The Evolution of the Candidate Funnel: Diamond Recruiting

Recently, experts have been saying that the marketing funnel is dead. When it comes to recruiting, sourcing and talent acquisition, we couldn’t agree more. We prefer to view the process as a Diamond, because like Aladdin we, as recruiters, are looking for “diamonds in the rough,” AKA the best candidates. Diamonds are a recruiter’s best friend and an incredibly efficient process when it comes to getting the best talent because we’re always searching for the next shining candidate to bring the company to the next level. But recruiting and sourcing aren’t like a Disney movie; we don’t all marry our prince or princess and ride off into the finite sunset for our happily ever after. There’s no post-credits sing-along with all our talking animal friends before the story fades to black. This is because recruiting is a continuous and arduous process that is continuously changing, and like the recently deceased funnel, the way we source and acquire talent changes as time goes on.

What I’m referring to is a sourcing process most recruiters don’t even know they do. This recruiting process puts the rest to shame, streamlines and, most importantly, works. This process builds a pipeline with a select few qualified candidates before doing massive name generation. Closing candidate searches quickly and efficiently rely on having efficient and systematic research and sourcing process. After researching for the past 12 plus years, I finally understood the nature of my research process. And let me tell you, this thing’s a diamond.  

A Recruiter’s Best Friend

Most recruiters use one of four research and sourcing processes. Which is great! Until you realize you’re probably not looking at or getting the best candidates out of the processes, you’re using.

As recruiters in an age where there are more jobs than candidates, we have to be a little creative when it comes to meeting client needs with a recruiting plan. We have to think outside the box (or funnel in this case). So rotate the box 45 degrees and turn it into a diamond. The expanding axis of the diamond fits recruiting models more accurately because we start small and expand out as we continue to analyze and understand talent. As time goes on our recruiting and sourcing methods expand from a narrow target to a wide range of sourcing vertices and recruiting touch-points.

Four Common Research Processes

As recruiters, we get into the habits we learned when we first started and didn’t like to stray away from them. However, these habits don’t always find us the best people for the job. It’s like setting up a volleyball team and only looking at the girls or boys who have brown hair. You’re missing out on a whole different level of skill by not looking at everyone available to you.

These four common research processes get us in the habit of looking at a small group of available talent. By doing so, we’re missing out on so many diamonds in the rough who would be perfect for the position.

Winging It

And by “winging it,” I mean recruiters sending emails and making phone calls to anyone and everyone they find. This process is the least efficient process and most unorthodox. There’s no rhyme or reason to how we go about finding people with this process, and it’s ultimately more of a reaction to an open position.

When recruiters start winging it, they are generally reacting to something instead of using a well thought out plan. This process is relying on large-volume outreach to increase the chance of talking to the right person.

The ZigZag

This is similar to winging it, but there’s usually a little more of a plan that goes with it. With the ZigZag approach, you’ll follow a path to a point and change direction. This process makes it, so you’re constantly changing direction and looking at everything instead of what you need in your organization. You go back and forth between different tools and research strategies hoping something will work out.

Now, this process is very common and sometimes can’t be avoided if you have a client or hiring manager that constantly changes their mind. In these situations, you’re going to naturally ZigZag back and forth trying to keep up with what they want. For example, your client wants to focus on certain schools and companies to fill a position. Once you’re set in a plan, they come back to you the next week with a different idea.

We’re left zigging and zagging between strategies. This happens. Be ready to develop a plan of action and have a plan thought out ahead of time.

Precision

As recruiters, we like to be precise in who we get for a client or our organization. And precision is great! As long as you’re not missing the majority of your candidate pool. With this approach, you may be missing potential targets who may not have the information or use the keywords your tools tracked down.

However, this process does do very well to gather a small list of “hot” leads. You use as many keywords and criteria as possible which gives you a solid list of about 5 to 20 leads. If we go back to our volleyball team scenario from earlier, we realize getting a team together using a limited amount of information is never going to get you the best candidate for the position.

The Funnel

Ah, the funnel, something most of us have all heard of and many of us use on a regular basis. Well, I’m here to tell you this isn’t the best approach when it comes to finding great people. The funnel kicks in after you’ve been incredibly focused and you need to expand your search process. At this point, the upside-down triangle approach kicks in.

You expand your criteria until you get 100 or so profiles and prepare your funnel to narrow the field down again. You’ll have to dig through backgrounds and profile details until you identify the best candidates for a given role. At this point, you’ve wasted a lot of time and energy to reach the best person you could find finally.

Let’s Start Mining

Depending on the role, I usually expand the criteria to 100, 150, 200 or even 300 names or profiles; this is the middle of the diamond or the maximum number of people who meet your minimum criteria for the job. For example, one thing we found recently was that our overage number of candidates needed to get a backend engineer hire is 150 ID’ed, and that’s just to get one fill. Once I find these people, I dig into the backgrounds and call the leads who I know the most about and then keep digging until I find the ones who most closely represent what my client wants. The person who gets hired usually falls somewhere between the middle of the diamond (minimum fit) and the bottom point of the diamond (best fit).

The Diamond Recruiting Process uses a little bit of everything from the research processes so you can net something extremely valuable…the diamond in the rough we all seek. Combining the Precision and Funnel processes give us something brilliant and solid, a Diamond. This approach gives you a targeted pipeline before you start building the long list of candidates to call through while you expand your search strings to build out an even longer list of candidates. After you’ve been focused, you start expanding the search process until you reach a long list.

Alright, Let’s Expand a Little 

Just like a diamond found in nature, the Diamond Recruiting Process is perfected by applying the perfect amounts of each of these four key practices, just like when you buy a diamond, you have the four C’s: Carat, Cut, Clarity, and Color. Our four C’s, however, are Collaboration, Calibration, Candidates, and Culture:

Collaboration

Every engagement you have is started with a kickoff call to get a feel of what our client wants from their recruitment experience. This also opens the door to collaborate with our peers and seek new perspectives from our teammates.

They will either validate or provide advice to the plan you have in store for them. This collaboration period is the time when you get to see exactly what the recruiting process is going to look like and what kind of people your client wants working for them. As a team, you’re able to come up with the perfect keywords and criteria to make your client happy.

Calibration

Once the information is gathered, hit the ground running. Using the Diamond Recruiting Process, produce a short list of the ideal candidates your client is looking for. Once this list is done and ready, send the list to your client for immediate feedback.

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Now’s the fun part. We start mining for diamonds!

Candidates

Here comes the real pressure. You’ll start applying everything you know the client wants your product and candidates you’ve gathered. Open your pipeline and begin evaluating the profiles you have sourced.

Look at whether or not they match what your client needs. If they don’t match needs, look at what they’re missing and evaluate the other candidates based on that, in addition to client needs.

Culture

Matching the candidate to the keywords and criteria aren’t the only things you need to worry about. The way they carry themselves and the culture they’ll bring to the team is just as important as what’s on their resume.

Look for a candidate’s personality, interests, demeanor and communication style as you reach the bottom tip of your diamond. You should find out what the client wants in their company culture and what kind of people they look for. Use this research method to infer whether a candidate fits a company.

The funny thing about the Diamond Recruiting Process is that a lot of people do it without realizing that they’re doing it. The industry is focused on the funnel, so people may be recruiting and sourcing candidates using the Diamond Recruiting Process, even though they think they’re using the funnel. The difference is a funnel is a top-down approach, while the diamond is a spread – it combines the best aspects of multiple research methods that fine-tunes and tailors a plan to fit each client’s specific organizational goals and hiring needs.

Chris Murdock is the Co-Founder and Senior Partner of IQTalent Partners. Chris has over 18 years of executive recruiting experience and leads research and sourcing for the firm while also developing client relationships.
 
Prior to Founding IQTalent Partners, Chris was a Sourcer with Yahoo!'s internal Executive Recruiting team in the corporate offices in Sunnyvale, California. Previous to Yahoo!, Chris was an Associate in the Menlo Park, California office of with Heidrick & Struggles, where he recruited for software, hardware, professional services, and semiconductor clients. Before Heidrick & Struggles, Chris worked in the Retail Practice of TMP Worldwide in Atlanta, Georgia.

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