Talent Sourcing in a New Reality: A Story of Human Kindness

Downsizing, restructuring, workforce reduction, realignment, these are words that pull at all emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, and feeling lost.

I felt the same years ago when it happened to me. I didn’t know where to begin looking, or how, in a new job market, shifting to emerging technologies and social media. So I turned to my talent sourcing mindset, building resources, creating lists of prospective companies, “headhunting” contacts, and reaching out to my network.

I “sourced” an inventory of job boards, staffing agencies, job market sites, and new headhunting techniques I termed “reverse sourcing.” When I got a new job, I locked these lists and strategies away in my mind, out of sight out of mind as the saying goes.

Until the word “layoff” came back.

This time, I was one of the ones that “stayed.” Our recruitment efforts slowed and were put on hold, and our focus as a team shifted from bringing talent into the organization to helping those affected by the layoff find external roles outside our organization.

We built training classes, a job placement program, career advising sessions, and I added all the resources I had found to the pool, giving our employees, teammates, and friends something you rarely see in a layoff.


But then several unexpected things happened.

I’ve conducted many trainings and have spoken to several groups of people, but nothing could have prepared me for the resulting effect from the classes I taught over those few weeks on job searches and social networking.

To see these folks come in lost, heartbroken, discouraged and then shift to a positive mindset is truly amazing. There have been several attendees even cracking jokes and leaving energized toward the end of our sessions. These attendees inspired me in ways I never thought possible. The bravery and heart our participants have shown in those sessions can simply not be put into words.

Hope is a hard thing to come by in these times, but it begins with heart.

Yes, heart.

The truth is, I care about each and every one of the people I met in these classes. Their job search, their family, their bills, and their well-being. I was them years ago, and it’s always going to be a part of who I am and my way of thinking.


How’s the best way to fix the problem? It’s heart.

I remember one individual in particular: we were going over ways to respond positively to the interview question, “What’s something you didn’t like about your previous employer?”

He said, “The fact I don’t work there anymore.” But then he went into detail about the team he worked with, the struggles he and his wife had been through with illness, how much the organization wasn’t just a company, but it was the one organization that he’s wanted to work for (and enjoyed over decades).

“Like that, answer the question exactly like that,” I said. It’s who he was, an entirely honest answer, no negativity, and all heart. There were tears that day, but there were laughs too, and that group even exchanged emails and contact info afterward making a job search “task force.” They built a social network mere seconds after our classes ended. I was at a total loss for words. In fact, that moment changed me, probably forever.

Everyone has similar stories. I talked to someone who started as a secretary and worked for us for 20 years, who had no idea how to draft a resume or search LinkedIn. I helped her see all the changes and adapting she’s done regarding company protocols and systems coming and going. She left knowing that this is just another adjustment and was very appreciative of the program.

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I talked to a guy with a military background, who led 50 people and was just starting his role in the civilian world. I told him about Clearance Jobs and Rallypoint, two places I’ve sourced for military candidates. I showed him how to cross reference contacts on LinkedIn, and how to use Boolean logic to pull more accurate search results.

I talked to an architect about construction, LinkedIn, and Archinect. A day later, the guy has a fully updated Linkedin profile with a list of all the projects he’s worked on including what industry. It looked impressive.

More importantly, I learn from these people: what challenges are out there, where to locate the best place to search for jobs or social network to tap. I have a much different perspective on what’s truly important. I got into recruiting because I enjoyed helping people find jobs, but by drawing on our tools and our personal experiences, we can help job seekers on a whole other level.


The Importance of Human Kindness.

I was given nothing when I was laid off; I was a name on a list. I felt like nothing, small and expendable.

However, we gave our laid off cohorts tools, resources, resume advice, job search strategies, notice of job fairs, the top companies hiring, and a growing list of organizations open to helping. There is no way I was going to allow anyone to have the experience I had at the last place. I lost friends and teammates, and they aren’t a name on a list to me, because each one is a real live person who needs help.

This experience changed me and changed my entire perspective. I realized I’m more than just a recruiter. I’m a builder, a fixer, and a connector. When I talk to you, it’s because I want to help. It’s human kindness.

I built the free TheJobstoolbox and am creating a new segment of blogs for everyone going through it. Sometimes all a person needs is a little hope and a whole lot of heart.

This is my gift to all job seekers out there with their own story, struggles or wall facing them right now. I want you to know the hardest thing for me was to stay positive, but somehow I got through it and so will you. This situation does not define you; I’m talking to you too Matt Hawkes, my IT Sourcing friends will help you overcome this hurdle.

Stay true to yourself everyone, keep hunting, and I hope this helps.


Greg Hawkes is a Strategic Talent Sourcer, Speaker, Author, and Founder of the HRSourcingToolbox. He has worked as both a Technical Recruiter and Sourcing Analyst for healthcare, engineering, biotechnology, manufacturing and many other industries. He has been in the recruitment field for over 10 years, and got into heavy sourcing and headhunting back in 2012. He is an ongoing contributor to SourceCon – with topics ranging from Site Searches and CSEs, to Deep Dives andURL Sourcing. While preparing to speak at SourceCon 2017, he built the HRSourcingToolbox with a large inventory of Free Recruitment and Sourcing Tools. He has recently joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as a Strategic Sourcer and loving every minute of it! He is a huge fan of emerging technologies and Boolean Syntax and always willing to share a technique or hack to find the elusive purple squirrel.