The State Of Sourcing: An Interview with SourceCon Chair Amybeth Hale

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Sep 13, 2012

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and not just for beautiful weather and football, it is conference season. It’s the time when sourcers and recruiters congregate from all parts of the globe to gain knowledge from industry leading experts and to rub elbows with peers they haven’t seen in months. Fall is a time to improve skills, strategize for the upcoming year and to reflect on the past. Learning and networking indeed make the fall sourcing season very enjoyable, however I love reflecting on the past year.

It’s astonishing how much has changed since the last SourceCon conference in Silicon Valley. Google® retired a Boolean modifier and implemented its Knowledge Graph, while Bing® launched its Social Sidebar, and Yahoo!® reviled its Axis?. Mobile has exploded and many companies have jumped on the bandwagon.  Sonar®, the once jaw dropping mobile application, and ambient technology now seems prehistoric, as augmented reality and NFC start to garner more attention. Facebook® went public and forced everyone into a Timeline, showcasing the early adopters classic rants from college. And there is still a dirty rumor that job boards are going away and Boolean sourcing will eventually be automated.

Looking back at the past year is a whirlwind of innovation, change and integration. Some of us have changed careers and even companies. Some of us have landed our dream job and others continue to climb the corporate ladder. As the economy continues to piece itself together, we have been trying to allocate our budget in new directions to attract top talent. It’s undoubtedly a great time to be a sourcer and an exciting time to attend a conference.

To reflect on this change and to get a sneak peek at what to expect in the future, I decided to catch up with one sourcer who has unquestionably witnessed a lot of change over the past year, the former Editor of and the upcoming Emcee of the 2012 SourceCon Dallas Conference, Microsoft’s Senior Talent Sourcer, Amybeth Hale.

You took some time off of sourcing to run SourceCon. What’s it like to get back into the daily grind of sourcing for Microsoft® and was that experience overwhelming for you?

“It was very overwhelming and continues to be. Microsoft is a very large company, with a well rooted history. The most overwhelming part for me was getting back into the corporate world … and the company culture … trying to find my place in this organization. It’s an ongoing process and learning those processes have been the most overwhelming part of my transition.”

What have you learned through this transition?

“I have been reintroduced to the idea that there is no one way to source. I’ve been learning from people at other companies in the Sourcing7 community that each company does things differently. I’ve been taking bits and pieces from others outside of our company and from other departments within my company. From the resources that they use, to the methods at which they reach out to candidates, how far along in the process do they go before passing the baton, and how long they stay in touch with prospects.”

With so many great sites and techniques to find candidates, sourcing can be a very overwhelming process. What is your best advice for new sourcers in our industry, especially those who try to take it in all at once?

“You can’t take it all in at once. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you try to take it all in at once you’re going to end up with a stomachache and throw up. The best advice I can give a new sourcer is to take a look at the fruit on the tree. If you are going to be mentored by someone, make sure it’s someone who loves what they do and is good at it… A lot of people try to jump in head first with a lot of the tools that are available, and I think for a new person with little experience, you have to start with the basics. If you just throw them in and tell them to start Tweeting or Facebooking and reaching out to people on LinkedIn®, they’re never going to understand what they’re doing. They are not going to understand the foundations of what sourcing is all about.”

“Sourcing is the first touch for most candidates from a prospective employer and that impression is going to stick with that person. If you have a sourcer that is just sending a generic LinkedIn message to that candidate, they are going to get a bad impression, and that sourcer is going to have a bad taste in their mouth because they are not going to be seeing results.”

“A lot of companies are trying to find the happy medium:  hire a brand new person and put them through a great training program or hire a seasoned professional and have them hit the ground running. In order to hire that seasoned professional, you have to pay for that experience. If you don’t want to pay for that experience and want a more economical solution, you have to have a good training program in place.”

Social media has been making an impact in our industry for many years, where do you see social media currently in our industry and is it being over-saturated?

“Social media is never going to be oversaturated. I don’t think it has hit critical mass yet. It’s definitely being utilized by a good chunk of the population, but there are still people that want nothing to do with it. I think social media has been misused by recruiters. They view it as a job posting forum as opposed to a way to reach out and develop relationships. I think a lot of that stems from high expectations from within the company. A lot of companies don’t understand the intent of social media. Social media is supposed to be a communication medium, not a recruiting tool. You will see a lot of recruiters, who say they use Facebook to recruit, but are they really reaching out to people, or are they just posting stuff on their wall and hoping people see it?”

Will we ever be replaced by machines and will Boolean ever become 100% automated?

“Boolean to me is like learning how to crawl, roll over, walk, and run … it’s the basic building block of search. Whether it’s done by a human being or by a machine it’s always going to be a part of search … It’s like digging dirt and using a shovel to do it manually, or using a machine like a backhoe, there is always human muscle behind it.  So whether you are writing strings manually, or using a software program, there still has to be human intervention for consistency and validation. Boolean is important. Is it the most important tool in sourcing? Absolutely not. Will it be automated? Yes, but there always needs to be a human eye checking to make sure its producing efficient results.”

Let’s talk about the future of sourcing. You’re currently sourcing for the new Windows® Phone and mobile has been creating a lot of buzz in our industry. How do you see mobile changing the future of both recruiting and sourcing and what can we do best to start a successful mobile campaign?

“Mobile recruiting, to me, is exactly what social recruiting was several years ago. It’s the new shiney toy in the box and everyone wants to play with it, but people need to proceed with caution. A mobile recruiting campaign is only going to magnify any challenge areas in your overall recruiting process.”

“Social recruiting was the same thing several years ago. Everyone wanted to get on Facebook, everyone wanted a LinkedIn company page, and everyone wanted to have a corporate Twitter account. If you don’t have a solid recruiting process to begin with, it’s only going to look worse by plastering your company and employment brand all over the internet.”

“Mobile recruiting, in my personal opinion, is a two way conversation. You are interacting with people and finding out what they are interested in, you’re keeping them up to date with things that they’ve indicated that they are interested in. That is just my personal opinion.”

So where is our industry headed? Are we going to keep playing with the new shiney toy or do we need to go back to the basics?

“In the 10 years that I’ve been doing this I’ve seen the waves of technology. When I first started in 2002 I remember everyone was buzzing about LinkedIn. Towards 2007, 2008 there was a reoccurrence of interest in bringing everything back to the basics. Then in 2008, 2009 Facebook is readily available to people outside of the educational world, and Twitter has come onto the scene, as well as other new interactive social networks, there is a rebirth of interest in technology. I think right now we are starting to see a need to return to the basics.”

“A couple of years down the road maybe there will be new technology like augmented reality that is around today, but not at the forefront for a lot of people in the recruiting world. I don’t know what the future holds for augmented reality and recruiting, I’m sure there is something really cool that can be done with that. Right now we need to return to the basics, which is educating and improving the candidate experience and reaching out through marketing efforts, and having real connections with human beings. We follow technology trends one to two years behind where technology is.”

Final Thoughts

Will going back to the basics be the trend at the upcoming fall 2012 Conference in Dallas? Or will new tips, tricks, and techniques to find candidates overshadow the need to improve what we already know? With a stellar lineup of speakers and breakout sessions, it’s undeniable that this upcoming conference is shaping up to be a great event. One thing is for sure, our industry will always continue to change and will we will always continue to innovate the way we source top talent. Just like Amybeth stated: “You can’t take it all in at once. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

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