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Where Companies Look for Workers

by Ron Kurtus (updated 17 December 2021)

People seeking jobs should know how companies go about finding prospective employees to hire to fill a vacant position. Companies have a specific sequence in filling positions, usually starting with trying to hire from within. As a last resort, they place an ad in the newspaper. Job-hunters usually look for openings in the reverse order that employers use to find workers.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Sequence used by companies

Companies start with the easiest and most reliable sources. Then the move to more difficult, expensive and less reliable methods. The sequence is:

  1. Hire from within
  2. Hire through a known source
  3. Use an agency
  4. Hire through ads and postings

The following explains those methods

1. Hire from within

The first thing a company does to fill a vacant position is to try to hire from within. They will seek to transfer or promote an existing employee. Sometimes they may hire or reassign a temporary or contract worker who is currently on assignment at the company. The reason to hire from within is that the person is a known quantity, knows the work and people and is familiar with the corporate culture.

2. Hire through a known source

If the company cannot find a worker from within, they will seek someone through a referral from a partner company, former employee, or respected worker. Sometimes the candidate is a person the manager has already met and likes personally. Occasionally, a highly qualified candidate with a proven track record and portfolio of prior work may contact the manager and arrange an interview. The advantage to hiring a person through a referral or with a proven record is that it is the next best thing to being a known quantity.

3. Use an agency

If the company cannot hire from within or through referrals, they may use the services of an agency. For higher level jobs, they will use a search firm, contract agency or employment broker to recruit and screen outstanding candidates. For lower level jobs, they will review resumes submitted by employment agencies. If they know the agency, they can assume some filtering is done before the applicant material is sent to them.

4. Hire through ads and postings

If the company cannot find a suitable candidate from within, referrals, or agencies, they will purchase classified ads and/or post jobs on the Internet. Since they often will then receive hundreds of responses, they usually use their personnel department to filter out most of the resumes.

Many of the people responding are not qualified. Also, the company sometimes assumes that these people will settle for lower pay, especially since so many have responded. It is a time-consuming process for the employer, so they would prefer to use the previous methods if at all possible.

Common method used by job hunters

Most job hunters typically scour the classifieds and Internet job listings, looking for places to apply. They often send out numerous resumes, getting only few replies and even fewer interviews. In general, answering ads is a difficult route to follow. But that is not to say people do not get jobs from answering ads.

Using an agency has the advantage that many specialize and often have an inside track on what is available. But in some cases, agencies will not use proper discrimination in sending out resumes. Some even have poor reputations with companies since they also use the "shotgun approach" in sending out resumes.

A better strategy

About 80% of jobs are filled through other means than answering ads or using an agency. You can find which companies need your services by research and by networking or talking to people. If you can approach a company through a referral or with material to show you can satisfy their specific needs before they have to start placing ads, you have a much better chance at getting hired.

Unless you are looking for your first job, you should be making preparations months or even years before you will be seeking a new position.

This means getting to know other people in your industry, both within your company and working for other companies.

Harvey worked at Hughes Aircraft for a number of years. Often when a project was over, a department would downsize, so it was necessary to be aware of the situation.

Whenever Harvey met someone he vaguely knew around work or in the cafeteria, he would say a few words. Often he would bring up, "How are things going in your department?" Then he would provide either, "We've been pretty slow lately" or "We've been hiring lately", depending on the situation.

In this way, he knew where to go within the company, if he needed a transfer. He also was helping others with his information.

If there is a professional organization or association, it is good to attend their meetings and get to know other people. The same is true for those in a labor union or guild. You don't have to be friends with these people, but they should become familiar with you.

Friends, family and even those on non-work-related organizations may be able to help.

After Danny was fired from his job, he had a tough time getting another. He answered many ads with no luck. He mentioned his dilemma to someone he knew from his church. Danny's acquaintance told him to call Acme Steel and use him as a reference. The job paid less than his previous position, but at least he was getting paychecks again.

It is good to be able to have someone to call for a possible job lead.


Companies prefer to hire from within or hire known quantities. They use agencies, newspaper ads, and Internet postings as a necessary evil. On the other hand, job seekers usually start looking through the want ads. It would be better for them to seek referrals or approach companies with a proof of their track record.

Be persistent in your efforts to get a job

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