Top 15 Common Secondary Sourcing Mistakes

Oct 12, 2010
This article is part of a series called Boolean Black Belt.

I’ve had the opportunity to assess, train, and coach hundreds of recruiters from corporate and agency environments responsible for performing sourcing functions, and I’ve been exposed to many myths, misconceptions, and mistakes when it comes to leveraging information systems for sourcing and recruiting. I’d like to take a moment to share my observations on what I think some of the major mistakes that are commonly made in secondary sourcing efforts. Originally, I wanted to make this a “Top 10? post – but if you read this post within the next 2 minutes, you get 50% more free! In no particular order:

#1 Over-analyzing resumes

Resumes are by nature imperfect and are poor representations of a person’s experience and capabilities, so apply what I call the “ten second rule:” Don’t read resumes – scan them. If you can’t absolutely disqualify/rule out a candidate based on reviewing their resume in ten seconds, pick up the phone and call them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

#2 Running overly generic/basic searches

You’ll get correspondingly generic and basic results, typically what I’ve overheard people refer to as “too many.” People making this mistake unknowingly increase the size of the Hidden Talent Pool of candidates they don’t find.

#3 Making assumptions about candidates from their resumes

See mistake #1. Ever hear the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?”

#4 Not spending at least ten minutes thinking about and researching your search strategy before you start running searches and making calls

You should always take time to analyze your search criteria to assess the possibility that your search terms may not find all qualified candidates, and in fact might actually be eliminating viable candidates. I have found that the more time I spend on the front-end of a search, the more relevant my results become, which in turn increases my productivity by enabling me to find more and better candidates more quickly. Imagine that!

#5 Seeing each resume only as a potential match for the position you’re working on

Any resume database you have access to can be leveraged in much the same way as LinkedIn can – every person is actually a conduit to a larger network of people. So even if a particular resume you’re reviewing doesn’t appear to be an ideal match – they actually might be (see mistakes #1 and #3), and they may know someone who is.

#6 Assuming one search finds all qualified candidates

It’s actually impossible. Trust me.

#7 Searching only resumes posted within 30 days when searching major job boards

Did you know that 75% – 80% of all resumes on the major job boards are dated over 30 days old? You should never limit yourself to only searching resumes posted in the last 30 days – some of the best passive and active candidates have resumes 31 to 365 + days old online. And most people don’t call them.

#8 Not calling candidates that appear to be under- or over-qualified

First, see mistakes #1 and #3. Second, see mistake #5. Third, people who are in fact too junior or too senior for your current needs might fit future needs. Fourth, people who are either too junior or too senior for a particular position might work with or know someone who is an exact match.

#9 Submitting the first two or three candidates you find that fit your job/hiring profile and moving on to the next open position

Sound crazy? I can hear someone asking, “Why shouldn’t I submit the first candidates I find that fit the requirements?” Well, ask yourself this – what’s the statistical probability that the first two people you speak magically happen to are the best candidates you can possibly find? The most closeable and controllable? The most “affordable?” Recruiting and staffing should not be conducted on a FIFO basis, but on a BIFO basis.  You saw it here first. Think about it.

#10 Thinking that after searching a particular source of candidates (your ATS, a job board, the Internet, LinkedIn, etc.) that you’ve found all of the available candidates and cannot find any more.

You’re wrong – invariably you’ve left behind Hidden Talent Pools of people who do match your positions, but you could not find them because your Boolean search strings made it impossible to do so. Being aware of this is a major step on the path towards secondary sourcing enlightenment. See mistake #4.

#11 Thinking that the major online job boards have poor quality candidates

Read this post on not believing the hype that the job boards have low quality candidates.

#12 Relying solely or heavily on title-based searches

Not all companies use the same titles for the same roles and responsibilities – so making this mistake contributes to you populating Hidden Talent Pools with every candidate that matches your hiring profile or job order but has a title that you didn’t think of and include in your search. See mistake #4.

#13 Not using the NOT operator

It’s the least utilized, and in my opinion, actually the most powerful standard/basic Boolean operator – it’s not just for getting rid of stuff you don’t want. I will dedicate an entire post to the NOT operator in the near future. Puns intended.

#14 Only using skill/tech terms (e.g., Java, Oracle, Accounts Payable, SOX, etc.) when creating Boolean search strings

The best searches don’t rely solely on skill/technology based terms, but also include responsibility terms (administer, configure, create, manage, reconcile, coordinate, design, etc.) and environmental terms (enterprise, host*, etc.) where applicable. This is the first step in moving beyond simple buzz-word matching.

#15 Spending 80% of your time using low-yield resources that can only provide 20% (or less!) of the potentially available results

For example – spending hours searching the Internet for candidates and not heavily/effectively leveraging your internal resume database/ATS. While you can certainly find great people on the Internet, the Internet is not indexed specifically to enable sourcing and requires many tricks and tweaks to yield relevant results. If you have access to an ATS or internal resume database – it’s specifically designed to store and retrieve resumes, and probably has more local and more qualified candidates than the Internet, and might actually have a better search interface enabling more precise searching – see this post as a dramatic example of this point. Also – if you have access to any of the major job boards – they actually have a larger percentage of passive job seekers than active and they have some fantastic candidates – see mistakes #7 and #11.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it certainly covers some of the most common major mistakes sourcers and recruiters make while performing secondary sourcing.

Have a mistake to add to the list? Post a comment and let me know.


This article is part of the Boolean Black Belt archives. You can view the original article here.

This article is part of a series called Boolean Black Belt.
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