Quora For Sourcers

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Jan 13, 2011

It seems that the whole world is a-buzz about this new website called Quora. Every day for the past week or so, I have at least fifteen new emails in my inbox with notifications that so-and-so has started following me on Quora. My first introduction to Quora was back in August of 2010, when a local friend and social media buff, Tac Anderson, sent me an email inviting me to check it out — “You should really check this site out. I’m liking it a lot.” I received a couple other invitations to join, with comments like “Just thought you’d be a good contributor to Quora content and all” and “Thought you might be interested in questions and answers about Recruiters, Hiring, and Social Recruiting.”

I should have listened sooner. I finally hopped on the bandwagon and joined Quora just after the New Year. Granted, some folks in the recruiting world don’t think Quora is worth investing any time into, like Matt Alder outlined in his post. But the social media world seems to have embraced it — at least temporarily. And though we sourcers do like to believe we’re early adopters and farther ahead on the tech curve than our recruiting brethren, we still do fall behind the hard-core social media junkies in most cases.

First of all — what is Quora? Quora was founded in mid-2009 by a couple of ex-Facebook employees. It launched a private beta at the beginning of 2010 and opened up to the public last summer. According to the website,

Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.

People use Quora to document the world around them. Over time, the database of knowledge should grow and grow until almost everything that anyone wants to know is available in the system. When knowledge is put into Quora, it is there forever to be shared with anyone in the future who is interested.

Sounds like Wikipedia to me. But with somewhat of a social twist, because you can connect your Twitter and Facebook profiles to it, as well as a blog, allowing you to share your Q&A content directly on your blog. Plus, the founders are big on community management and quality of content, so it won’t end up like a shallow Q&A site where the surface is scratched and nothing ever gets really deep.

The way we as sourcers look at these types of tools is completely different from most people. Which is why I think Alder and some of the other folks in the recruiting world who are relatively neutral haven’t given Quora a fair shake. A post by Beth Kanter, a marketing professional for non-profits, excellently summarizes a few of its benefits, some of which are:

  • Slower, Reflective Experience: Quora offers focused attention, not reactive. It prompts deeper insights about topics in which you’re interested. Someone commented on a TechCrunch post about Quora, “This site has the ability to make you want to consume endless knowledge and to me that revolutionary in itself.”
  • Subject Matter Expertise: The people who have been contributing to Quora thus far seem to be higher on the “expert” status indicator. That’s not to say that there isn’t the potential of the site being watered down as it grows by spammers and self-promoters. But Quora is heavily moderated so as to keep this kind of activity to a minimum. Moderation is to prevent contributors from asking yes/no or polling questions and to provide assistance for revising questions so they are more open-ended. This encourages more thoughtful responses.
  • Object Based Social Sharing vs. Social Graph Sharing: It is one thing to know who is within your “social graph” — who you’re connected to and through what other networked connections. It’s a whole new thing to be able to dive right into the value within those networked connections. Quora isn’t a “social network” — it’s a site that happens to allow you to connect to it through a couple of social networks, but ultimately it’s about sharing content, not just connections.

So for a sourcer, the true value in any new, shiny tool is if you can use it to find relevant information — whether it’s people profiles or competitive intelligence.

First, when you register for Quora by connecting your Twitter account, it appears that you automatically “follow” any other Quora user that you’re also following on Twitter. The default Home stream of questions and discussions comes from those whom you follow, so if you’re using Twitter to follow your target recruiting audience, you’ve got instant access to discussions that are likely relevant to the industry in which you source. Any good sourcer knows that to attract the best in the business, you need to be part of the discussion. At the very least, you have the discussion right in front of you to make it easy to follow.

When you are ready to start participating in some discussions, the search bar at the top makes it fairly easy to find relevant topics. It guides you to the best, already-established topics based on predictive keyword recognition — much like Google Instant. Here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up from my own search trials:

Another method that might take you longer but could also yield you some excellent resources would be to search for topic areas that have to do with the industry in which you source. For example, if you work in banking, type in the word “banking.” You will then be able to refine your search and browse specific topics. Amongst those who respond to questions about banking are bound to be Branch Managers and other folks with whom you’d surely want to connect.

But good sourcers know that it is important to give and not just to take. A great way to leverage Quora would be to actually participate in some of the discussions and provide helpful information where you can. Keep in mind that the people you are looking for may also be looking for you.

The site does, of course, have its limitations. One limitation is obviously that since the content is user-generated, topic areas and industries represented are limited. There are lots of folks from VCs, start-ups, and technology backgrounds participating right now. That’s not to say that it won’t change as the site gains popularity. But if you are looking for construction project managers in East Timbuktu, chances are you won’t find much value in this site (yet). Brands also are not allowed (yet) on Quora — just individual people. Another limiting factor is that there is just SO much going on on the site that it can be overwhelming if you don’t really take the time to figure out how you are going to use it. And, you cannot search specifically for profiles on Quora (yet). That’s because, again, it isn’t a “social network.”

But there have already been some success stories from a recruiting standpoint to come from Quora. Check out this question that was posed:

(make note of the tags at the top, as well as the original question posed to which this was a follow-up)

Some of the responses to this question include:

“I’m a moderate quora user who has answered a dozen or so questions in my area of expertise. I’ve been headhunted by two startups, one yesterday and one weeks ago. Both early stage startups and relevant opportunities. Offers were more interesting than the ones I’ve typically received on linkedin. Im sure that tech startups and recruiters will start to use quora more often.”

“I’ve been invited to a few rounds of in-person interviews with several startups. They liked my answers to technical questions on Quora. I messed it up just because of my laziness and inexperience with typical Programming Interviews. The signal to noise ratio is high though, I’ve been talking to CTOs of companies, not recruiters. Mentioning their Quora answer in an email also works like a charm. I’m an old soldier and I don’t know words of love but this is one thing I want to express my gratitude to Adam D’Angelo, Charlie Cheever and the entire Quora team. This site really allows to bypass the bureaucratic HR department.” [emphasis added]

Sourcers, people are looking for work everywhere. As the above response indicates, they’ll happily by-pass us and our recruiting counterparts along the way. We might as well be where they are if nothing more than to monitor discussions and participate once in while.

Check out Quora and see if it can become a good resource for you — as of right now, I have already found it to be beneficial for,, and in general. Let us know what your experience is like!

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