June 21, 2018

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Tips to Consider When Directly Sourcing for Candidates

When direct sourcing or networking for candidate leads, it's best to keep an old saying in mind: "It's better to give than to receive." Let me explain how.

We all know that what separates the good "application processors" from the good "recruiters" is the ability to design and implement effective direct sourcing and networking initiatives (DSNI) that will penetrate the hidden candidate markets and uncover talent.

In fact, as the market continues to get more and more competitive, the ability to direct source and network for candidates may be the only way to find skill sets.

A successful initiative depends on two basic steps:

  • Building a good list of names to call.
  • Being effective at processing the list.

Let's assume you've built a really good DSNI list to process or call on. Keep in mind, it's no easy task to build a good list, and the quality of the DSNI list can either lead you to hidden talent or waste your precious time. But once a quality list is created, it's up to the recruiter to make something out of it.

The best way to do that is to make sure that each and every person you interact with is offered something before you ask for something. Too often, recruiters make DSNI calls with one thing in mind; how can the person on the list help me? They contact a total stranger and before they even get to know them, they're asking for help.

That approach goes something like,"Hello, my name is Harry Swanson, a recruiter with ABC Company. I'm networking for a software engineer for one of my clients and thought maybe you could help me."

While that approach is straightforward and evokes a person's natural instinct to help, it's also intrusive, disruptive, and can easily turn off the lead before you truly get to solicit their help. This is especially true if the person gets many calls from recruiters. They may be tired of being everyone's helper and may wonder what's in it for them.

Watch how they respond when offered something first. "Hello, my name is Harry Swanson, a recruiter with ABC Company. I'm currently representing a fast-growing, highly successful software firm looking to add new talent to its team. It's a really good position, and the company has many benefits for its employees. It offers three weeks of yearly training, has an excellent employee value proposition, and is currently designing the next generation of software for the XYZ industry. Do you have any friends, family, or colleagues who might benefit from knowing about this great opportunity?"

Can you see the difference? This person might be so intrigued with your "pitch" that they'll want to hear more about it and become your next candidate. If they're not interested, they may be more willing to share this information with a friend or colleague they feel would be happy to receive it.

The first approach is like going around with your hand out, looking for someone to fill it with something. The second is like reaching out to people with your hand full of something good that you want to share with them. The first is more about receiving and the second is about giving. The people you call on will feel that and respond accordingly.

Tips for Preparing DSNI

  • To get traction, create a meaningful call list of at least 50 names. To build this list, begin using research tools, such as Hoovers, to find information about an industry's leading companies. Search within those companies for hidden talent. Research candidates employed by your client's competition or in professional associations, collegiate alumni organizations, and diversity affinity organizations.

  • Study your client's employee value proposition. You have 10 to 15 seconds to capture a passive candidate's attention. Begin by describing your client's employee benefits or its exciting new product launch to engage the potential candidate. Think about what you can say to entice them to want to hear more about the company you're recruiting for.

  • Prepare your rebuttal to objections in advance. Expect nine out of 10 people to say, "No thanks, I have a job." If you're expecting this response, it will be easier to reply sincerely. Try this rebuttal, "Ok, thank you for your time. I respect that decision and don't expect you to leave your job at the drop of a hat. If you ever want to explore your options, please give me a call." Some common objections include, "I'm happy where I'm at," "I'm not looking right now," and "How did you get my name?"

  • Clear a two-hour block of time on your calendar. Schedule as much time as you need to go through the entire list. Focus and don't let yourself get interrupted or sidetracked. It's important to keep a continuous pace, because after the first two calls you will be in a zone.

  • Prepare to do a lot of note-taking; good calls often lead to more names and numbers!

  • Begin your campaign with enthusiasm and confidence.

  • Engage each person with something to offer.

  • Follow up with gratitude if someone helps you.

Direct sourcing for candidates takes hard work and persistence to see results. Be prepared for rejection, but never give up. Passive candidates are worth the pursuit. It may take time to see success, but be disciplined in your commitment and fearless attitude.

- Scott Beardsley

Scott Beardsley ( is co-founder and vice president of recruitment services at Q4B, a recruitment solutions and consulting firm specializing in recruitment process outsourcing. He developed the processes behind Q4B's recruitment solutions. He has 16 years of experience and is an author, speaker, and consultant.

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