The Myth of the Bottomless Candidate Pool

Aug 5, 2014
This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.

There are many things broken in the cycle of recruitment, but in my opinion, a shift in mentality can save a lot of pain. I am going to rip the bandaid off for you. Brace yourself.

There is NOT a never ending pool of candidates.

The amount of data we have access to today, and the fact that it feels like you are constantly drowning in profiles of potential candidates, gives a false sense that the search is never ending.

More and more pressure is put on sourcers to continue to come up with more and better candidates. Hiring managers are constantly unsatisfied. Recruiters are maxed out in their efforts. Strategies of wider job board distribution and spray and pray only make the problem worse. Many of you are spending thousands of dollars a month for the privilege of searching through databases of potential candidates and I would guess many times you still feel like you are on the back foot in your searching.

The reality is that for most positions there is a limited number of candidates that are appropriate. I had a conversation with the recruiter at a friend’s company recently and they were looking for a product marketing position. One of the requirements was specifically having worked for one of a small group of companies. She had managed to find some people and blew through the whole list rushing to send “inMails” to pitch them the job. None were “interested”. Now what? Let me count the ways in which this went wrong.

I could dissect this but I am going to give you proactive tips instead.

SLOW DOWN?—?Get your game plan together
One of the biggest problems I see today in recruitment is the total lack of strategy. Have you ever walked up to a stranger in bar and asked them to go home with you? Yeah. It’s kind of like that. You need better game. I understand there is pressure to hire. Hiring managers want their candidates “yesterday”, I feel you. But you need to slow down. Just because you find a name doesn’t mean you should reach out immediately.

You must, must, must, must, MUST manage your hiring manager. Otherwise you might as well give him a whip and put on a saddle. What does this mean? This means that you need to distill what the manager ideally wants and present a landscape for him to better understand his fantasy and the reality. You also need to get buy-in and help him manage his process calibrating along the way. You need to also be able to say, “The candidate pool of what you ideally want is not that big so let’s look at these carefully.”

Research and sourcing is not just about uncovering candidates. It is about being able to educate those hiring about the reality of what is available in the market. If you don’t know, you can’t possibly manage your hiring manager and you will be very unhappy as you proceed to get lost in the woods. You need to look at a large set of candidates before you reach out to them.

I like to tier batches of candidates. First batch of presented candidates to a hiring manager should be a range. Don’t present your best candidates first. You will spoil the manager. First batch you are trying to calibrate whether there is flexibility in what he said he wanted. You want to give a taste for what was once an idea to now what is real and see how the feedback is. How far is he willing to stretch away from the original spec? You still should not have contacted anyone by the way. If you did please go back and read rule #1.

I am moving toward recommending a “long game” and “organizational recruitment” approach. Long game meaning this is the type of talent your organization wants to know and you need to know them. You can’t afford to not know them, so you better get that first contact right. This is where researching a person, their work and as much as you can find about them comes in. Your communication needs to be perfect or you probably won’t have another shot. Organizational recruitment is the idea that you review the target list with the team that is hiring and figure out if you can leverage them for initial contact. Stop pitching jobs and start building relationships.

I could go into a lot more depth here, but I will leave you by saying that many of the problems companies have with sourcing talent can be solved with a simple mental shift. Have questions or comments? Connect with me on Twitter @bethebutterfly

image credit: bigstock

This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.
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