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Jan 4, 2019

“I’m a slow learner, that’s true. But I learn.”  -Sansa Stark

I’ve been in TA for over ten years. I have worked for an agency, corporate and RPO. I have been a recruiter, sourcer and manager and I have made a mistake because of my hubris. You see not too long ago a high priority, hard to fill job landed on my desk.

I was told that the job had been out to agency for a while now, but the business wanted to see some directly sourced candidates. This job was important particularly because we were trying to show this specific hiring manager that internal TA could find great talent for hard to fill, high priority roles. I’m going to go out on a limb and say if you have an interest in reading this type of article on this site you have a competitive nature.

My competitive nature drove me to skip the fundamentals and get to work. I was handed a job description, a salary range, and a location. I went to work. Spoiler alert, I wasn’t giving you a high-level overview of what I did, I’m telling you exactly what I did, and most of you already know what went wrong.

I went sourcing determined to fill this high priority, a high-value role with a directly sourced candidate to prove to the business that we had the skills, knowledge, and ability to fill these types of jobs. Without getting into too much detail, the job was a Director of Cyber Security. I did notice in passing that the job description mentioned pretty much every programming language known to man.

I thought to myself, that is odd why a cybersecurity professional would need to know any programming language, much less all of them.  I disregarded this requirement as a possible oversight; they must have used a boilerplate job description is the justification that I told myself.

I sourced three solid, all-star Cyber Security Directors. I sent them over to the hiring manager. They were seasoned, certified, interested and inside the salary range. Within twenty-four hours I had three nos and the feedback I received baffled me. I was told that none of the candidates I had submitted had any experience developing software. I was confused, I asked for an intake meeting with the hiring manager, and I got one. I spent 30 minutes listening to the hiring manager talk about what the job was and what they would be doing.

In speaking with the hiring manager, I discovered that while the job would be called Director of Cyber Security, the job was Director of Secure Application Development. This person needed to be able to walk into a room of experienced developers and speak to them in their terms what security issues they had with their code. To do that, the person needed to have had experience as a software engineer.  The hiring manager explained to me the job in detail and gave me some great sells for the job.

I returned to my search with more determination and a little less pride. I found two candidates that had moved from software engineering into cybersecurity. Both of my candidates made it to the in-person interview, and the one had been an enterprise architect before moving into cybersecurity, got the job. I did ultimately succeed. We filled the job with a directly sourced candidate and saved the company a very large placement fee and demonstrated that we had a capable sourcing function, so the story has a happy ending.

Our jobs often require us to be experts in a wide range of topics, tools, and techniques. We live in a world of AI-powered sourcing tools, automated email address finders and interview schedulers. New ATS and CRM and programmatic advertising platforms have made sourcing and recruitment marketing at scale a possibility. It is easy to overlook the less shiny parts of the job, like taking an intake meeting but technology and experience are no substitute for an old-fashioned conversation.

“Thank you for all your many lessons Lord Balish.  I will never forget them.” –Sansa Stark


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