There is No Degree For Talent Sourcing

Preaching to the choir here, but there is no degree for Talent Acquisition, Recruiting, or Sourcing.  We can get a Human Resource Management degree, and that degree is vital to understanding employment law.  However, there is no such thing as a bachelor’s degree in Talent Acquisition.  We are lucky enough to have some great training and certificates available thru SourceCon/ERE, Recruiter Academy, AIRS, Brain Gain, and Sourcing Certifications. Thank goodness for those. But for us in sourcing, we are in the business of research curation. That research curation requires diligence and a constant that doesn’t end in a terminal degree.

So, what is research curation? A Sourcer is equivalent to a reference librarian. If you aren’t aware of that, I can paint a picture for you.  Back in the day before the internet, answers to any questions meant a trip to the library.  In high school, when a book report or paper was due, it meant a trip to the library. Library users were able to use a card catalog and look up most research articles, books, and magazines, on most any type of topic, all on our own. That would be akin to a Google search today.  In every library though, there was a holy section of books. Not accessible to the public to touch on their own but guarded by the reference librarian.  This reference librarian had first editions, full encyclopedias, genealogy, greys anatomy and other scientific manuscripts, and myriads of other collateral too expensive and specific to leave out for the general public.  They were keepers of specific information. If you couldn’t find it on your own, you enlisted the help of a professional reference librarian.  A Talent acquisition Recruiter has access to most pieces of information found in the card catalog of data. But if you want the specific, the special, the hard to find, you enlist the help of todays version of a reference librarian, the Sourcer.

Not every search that a Sourcer is engaged with requires a deep dive on the internet with complex Boolean strings. Finding candidates off Indeed and LinkedIn can still be 60% of a Sourcers hires. There is no shame in the low-hanging-fruit game. However, a Sourcer wants to leverage 100% of the workforce, not just the active candidates on paid job boards. To access 100% of the labor pool, a Sourcer must have records and data stored that directs us on our quest for the most qualified. To that, I will give you a peek inside a Sourcers inventory and library.

A Sourcers Library includes:

  • Competitive Intelligence – Links to all resources to identify market intelligence. Perhaps even battle cards to summarize each competitor’s weakness, strengths, and value propositions.  This includes Google Alerts, Salary intel, Employee Reviews, Email Naming Convention, Benefit details and Culture on all competitors. This intel should be stored and cataloged alphabetically by each competitor.
  • Recruitment Marketing – Oh, yes. We can no longer say “that’s not my job” on recruitment marketing. Sourcers need to know where to find the best hashtags, how to post the most compelling content, and manage their own social media calendars. Social Media is now 50% of a Sourcers job. Since many of us are not marketing experts, we imperatively need a content library to house all our recruitment marketing collateral. I suggest following Rally Recruitment Marketing for their free templates and advice.
  • Chrome Extensions – There are still plenty of free Chrome Extensions that are safe, and supply Sourcers with all they need to identify contact information. Right now, I have about 40 chrome extensions for contact info in my URL toolbar favorites.  Don’t neglect the Chrome extensions that are out there for efficiency either.  Ways to track, mine, and stay organized.  CV Timeline is my favorite time saver for LinkedIn.  Technology is there to make our lives simpler and more efficient. Take advantage of it.
  • A CRM – There needs to be “one-source-of-truth” when it comes to storing our most priceless curation, and that is the leads/prospects we are identifying.  I’ve tried a million different spreadsheets to serve as an alternative store house, but a CRM is by far an away the best tool for storing candidate curations.
  • Lists – Sourcers have lists for everything. Lists of associations, data mining, scraping, data extractors (whatever you want to call it) and more. Paid tools like Phantombuster are a great start to categorizing candidate details for future curation.

A good Sourcer can rattle off twenty places to find a single candidate for any job thrown at them. Not because they went to school for it. Not because they received a bachelor or master’s degree in it. But because they practiced a good behavioral habit to be curious and care about how they store that research for later use.

For your next Sourcing hire, look to add a training program. Realize the shortage in our industry for trained professionals and invest in them. They need to learn the skills somewhere.  Happy Hunting.


Ruminating on 2020 Sourcing

I took it upon myself to conduct an unofficial and unscientific talent acquisition survey.  I wanted to talk to various Sourcers from around the nation and get their take on the candidate of 2020. Did we learn anything this year that will help us prepare for 2021?  The Sourcing ruminations I gathered are mostly anecdotal, but they are from the horse's mouth and should be given credence.  Sourcers are the first point of contact with a potential prospect and have been privy to unfiltered candidate emotions.  Everyone's opinion or empirical observations have at least a smidge of truth and are worth reflecting upon. The hope would be that we've learned something from 2020 with the ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the struggles and successes that will help position us better in 2021.  Even though this year showed us that any good plan could be whittled to dust within 24 hours, we must attempt to understand.  Covid-19 dismantled economies in literal days.  In 2020 talent acquisition teams had furloughs and reassignment we never dreamt possible, but here we are.  I surveyed about 30 Sourcers from coast to coast, from Maine to California.  Most of the Sourcers were in healthcare, keep that in mind, but from all types of organization sizes, strength, and profit level.

 

Here are their thoughts on 2020:

 

  • More candidates responded in 2020, still declining, but the responses are kinder and swifter.
  • There is an increase in texting responses from prospects. They seem to like texts as the first form of contact.
  • Moderate to a large increase in candidate negotiations for increased salaries.
  • Moderate to a large increase in counteroffers.
  • Moderate to a significant increase in internal transfers.
  • Some organizations sped up their hiring process to meet Covid needs – they fared better than those who kept it business as usual.
  • Candidates are off the market fast. Sometimes within days.
  • The majority of candidates are asking to work remotely.
  • “Good candidates are very picky.” Sourcers note skilled staff know their value and expect more in a new position.
  • People share a lot more personal information with us. They want to share their real needs, their human side (less formality).
  • Loss of entry-level worker roles to remote positions.
  • Pay and bonus structures are hot right now. Rates need to be competitive.
  • Phenomenal candidates are pushy and are very high touch. Without high touch, they walk away. Serious attention needs to be given to a “white glove” treatment.
  • Due to furloughs, the quality of candidates in 2020 was high.
  • Candidates seem uncertain – to stay or take a leap of faith and relocate for a new role – requiring more assistance, documents, selling collateral to convince.
  • Reprioritization of family. Candidates ask for input from spouses, consideration of children, and family issues in a way we haven’t seen before.
  • Candidates appear burnt out and anxious.
  • People are asking about Retention – Turnover Stats. Candidates are challenging culture claims. They want proof that they are moving to a great company.

 

I hope talent acquisition leaders read this.  This is not the time to take our foot off the gas.  We need shorter processes, revamped compensation plans, a renewed emphasis on community resources for relocation purposes, hiring manager involvement, and recruitment marketing and engagement plans with dollar signs behind them.  We are not at the end of this yet. The candidate of today will take some time to recover.  And they are getting smarter.  2021 will continue to bring challenges that must be addressed with fresh eyes and focus.

 

Happy hunting, everyone.


Everything Old in Recruiting is New Again

What a time to be alive! Artificial intelligence for candidate matching, advanced site Boolean strings, free recruitment software for phone numbers and email addresses, as well as data lists and scrapers, are making candidates easy to find these days. You can swiftly identify Non-exempt and high-level exempt candidates via the internet. The REAL struggle begins when you attempt to woo a passive candidate to respond to your messages.

We must now train talent acquisition professionals to use modern technology to source candidates, but the technology exists. You can teach almost anyone to use it. However, today's Recruiters and Sourcers that have not received recruitment marketing engagement training are at a profound disadvantage for recruiting in today's market. It is easy to waste hours sourcing the most qualified candidate is wasted when the messaging sent isn't transparent, genuine, and worth the candidates read. Honestly, I think some talented professionals forget to feel like the candidate.

Thirty years ago, the employees in a Personnel department sat around waiting for candidates to funnel in from the two-thousand-dollar Sunday newspaper advertisements. When the candidates didn't arrive at fill-out paper applications, we hit the phones using the Rolodex. God love agency recruiters, they never moved away from cold calling, but many corporate recruiters have lost the skill. There is a magic that happens when a Recruiter goes back to the basics of leveraging referrals and picking up the phone (or text or, however, people prefer).

There is already a recruitment marketing philosophy that subscribes to the idea of candidates as consumers. Consumers desire relationships. The wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am type of recruiting gives our industry a bad name. Anyone reading this has probably received a spam email about a job they are over or underqualified for. That type of unsolicited connection rubs a consumer the wrong way. The consumer wants to know who they are dealing with. Think about your own life. A consumer likes to use the same mechanic, hairstylist or barber, auto dealership, HVAC tech, pool guy, personal lawyer, accountant, etc.… The consumer wants to do business with someone who knows their preferences. There is no reason why a candidate can't see a talent acquisition professional as "their recruiter."

Reviving traditional standard operating procedures centered around relationships with candidates and peers is how challenging positions will be filled through the pandemic and beyond. Asking for references and referrals, knowing your candidate's preferences, leveraging your network, gathering allies, asking for help, sharing, and networking are old-school techniques that are not only free but take little time to complete. When our backs are against the wall and cannot find a match, we tend to turn to the internet and job boards. There was a reason we used just to hit the phones when we struggled on a position years ago, because it was free, fast, and it works! Humans tend to respond for help, so let's use who we know to our advantage and ask for help. Modern-day crowdsourcing is just an updated telephone tree.

So, what is the best-case scenario? I am not advocating that we ONLY use old-school methods to identify and connect with candidates. There are talent acquisition professionals who take a mix of traditional recruiting methods and combine them with today's technology. A combination of tactics is ideal and a healthy way to stay engrossed in our occupation. The most important thing to think about when recruiting and sourcing today, whether you use technology or not, is to feel like the candidate. Speak to your candidate using transparent words. Try to break the HR Lawyer speak. There are plenty of ways to be truthful without getting sued. And listen. Listen to the candidate. That is the best Sourcing tool available.

Happy Hunting!


Does TA Understand Passive Talent Engagement?

As a talent acquisition consultant, specializing in the areas of sourcing and recruitment marketing, I am frequently asked to aid in hard-to-find candidate pursuits. Generally, I can perform a few Boolean searches to identify said passive candidate within a few minutes, retrieving a myriad of qualified candidates for the picking.  It has taken a pandemic and thirty years of experience to finally realize that the “war on talent” is fictitious. In this internet age Recruiters and Sourcers can identify any person, anywhere, including their former names, contact info, x-spouses and neighbors’ email.  That is not intended to be funny, we really can do that.  Information is everywhere. This leaves the question to be asked, do we really have a problem finding talent, or do we have trouble getting talent to respond to us?

Now before you start telling me that you have an actual job that really is hard to fill, I can tell you I believe you. But if we hash out the details, I’m sure we could agree on the fact that the type of person you seek exists, it’s just the Recruiter can’t find someone to be interested in the job when they need them to be interested.  This is where the problem lies. In order to look at the talent shortage differently, we must rephrase the problem we are trying to solve. The talent acquisition challenge is no longer around “where do we find candidates”, but “how do we get passive candidates to engage with us”? Recruiters now are expected to be recruitment marketing gurus, without any training in that area, and to adopt an always-on news media cycle to job sharing and content writing. When Recruiters fail to understand passive candidate engagement, the time it takes to fill a job increases. Hiring managers complain. Leaders then assume a performance problem with the Recruiter, when in fact it is a skill and training issue.

The first step in changing a perspective, when faced with a challenge, is analysis. Noted are a few challenge questions to determine if your organization understands the need for passive talent engagement:

  • Do your Recruiters lack a multi-channel approach when reaching out to prospective candidate leads? Do they rely on a good mix of email, phone, text, and social media direct messaging?
  • Do your Recruiters have a one-and-done mentality? Meaning, do Recruiters only focus on the potential applicant that responds favorably?
  • When a prospect declines a request to engage, do your Recruiters log those declines and plan for future engagements with the candidate?
  • When a prospect declines a request to engage, do your Recruiters request to stay in touch for referrals?

The long-term philosophy for candidate engagement is to log, connect, and reconnect with prospects. Those connections, if done right, eventually form a relationship with the prospect. That relationship helps to identify the potential candidates dream role. The Recruiter then ties that dream to a company value. It is the purposeful and diligent connection with the prospect that, over time, help the lead to recognize the positives of a new job can outweigh the negatives in their current role. Yahtzee.  Seriously, do our recruiters have time to form these relationships while managing eighty requisitions?

A modern talent acquisition team understands that the department doesn’t start and end with Recruiters.  Leading-edge talent teams incorporate Sourcing, Recruitment Marketing, and Competitive Intelligence as sub-sets within the TA department.  Missing any part of that equation positions a team for failure and missed opportunity.

So where to start? Budgets are tight. Perhaps asking for a sourcing team or a CRM is an unrealistic ask right now.  My suggestion is to start with marketing. Ask for an internal marketing resource to be dedicated to talent acquisition.  Even better, you can take a current TA resource (perhaps a coordinator or recruiter) and swap out the FTE budgeted role with your own recruitment marketing specialist. It’s a start. Happy Hunting.


Librarians Make Great Sourcers

At an increasing rate, leaders connect with me to ask about the characteristics and skills that make up a great Sourcer. We are at a point in Sourcing maturity, especially in healthcare, where leaders are recognizing that the Recruiters they tried to train as Sourcers, are struggling to succeed. There are exceptions of course.  Some Recruiters have really taken to the Sourcing role, using the same communication and marketing skills they learned as recruiters in a new Sourcing role. But the majority of new Sourcers are learning all too late of the prerequisites required to be successful in the job.

What then, does it take to be a savvy Sourcer? I confess this is arguable based upon the industry and leadership mentoring style. I can only tell you what life was like for me as a sourcing practitioner, and what life is like for my clients fraught with setting up thriving sourcing teams. The following list of traits is not all inclusive, but a guide to help leaders understand the role requirements more thoroughly.

Curiosity

I note this characteristic first.  A Sourcer must have the inquisitiveness of a three-year-old to question, why, why, why? The Sourcing role is an independent position. A recruiter has structured workflows and boxes to check off in the ATS.  The Sourcer doesn’t have such a prescribed plan. The Sourcer must be able to ask their own questions and follow up on their own hunches. Think about a bill collector skip tracer.  Their job is to find where a debtor lives and works so they can collect a debt.  They scour the internet, search for clues, and follow up on those clues without instruction.  The same could be said of police detectives. This identical sort of prying interest is what solves a case. The Sourcer behaves in much the same way as the detective or skip tracer. Following sets of clues without instruction, but with initiative, is imperative to finding the right candidate fit.

Organization

I always tell people that I am a better curator of research than I am at sourcing.  An English major, librarian, or other individual with a background in custodian data will do well in a sourcing role. Sourcers are stewards of information. No matter what position you are sourcing for, I can tap into my sourcing catalogue and find the right inventory needed for the hunt. Individuals who don’t excel in this area will constantly be asking you the same questions repeatedly, because they fail to keep this array of inventory at the ready.  I can not stress enough the frustration of a Sourcer who regularly forgets their tools.

Love for Repetition

The sourcing role is doing the same thing over and over again and loving every minute of it. Sure, there are different resources and candidates to talk to that help to break the day up.  But have you ever tried performing research for eight straight hours? It is exhausting. It takes time to train your eyes to the strain and your brain to the deluge of information. The individual that masters this level of activity does well navigating the echo in the role of a Sourcer.

Advisor

A common hesitation from Recruiters turned Sourcers is that they will miss the personal relationships with their candidates. I honestly do not know how this could be possible.  I am way more engaged in candidates lives, and for a much longer time frame as a Sourcer than I ever was as a Recruiter. The wooing period for a Sourcer can last for months, and sometimes years. In that time frame, I have had countless calls and touchbases with a candidate on their needs for a new role and dream position. I have become passionate about their wants; I generally find out more about their family and background during this time as well.  It once took me twelve years to find one candidate their ideal new position.  I realize that is an exception.  But more oft times than not, when a Sourcer connects with a passive candidate, they have a checklist of items they need met before a job change can be made. The Sourcer guides that checklist and advises on best ways to achieve their goals faster. The Sourcer role remains intimate with the candidate and heightens the role of counselor. At least it does if you are doing it right.

I realize this is all just empirical and anecdotal evidence and not at all scientific. I am sure there is a strength finder guide out there that will tally up all the desirable traits of a Sourcer on a more academically acceptable scale.  In the meantime, I hope this helps in choosing the right candidate for the role.  It truly is an inspiring and rewarding career. Happy Hunting.


Addressing Old School Resume Protocol

I read a lot. I enjoy mysteries, but I also read for work. I read to stay on top of trends in talent acquisition. I read to discover new technologies in Sourcing. I read to be informed on recruitment marketing drifts. The talent acquisition profession had years of sluggish growth that has been replaced with technological systems and workflows. Recruiting uses software in the form of ATS, CRM, referral and reference software, as well as advances in artificial intelligence candidate matching tech and chatbots. Coupling old school recruiting process with new technology means talent professionals now will be required to update as fast as the software changes. Therefore, shouldn’t our modus operandi in recruiting change too? Why are we holding on to resume etiquette and other outdated practices? I’m willing to argue some of these practices be put to bed.

Is a good resume only two pages long?
Sigh. I’m working on my doctorate. In my early days of the program, I pestered my advisor daily for advice on the proper length should of a doctoral dissertation. Surely someone, somewhere could give me an average measurement. One hundred pages? Three hundred pages? The answer I always received was “it takes as long as it takes”. That is the advice we should be giving candidates who ask the question of resume length. Noting a resume should be two pages was just an arbitrary number that stuck. I don’t care if its only half a page resume for a new graduate or a twelve-page cv for a research scientist with publications. It takes as long as it takes.

Adding References to a Resume
“References Upon Request”. We can stop typing this at the end of a resume. There is technology for reference checking now. Not that I don’t like adding your references to my CRM and calling on them for jobs of my own later, because I will, it is just no longer necessary. An ATS or reference checking software will ask candidates this information at the appropriate time. However, as an industry we need to be better about practices that do not benefit the candidate. References on the resume is one practice that no longer aids the candidate, it exploits the references for unscrupulous recruiters to leverage.

Work Authorization
Add it. I’m all for helping a candidate note their authorization to work in the US if they are getting declined too often from recruiters due to visa assumptions. We need to do better at recognizing our own unconscious bias to candidates with names or locations that lean to foreign national status. Until then, the candidate needs to fend for themselves and do what is necessary.

Address
I really do need to know where you live as a Recruiter or Sourcer. This is tied to relocation and geographic searches. But I’m fine if you want to leave off your street address, just the city and state is now acceptable. We aren’t mailing decline letters anymore via snail mail, so removing that information is now standard. We still need email and phone number, but a candidate need not announce it. I know anything with an @ symbol is an email address.

Colorful, Graphic Heavy Resumes
Go for it. Decorate that resume to your hearts content. We don’t scan resumes anymore. Years ago, the scanning software was the reason behind plain resume text and fonts. The scanners couldn’t pick up details and decorations in a resume to be stored accurately, the sophistication just was not there. Today, a modern ATS can upload any kind of document. Imaginative resumes are not just for graphic designers and creative roles anymore. You go buddy, you do you. Job descriptions are now becoming graphic. Resumes will not be far behind.

Objectives
Objectives are necessary should you be switching careers or just starting out. There is no reason to have an objective if you are full on into your career where the trajectory is obvious. If after thirty years in talent acquisition you want to switch to working in social services, then absolutely add an objective. If your objective reads as an inane cliché to what you think people want to hear, then you have permission to delete it altogether. Ask yourself, is this objective a value add?

I am not advocating that we throw resume decorum in the trash. I still believe in formality, procedure, and rituals. 2020 has been a hard year, and I have seen humans act in self-regarding ways. Modern thinking and change should not be filed away as venal and privy to short cuts. Change is about accepting different thoughts, ideas, and actions that make our lives more fulfilling and less stressful. Let us not be overly aggressive into ideals they have run their course. It is a new day for candidates, and we need to come along for the ride.