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May 9, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

This is a two part series. If you missed part one, click here, to read Our Friend, Source Of Hire, Has Retired. We Had So Much Fun. I Will Never Forget You. (Part 1).


After a few weeks, I had the courage to reach out to Soo. Maybe it was for closure. I don’t know. You never REALLY get closure in a close relationship that goes sideways. Especially when a Dear Andy letter is left.

But Soo talked to me. Honestly, I think Soo did not want me to know about the new-found happiness in retirement. Soo told me about a sailboat, about learning to read the wind, and about relaxing like a pro.  I asked Soo if I could share some of the letter with all of you, as to why Soo left and why people should stop chasing the past. Soo agreed. I will not upload the whole letter, as there are some personal notes in there, just for me. Here is some of what Soo said:

  1. Source of Hire never really measured the performance or success of a recruiter. The actual choice of candidate for the hire is determined by the hiring manager(s). The recruiter has influence, but it is really on the hiring manager to choose. Those choices tend to be based on culture and fit more than anything else because in theory all the submitted and interviewed candidates were already assessed as competent enough to present and interview. The hire will happen eventually when the hiring manager says so. It’s on the hiring manager to take responsibility to make that choice – even if the only option is “I am not hiring ANY of these candidates, I’m not comfortable with the options.” By focusing on Source of Hire, we lose focus on ALL THE OTHER WORK the recruiters did for the other candidates.
  2. Source of Hire is tracked by requisition, which is not close to the action. Application data, its timing, results, and so on, are aggregated into requisition data. Tracking the source of the hire on a requisition is collected by picking the one candidate that got the hire plus its source and keeping score while disregarding the other efforts of the requisition. Requisition data hides how much time, money or effort went into acquiring and processing every other applicant or candidate, including the ones that were screened out, which in fact is most of the work. Over 40% of hires in a business are typically employee referrals or internal candidates when combined. In some cases, the combination can exceed 75% of the hires. However, internal and referrals do not account for 40 to 75% of the candidates submitted to managers or the number of people interviewed. In fact, according to Lever, and their Little Grey Book of Recruiting Benchmarks, 48 to 192 candidates are reviewed to make one hire. That means that Source of Hire is highlighting as little one percent of activity recruiting is executing. By using requisition data results that are specific to ONE candidate, we mislead ourselves. We do so even more by aggregating that requisition data across 100, 1000, 10000, or 100000 requisitions.
  3. Source of Hire could create animosity, favoritism, or bias which is then mechanized. We know that three or more candidates are typically phone screened or interviewed by hiring managers to make the hire happen, but when we use Source of Hire on our dashboards, credit “for the win” is given to the candidate’s source. This credit becomes a problem. Here is an example. In Lever’s data, one out of 16 referrals is hired. Meanwhile, one out of 152 is hired for those who apply directly. When do you see numbers like that it is easy to say “Oh – we should focus on the referrals because referrals give us better talent.” Really? I would probably want to see some performance data on that before making that assumption. Meanwhile, when more internals or employee referrals are getting hired, sourcers get dinged with statements like “why aren’t your candidates aren’t getting hired.” If hires come from job boards, comments like “How hard could your job be? We keep hiring people from CraigsList or Monster! What did you do?” Come into the meeting, and that stinks. Funny how hiring managers selectively forget the fact that two other interviewed candidates were directly sourced by the sourcing team and took hours to pull in.You know what is just as bad? When we celebrate, the wins based on Source of Hire. We escalate recruiters, sourcers, and branders more when “their candidate” happens to get the hire. That logic makes me ill. Why are we celebrating when “my candidate” got hired? What about the three people who had just as much of a shot? Hmmm…maybe we just told them that. We know that only 25 to 50% of the candidates who interview will get the offer. Every. Single. Time. Meanwhile, we elevate recruiters, sourcers, and suppliers by hi-fiving and fist pumping when “their candidate” magically falls into the 25%. Not to mention we punish the recruiters, sourcers, and suppliers when the other interviewed candidates fall into the not offered 75%. That cycle needs to stop and changing how we keep score can be a good start.
  4. “I genuinely care about the candidate experience, so I have to go.” A direct quote from the letter. If we want to improve something, we need to measure it, and also STOP MEASURING what is no longer important. Source of Hire keeps us focused on the requisition, not the candidates within the requisition. We start biasing a candidate immediately by paying attention to the source, rather than their qualifications. It is a soft bias, and arguably an unconscious one. The bias grows as we start to dismiss candidates that do not make it to the hire (typically those sourced through branding efforts or who apply directly). This makes it easy to dismiss candidates based source and create a black hole. In other words, we ignore the applicants who apply via job board because “we rarely hire from job boards.” In Lever’s data, 38% to 64% of candidates apply directly to job functions. That is a big group to ignore when that unconscious bias is going strong. For the sake of candidate experience, we need to work from start to finish one candidate at a time, not one requisition at a time.
  5. The data itself is weak in its origin. Having an accurate source for every candidate, let alone a full understanding of how and why the candidate came to you, is fraught with all kinds of variability, especially if you are a large company, let alone a consumer facing one. People could be an employee referral because they are a neighbor with an employee, but they could also be a customer. Meanwhile, they applied via Indeed since they Googled your company after drinks with the neighbor. There are multiple influences at play here, and this was easier many years ago. Yes, we still need to track the investments and efforts we make, but the actual source itself is very debatable. As an example, Lever looked at applicant data from over 1000 companies in its ATS. The Lever data reports that 13 to 26% of the hires in its system is from a “referral” (when segmenting by function). I can confirm this data with our Aspen data. By function, 15% to 25% of candidates (not hires) self-select as referrals. Meanwhile, the Talent Board’s data and our data show that over 50% of candidates say they “have a relationship with the company when they apply.”In some companies, this relationship number is up to 72%.SIDEBAR: Before I say the next piece, realize that data is well-grounded data when you aggregate the data and its combinations are telling and make sense. Occasionally wild discoveries are found, but in general, the scientific precept of Occam’s Razor tends to hold true, meaning when all things are equal, the simple explanation or most logical tends to be the right one.

    Using the requisition and candidate data I have discussed above (Lever, Talent Board and ours), if we had 100 positions filled in a business, 4,800 to 19,200 applicants would have applied. Of that group, 2,400 to 13,824, or an average of 8,000 applicants, claim to have a “relationship with the business.” Meanwhile, the business only hires 16 people out those 8,000 relationship holders. 16 out of 8000.That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. We all know it is not true. Why did that happen? It is because the candidate data that lives in a requisition was compounded and aggregated twice, not once. Leaders do not realize that they do it and rarely do ATS platforms. Aggregated data was fine when we’re only looking at requisition data. However, now we are looking at requisition AND candidate data, and seeing the flaws, it is producing when the two types are combined, thus why Soo retired.
  6. Because fax machines are retired too. We rarely accept resumes by fax, it is old hat, and no one uses it because we have email. In the note, Soo said, “I am the fax machine of talent metrics.” The point was that fax machines, while still useful and are occasionally used, we now have alternatives that work faster and more efficiently. Tracking our outbound and inbound messaging to the market and monitoring our communication initiatives to those familiar with the company provide more honest insight, and reinforce where recruiters spend their time and efforts.
  7. Candidates don’t care about it how they were sourced, so why do we? Is a diamond more valuable because it was found here or there, or through this method or that method? NO, we focus on its characteristics, regardless of origin. So, does a candidate have different characteristics if they are found directly, through Indeed, as a referral, or through an agency? We need to treat candidates the same as a diamond; it is not where we found them, it is that we did find.
  8. Hiring manager behavior and human decision wildly skew Source of Hire data. All this work to find candidates, woo them, interview them repeatedly to find variety, only to have the hiring manager offer somebody they used to work with (which they never told you about). Or, we promote the person who deserved it, but we didn’t talk about that candidate during the intake meeting. Source of Hire rarely accounts for the multiple factors associated with a hire decision, good or bad. The good could be culture fit, while the bad could be nepotism. It also does not explicitly say “Oh, by the way, the candidate we selected needs less money per year.” Remember that? Yes, its true, we do make offers to one candidate versus another because of financial details. All of these variables are built into the data which makes the data weak at best. Recruiters know this stuff happens (so they cast doubt on the measure already) and hiring managers know it happens too and look at Source of Hire results with a raised eyebrow. So, why do it if there is all this doubt anyway?
  9. It creates and/or reinforces unconscious bias against candidates based on their source – and the candidate can perceive it discrimination. The path the hiring manager walks is “I don’t want to hire them because we don’t really know them” (aka they came from Monster, CraigsList, Indeed) or “I don’t want to hire them because John knows them” (aka John’s weak performance equals candidate will have weak performance). Both are flawed, but more importantly indiscernible from a candidate’s potential perception of “even though I am qualified, they are not hiring me because I am (insert protected class).” This perception occurs because many employers do not provide candid or detailed feedback. Instead, the process is to toss them partially or entirely into a black hole and allow the candidate to create their perceptions. Why do I point out discrimination? Did you know that discrimination accusations occur up to 300% more when there is a poor candidate experience AND the employer routinely provides little or no feedback? This is compared to companies who have strong candidate experience with regular feedback. Yeah, that’s a fact. (Source of data is our platform from 2014 – 2017).
  10. Because the Brooklyn Bridge is not for sale, and you aren’t buying it anyway. Said not so delicately, a measure that has variability and built in bias is an awesome way for any HR service provider to pull the wool over your eyes. Source of Hire a dated measure with all kinds of variables or false positives, as outlined above. Because of that, it can be turned to the presenter’s advantage and does not stop anybody from selectively feeding you “the proof” stating how hires came from this not that. You can appreciate the shadow games being played here. By the way, the occasional recruiting or sourcing manager inside the corporation does this too.


I know this is quite a bit to take in. Maybe I am still upset. Soo and I had a good thing going.

I am eager that I have moved beyond this. I am ready to continue this research and tracking. It is good to directly connect individuals with ROI while being very candidate focused and candidate first. I am excited to place recruiters and sourcers as a close second to the candidates, acknowledging them for their hard work with a new myopic and unbiased view. I am excited to listen to hiring managers even more and help them see this data and understand the nuances that can occur to make better hires.

To Soo – I say goodbye and farewell. I will miss you ?

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