recruiting job seekers within target demographics.

A few examples of niche job boards include:

This is just a small sample of the niche job boards available. Our advice is to get creative with your searches. For example, if you’re hiring for a remote role, consider finding a job board that caters to remote workers. Motivated job seekers are applying to jobs on these lesser-trafficked sites in addition to the major job boards. 

4. College and university job boards

Are there any community colleges or universities in your area? Businesses that hire a lot of part-time or seasonal employees can find eager applicants in students who often benefit from the part-time or flexible schedule of those roles.

If your business is more interested in hiring full-time professionals, you’ll find plenty of fresh graduates to recruit from universities as well. For example, the University of Texas has an alumni job board called HookedIn (get it, like LinkedIn, but for the Longhorns?).

Email your local universities’ career centers and alumni associations for more information on how to get your jobs in front of these bright-eyed young professionals.

5. Craigslist

Yup, good ol’ Craigslist. Believe it or not, you can find a lot of high-quality candidates on the same website you can find used jet skis for sale. In fact, our data shows that Craigslist is still a very successful source of hires for many of our clients. 

One thing to keep in mind when you post to Craigslist: even though the site has a reputation for casual postings with questionable grammar and spelling choices, make sure that your job posting is as professional as it would be on any other job board. High-quality job seekers will notice the attention to detail and professionalism of a well-written Craigslist posting.

6. Employee referrals

Our data finds that an applicant who applies from a referral is 18 times more likely to be hired than an applicant from a job board. Candidates who are referred by existing employees have already been served with the ultimate form of social proof – a friend or acquaintance who’s endorsed your workplace. 

Furthermore, most existing employees want to protect their reputations, so there’s a good chance that any candidates they refer are high-quality. In this way, your own employees serve as a great built-in candidate filter. Studies also show that employees who were referred by existing employees stay longer at a company than those hired from other sources.

Source: Scoophealth

For more information on how to source candidates from employee referrals, check out our guide, The Complete Guide to Creating an Employee Referral Program.

7. Customer referral emails

There are some industries — like restaurants, retail, and fitness to name just a few — in which your customers and your potential employees have significant overlap. People who know and love your brand will be motivated to apply to your business when they’re on the job market. 

If your business already has email marketing initiatives designed to sell your services, consider using this same channel to tell your customers about new job opportunities. You’ll find an enthusiastic applicant pool and candidates likely to be a good culture fit

Scott Kinworthy, Franchise Owner for F45 Training, has seen great success asking his customers for referrals: “The same way that you would reach out to your client base and call them for referrals, you can talk to your client base about who are some great people they’ve interacted with in the fitness industry and ask them for employee referrals. Make announcements before and after classes. That’s been very successful for us. For example, saying, ‘We’re trying to attract great people. We’re always hiring superstars, so if you know of anyone, please send them our way.’ And that’s been great.”

8. Social media

Someone who follows your brand on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter is already engaged with your brand on a personal level. Glassdoor reported that 79 percent of job seekers use social media when conducting their job search, and the ones that reach your channel are likely to be more invested in your brand and more enthusiastic about an opportunity with your company. Go ahead and post a link to your job posting on your social media profiles. It’s free and easy!

Lastly, you should always post to your personal and company LinkedIn profiles, where you’ll find an audience primed to learn about professional opportunities. LinkedIn is also designed to create reach beyond your immediate sphere of influence. When someone in your network engages with your post for a new role, their connections will see that activity, exposing your role to more professionals who may be interested.

Webinar: Using Custom Sources to Attract Higher Quality Applicants

For an in-depth analysis of custom sources (and how to use your CareerPlug account to track your custom sources), check out this half hour webinar recording from CareerPlug’s Senior Director of HR, Natalie Morgan.

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