SourceCon: The Ultimate Talent Community

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Feb 20, 2012
This article is part of a series called ERE Media Conferences.

When I try to explain SourceCon (the conference) to the uninitiated, it sounds rather geeky and strange. A bunch of us recruiting types get together to discuss data, search technology, and deep candidate research. We impress each other by sharing LinkedIn hacks or discovering obscure mobile apps. We fired up our laptops at a bar to discuss candidate tracking software.

We check in a lot. And we tweet. A lot. We zap QR codes and trade search strings. And we talk about talent communities.

What’s a talent community? Like sourcing, the concept of talent communities defies definition. It is what you want it to be. I like to believe that a talent community, like sourcing, results in candidates and hires. Not everyone agrees with me.

I think that SourceCon, and the community that has developed around it, is a great example of a talent community. Perhaps the original intent was not to build a pipeline of sourcing professionals, but the end result is an active, real-time candidate pool. Doesn’t matter who owns it, or who uses it. If you’re looking to hire a sourcer, start with SourceCon.

The brilliant Chris Havrilla has already explored the territory of SourceCon and Talent Communities. But I will forge ahead, maybe extend the analogy. I’m stubborn like that.

Why I think SourceCon is a good model for anyone looking to build a Talent Community:


The foundation, I believe, of any talent community worth its salt is passion. Members must truly care about the topic, the product, the company, the event, or whatever principle that serves as the basis of the community. So developing a talent community around your employer brand might sound like a good idea, but it is ill-advised unless the passion for your brand already exists.

The passion for sourcing is palpable at every SourceCon. Blog posts are carefully researched and written. All sourcers want to learn, to get better, and since they don’t teach sourcing in school, we learn from each other. Sourcers get excited by new tools, new tactics, new data. Sourcers believe that sourcing is important. SourceCon exploits (in the best possible sense) the natural passion that sourcers have for their work.

Online and offline

The SourceCon Talent community grew out of a live event, a grass roots effort spearheaded by Leslie O’Connor in 2007. The event was acquired by ERE Media. Through contests, promotions, and word-of-mouth, the buzz grew. So now there is a website. A LinkedIn Group. A Twitter stream. A Facebook page. A daily email update. A website that hosts past presentations. In short, high functioning talent communities are socially enabled. “Members” can tune in at any time, via multiple platforms. Those who can’t attend the live event, watch the video stream. Twitter users tweet the highlights. LinkedIn Group members ask and answer sourcing questions. The most productive talent communities promote online and offline interaction, which leads to greater opportunity to convert community members to candidates and employees.

Continuous, three-way communication

Talent communities generate content (“conversation”) three ways. The “leader” or “community manager” provides information to the “group.” Group members respond or contribute original content to the community. And lastly, a true talent community provides a forum for intra-group communication. The community enables members to find and talk to other members. SourceCon has always encouraged three-way communication and the development of relationships and partnerships inside and outside the SourceCon ecosystem. Because SourceCon facilitates collaboration, it continues to enjoy high value among its members.

Data collection

A while back, I asserted that a talent community was nothing if recruiters didn’t collect data on its members. I was almost shooed out of the room. But I’m stubborn. I won’t back down. Your talent community is useless as a recruiting method if you don’t get the email addresses and phone numbers of the members. You’d better believe that SourceCon collects data at every possible interaction.

When you register for a conference, they collect data. When you sign up to get the daily newsletter, they collect data. When you join the LinkedIn Group, they collect data. SourceCon, I’d be willing to wager, has the most reliable list of sourcers on the planet.

This list has extreme value; it’s the reason SourceCon, the product of an event/media company, continues to attract an ever-growing audience to live events. Without data, SourceCon would be a great way for sourcers to share information, but not so great at selling tickets to events (its end goal). Creating a talent community in which you cannot communicate with members individually is what gives “social recruiting” a bad name. The end goal for any recruiting-based talent community should be to collect and analyze data and figure out how to reach out to individual members to recruit them. If your end game is simply “awareness” or “branding,” you get a great big FAIL from me.

Sexy Content

Lastly, the only way to keep a talent community going – and growing – is to provide a steady stream of relevant, sexy content. Sexy, of course, is relative. One girl’s Denzel is another sourcer’s Talentbin. You know what I mean. SourceCon keeps it sexy. New tools. New methods. What works. What’s cool. Old school stuff seen in a new light.

I flew 24 hours straight to make it to SourceCon. It was worth it, as I knew it would be, because I was able to connect with esteemed colleagues, recruit some of them for a project I’m working on, collaborate on new ideas, share some laughs and pizza, and learn a bunch of new stuff. As a member of the SourceCon community I look forward to contributing, sharing, attending, and participating.

If you are building a talent community for your organization, you would do well to create a community as vibrant and productive as SourceCon.

This article is part of a series called ERE Media Conferences.