How the basics of marketing apply to the basics of sourcing.
Let's separate fact from fiction. This will help you find and hire more top candidates. It'll also help if you read the last two paragraphs of this article first. The article will have more value this way, since it will change your perspective about the real reason why you're a recruiter.
There is an apparent debate going on among the ERE readership regarding the best means to source talent. In any debate such as this, there is truth and reality on one side, and perception and opinion on the other. In between there is misunderstanding. To set the record straight, this article will define the truth. In the process, it will attempt to clarify all of the misunderstandings. So let the debate begin.
First, let me set out some basic truths.
The need to hire passive candidates is not a myth; nor is it a fad. Passive candidates have been around forever and will continue to be here forever. Whether you choose to find them — or have the resources and time to do it — is another matter entirely. Whether you need to find them depends on a lot of factors. For example, if you can find great people running ads on job boards, why would you want to do anything else? If you can't find enough good people this way, then you'll need to hire passive candidates. That's a fact.
Misunderstanding typically occurs when people assume their personal circumstances represents everyone else's. This is rarely the case. In the world of recruiting, if a person has too many requisitions to handle and can only conduct active candidate sourcing and it works, the person will vigorously defend his or her situation. This is only natural. However, it's based on a false perception of reality. Worse, it prevents open-minded thinking and progress.
Whenever you're faced with people who disagree about an issue, it's always best to first understand their situation. The active vs. passive candidate debate is not an either/or issue. The fact is that both active and passive candidate sourcing is appropriate — but it depends on candidate supply versus demand, how good an employer brand you have, and whether you have enough recruiters on the team to handle the workload. Not having the facts about a situation is how misunderstandings occur. It also causes some bad decisions.
If you have ever lost a top candidate because a hiring manager client didn't think your candidate was as strong as you did, you faced a similar reality-versus-perception problem. If the hiring manager didn't give you facts to justify his or her evaluation, but rather offered just opinion and feelings, you lost the candidate for the wrong reasons. When this happens again, you have two choices: Either buy in to the fiction and find more candidates, or get more facts. I'd suggest you get more facts to back up your evaluation. It takes some tough-mindedness, but you'll save lots of time. This is what recruiting is all about.
To better understand the facts about sourcing, let's get back to basics. There are two parts to this: a candidate segmentation analysis and a sourcing plan.
In Marketing 101 (maybe it was 102), we all learned the importance of segmenting a potential customer pool into categories based on certain demographics and buying criteria. The purpose of this was to design marketing and sales approaches that best met customer needs to maximize sales.
A similar marketing approach can be used when developing a sourcing plan. Segmenting candidates based on how passive versus active they are is the first step:
The Sourcing Plan
Putting together a sourcing plan is a good way to ensure that you're hiring the best quality people at the lowest cost within the shortest period of time. This is the universal objective (or should be) for corporate recruiting departments. A sourcing plan is a list of different sourcing techniques and approaches that you're likely to use during the course of any assignment. It's best to prioritize these approaches, based on the degree of effort and resources required.
Here's the quick list of common sourcing approaches, and how you might want to use them most effectively:
Bottom line: The more passive a candidate, the more effort is required to find them.
Next to the bottom line: Don't move on to a higher cost/effort sourcing channel until you've determined that a lower cost channel has been maxed out.
From a pure cost and time standpoint, it's always better to target the most active (least passive) candidates. If a company can find top active people using job boards or basic employee referral systems, there is no reason to do anything else.
The problem arises when the company can't find enough good people this way. Rather than doing something different, there's a tendency to do more of the same, more intensely. This is a bad idea. With a sourcing plan in place and managed using appropriate metrics, a company can naturally jump to a higher-level approach when needed. Of course, this requires a lot of pre-planning — but that's the whole reason to put together a sourcing plan.
There is a debate underway about whether a corporate recruiting department should target active or passive candidates. In my mind, there is no debate at all. Both pools are appropriate targets. How you best do this, and when, is what should be debated. I'm surprised that no one mentioned this.
In any debate, it's important to separate facts, opinions, and opinions masquerading as facts. It's also important to defend and argue your viewpoint with facts. As long as you're at it, stop wasting time in these silly debates, and stop accepting superficial opinions and false facts from your hiring manager clients. If you think you're representing a great candidate, defend the person with as many facts as you can muster. You'll close a lot more offers, and gain a lot more respect along the way.
Down deep that's the real reason I wrote this article and all of these other articles on hiring, recruiting and sourcing. We sometimes lose sight of this fact: We're recruiters and we need to find the best candidates we can, and defend them against all silly reasons and processes that prevent them from getting hired. That's why you need to separate fact from fiction. That's why you're a recruiter.
- Lou Adler
Lou Adler (email@example.com) is the president of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm helping companies make hiring top talent a more systematic process (www.adlerconcepts.com). His Amazon best-seller Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 1997, 2002) started the performance-based hiring and selection movement. This was followed-up with the award-winning Nightingale Conant audio tape program, POWER Hiring: How to Find, Assess, Hire and Keep Great Talent (1998). His latest book project, The Future of Hiring (2005), describes how to combine technology, creative sourcing, and a great recruiting organization to make hiring the best a true business process. Adler is a veteran recruiter and founder of CJA Executive Search. His early industry career included general management positions with the Allen Group, as well as senior-level financial management positions with Rockwell International's Automotive and Consumer Electronics groups. Adler holds an MBA from UCLA and a B.S. in Engineering from Clarkson University, New York.
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