Going Wayback to Find Talent Intelligence

By adding the Wayback Machine to your sourcing tool chest, you have added time travel to the list of your skills.

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Jul 9, 2024

Picture this: You’re sourcing for a role where your prospect must have specific industry experience. You find someone with the perfect background in terms of job titles and company background, but you don’t know for sure what industry they worked in at that company because their LinkedIn bio doesn’t list it, there are no hints to be found from the content they post, their current company doesn’t list public bios of their employees, and your Google search for content that they may have written or been a part of turns up nothing. The best way to find their info may be to reach out and pray they respond and then find out their background over a phone call, however, have you truly exhausted all your tools? What if there was a way to go Wayback and find their information from past employers? While it’s not guaranteed to give you the most up-to-date information, the Wayback Machine, an often-forgotten sourcing tool, offers a glimpse into internet archives.

What is the Wayback Machine?

The Wayback Machine is a digital archive founded by the Internet Archive, an American nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California. This site has scraped and archived a digital library of data from websites throughout the years. Through this site, you can search sites using their URL and look back on archived information. Unfortunately, not every day is searchable for every website. Some websites aren’t searchable at all. According to the Wayback Machine help page, this can be due to a variety of factors: a site’s robots.txt document may have prevented the search, the use of JavaScript elements often makes it hard to archive, and orphan pages are unsearchable as the robots don’t enter queries in search boxes. This means if what you are looking for doesn’t have a direct URL, it likely will not be found. There is not currently a way to search for a site using Boolean on the Wayback Machine, but you can search using keywords that would appear in the URL. Based on my experience, pasting the URL you want to look back on is easier than trying to find it through their search bar. Results are then provided based on a ranking system which includes the number of captures made by the Wayback and then the number of results (Wayback Machine).

How can the Wayback Machine help me gather talent intelligence?

One way I found using the Wayback Machine helped me was in gathering talent intelligence from the past. This allowed me to see a more holistic view of my prospect’s experience with the labor market, thus gaining a deeper understanding of the role or industry I am sourcing for. Part of sourcing involves information gathering, so once I have a solid list of websites, groups, upcoming/past events, and other online places that prospects might be a part of, I start looking into the history of these sites to get a better understanding of how the industry may have changed over the years. For instance, I know Accounting Today is a site where many accountants find their news and where some write articles for their peers, so I know that if I go back a couple of years on the Wayback Machine, I am going to get a pretty good snapshot of what topics were relevant at that time, such as an industry just starting to gain traction, or maybe there were a lot of layoffs in this particular industry a few years ago. Additionally, I can compare what accountants found challenging to what I know of the industry today. This gives me a deeper understanding of my prospects’ experiences and allows me to better connect with prospects in both messaging and our screening calls. I could also find new talent through old opinion pieces written in previous years or at least make a warmer connection with prospects through connecting with their peers on LinkedIn.

Another use case of the Wayback Machine involves finding information on a prospect’s background. Have you ever found someone’s LinkedIn profile to be missing industry experience or further information on their current or past role? Often, the next step might be to find out if their employer has employee bios on their website or if there is any more information on their background through groups or events they may have participated in or attended. If their current company doesn’t have employee bios listed, a trip to the Wayback Machine is the next step. Find their previous employers and if one of them lists their employee bios, that means that it is likely your prospect’s bio was listed at some time on this site. Next, search the company site during the time your prospect worked there. If the company’s site was scraped and archived by the Wayback Machine when your prospect worked there, you will likely find the bio they used while they worked there. You may even get lucky and find some new contact information if they list their personal email or cell phone numbers. This is a great way to learn more about their background and industry experience, and the same can be done with events the prospect may have attended or spoken at.

By adding the Wayback Machine to your sourcing tool chest, you have added time travel to the list of your skills. By harnessing the information shared in the past, we can gather a more holistic view of the labor market and our prospects. Whether it is a prospect’s contact information, industry trends of years before, or further information on a prospect’s background, the Wayback Machine can provide us with information that has long since been forgotten due to the passage of time.

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