Street Cred: Simple Strategies to Stop Sucking At Sourcing.

I started out my career in sourcing; in those days where active job seekers mostly started at the major job boards, finding the names and developing the contact information for potential candidates actually required skill.

The task of building a pipeline or slating final candidates for a position through direct sourcing was made easier by the nascent search engines and the early destinations for online personal information (like Jigsaw, MySpace or LinkedIn in its infancy).

Even back in the day when Boolean was more than a passé buzzword or superfluous sourcing subject, when even e-mails still had some novelty factor and the only mobile recruiting you had to worry about was sourcing and verifying candidates’ cell numbers (before phones were ‘smart,’ we were dumb enough to still pay for landlines) – even then, with online recruiting more or less still in its greenfield days and without the noise or competition talent pros face today, you couldn’t rely on the internet exclusively for candidate identification and development.

The problem with the sourcing conversation today is that recruiters largely see the internet as the end goal of online recruitment advertising and employer branding. This ignores the fact that when it comes to online recruiting, only the means really mean anything. The internet is just a tool, but in fact, the end goal for online recruiting isn’t generating impressions, improving click through rates or driving conversions, really.

That’s one step, sure, but at the end of the day, the only real recruiting goal is to hire the best qualified, interested and available candidate on the market. The rest of this stuff is window dressing, horse shit or a marketing ploy. Promise.

As ubiquitous as it is to recruiting, no matter how mainstream or mandatory the internet has become in every hiring process, platforms have never actually made a single hire in the history of ever. You need more than a platform to close a candidate – you need the right person overseeing the offer and onboarding process.

This is why sourcing remains so relevant, mission critical functions, even in an age of increasing information overload, commoditization of communications and cutthroat competition for candidates.

The ability to strategically identify and engage talent remains the single biggest competitive differentiator in recruiting efficacy, and is the foundation upon which the success of the entire talent acquisition function is built. Even though it’s not as tough as it once was, it’s still impossible to recruit, receive referrals or build a relationship with a candidate you haven’t actually sourced yet. First things, first.

Sourcing is one of those skill sets that you continue to use even after you leave recruiting – and just as relevant if your new job, like mine, involves generating marketing qualified leads. I’ve used dozens of Chrome extensions, CRM and ATS plug-ins and I’ve experimented with pretty much every social network or search engine over the past decade or so – and all I know is that things might have drastically changed online, but the same basic best practices for finding just the right candidate just-in-time (or anytime) remain the same as when I first started out in recruiting.

You don’t need to Ask Jeeves to know how important developing, executing or optimizing these 10 Candidate Sourcing Commandments are for your recruiting success – consider them your greatest asset for finding the “greatest asset” at every company. Just please, never actually say that cliché in any conversation with a candidate or in any recruiting collateral, online or off – the “greatest asset” metaphor is more hackneyed and inane than a poorly researched, highly speculative Top 10 post about talent attraction best practices.

Please to enjoy.

5 Simple Strategies to Suck Less At Sourcing.

1. Look for the Long Term.

the_source_91-avril_97-2-skeudsNo matter what position you happen to be sourcing for, if you only look at each candidate’s’ resume or social profile in the context of an active search, then you’re forced to more or less reinvent the wheel with each req. If you only look for specific matches for narrowly defined position descriptions, then there’s no point in building a pipeline, period – when you live for today, post and pray is always OK.

It’s no secret that recruiters rely on LinkedIn (maybe even a little too much) because it makes sourcing pretty much idiot proof by providing a single, ostensibly reliable source for candidate information and communication.

Although 92% of employers report to recruiting on LinkedIn, that same convenience comes at the cost of diminishing returns and recruiting ROI. Recruiters need to realize that LinkedIn is just a candidate database, the same as any job board, talent community, CRM or applicant tracking system – and every database a recruiter has access to can be more or less leveraged like LinkedIn.

Every interaction you have with a candidate, irrespective of where you sourced them, is the door to an entire network of second and third degree connections – which is why even if a candidate isn’t right for right now, they not only might be for another role someday soon, but know somebody who’s a better fit for your open opportunities.

You never know what might happen, which is why it never hurt to at least have a conversation – particularly if you’ve established the candidate has the sufficient skills or experience to actually be placeable someday, even if that’s not today. The best candidates don’t have a defined shelf life, which is why recruiters need to remember that opening doors is just as important to recruiters as closing reqs, and building relationships always beats qualifying candidates for a single position. Period.

2. Be Selective With Your Submissions.

wutangsource97Recruiters tend to think that taking the time to direct source, screen and soft sell a qualified, interested candidate who isn’t knocked out because of comp should automatically be submitted for consideration – once we establish a candidate meets a certain baseline, the standard process is to send their resume or social profile for the hiring manager for consideration.

But even if you can quickly figure out the perfect fit, here’s a crazy thought – don’t ever send in the first 2-3 qualified candidates you source or screen when starting a new search. Seriously. Hold your hiring horses, already.

The reason why you shouldn’t just pull the trigger on submitting a matching candidate too quickly is that finding qualified candidates quickly isn’t the goal – it’s our jobs to source and recruit the best candidates, even if that takes longer than simply submitting the first few fits you find.

Statistically speaking, there’s no chance in hell the first two or three people you find also happen to be the best possible candidates available – the math here should be fairly obvious, big data be damned.

With 5 finalists on the average slate, you should look at sourcing and screening at least two or three times that magic number before stack ranking and submitting the top candidates to your hiring manager.

10 or 15 qualified candidates might sound like a lot for many reqs reliant on direct sourcing, but the thing is, you’re not looking for just talent, but top talent, too, which is why recruiters should submit no more than half of all your qualified candidates (hence the minimum 10 choices for every slate of finalists). Top talent doesn’t live in the bottom 50%, and that’s the bottom line.

3.  Never Settle On A Single Source or Search.

No matter how good you are at building Boolean Strings or how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans you might have, no matter if you’re recruiting for the same role you’ve already filled a hundred times or starting out on your first ever search, it’s impossible that you’ll be able to completely exhaust the possibility of uncovering more qualified candidates in any searchable database, search engine or social network. Seriously.

Even if you had found every single needle in the haystack, how could you know that a better potential hire might not be setting up his LinkedIn profile or reading your company’s Glassdoor reviews at this exact moment?  Unlikely, sure, but not impossible. This is why it’s imperative to understand that sourcing never stops, and our jobs aren’t over when we get close an offer or onboard a candidate.

If you think you’ve exhausted all the talent pools, social networks and search strings out there that could potentially lead to new hires, well then, think again.

4. Give the Benefit of the Doubt.

img043The candidates you’re sourcing and engaging likely aren’t professional writers or content marketing or branding experts, which is why you should always give a poorly written resume or social profile the benefit of the doubt. Your goal is to make them stick to their day jobs, any how, so their copywriting skills are likely largely irrelevant when it comes to anything related to your recruiting initiatives.

Whether you’re recruiting registered nurses or certified public accountants, network administrators or project managers, a senior leader or a recent grad, the one thing that no recruiter ever looks for, ironically, is a professional resume writer or personal branding consultant.

Sure, there are a lot of them out there, but you’re recruiting for highly skilled, hard to fill, mission critical roles, so who cares whether their objective statement is succinct enough or not? Why would you ever knock out a potential rock star for something as subjective as having too many pages on their resume? Seriously.

Putting your best foot forward and optimizing your personal brand (not to mention correctly formatting a resume or creating compelling profile copy) is never easy.

But it’s even easier for many candidates to omit professional experience, leave out a relevant project or skill or use the exact keywords, acronyms or industry jargon as the position description you’re sourcing for.

This means that if recruiters are specifically looking for a narrowly defined set of criteria or a sourcing strategy is predicated on searching through a rigid list of associated keywords or phrases, it’s all too easy to assume that a candidate who doesn’t explicitly mention a specific role or responsibility fails to meet at least one defined prerequisite or minimum qualification and disqualify them, even if the rest of their background looks like a perfect fit.

Candidates are simultaneously told that they need to keep their resumes and profiles tight and terse while also making sure to be completely comprehensive when outlining prior roles and responsibilities. At some point, one of those best practices has to give, and many obvious omissions are, in fact, the result of selective editing, not insufficient experience.

Just like you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a candidate based on their resume, search results or social profiles alone. Give them the benefit of the doubt and if everything else looks like it matches up, then give them a call, too.

Besides, you shouldn’t screen on what a candidate has done in the past alone, but also what they’re capable of in the future. A single qualification like experience with a specific software package or industry vertical should never be the sole reason to stop considering top talent, anyway. That’s why you have learning, development and performance management for in the first place.

Never forget that no one hires a profile or piece of paper. We hire people.

5. Look Before You Leap.

2015-08-18_11-12-06In recruiting, we too often mistake inaction for inactivity, but when it comes to sourcing, there’s an appreciable difference.  That’s why instead of just jumping into a search headfirst with nothing more than a spec and some search strings, taking a step back and actually creating a scalable, sustainable sourcing strategy is almost always a good idea (and almost always ends up saving time and effort in the end).

Hard to fathom, but you don’t have to do anything but be thoughtful to be doing your job – and if you’re building a pipeline without having a plan, then you’re really just doing the direct sourcing equivalent of posting and praying – submitting shit to see what sticks is the oldest game in the recruiting book.

But even though you can polish a turd, you can’t make it shine – and you can’t shine in sourcing without some sort of formal strategy informing your efforts.

Sure, we’re all busy, and most of what we know about recruiting we’ve learned from experience anyways.

But I’m telling you now, if you don’t spend a minimum 15 minutes analyzing search criteria to at least know what you’re looking for and what alternative search terms might get you there, once you not only know the type of candidate you’re looking for but where to find them, if you don’t take at least a stab at seeing who in your network might be able to help generate referrals or spread the word through their professional network, then you’re screwing yourself.

And wasting a ton of time spinning your sourcing wheels finding leads instead of meaningfully engaging with them, which is imminently more important when determining recruiting efficacy and ROI. The more time you spend on the front end of the search, and the more detailed your sourcing plan, the more relevant your search results are going to be and the more productive you’ll be when sourcing and screening a potential slate of submissions. With a plan, you’ll find more candidates more quickly while costing less money and taking less time to fill open jobs. Which is kind of your only job as a recruiter, anyways.

Sure, you can source without following these essential steps or adopting any of these proven best practices into your sourcing process, but remember that anyone can source a name. It takes a recruiter to turn that name into a real person, and ultimately, a real hire for a real job – and that’s really all that matters, really. For reals.

Read more at Fistful of Talent.

5 Comments on “Street Cred: Simple Strategies to Stop Sucking At Sourcing.

  1. Аw, this was a really nice post. Spending sоme time and actual effort to
    create a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot annd never seеm to
    get nearly anything done.

  2. Very nice thought process here. These are the things we all know we just get busy and in the moment, and don’t put in play at times. Thanks for the reminder!!

  3. Pingback: An Ashley Madison Themed Blog - Prominence Weekly News - 21 August 2015 - Prominence

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