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.


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.


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.


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.

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 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.