Don’t Go Overboard! Distilling Down an Ocean of Research to Create “Actionable Insight”

Oct 28, 2014

Abstract Earth In Information OceanFlooded by jobseeker stats and workforce numbers, white papers, articles and poll results? Here’s how to plunge in and quickly evaluate research online, so you can blend it into a real-time sourcing strategy.

There’s a rising tide of industry and employment research available in this sparkling age of advanced digital information. Email updates and alerts overwhelm our inboxes. Splashy infographs are circulated amongst professionals. Facts and figures on hiring-trends pour in via social media. It’s “information overload” and even the most experienced sourcers and recruiters can feel lost at sea.

With this much employment-related research floating around, how can we identify what’s most relevant to our day-to-day sourcing activities and priorities? How can we put the flotsam and jetsam of research into actual practice, to make us better talent-experts?

The vast amount of research available online is indeed intimidating, but it also means there are countless possibilities for acquiring new sourcing tips, tricks, and potential candidate “honey pots.” Social science research can provide a fresh perspective on the most tedious and demanding of requisitions, so make sure that market and talent supply investigation is part of your sourcing strategy! But don’t go overboard…

Here’s a streamlined approach to help you become a better consumer of research findings, and to show you how to maximize the information that’s coursing by.

1. Recognize that there are many different origins of research, with many possible uses, but not everything will positively impact a sourcing plan. Be highly selective about what you take the time to read.

Data might be captured by government departments and agencies, industry organizations, formal research institutions, universities, media outlets, job boards, or by individual companies. Be aware that some of these may be more helpful than others at different points during your search cycles! Here are just a few examples of potentially game-changing research channels to watch out for:

    • Employment/unemployment data and dynamics by industry, job type, geography, education levels, demographics, etc. Examples include : The Bureau of Labor StatisticsADP Research Institute
    • Hiring trends and outlooks (by similar categories to the above). Examples include: Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (published quarterly)SHRM Research
    • Survey results centering around feedback from hiring managers, candidates/jobseekers, recruiters/sourcers, human resource professionals, students, and new grads on various topics. Examples include: The Pew Research CenterLinkedin Talent Solutions Downloads
    • Additionally, you may uncover the following:
      • Polls conducted at industry events, which may be available via newsletters or event-related communications
      • Polls conducted by individuals (or organizations) via social media
      • Testimonials and anecdotes gathered from candidates, recruiters, employers, etc., via 1:1 interviewing conducted by researchers or the media

2. Once you’ve found something of interest, ask yourself: Can this research help me better use my time and energy to deliver higher-quality candidates, faster than ever before?

Use the following list of questions to swiftly ascertain whether or not the information you’ve found is truly valuable to your sourcing:

    • Does this online research give me any additional ideas about where, when, and how to source candidates?
    • Does it steer me in the direction of any new referral sources to try, or circles to tap into? Any new “honey pots” that could be beneficial?
    • Does it shed light on the industry for which I am sourcing, increasing my understanding of where and how to engage the search?
    • Does it change the way I interact with hiring managers, and/or provide me with expert knowledge which will dazzle and delight clients?
    • Does this information help me to have more effective conversations with candidates?
    • Or conversely: Does it tell me what frustrates candidates, i.e. what I must avoid?
    • Does this give me an inside look at the other sourcers and recruiters who may be competing against me for target talent?
    • Is this info worth sharing with others?
    • Efficiently weed out anything that seems irrelevant to the roles you’re focusing on. Be discerning about what research you take the time to examine, versus what doesn’t make the cut.

3. Pay attention to only what is factual, fresh, and relevant to your needs.

You may read an article which seriously challenges your current sourcing perspective, or come across insight which breathes new life into an otherwise stale search. You may also find research which is radically thought-provoking, but ultimately not very practical for sourcing purposes. And you may come across research that’s entertaining, but just doesn’t have much substance, validity, or transferable value. Try and stick to what’s recent, realistic, and grounded in good science.

4. Always be critical of where your information is coming from. Be able to justify your actions.

If the publisher of the research isn’t reliable, or their methodology is suspect, don’t bother sifting through their findings. Similarly, if you can’t logically explain to your hiring managers, HR contacts, or teammates exactly why this research is applicable to your requisition, don’t use it. But, if the origin is reputable and the conclusions may lead to enhanced sourcing success, by all means, glean as much as you can from it.

5. Budget your research “reading time” wisely, and don’t overthink things.

Early on in your sourcing, set aside time to delve into research pertaining not only to the role, but also to the industry, the location, and the candidate pool. As you come across additional articles and information, don’t be afraid to try new avenues and make adjustments to your tailored approach. Understanding your market and your talent supply will make for a much smoother and more productive search overall.

However, this is merely one facet of a strategic sourcing process, so carefully balance research-gathering efforts with the deliberate accumulation of quality referral-pipelines, the effective use of social media, an efficient exploration of job boards, clever search-string creation, etc. Research is intended to complement all of the tools already in your arsenal, and to give you a deeper knowledge of what’s humanly possible within the world of sourcing.

Whether a digital native or not, every sourcer and recruiter must learn how to recognize the potential importance of research found online, determine where it’s coming from, and to whom, or to what, it pertains. Armed with actionable insight, you can enlighten and energize your sourcing tasks, and shift your overall strategy to one that’s informed and inspired.

Wouldn’t you rather swim, instead of sink, in this spectacular ocean of info?

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