Sourcing Outside the Box – Sourcing Socially

If the internet shut down tomorrow and there were no online capabilities, 99% of the sourcers in the world would be out of a job. #truestory

It seems that so many of my stories go back to the days of agency recruiting and thinking outside of the box. Back in those days, we had a back office support team that did all the paperwork and scheduling so that I could do what I was best at; recruit. When you can solely focus on a project with laser focus, you really can get work done. This article is the #truestory of my search for a ColdFusion developer in a small city, at the time with an even smaller community of developers, with what is now a relatively dying scripting language.

There has been so much talk about “social recruiting” over the last few years and how to find people online. Find their email, get their phone number, and hope that they return your messages, or you are lucky enough that they answered their phone with you called.

In recruitment, You don’t have a captive audience; you have a protected one. Candidates can hide behind the phone or their computer. Did you know that there are online user groups that, locally, have meetings? Look into it, because frankly, this is a vein of gold in an untapped mine, and if you do it right, the wealth of knowledge you can receive is overwhelming.

Let me elaborate.

I was recruiting for a particular order from a.Com startup in the valley of the sun, Phoenix, Arizona. My client was in search of a ColdFusion developer, as they were growing the team. During this time, I was recruiting in the heart of the dot-com bubble and money was flowing like water down the mountain side during a spring thaw. The issue I was facing was two-fold. First, I had no idea what ColdFusion was and secondly, I didn’t have a pool of candidates. The conundrum was real my friends. I would hashtag this, but Twitter wasn’t around during this time, and I doubt that this phrase would ever take off, but I digress.

After some due diligence of both tireless searches online and multiple phone calls, I hit the jackpot.  There was a user group for ColdFusion developers in town, and they met every few weeks at the same venue. They had a web page, written in ColdFusion no less; that gave dates, times, and discussion topics that they were going to discuss. I donned by best geek apparel, which if you know me, was my standard wardrobe and set out to find my developer and fulfill my quest for my client.

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When I first arrived at the meeting, I noticed that it was full with the usual cast of characters that you would expect to attend this type of gathering. T-shirts and jeans, some with glasses and hair unkempt, my people indeed. I sat in the back of the room and just listened. I learned about the tool, the good, the bad, and the only just frustrating parts of the code, and applying it to the backend. I was in school again absorbing knowledge that would be useful later on when I would be recruiting these folks, maybe, just maybe, someone in this room.

After attending the biweekly meetings, one of the leaders of the group approached me, in front of a large amount of the members and asked me why I never seemed to ask any questions or more importantly never offer any advice or wisdom to the group. I only smiled, dug into my pocket, and pulled out my card introducing myself. I received and incredulous stare from not only him but the other 30 or so members.  So, “YOU are a SPY then!?” he yelled. I was shocked that they assumed I was a spy, and there was no top secret information shared. Frankly, the bar to get it was opening the door, so the connotation seemed misplaced. I told him that I was here to learn, not recruit. I wanted to know what the code was like so that when I did reach out or, was reached out to, by a customer. I wanted to learn how to program to be better able to talk with the candidates I was recruiting more intelligently, which was the same approach I took with every other technology.

I then stated that I never had, not once, contacted anyone in the group to solicit them for positions that I had open. I did, in fact, had them open, but I knew that it would be frowned upon by the group as I knew they were constantly hounded by recruiters daily. I did not want to be that guy by any means. Surprisingly there was a smile and a look of confusion from the group. Then one of them, an older woman stepped up and extended her hand. “Thank you,” she said, “thank you for taking them time to learn what we do so that you know what you are speaking to us about, I wish others would do the same,” then asked for my business card. Others followed suit with one person asking if I had any contract work currently available now as he was looking but was a little shy of working with recruiters, he was burned by recruiters in the past, shocking I know.

The moral of this story is that to truly be a good sourcer one has to think outside of the box, not everything or everyone is online. One has to use the social tools of actually meeting up with people, taking the time to get offline and, what we use to say in the business, press flesh, which meant shaking hands. We look for and source for people, and many, too many, see us as a threat and not an opportunity. Many times sourcers are on the front line and first contact people by humanizing our approach maybe we can start making some changes.

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing in the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions for Engage Talent. He has experience with both third-party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland area. Now, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage.

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