I am a SourceCon veteran – in fact, since the conference began in 2007, there are only two events I’ve missed. I’ve enjoyed watching the content evolve over the years, from humble beginnings that were more heavily focused on the “dark arts” of sourcing, to the institution of SourceCon After Dark, to the split-out of Labs, Fundamentals, and Leadership tracks. The event is, in my opinion, the best way for your collective team – from leadership down to the newest, greenest sourcer – to get hands-on education from people who are actually doing the stuff they are presenting on. (granted, I am a little biased!) This spring’s event was particularly beneficial to me, for a number of reasons. Number one: I am a new people manager so I have a new perspective from which to learn. Number 2: I am part of the Seattle-based Sourcing 7 non-profit, whose members led all of the Lab sessions, and I am extremely proud of our local sourcing community. And Number 3: we are really focusing on candidates, which should be the case because this is very much a candidate’s market right now.
To summarize some of the key take-aways I got from attending SourceCon, I would like to break things down into three action-items to which I think every sourcer, recruiter, leader, and vendor should be paying very close attention.
We need to listen better to our target audience. One of the most memorable presentations from SourceCon was a panel discussion led by Glen Cathey, which was comprised of five technical professionals who took time away from their jobs to spend an hour sharing with attendees the things they do and don’t like about recruiter engagement. A few comments really stood out from this panel:
- “I’m more likely to respond to your outreach if I’ve first met you at a hackathon [or insert any other kind of industry/functionally related event.”
- “If you want me to move across the country, please consider a plan for my spouse as well. They have a career, too.”
- “Most recruiters forget they’re not just reaching me; I have a whole network of colleagues as well. Just treat me like a human.”
- “Recruiters who blog and/or share relevant content to my industry would probably get more interest from me.”
What this says is that our prospects just want to be treated like normal people – with respect and courtesy. They want us to take genuine interest in the work they do and the hobbies in which they participate. They want us to recognize that if we hire them, their family is part of the package and needs to be considered. And lastly, they don’t want to just be a number we track in our metrics reports – they want to know that we really care about their career and having them join our teams.
We need to master the basics before becoming enamored with every shiny new tool. Tools are great for efficiency, and quite often they feed our desire to try new sourcing methods, but not at the expense of learning the basics of sourcing. If you are focused too heavily on one tool or a handful of tools, you will pigeon-hole yourself into a small area of expertise. Then what happens when (inevitably) there are changes made to those tools that either adjust or severely limit your ability to use them for sourcing? LinkedIn is a prime example: just consider all of the use and connection changes they’ve made over the years that have quite often changed the way we’ve been able to use it.
So what are some of the ‘basics’ of sourcing? In my personal opinion:
- Learning how to think like a sourcer is the absolute best place to start – this means being curious, following leads, being dogged in your efforts to track down information, and always looking for a new angle to complete a search. It means when you get stuck, you try something new or ask for help, rather than abandoning the task.
- Take the time to understand the basics of Boolean search – Michele Fincher, one of the keynote presenters and a professional social engineer, described a perfect approach to understanding Boolean by saying you need to know how to ask what you’re looking for in a way that whatever search engine you’re using can understand your request. I like the terminology that Glen Cathey uses, calling this activity “information retrieval.” It encompasses all manner of search and discovery. By understanding Boolean basics, you will be well-equipped to ask any tool or resource for what you need, in the manner in which it requires to return quality results.
- Make an effort to learn about your specific industry – by learning some key words, players, and concepts that are discussed and followed in your industry, you will not only begin to build a database of searchable terms to develop quality searches, but you will also begin to learn how to have quality conversations with the individuals you’ll be reaching out to. From there, you’ll be able to start contributing positively to your targeted community and thus develop a good reputation for yourself. The worst thing, in my opinion, you can do is start vomiting your current job opportunities into selected industry-specific channels without first pausing to listen. Listening is part of the learning process.
There of course are other basics to learn, but these are easy places to start and will help you roll into other areas of development. Start small and build a solid foundation that will carry you throughout your career.
We need to be more intentional with building each other up, encouraging career development, and developing sourcing leaders with excellent skills. One of the things I wish we, as a collective recruiting/sourcing community, did better was encouragement and development of each other. We are all extremely busy (and hopefully productive) in our day jobs, but quite often we do not get much career development on the job due to our hectic schedules. I have seen an uptick in the last several years of young/new sourcers who’ve been thrown into the deep end of their function without much training or mentorship, and thus their skills end up being quite shallow, usually relegated to a small handful of tool usage, which will not carry them forward for successful strategic careers either in sourcing or in general.
My challenge to all who attended SourceCon, who read the Twitter stream, or who participate in any way in the sourcing community, is this: learn something new from your experience, and either apply it to your personal workflow process or find a way to teach it to others. If a concept that was covered at the conference seemed too basic to you, take some pointers from the presentation and learn how to teach it effectively to others. If you notice a new sourcer asking questions, take the time to guide them and help them learn. If you see some bad habits, privately correct and steer them in the right direction.
Taking the time to solidify your skills foundation today will pay off in dividends as your career progresses. If you’ve already arrived at that point in your career, it’s time to start giving back. It’s our responsibility to earn trust and respect for our craft – our target audience is telling us how to do it, our colleagues are helping to reinforce good practices, and it’s time for all of us to step up and start implementing better habits for ourselves and encouraging one another in our collective pursuit of excellence.