Cloud Atlas – Talent Mapping Across Time

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Aug 27, 2014

You don’t know what talent mapping is? Well don’t worry. If you have been a researcher or sourcer within the past 3 decades, then you have probably created a talent map for your client or company. Talent mapping is the identification of a group of individuals that fit a certain job profile. It also involves the process of mapping out competitor company’s organizational charts or groups. The names, job titles, phone numbers, and level within the company are all identified.

Researching org charts, companies, industries, talent maps, or whatever you’d like to call them is something that’s been done in the USA (and all over the world) for years. Years before we had the “sourcer” title, companies, sales departments, marketing departments, and personnel (HR) departments employed “researchers”.

In the world of sales and marketing, the researcher’s main purpose was to penetrate the market, find potential customers, and then track down the best individual(s) at these companies who they will sell to.

In the late 80’s, companies were all vying for talent, especially in the tech world here in Silicon Valley. Recruiters would target companies, cold call through the organization, and make notes of who’s who. If they were unsuccessful and the role they were trying to fill was critical, then the company would employ the services of a research firm or a name generation firm. The researchers (read: sourcers) would use internet databases (we had no www yet), engineering directories, and cold calling techniques. They would gather names, numbers, and job titles. They would then charge companies $20 per name for a particular search.

in the 90’s, research firms and executive search firms were quite prevalent, but something new was happening. The World Wide Web had brought a lot of information to the fingertips of every user. Potential names and candidates were found by using internet search techniques, networking, and detective skills. I started working at a staffing agency in the 90’s and one of my jobs was to find candidates from specific companies online. I don’t recall anyone ever saying the word “sourcing” to me. It was just all about research.

Also in the early to mid 90’s, companies started dedicating entire “research teams” to solely tracking down names, numbers, and job titles of candidates at targeted companies. It would be commonplace for a head of HR or recruiting at a company like Oracle to tell their research team to track down every database developer at a company like Computer Associates. Or for the Research Team at Microsoft to break down the entire org chart for the Desktop Software Group at Apple. In fact, companies like Microsoft and Cisco were well known for dedicating entire research teams to deep-dive search and name generation.

Of course, since then, the research/sourcing function has matured. Now a sourcer could be asked to do research and name generation on an everyday basis. Even within the last 2 years, a client asked my team to find every SDET in the Seattle area from a couple of specific companies. Did we just use Linkedin? Yes and no. We also used open internet searches, social networks, candidate referrals, and cold calling. We mapped out the teams that these engineers are a part of and proceeded to make good use of that knowledge.

The staffing industry is a very competitive one, as you know. When working as an internal Sourcer for a company, you will always get asked to recruit candidates from the competition. You could work at Twitter looking for DevOps engineers and get asked to map out the DevOps team at Facebook. You could work at AMD and get asked to map out the Physical Design team at Intel. Or you could work at Wells Fargo looking for Risk Analysis Managers and get asked to map out the entire Risk/Compliance org at Bank of America. These examples are not theoretical. They happen all the time.

So there you have it. You, who call yourself a sourcer or recruiter or researcher, have been a part of something that has existed across time in this country and many other countries. Call it research or sourcing, but the methods have really not changed over the years. It’s all about search, networking, cold calling, and good old fashioned detective work.

Truth is singular. Its “versions” are mistruths. – Cloud Atlas

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