I’ll never forget the name Perpaul Skwerl. I had just gotten approval from my company in August to attend my very first SourceCon in Dallas, September 2015. After my ticket was purchased, I started researching everything I could to prepare for the conference and came across a blog from Jeremy Roberts about a SourceCon Grandmaster Challenge that had launched in April of 2015. While I was extremely late to the party, after learning that this challenge was basically a giant scavenger hunt on the internet, I knew I had to give it a shot. I love researching and finding things on the internet (obviously, right?) so I made myself try it to see what it was about.
I started part one on a Tuesday night and it took me about an hour and a half to complete. It consisted of having to find a certain candidate’s resume, then figuring out their email address to contact them. At first, I thought it was nearly impossible to do, but the more I continued at it, my mind started clicking and I started processing ideas in a way that I never had before. I started tracking the different Boolean searches I was doing and looked at them side by side to piece it together. Finally, I sent an email to an address I thought was Skwerl and I immediately got an automated response back: “Congratulations, you’ve completed part one of the SourceCon Challenge! Watch your email for instructions on part two soon.”
I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt such excitement from receiving a simple email. I waited, not so patiently, and found out that I had completed part one less than 48 hours before part two was set to come out, and soon received the email to start part two. Part two consisted of a fun YouTube adventure challenge where I was able to break out a snack of popcorn with M&M’s and watch two-time Grand Master winner Jim Schnyder cleverly reminded us all how to do an effective intake session.
I quickly moved to part three and this is where the real fun began. We had to work through a series of ten clues. Every question was encrypted so I first had to figure out the right tool to decrypt the clue (if you have no idea what I’m talking about because I didn’t at first, Google Caesarian Shift Cipher N11). At first, I had no idea what to do and almost called it quits. I started searching for word decrypters and found different websites to plug the clues into and hoped to see some form of text that was understandable. I remember one question I actually figured out the decrypting tool I had to use on google images because no website I went to would work!
After decrypting the clue, I then had to figure out what the heck I had to find based on a clever riddle type statement. I couldn’t move onto the next clue until I figured out the answer to the one prior, and the whole process took me almost four weeks. To say it was exhausting was an understatement. I stayed up much past my normal bedtime, working on the challenge after work hours and even took my computer to a friend’s house for Friday pizza night because I knew the next clue would come out that evening if I had gotten the prior question right. I was literally in tears on question six, so frustrated and ready to throw my computer out the window because after many, many attempts, I could not figure it out. To this day, I am still not quite sure how I solved it.
The moment I finished the tenth clue and found out I was one of the top five to finish (which meant I qualified for the live final challenge), I was flabbergasted. I started stalking the rest of the finalists and after seeing their background and previous SourceCon challenge experience, I was convinced I didn’t have a chance at winning the entire challenge. How could a little midwestern girl like me with much less experience stand a chance against some of the top sourcers in the industry!? Nevertheless, my competitive side had come out and a fire burned in me like never before. I promised myself I would give it my all to try to win this SourceCon challenge.
The Final Challenge
I arrived in Dallas for SourceCon Fall 2015 excited and more nervous than I had ever been. The final challenge was set to happen right after the first day of SourceCon, and I paced back and forth that afternoon, not knowing what to expect. It was finally time to head to the room and at 5:20pm, I sat down at a little table in a room with the five other finalists.
At 5:30pm, Julia Stone, one of the creators of the challenge, came in and handed us all a piece of paper. “You have 30 minutes to complete the final challenge and e-mail me your answer.” The final challenge was like nothing we ever expected; we were given a resume for a veteran who was looking for a job and had to find him relevant positions to apply for. We were graded on a variety of different categories: the location of the role in relation to the person, did the company support veteran hiring, how relevant was the job in regards to the candidate’s skill set, how many relevant jobs we found, and the presentation. When I first read through the instructions, I was lost. How in the world could I do this in thirty minutes? I sat there for two to three minutes and not knowing what else to do, started creating a word document with a SmartArt title and pretty page border.
I stared at my computer, not knowing where the heck to start in the short amount of time I had to do this. The first thing I did was go to indeed.com to search for jobs in his area that matched his skill-set. He was a veteran with all military work, and I knew absolutely nothing about his experience or areas of expertise. I ended up finding one or two jobs that I thought could be a fit, but after that, the search went dry.
Hitting the Jackpot
I started playing around with simple Boolean searches and typed in phrases like “veteran job fair” followed by the location and one or two skills that the guy had. All of a sudden a website popped up at the top of my search – a veteran job fair within 30 miles of this guy’s location, that was happening within the week! I went to the website and found all of the companies that would be at the job fair. With 20 minutes to spare, I went to as many of their employment websites as I could and found jobs that I thought this candidate could apply for.
By the time I was done, I had listed out six different jobs, all with the title, location, why it could be a good fit, proof that they supported veteran hiring, as well as a link to the job application. With three minutes to spare, I saved the document and e-mailed it to Julia, feeling happy but nervous with the results. I started sipping my beer that I had promised myself I wouldn’t drink until I turned in the final challenge, and waited for the announcement the next day.
Announcing the Winner
They weren’t announcing the winner until the end of SourceCon day two, so I had a whole day to wait. For an impatient person like me, it felt like an eternity! I was happy with my presentation but truly believed one of the other finalists had used their incredible search skills to uncover something way cooler than I did. They brought all of the finalists on stage for the announcement and that’s when Jeremy Roberts announced that I scored 58 out of 60 points and won the title of 2015 SourceCon Grand Master (and free admission to SourceCon for life)! I was shaking with excitement and speechless. Never in a million years did I think I could win this crazy competition.
The next SourceCon challenge is launching within a few weeks and sadly I can’t compete again – but I strongly encourage everyone reading this to! It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a recruiter or sourcer for 15 years, five years, or two years – you lose nothing by giving it a shot and seeing what happens.
When I started the challenge I was a full-cycle Recruiter who had no idea the skills I possessed to win an incredible competition like this; I’ve made close friends, learned new tactics, and became a much more confident sourcer. Whether you’re from Canada, the United States, England, Australia or lovely Puerto Rico – don’t you wonder if you could do it too?