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Vacant Jobs? Recruit Current Employees First

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With the tight labor market, employers are turning to their own employees to fill jobs. Even as an employment agency, we know your current employees are your best talent sources. Why? They offer you valuable R&R which, in the case, means reskilling and referrals.


Will the skills that dominate your jobs right now be useful in 5-10 years? What will happen to your top talent when the essential skills that got them hired are no longer what you need?

As digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence take over, it’s expected that 14% of the global workforce will need to switch occupational categories. For this reason, a recent survey by McKinsey Global Institute shows that executives increasingly see investing in retraining and “upskilling” existing workers as an urgent business priority. Among U.S. executives, 64% believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization alone.

Why is reskilling the key to your worker shortage? Because current employees are gold.

You know the statistics: Up to 20% of new employees leave their jobs within their first 45 days. Another 14% are bound to quit before their first work anniversary. These failed hires cost organizations tens of thousands of dollars each. Attrition for a mid-level position is said to cost 125% of that job’s salary, for instance.

If hiring the right fit was an exact science, you wouldn’t need employment agency help and multiple rounds of interviews to get it right. But it’s not. It’s extremely difficult to predict which new hires will stick around. The ones who do—who fit the company culture and help propel the organization forward—are invaluable. Why not consider moving them into the jobs you need filled the most? Skills can be taught, but culture fit and soft skills like loyalty and likability—the attributes that have kept these loyal employees around—cannot.

This PwC guide states that reskilling success first depends on your organization’s grasp of where it is and where it needs to go. “The goal is to identify gaps so you can help individuals focus on specific areas to reskill or upskill. [Then] create a real-time system that helps monitor progress over time,” the guide explains. PwC research shows that adjacencies—jobs that seem different but actually share similar skills—give workers options to shift into new roles. PwC offers this example: A skills assessment at a software company revealed that the less-in-demand graphic designer role actually shared many of the same skills as the critically needed digital marketer role.

Incubators and accelerator programs can help identify these overlapping skill sets. Many reskilling efforts also benefit from outside influences in the form of academic or technical partnerships. Mentorship and apprenticeship programs can help, too.


As the Undercover Recruiter points out, employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate: Only 7% apply but they account for 40% of all hires. Job candidates discovered through employee referrals also tend to onboard 10-16 days faster and are less expensive to recruit, stay longer at their jobs, and report better job satisfaction. What’s more, successful referrals build upon each other. According to the American Journal of Sociology, referred workers are more likely to refer future employees in return. For more on the business value of employee referrals, see this guide by CareerBuilder.

In our research, we found that 25% of an organization’s recruiting efforts should center around employee referrals. However, it’s not enough to just ask employees to “spread the word” about open jobs. A successful employee referral program needs structure. Workable offers a helpful guide that defines the attributes of a great employee referral program:

  • It clearly outlines the job requirements. Don’t be cryptic: Email or otherwise share your request with employees directly. Include the job description, but also outline examples or tips on what type of referral might be the best fit.
  • There’s a process for keeping referrers updated. Not hearing back from recruiters can make employees reluctant to refer again.
  • It rewards good referrals. Recognition or even incentives for employees who refer great candidates can ensure participation.
  • It creates a great candidate experience. No amount of referral incentives will fix a poor hiring process. If employees hear from their referrals that they had a bad experience, those employees won’t subject more friends and colleagues to future jobs.

Google offers a great a case study in balancing these attributes. Several years ago, Google doubled its already generous $2,000 referral bonus to $4,000. What happened? Nothing. The referral process was so tedious and the communication throughout the process was so poor that most employees still readily passed it up. Google discovered that money isn’t the only motivator for its employees. The employees wanted clear requests, respect, and feedback. Google refined its process with more direct and specific asks and one-on-one recruiter time. Learn more about what they did here.


Why would an employment agency tell you to recruit from within first? Because we succeed when you succeed. The truth is that a large percentage of open jobs don’t necessarily benefit from help of a recruiting partner. We’re not here to waste your time, money, and effort. In fact, our goal is to help you save all three.

By recruiting from within first, you’re shifting current and referred employees into their most intuitive roles and creating a foundation for success. You can then work with an employment agency to fill in the gaps where finding talent can be the most difficult: like when you need to fill a large quantity of seasonal temp jobs, ramp up a startup’s tech force quickly, or recruit a uniquely qualified executive to lead your organization forward.

An employment agency can also help you decide when and how to reskill versus recruit. We know the workforce trends and have tools to help you analyze that data for the best strategy moving forward. It’s all about looking inward and then seeking outward to recruit in the most efficient ways.


The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.

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