8 Considerations for Choosing the Best People Aggregator

May 27, 2014

When a great software engineer in Silicon Valley is looking for a new job, they can count on having 3-4 solid job offers within the first 48-72 hours.

The best employers keep a close eye on passive candidates and proactively identify top talent. To achieve this, many recruiters and sourcers are turning to a new category of websites called people aggregators.

People aggregators consolidate “distributed profiles” across a multitude of social networking sites. Taken together, a candidate’s professional (e.g., LinkedIn), technical (StackOverflow, GitHub) and social (Facebook, Google+) profiles can provide a much clearer and complete picture of who the person is.

Through a process called disambiguation, all the captured profiles are joined correctly and associated with the same person. Technically, this is a challenging problem, especially when you’re dealing with common names, like John Smith or Sue Adams. These aggregators rely on the existence of some “connective tissue” between the profiles–such as company name, location, and job title–to reliably unite disparate profiles.

In addition to social links, aggregators often provide a thumbnail dossier of a candidate that may include a summary of their skills, experience, location, current employer, education, and contact information. These online profiles are often a more reliable and current source of information than traditional resume databases.

After capturing these profiles (in a process that is frequently refreshed so as to keep the information up to date), aggregators need to index all of this data so it’s easily searchable. Indexing enables recruiters to search and find qualified candidates based on keywords embedded in any of their social profiles and the location. Keywords can include job skills, programming languages, titles, and even the names of schools attended. Instead of performing separate searches across different networks, recruiters can now perform a single search that spans these networks. A search for C++ developers, based within 25 miles of Palo Alto, who work at Google, and have contributed to GitHub will return candidates that meet that specific criteria. This is powerful.

The following eight considerations are meant to help guide your vendor search:

1. Do they focus just on tech or across a variety of sectors?

Many aggregators just focus on tech or are heavily skewed in that direction. Some of these even provide meters that assess a candidate’s tech skills and level of market demand. If you’re recruiting across a broad range of disciples or focus just on healthcare, you will need an aggregator who provides a broader swath of disciplines stretching beyond tech.

2. Are the profiles captured US centric or span internationally?

Many aggregators have a US or North America focus, which is not surprising given their roots. Some have expanded and represent the global footprint of the social networks they capture. Obviously, the best way to test the claims of vendors is to do some sample searches and see what comes back

3. What contact details do you get with each profile?

When you know someone’s social profiles, you can use those networks themselves to connect with a job candidate. For example, if you know their Twitter handle, you can follow and send them a direct tweet. Wouldn’t it be better, however, to get their email address and phone number? Most recruiters would say “You betcha.” Keep in mind, no aggregator has perfect information and getting accurate contact details is tough. So here again, you will need to test the waters and see which aggregators provide the best contacts details for the types of candidates you care about.

 4. How much does it cost?

People aggregators charge anywhere from free to several hundreds dollars per user per month. Some let you go month to month, while others require an annual subscription. You will have to do your own ROI calculations to determine if these tools are sufficient to use on their own or as a complement to your existing tool set.

 5. Quality and quantity of search results?

The proof is in the pudding. To see the value of people aggregators, recruiters need to try these solutions first hand, run a keyword searches and review the results in comparison to their existing tools (such as resumes or LinkedIn). Also, compare the quality and depth of the information being returned for each candidate. For some job roles, these tools may yield the same number of candidates as your current tools; in other cases, they will return vastly more results.

 6. Can you apply granular search filters and Boolean logic?

Look at the quality and granularity of their search. Can you apply filters and complex Boolean strings using combinations of “ands” and “or” to zero in on the right candidates? Keep in mind, you’re searching against the keywords embedded within a candidate’s social profile. So keywords like “entry-level” or “10 years of experience” aren’t likely to yield many results since a person would probably not include those terms or phrases within their own profiles.

 7. Can you see a connection path between you and the candidate?

How helpful would it be to see a social graph—a picture that depicts all the connections between you and the job candidate? The answer probably depends on the type of recruiter you are and the types of roles you’re filling.

 For some recruiters, getting visibility to your shared connections can help open doors, especially for C-level roles where many executives may not take a cold call from a recruiter. The connection path can also be beneficial for securing back-channel references for a job candidate. Ideally, the connection path is drawn from all the connections you have, across the myriad of networking sites (and not just confined to LinkedIn).

 8. Can you source while your browse?

Some people aggregators even offer browser extensions that dynamically display rich contact and professional details about a person, including a picture, title, skills summary, links to social profiles and contact information in a sidebar as you browse the web. Some only display contact information on certain sites such as LinkedIn, while Connect6 (my company) will display information across a wide variety of social networking sites.

As Brian Sommer noted in a recent ZDNet article on ZDNet – “it’s time to reimagine HR not just reengineer it.”

Using the latest data science and indexing techniques, people aggregators are harvesting the power of big data to help recruiters discover and connect with top talent. While this field is still evolving, the promise is undeniable.

Can you afford to rely on yesterday’s technology and processes when today’s best candidates are getting discovered and placed so quickly through people aggregators?