Tending to your Talent Garden to sow seeds of trust in a competitive labor market

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Mar 6, 2024

Creating a garden can be one of life’s most rewarding yet time-consuming hobbies. The time you spend picking the best seeds, starting your seeds inside, preparing the outside ground for planting, and then watering through the hottest months will reward you when your plant finally blooms or produces fruits! The biggest rewards directly correlate to your work, and the same can be said for our sourcing efforts. As I prepare and tend to my garden, my sourcing efforts start with a strategic plan and continue with ongoing touchpoints to keep potential candidates interested and engaged, even if they aren’t ready to make a move right now!

Before the harvest, a plan will guide your efforts

Gardens with the most bountiful harvests were planned well before they were planted. While throwing seeds out on the ground and seeing what grows can sometimes result in a small harvest, a strategic plan helps you grow exactly what you want and have a large harvest. Similar to the “plant and pray” method is the “post and pray” recruiting method which might result in a few applicants, but likely will not result in finding your “purple squirrel”. Spending time planning your sourcing efforts provides a sourcer with a game plan that will guide their sourcing efforts and provides the hiring team with some initial timeline expectations and a chance to be involved in the sourcing process. Start by doing some research on past sourcing efforts for this role and reviewing any data that was captured. Determine the time to hire and make note of any previous pipelines that were used or past candidates that were considered or interviewed.

Start thinking about the tools you will use and how they will be utilized. Are there certain Boolean strings that have been effective in past sourcing efforts? Was messaging on LinkedIn effective in the past or have emails or phone calls been more effective at gaining a prospect’s attention? Is anyone on the hiring team connected with great leads they could reach out to? This phase is about planning, not implementation, so the answers to these questions will help build a strategic plan rather than immediate action. By starting with a strategic, data-based plan, your sourcing efforts will be more effective overall.

Starting seeds – Sourcing the best prospects for your requisitions

For avid gardeners, winter can be a time of rest as well as a time of preparation. This often includes starting seeds for spring planting indoors before they grow big enough to plant outside. Start drafting messaging and planning the timing of your messages at this stage. Begin by planning the number of touchpoints each prospect will get, which mediums will be used to message, and the timing between each message. A standard plan might include the following as an example:

  • 8 expected touchpoints with 2-5 days between the initial message and the first follow-up
  • 1 week between the second round of messages
  • Mix up the medium between touchpoints. Switch from LinkedIn InMail to Email to a phone call and back to InMail.
  • Be sure to plan a touchpoint to connect with prospects on LinkedIn and send a note mentioning your InMails and emails.

In this plan, it’s important to know what steps you will take if there is no response toward the end of the outreach, so start thinking of where else prospects might be. Are they on GitHub or maybe posting professional articles on an industry-specific website? Take this time to begin acting upon the answers you gathered during the planning phase. If your hiring team has connections or leads, draft a message for them to send to their connection or make plans to reach out yourself, mentioning the connection they have with the hiring manager. Plan some research time during this stage to find where prospects are talking to each other and where they are active so that when it is time to act in the next step, you will know where else to reach out and find prospective candidates.

Planting seeds and providing supplemental water through the summer – Time to message your prospective candidates!

Once the weather warms up it’s time to plant your seeds and saplings outside in the garden. Watching your plants grow over the coming months and produce blooms or fruit is a great joy of the gardening journey! Now that you have a plan in place, and the best talent pipelined, it is time to message your prospective candidates. Take care to follow your plan as closely as possible and craft your messages with some personalization to help reach your audience. Pay attention to the time of day you message and the day of the week you choose as some times are better than others. Typically, messaging between 2 pm-6 pm is ideal as you are more likely to catch someone at the end of their workday and generally, Fridays and Saturdays are the worst days to send InMails according to a recent LinkedIn Report.

In the heat of summer, gardeners keep blooms going throughout the summer by watering, pruning, and planting additional seeds as some plants die off for the season. Continue to message your prospects following your plan using branded content and information about your company and benefits to keep prospects engaged in your company brand, even if they aren’t ready to talk about a career move yet. Keeping them engaged in your brand will help keep your company top of mind so that if and when that prospect is ready to make a move, you might be first on their list to follow up with! “Prune” your pipelines during this stage by taking out those prospects who denied your messaging, were screened, and not qualified, or had emails that bounced. Make sure you address the incorrect email or make a note to remind yourself or team members not to use that email in the future. Too many bounced emails can lead to an increased chance of your email domain ending up in spam on some servers. As we remove those who no longer fit in our pipelines, consider sourcing for more top talent. Take some time to reflect on your initial sourcing plan and try sourcing on a new site, review past applicants if you haven’t done so already, use a new Boolean string, or search through some connections you made with those in your pipeline. From here, continue following your sourcing plan through to the end of the “growing season”!

Time to harvest and prepare the garden for next year!

Harvest those wonderful flowers and veggies and then, when they finish blooming, it’s time to prepare the garden for the winter season. Hopefully, you found a few prospects over this season who you were able to present to the hiring team. If any of these prospects are hired, you have successfully harvested from your sourcing efforts! Unfortunately, sometimes plants don’t bloom until their second year. Similarly, your sourcing efforts are sometimes also part of the longer game, and you might not see your results this season. Instead of harvesting, now is the time to debrief on your sourcing efforts with hiring teams and recruiters. Use data to show your efforts and tell the story of your sourcing “season” using the sourcing plan that was developed early at the start. It may be time to step away from the requisition for a while and reassess and plan for the next round of sourcing “season” for this requisition. Even if the “purple squirrel” wasn’t found or engaged this season, take time to reflect on the work you’ve done in your “talent garden” and even if all the responses were no, remember that the connections you made and sourcing techniques you developed during this season will continue to impact and improve your future sourcing efforts.