Creating And Accounting For Luck Within Your Sourcing Process

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Jun 4, 2012
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

As scientific as the hiring process has become, there is one thing I know to be true: luck still plays a role in how people get hired.  If you have worked with other people in hiring someone (hopefully all of you reading this), you probably know it to be true as well.

Unfortunately, many people try to eliminate luck from their entire sourcing and hiring process. They think that because the entire idea of luck is unscientific and unreliable, that we should reject it.

I don’t think we should simply embrace luck; we should try to create more situations that result in “lucky” hires.

Embracing luck

One of my go-to interview questions when I was in the interviewing mix was asking how lucky someone felt. This wasn’t intended to be one of those trick questions that often get asked. People who are routinely lucky are simply unaware that they often position themselves to take advantage of favorable situations when they arise. When I dig into examples of how someone was lucky, you’ll often find someone who worked a bit harder or had a bit more flexibility. Those were people you wanted on your team.

I’ve lucked out frequently in my talent acquisition roles. I had a hiring manager who had a parent with a medical issue keep a requisition open an extra week. Had we closed it, we would have missed out on the ideal candidate that popped up.

Now you don’t need to go out and get your hiring manager’s parents ill to create some of these ideal situations. Building a process that embraces luck is a bit more straightforward than that and probably embraces some best practices while it flies in the face of others.

Creating luck

In reality, you just have to follow the guidance of what some of my most “lucky” hiring managers did to help me hire the best people.

  1. Keeping a pulse on the top talent in the space – If you are sourcing for a niche, this one is fairly simple. You have talent you want in your niche. Create a list and, as subtly as you can manage, keep tabs on them.  Your recruiter or hiring manager might know these people or you might. When they are ready to move, you’re there with a strong offer.
  2. Adding flexibility to your process – We know that affirmative action policies and equal employment opportunity programs are necessary and good but you can create flexibility within those policies while still following the law. Thorough sourcing will create a great slate but if you can open up a week or two after the official close date for previously contacted people to get back to you, you can often add hard to find candidates. Those are often the last to get back to you and a trigger in their work may drive them moving forward with you.
  3. Always be hiring – Perpetual reqs are a pain in any system (AA or not). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep looking though. Finding the right person may require pushing a req live within a few hours time after you’ve made contact with a top candidate.  “Lucky” sourcers find the needle in the haystack and bend the system to fit their process. And if you’re getting hiring managers the tough to find candidates, they will back you too.
  4. Making the extra search – If you have ever watched a good basketball team play a game, you’ll notice that making the extra pass is a key component to a solid offensive strategy. The same is true when it comes to search. How did that “lucky” sourcer find the gal that the others couldn’t? They looked somewhere else or they dove deeper and looked for alternatives. That extra phone call or e-mail has made the difference.
  5. Push for the reach candidate – If you have built up rapport with your hiring manager, submitting a candidate who doesn’t exactly meet all of the reqs but is a solid candidate otherwise is another way sourcers get lucky. Don’t trust the job description alone; listen to your gut and your expertise in the field. When the reach candidate is kicking butt a year later, the hiring manager will think they lucked out by getting them through the hiring process.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve had someone in my hiring process (either a hiring manager or colleague in talent acquisition) tell me that I’ve gotten so lucky with some of my hires. Embrace it. One person’s luck is another person’s opportunistic hire. When it comes down to it, your hiring managers won’t care if it is luck, opportunism or witchcraft (okay, they might care about that). If you’re known as the person who miraculously finds the best person, you won’t have to worry about luck.

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