Collaborative Sourcing: The Merits of Exercising a Team-Based Approach

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Jan 25, 2011

In a 1963 speech, John F. Kennedy said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” He was referencing the economy, and this quote has been used in support of many an economic initiative since. I work for a PR agency, and a couple of years ago I emailed a VP from a competitor agency to ask if he knew any good analyst relations candidates. We were looking for more junior level folks, so I wasn’t trying to recruit him, but thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. He replied that if he did know any, he’d obviously hire them first if he had a spot for them, but that he’d be happy to send them my way if he didn’t. This was exactly what I’d hoped he’d say. He followed that with, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I had never heard this quote used to apply to a general profession, but I understood that he was inferring that helping each other hire the best talent is in the best interest of the analyst relations profession as a whole. I love that attitude, as it mirrors the way I think about sourcing.

I’ve been on fire about candidate sharing all week, so I thought it may be good timing for an article on the topic. Hiring has been heating up in a major way at my company. All of us in Talent Acquisition are feeling the pressure. Although I am normally a dedicated sourcer, I have been asked to take on a few requisitions as a recruiter to temporarily even out the workload for my team. I am happy to step in, and exhilarated that this new perspective has brought me some new sourcing insights. It’s always fun to tap into a new way to maximize the team’s efficiency.

Now that I’m owning reqs for the first time in years, I am using our ATS in a different way. As a sourcer, I generally just upload resumes and my interview notes into the system, or check to see if someone I’ve found online has ever applied to or spoken with us before I reach out to them. I’m generally frustrated by the search capabilities in our ATS, so I usually don’t even bother to source within the system as it yields little ROI for the time it takes (a topic for another article!). Now that I am acting in a recruiting capacity, I am seeing the applicants for my specific roles and noticing that while many are not qualified at all, some are just applying for the wrong positions but are a fit somewhere else within the company.

Since I am used to sourcing, I am aware of what is open across the agency and used to thinking in big picture terms. As a recruiter, especially when you are busy, it is easy to just focus on filling the reqs you are responsible for and not thinking about what others are working on. It seems like it would save time to just focus on the job at hand and not worry about your candidate pipeline or what others on your team are doing. But this is not really true. If you think more broadly and take the time to know what your team is doing, more roles across your company will be filled and no top talent will go into the “save for later” folder in your ATS when there is an open job for them now!

Here’s an example: An employee referral back in 2007 yielded a great candidate. We didn’t have anything for him at the time, so we marked him “save for later” in the ATS. In 2008, a former sourcing colleague of mine found this very same candidate through a Boolean search. He interviewed for several roles and was eventually offered a position. Unfortunately, he declined our offer since he had won some new business for the company he was freelancing for, and they needed him to lead the business for their client.

After a couple of years working on that business as an external marketing consultant, his client hired a new Marketing Director who decided to take marketing internal, and his agency lost the business. This unexpected turn of events left our candidate unemployed. He remembered his great experience with our company, and he proceeded to apply for a couple of jobs with us. Unfortunately, these jobs were not the right level or fit, and the recruiters passed on him.

He recently applied for a role I own in my temporary recruiter capacity, and I remembered his name from a couple of years ago. I gave him a call and we discussed what he’d been doing since we’d last connected, and what he’d like to be doing in the future. As chance would have it, we currently have an opening on the same team that made him an offer in 2008. I’ve submitted him for this role, and we’ll just have to wait to see how this story ends…

After our call, I was reading a popular marketing blog, and the post I was reading referred to the client that this candidate had been working with over the past couple of years. I forwarded him the post and said it sounded like the blogger shared his point-of-view about the client. The candidate replied that the blog post really resonated with him, and that the blogger and he shared a mutual respect for that client’s marketing practices. He also said,

Thank you very much for your efforts, Kristin. I really appreciate your interest in exploring several different possibilities that might work for me. So often, my experience of HR people is that they have a certain position to fill, and a candidate either fits that single position, or does not, in which case the conversation is over. You being so much smarter and more dynamic than that is fantastic.

I appreciated the compliment, and it really got me thinking. If his experience has shown him a lot of recruiters with tunnel vision, I would imagine that many other great candidates feel the same way.

No matter how busy I am, I will always fight to get talent into my company, whether it is for my openings or someone else’s. In fact, I have recently asked that our team go over all of our open positions in our weekly meetings so we’ll all be aware of what each other is doing and be able to better share candidates and up-level our own profession by making sure we don’t miss out on any opportunities for a match. It may take more time now, but it will save us a lot of time in the end and work to benefit our entire agency.

I ask all of you to show your company that sourcing and recruiting are not transactional professions. We have the ability to be true talent brokers, and we should exercise our skills through thinking strategically about our business every single day.

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