Digging For Gold: Three Layers of Candidate Sourcing

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Dec 21, 2011

I still remember those days when word “sourcing strategy” was define mainly with the names of job portals we would have an access. Well now, the situation is relatively similar — we have simply replaced job portals with Social Media and LinkedIn. More often than not, these so-called “strategies” appear pretty one-sided, lacking an in-depth understanding of the entire sourcing gamut. For now, it seems we are drifting toward “Social Media” as an entire strategy whereas in reality, it is simply one part of the entire strategy.

We get easily carried away with numbers like 800 million on Facebook and 150 million on LinkedIn. Do you know that 81% of LinkedIn and 76% of Twitter users never visit their account? Facebook, by contrast, has a higher engagement ratio — over 42% of users visit Facebook every day. I’m sure you will agree that the actual target population size is much bigger than just these numbers, which means with Social Media we are only looking at one particular section of candidates – not the whole group. Maureen Sharib has touched on this point very well in her Phone Sourcing discussion.

So – when it comes to Social Media channels, do we expect candidates to fall in our laps for easy pickings? Will this be a holy grail of candidate acquisition?

My answer is NO. If what we call a Social Media “strategy” simply means posting jobs in every corner of the Internet and expecting positions to fill, then we are missing the trick. What we need to look at is where our candidates are — are they all hanging on Social Media channels? Are they all equally active? Wouldn’t we look at candidates who are not using these channels? There are several layers of hidden treasure beyond social channels that remain to be excavated.

A holistic sourcing strategy should encompass candidates (current and potential) hidden in all layers. Every layer has its own features and tools and ways to capture candidates who are equally important in overall context. It takes more time to dig in and unearth them; however you cannot expect to get golden nuggets with no effort.

First Layer – Low Hanging Fruit

Classically this layer has only included job portals. For corporations, I would also include internal referrals and agency-generated candidates here. However I would also include the “post-and-pray” Social Media “strategy” in this layer. If you are only using your Social Media channels (including LinkedIn) to post ads and hope for responses, you are mostly reaching an active candidate pool. They might not be on job portals, but they are still “active seekers.” Just because you get a candidate response from your LinkedIn ad does not necessarily make him a “passive” candidate. It is just that he was searching for a job outside of the job portals. If this is the only way you are using your social channels, you are still being reactive as opposed to proactive in your outreach.

Second Layer – Talent Community / Passive Searching / Networking

Creating talent communities, attracting potential leads, and engaging them is an excellent way to dig deeper (and proactively) through Social Media to go one layer further. This way, you can gain visibility with people who are active on Social Media but not necessarily looking out for a job now. With interesting content and engagement channels, you can hook them up with your brand and create a talent pool. A word of caution: please be careful that your community is not a repository for job posting robots; rather, create an interesting proposition for your target audience to join.

This layer also includes proactive searching and active networking. This layer consists people who may not be visible in job searching circles but hidden in one layer beneath. A sourcer needs to be proactive enough to search candidates using passive sourcing techniques through avenues like social networks, discussion groups, alumni groups, news, research papers, or any other places on the Internet where you can identify and cross-check their professional credentials. This requires skilled competency — not just putting some keywords into a search engine and hoping to see list of leads. Mind you, learning Boolean is just a start; there is more to this group than just Boolean searching. It’s more about mindset of a sourcer. I’ve covered it in detail with my previous article, The Unique Mind of a Sourcer.

LinkedIn Recruiter definitely is one of the best tools in this category (though a bit overpriced for my liking). There are certainly other ways to gather candidate intelligence without this tool but having open access with InMails gives it a definite edge. For a long time, I have been looking for tools to search Facebook profiles, which is a bigger challenge. I’m happy to see some initial breakthroughs with Identified Facebook Search Engine and BranchOut RecruiterConnect. The success of these tools for Facebook is yet to be seen though, in my opinion.

Third Layer – Phone Sourcing / Dark Matter

It seems we have covered everything possible on the Internet. Is that all? What about people who have very little or simply no footprint onlinr OR cannot be touched through the usual networking or referral channels? For all you know, most of your potential candidates may sit in this layer. Whether you work on niche OR vanilla skills, at some point of time you will have to dig enough to reach this layer. How you are prepared to reach candidates in this layer will define a “winning” sourcing strategy. Tools like Deep Web, phone sourcing, and cold calling would help you to get to this “Treasure.” Glen Cathey’s article on Dark Matter discusses those hard-to-get LinkedIn profiles; nevertheless, excavating the first two layers diligently will naturally leads to you this level. You will surely hear that inner WOW! voice reaching to this layer of potential candidates.

The successful sourcing strategy will look at all these three layers and build a capable model to have a wider talent acquisition landscape. Social Media is definitely sexier than any of the other sourcing methods, but it still remains just one of the channels from entire toolbox. Talent acquisition and technology are dynamic in nature and we can not over-depend on one specific component. We need to go where candidates are and we should not expect otherwise.

When you create of your sourcing strategy, think in terms of layers – how deep are you willing to dig in order to find gold?

Thank you to Irina Shamaeva, Glen Cathey, Shannon Van Curen, and Maureen Sharib for their articles which have been used as reference above.

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