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Jun 18, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Here in 2018, things move fast. We reach people quickly. It’s the age of instant gratification: you get a ‘like’ of your tweet or a reply to your sourcing email, and it’s an instant win. Scientists tell us our bodies actually produce serotonin in these little moments. Because of this, it’s easy to forget the fundamentals because we feel good and we’re already moving on. These are the top five mistakes in sourcing that I see today. At the end of the day, there is an underlying reason for most of them: moving too quickly. And the final blow is almost always a declined offer, late candidate withdrawal, or a failed search.

  1. Forgetting a sourcing strategy. Many recruiters receive a tough search assignment, hit the buttons on their software dashboards and ATSs, and start combing through their network. (It’s go time, right?) But there’s a short game and a long game. They’re heavily influenced by the nature of the job, your candidate market, and your sourcing capacity based on total req load.

You cannot risk using your precious time and energy the wrong way and without results. And because you’re tapping passive candidates on the shoulder, ineffective sourcing can put the ‘window shoppers’ in your pool when you obviously want the ‘buyers.’

How to correct: It’s not just about “Who do I know?” or “Who can I find?” Think about: “Where will I be at a week or two from now with this approach?” “How do I best reach my target candidates and how many non-fitting candidates might I encounter?” “What is my opener and value prop, and is it really different?” Functional and niche-based recruiters who really know their vertical have an advantage here, but a good recruiter will research and educate themselves on their target and risk areas, and outside-the-box avenues.

  1. Failure to effectively engage candidates. In 2018, think of how much industry discussion, tools, and trainings today focus on finding candidates vs. engaging and talking with them? We talk about the latter less and less. Furthermore, there is more ‘noise’ through which to cut to reach candidates. And really, how many prospects will you find with a measly10% response rate?

How to correct: There is an art and science to eliciting a response: it’s a balance of grabbing attention (through the digital noise these days); creating trust, establishing a value proposition and doing it all very quickly and without being a stalking sleazeball nor a recruiter-bot. I have cold-contacted candidates over the years, and because the way I engaged them was genuine and enjoyable and cut through the noise, many became my hires. Some have even become my friends. The best recruiter trainings on this involve actual crafting of emails or text messages and live cold-call role-playing sessions. If you can find one, definitely try to catch it. And if nothing else, get out there and try. Track what works for you and what doesn’t, and course-correct.

  1. Selling too hard. Ask people who couldn’t hack the recruiting industry what their tipping point was: chances are they’ll mention the stress from offer declines or late candidate withdrawals. Guess what we risk the most when sourcing passive candidates: offer declines and late candidate withdrawals. Is there a worse occurrence for a recruiter?

How to correct: What you’re selling – the opportunity – is only half the equation. You’re dealing with a person and their life, and their beloved career. If you don’t spend half of your dialogue on them, their situation, their goals, their specific short and long game, you’re likely going to shoot yourself in the foot by overselling. And it’s not the passive candidate’s fault; it’s yours as the recruiter. And you need to be able to say to your prospects, “Hmmm, based on what you want, and as much as I would love someone like you, this won’t make you happy. Thanks for your time and for the chat. Who else might you know?” You need to forecast recruiting calls that don’t go anywhere into your strategy.

  1. Pitching the job in the first contact. This is a separate example of selling too hard. Hey let’s automate our reach-outs and pitch this job to masses of people, and if we get any bites, great. That’s great if you are only targeting the candidates actively seeking work, and if you want your employer brand to be known as transactional. (And if you’re okay with that, you’ve got issues IMHO).

How to correct: If you were being recruited, would you want a recruiter to blast an opportunity in front of your face, or would you want them to ask you: “Hey [NAME] what’s your career situation these days – what’s going well and what could be improved? I see. Well, this hits on some of what might be appealing to you, but not all. How about quickly hearing about it and if nothing else, maybe you might know someone, and you and I can stay in touch?”

You have to know what someone wants before selling. This is even more important in 2018 when our masses of tools allow us to reach people quickly and we risk de-personalization.

  1. Lack of being human. Sourcing involves dialogue and communication. And nowadays we can communicate quickly, but it’s harder for it to stick. If you sound like a robot or like you’re selling cars; don’t personalize anything; come off like you don’t care, or see dollar signs on peoples’ LinkedIn profiles and resumes instead of a person, that is the level of respect and response you will get back.

How to correct: It comes back to your sourcing strategy. Be human. Be authentic. Personalize your communication. Listen, like really, listen! Include an affirmation statement; crack a joke; let them know you can relate when you hear about corporate politics, daycare drop-offs, or industry turmoil. Find your balance of speed and automation with personal attention and detail. I’ve trained and mentored recruiters on cold-calling candidates and conducted live role-play sessions with participants. 100% of the time, candidates were the most receptive to me when I was authentic and human.

So how do you avoid these mistakes and source candidates effectively and also efficiently, fighting through the noise to reach your candidates on a personalized level? It all comes down to developing that strategy beforehand and leveraging experts in the field when it counts the most.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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