9 Ways The Digital Era Has Impacted Talent Sourcing

I believe in the “why” before the “how.” The “why” in this conversation is why it seems that everything has changed in talent sourcing? The tried and true doesn’t seem to work. For example, creating a job description that presents a “challenging opportunity with a world class organization” does not generate the advertising traffic we expect. Those talent sourcing hacks that were so incredibly precise just don’t bring back the same results. That email that always gets the prospects’ attention and creates the initial conversations result in only silence. Finally, gone are the days that we can fill the prospects heads with all sorts of puff pieces or PR articles advocating our employment brand.

In simplistic terms, the social revolution that ushered in the digital era has been very disruptive to talent acquisition. The digital era offers a fast-paced, chaotic, and ever changing environment in which talent sourcing must operate. Instead of just allowing us to continue or to improve existing processes, the social revolution changed the very foundations of talent attraction. For example,

  1. Instead of being in charge of our brand and its message, the target talent determines our talent brand based on how we treat them. Ouch, is nothing sacred.
  2. Instead of being able to tell target talent about our job, our culture and our talent brand, talent now research us online and make up their minds about us before they even apply for a job. Sites like Glassdoor & Indeed are have become must visits for job seekers.
  3. Instead of trusting our self-aggrandizing corporate messages, the social testimonies of complete strangers are more influential that great wordsmith’s that we employ. This user generated content is not to be taken lightly as the candidate experience becomes the differentiator between us.
  4. Instead of being able to use job boards and internet advertising to find candidates for our jobs, that once a foolproof method is now referred to as “post and pray.” Unfortunately, most of our prayers are going unanswered.
  5. Instead of being able to send an email to a prospective candidate and have them respond to our “great opportunity that is perfect for them,” now must think about how to build trust and a relationship with target talent using content that is valuable and relevant to them. Does anyone else miss the days of “spray and pray?”
  6. Instead of being able to post a job on a couple of websites and have job seekers read them, we now need to publish our jobs adverts on as many as 18 digital channels that talent might use in their job search. Today’s job seeker is more social and expects us to be as well.
  7. Instead of being just posting a job advert on an internet site, we have entered the age of recruitment marketing which requires that we emulate consumer marketers. In order be competitive as well as, gather useful metrics, we engage in the traditional marketing approaches such as SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), PPC (pay for click), retargeting, inbound recruiting, and programmatic advertising to pushing our messages into the digital channels. Things are definitely getting more complicated.
  8. Instead of just being able to create a message to our target talent audience, we now need to pay attention to a multigenerational workforce. No more one size fits all in messaging.
  9. Instead of being able to think of just active and passive candidates, we now need to think about at least four categories of target talent-active, semi-active, passive and those that are not interested at all. Mapping relevant content to the target talent status is the key to success.


The role reversal of the social revolution that puts the target talent in the driver’s seat in this digital era.  And as drivers, talent expects certain things. They want to draw their own conclusions about an organization without being influenced by biased messaging. They expect transparency into the organization in order to understand what is really like to work there. They do not want their time wasted, so only are reviewing information that is relevant and valuable to them. They anticipate being able to discover the “real organization” by reading comments, insights, and experiences on the digital channels they frequent. Rather than nostalgically recalling what used to work and lamenting why this is happening to us, the challenge for talent sourcers in the digital era is to work out how to adapt to the disruption.

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How does talent sourcing in the digital era integrate this new thinking and methodology of our target talent into our daily practices? The “how” involves digging deeper in the available data/information, asking additional questions, implementing a repeatable talent sourcing workflow, crafting messages that resonate and nurturing long-term relationships with target talent. That is the topic of another discussion.

Marvin Smith

Marvin Smith is veteran talent acquisition practitioner who focuses on strategic talent sourcing, talent community building, social recruiting, employment branding, and the use of technology to drive talent identification and engagement strategies. He has been on teams that were at the forefront of resurgence of talent sourcing as a strategic weapon in talent acquisition. These teams piloted groundbreaking programs (ERE-Media-award-winning) work that used business intelligence, data, and technology to segment the target talent audiences and build talent pipelines and communities. His current role is a strategic talent sourcing consultant with Lockheed Martin, where he is responsible for talent pipeline building for critical skills talent; project management of a RMP (recruitment marketing platform); and driving corporate-wide, talent community initiatives. Previously, he served as senior research recruiter on an internal executive recruiting team with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a strategic sourcing program manager with Blackberry (Research In Motion); and a talent sourcer/program manager for Microsoft. He is a writer and speaker on the topics of talent communities, strategic talent sourcing, Moneyball sourcing, and talent acquisition strategies. You can follow his blog or join a community that he created on talent community development or follow him on Twitter.