The Creative Sourcing Myth

Herein follows a tale of sourcing woe, like that of Juliet and her Romeo.

Have you ever been in a meeting with a, fill in the blank, and at the end of the meeting the conclusion is, “we need to come up with some creative ways of finding more candidates.” Every time I hear that I wonder, “what does that even mean?”

Do you feel that way too? In this post, I want to share some stories of souring woe, with the objective of clarifying the conversation and helping you identify solutions for a happy ending.

The first part of understanding and dealing with a myth is identifying where it originated. At different points in different companies, operations professionals sat down with recruiters and came to the same conclusion – we don’t have enough qualified applicants applying for our jobs! During these conversations, the answer came from a study of the numbers. At any given time, only a small percentage of the job force is looking for a job. What if we approach people who aren’t actively looking for a job?

After some initial concerns, sourcing was born. A new role was born from the ashes of recruiting: The Sourcer. A person entirely dedicated to the identification, engagement, and submission of prospects into the candidate pipeline that would not have applied otherwise.

At first, sourcing was a great success.

Networks like LinkedIn gave sourcers a seemingly endless supply of passive candidates to approach about our jobs. It was a veritable Eden for sourcers and the profession. It was quiet, too quiet. Until something changed, as it always does, and like in all good stories, our time in paradise ended.

We evolved from being seen as opportunity knocking gently on the door into merchants of spam. As the devolution progressed our response rates dropped, our throughput suffered, and we tried to fill the gap with filler instead of substance. Our once standard 50% and above response rates have dwindled down to below 20% and in some cases even 10%.

Like many challenges, this one has evolved. The biggest challenge previously was candidate identification. We simply could not find enough qualified people to fill our open jobs. As a result, the technology of the last 15 years has been focused on identification of talent. Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, LinkedIn, Talent Bin, Entello, and Gild are all tools that are primarily focused on the identification of talent that could be a match for our currently open and available jobs.

Given this pattern , it‘s easy to understand why companies turn to creative sourcing as a solution to the problem of lack of candidate flow. The consequence has been that the tools have allowed more people to contact more prospects in less time. Ironically, as we were able to reach more people, the likelihood of being ignored increased. This created a negative feedback loop.

We have now created a new problem for ourselves.

The new problem talent acquisition professionals face is engagement.

The Creative Sourcing Myth.

The myth isn’t about the existence of creative sourcing, it’s about what creative sourcing really is and what it really means. The myth is that creative sourcing is the ability to identify new prospects. When in reality, creative sourcing is the ability to invent creative ways of engaging with prospective candidates we have already identified.

As Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

This means that we need to change the way we think about sourcing. Finding an increasingly shrinking pool of unidentified contacts is not the solution to the problem on lack of candidate flow.

So what IS the solution?

Change the way we think about our internal relationships inside of our company.

The relationship between recruiting and marketing should become analogous to the relationship between Sales and Marketing. These two professions are related and on occasion overlapping, but they are different and distinct.

Improve the Candidate experience

A simple way to improve candidate experience is to keep candidates informed about the process and close the loop with them at the end of the process. Even if they don’t get hired, offer to help them network. This will do two things for you. First it will provide you with an actual network of people you can call on in the future. Second, it can create candidate referrals.

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Candidate referrals are a source that no technology can create or compete with.

Learn the language of marketing.

Understanding your target audience and learning how to engage with them in a way that prompts them to take the desired action is the most important thing you can do for your personal productivity. It is more effective to reach out to 3 prospects and have 1 respond to you than it is to reach out to 30 prospects and have 2 respond to you.

Improve Employer Brand

Work with your employer branding team to learn about the things they are doing to attract prospects to engage. If you don’t have an Employer Branding team, reach out to marketing. View it as an opportunity to increase your skill set. Start small and stay simple. Start by learning about the stories your company tells. If you can’t find them, ask. Ask your hiring managers about what impact their work has on their clients. Ask them to tell you why their work is important. Then, moving forward, share that story with the people you want to engage. You can use social media to share your story but the simplest way to share it is in your approach emails and phone calls with your prospects.

Employer branding at its core is an attempt to increase the rate at which prospective candidates engage with a company. Your effort doesn’t have to span every channel of social media, but it does have to start with one. The first step to a happy ending is having a story to tell that starts with, “Once upon a time.”

Mike Wolford has over 10 years of recruiting experience in staffing agency, contract and in house corporate environments. He has worked with such companies as Allstate, Capital One, and National Public Radio. Mike also published a book titled “Becoming the Silver Bullet: Recruiting Strategies for connecting with Top Talent” and How to Find and Land your Dream Job: Insider tips from a Recruiter.” He also founded Recruit Tampa, and he’s currently theStrategic Sourcing Lead at Nielsen. An active member of the recruiting community, Mike has spoken publicly in an effort to help elevate the level of professional skills. Follow him on Twitter @Mike1178, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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