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Sep 5, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

If I had a nickel for every time a recruiter told me they had “searched everywhere” for candidates and “nothing worked,” I’d have a lot of nickels. And if I had an additional nickel for every time the very same recruiter wanted me to reach into my magic toolbox and select the perfect tool to solve all their problems, I’d be rich! I get it; it stinks to hit a wall. We’ve all been there. With that as the backdrop, let me share some secrets I’ve cultivated over my 20+ years in this crazy business that will hopefully prevent you from getting stuck in the first place.

Secret Number 1: Know Your Data

Unless this is your first day of work*, you’ve got data somewhere.  Your mission is to get that data, analyze it, and use it wisely. In particular, you want to know the Source of Hire (the source that ultimately yielded the hire) and Source of Interviews and Offers. What sources worked to find this kind of talent in the past? What didn’t work? You also want the Days to Submit and Fill data. How long did it take to find and submit a viable candidate? How long was the position open for in total?

Past performance data can be extremely educational, so once you have the data, don’t squander it.  Sources that worked well in the past should get top priority. If a position was open for a long time, dig in to understand why. Was it related to failed sourcing efforts made early in the process? Were the right candidates found but not closed? Not every answer can be found in the data, of course. You will need to ask questions of involved stakeholders if they’re available. This powerful combination of data and information you gathered in your conversations will help you create your sourcing strategy (see below).

*If it is your first day of work, congratulations! Ask your manager if he/she has access to this data.

Secret Number 2: You Must Have a Sourcing Strategy

It doesn’t matter if your strategy is on the back of a cocktail napkin or a beautiful five page PowerPoint presentation. The fact of the matter is: you have to have a plan if you want to be truly successful in this business. I can assure you that if you take the time to write a plan, you are not going to write down: “post the job and hope candidates apply.” Because that is not a reasonable strategy, is it? Of course not! And yet, it is what a lot of recruiters tend to do. Imagine how horrified your hiring managers would be if you shared that strategy with them, don’t be that recruiter.

Putting the time in up front often saves you time on the back end. And if it doesn’t save you time, it may just save you some heartburn later in the process when your “go-to” method doesn’t work, and the hiring manager wants to know what you’re doing.

Wondering what the sourcing strategy should contain? Read on.

Secret Number 3: Cast a Wide Net

Your sourcing strategy should contain the tried and true methods (as proven by your data), of course. But don’t stop there. Even if you successfully hired the last seven candidates with a single post on a job board, you cannot expect that to remain true forever. I like the fixed/flexible approach myself. The fixed sources are the places you ALWAYS go to find talent. Employee referrals are an example of a fixed source. If you have access to employee referrals, you should always maximize them. The flexible sources should be unique to the role or location or a new source you’re experimenting with. Shoot for at least five unique sources (both fixed and flexible) and specific as to HOW you are going to leverage them. It is not enough to say, for example, “post job to social networks.” You need to list which social networks you plan to use and how you plan to post those jobs. Be as specific as you can.

Part of casting a wide net is continuously looking for new sources for talent or methods to engage talent. Challenge yourself to add at least one new sourcing or candidate engagement tool or technique to your arsenal each month. Assume some will not work out very well, and that is okay. Trial and error is a great way to learn. Even if half of your methods don’t work out well, you will come out ahead with six new sources each year. And with your tried and true methods, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether you’re optimizing those channels every so often. Sourcing tools are always evolving, so make sure you’re using all the powerful features that are available to you.

Secret Number 4: Do the Hard Stuff First

If based on your data and experience, you suspect this job is going to require a lot of sourcing of people who are not looking (aka passive candidates), then you should go into the search expecting to do a lot of hard work up front.

If you wait to do your internet research until you’ve already hit a wall and have a hiring manager breathing down your neck, it’s often too late. You’ve already lost precious time and possibly the trust of the hiring manager. Passive candidate curation takes time. In a perfect world, you’ve been cultivating a pipeline of amazing talent in anticipation of any req. That comes your way. But we live in an imperfect world, and most of us don’t know what’s coming next and find ourselves starting at square one the day we open the req. No need to panic when that happens, but you do have to move fast. Once you do the necessary things, like getting the position posted internally (and possibly externally), make sure you start doing hard work right away. Even the stuff you don’t like to do. And especially the stuff that makes you a bit uncomfortable, like cold calling.

Secret Number 5: Don’t Be a Hero

I’m sure you’re an amazing sourcer/recruiter who can find purple squirrels in your sleep. But even the best of us need the help and support of others to get the job sometimes done. Instead of looking at that as some failure of your capabilities, embrace it.

Don’t assume you have all the answers or that you’re expected to have all the answers. Do crowdsource ideas for your sourcing strategy and check your assumptions about where to find talent with other recruiters on your team or in the same industry. Don’t feel like you have to create your sourcing strategy from scratch. Instead, consider borrowing and tweaking sourcing plan ideas and Boolean queries written by trusted colleagues or industry experts. Pay it forward to others when you have an idea that works. The more we borrow from one another, enhance and expand on ideas, and ultimately share with others, the better off we all are.

Once you’re armed with data, have a plan that incorporates many sources (both new and tried and true), prepared to do some hard work up front and not afraid crowdsource for new ideas, I can guarantee that you will hit fewer and fewer walls over time.


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