Receive daily articles & headlines each day in your inbox with your free ERE Daily Subscription.

Not logged in. [log in or register]

Building Creative and Aggressive Sourcing Strategies

by Oct 27, 2005

A few people have wondered if I might be dead. They have not seen any activity from me on ERE lately (no articles; no postings; I wasn’t at ERE’s Boston conference). The fact is, I’ve been heads down since my presentation at ERE’s March conference in San Diego (entitled “Central Sourcing: Developing a New Recruiting Model”) trying to deliver on building a world-class central sourcing model, which was the focus of my presentation. Since then, my team at Microsoft has made headway in implementing some interesting sourcing strategies and tactics that have helped us identify key passive talent for the organizations we support. Rather than doing a deep-dive, long article on all of the key strategies we have implemented (after all, I might be convinced to present again in San Diego next year), I will touch on a few of the strategies that, with a little bit of love and care, you can start creating in your own organization today. So let me cut to the chase and outline some of the creative programs we have implemented so far this year:

Conquering and Dividing

Given my sales background, it occurred to me many years ago that recruitment is not that different from sales. In most cases, unfortunately, our business models do not reflect the similarities. If you look at sales, most organizations have “hunters” and “farmers” who hold very different roles in the organization and possess very different skill sets. In my mind, a sourcing structure within an organization is no different. You have experts in leveraging primary and secondary intelligence (i.e., “researchers” — a role on my team) and another group of individuals who romance candidates, build relationships, and sell the talent (i.e., “callers”). I have even taken this model to a level where it includes a function that most staffing leaders agree is important but often allow to get pushed to the side given the other priorities of a reactionary model: I employ dedicated individuals who focus solely on account management, providing proactive, high-level strategic sourcing consulting to the staffing businesses we support. This way I now have individuals who find the talent, individuals romance and sell the talent, and finally individuals who focus on the business issues and solutions that map back to the sourcing strategies, thus allowing the other two functions to focus on what they do best.

My team now operates with a mindset that is more akin to a sales and marketing function, which creates strategies around market segmentation, relationships, and strategic selling and deploys permission and viral based marketing programs.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

One of the key problems we initially hit as a sourcing team, given that we do not operate at the requisition level, was trying to provide talent that is relevant and directly targeted to the recruiters we support. Additionally, we found that given the size and complexities of a company like Microsoft, one inherent problem historically existed: Not all recruiters know exactly where a great candidate might fit beyond the business they supported, given that most recruiters do no go deep into every business in the company. So we embarked on an exercise of understanding how all the core tech roles at Microsoft might “bucket” into like requirements, thus enabling us to also understand the unique, but similar, core requirements of each of our businesses. We now have a global map of all development profiles, domains, and the business groups they role up into. The bottom line: 80% of the candidates we supply to the P&L recruiters we support are now accepted, a definite increase. This has also allowed us to focus on what I know a lot of great agency recruiters do, which is to identify a great candidate and shop him or her around to several clients, acting as a “talent broker” for the businesses that have the greatest appetite and need for that person. By being able to step up one level above the requisition and see the similarities of the development profiles across the company, we have removed the issue of playing “go fetch” on multiple reqs from multiple clients. We now have a model that allows us to push candidates into the inboxes of the recruiters who need them the most.

Elevator Pitches

An elevator pitch is an exciting and enticing story or opportunity that can be told in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the top floor to the lobby. Given that my team had embarked on a exercise of understanding all the development profiles at Microsoft, it made sense that we also must create elevator pitches on our candidates so our “callers” would be at there most effective in selling potential passive candidates on the cool opportunities that Microsoft has to offer. If you are like me and you do not subscribe to the “blah, blah, blah” help wanted ads on most job boards and corporate websites — which mostly inspire candidates (especially passive) to do nothing more than flee in horror — then you certainly understand where I’m coming from. Most good recruiters create elevator pitches naturally in their heads after working in a space they support for some time. But I wanted to ensure there was some corporate memory for any new people who came on to the team, so we would be able to confidently and quickly reach out to passive candidates with a common and sexy story to tell. Using elevator pitches to describe opportunities at Microsoft allows all team members to understand the bigger picture around all core technical profiles and adjust to sell other opportunities outside of the business they support. This small adjunct project has gained a lot of traction in the rest of the staffing organization, who are looking to use our elevator pitches for their own P&L recruiters to help sell candidates.

Automating the Web

I recognized long ago that there was a need to work out how to most effectively separate qualified and interested candidates from the high volume of candidates out there in the global talent pool. This was even more apparent in building a high-volume sourcing model, given that we needed to do achieve quantity while maintaining quality, even if we only spend 5% of our time on active candidate identification (vs. the 95% we spend on passive talent identification). Thanks to people like Shally Steckerl, who I hired as a Microsoftie to specifically help me architect such a solution, we have been able to turn this vision into a reality. We have now created a system that allows us to automate the identification and pre-screening of active and semi-active candidates by leveraging “bots” that run every 15 minutes, 24/7, against the core technical profiles we support. We then automated a process by which we personally reach out to these individuals to ascertain their interest and validate their expertise. The approach is one of smart, targeted, direct email contact initiating one-on-one conversations with hundreds of individuals simultaneously. The end result is that we can quickly and ethically identify a very large volume of leads, reach out to a targeted subset of that number, and produce interested and pre-qualified prospects yielding an acceptance of 80% by the business units we support.

This strategy also allows us to track deep metrics against each of the core technical profiles, which show us critical throughput on how many people opened the emails, read them, deleted them, forwarded them, responded, and ultimately made it through to the recruiters we support. With this type of data it makes it a whole lot easier to adjust targeted communications real-time to ensure we get maximum effect and throughput for out efforts. Such automation also allows us to dig deeply into hidden information and process it in such a way as to be able to identify patterns and pools of talent previously untapped. One of the most critical aspects of this is Peer Regression Analysis (Shally and I plan to co-author a joint article on PRA shortly), by which we are able to regress successful industry luminaries and identify the single pivotal point where they “became” or were recognized as a luminary. Once we locate that point, we then analyze their relationships at the time and find other individuals who were influenced by them (or who in turn influenced them), thus revealing a source of potential prospects previously unexplored.

Yesterday Is Not Today

One area that I noticed that usually gets put on the bottom of the to-do list — even though all recruiters agree it is important — is reaching out to candidates who might have been considered years ago but who at the time turned down a job offer or opportunity to interview. My team decided to revisit all candidates who had previously been made offers or declined interviews to see if they would be interested in discussing a career path again. Lo and behold, the majority of people were interested and surprised that an organization had taken the time to reconnect with them. This program has been so successful that is has become part of my team’s recurring core sourcing strategies.

Outsourcing the Administrivia

One of the things that I and most recruiters hate about our jobs is the amount of administration associated with the role. To me, it was critical to remove or greatly reduce this aspect of the role so that talented individuals could focus on what they do best: identify talent and sell that talent on a great career opportunity. To solve the problem I formed a strong relationship with a RPO partner who handles all of our adminsitrivia. I know my team thanks me for it.

CRM Rules!

We could not effectively manage many of the strategies above if we did not use a solid customer relationship management solution that helps us not only proactively capture talent and market to it, but also drive real time metrics and reporting to identify the flaws and holes in our business on call. I could spend just this article alone covering the value that CRM has to play in any model, not just sourcing. I’m sure that if my team is reading this article, they’ll get a chuckle — as they hear this from me almost daily. When you can produce reporting and metrics at will on every part of your business, from individual to team level, that everybody can see real time, you have reached a level of transparency in your business where everyone is accountable (including your customers), everyone knows what needs to be done, and everyone gets solutions quickly and easily. I will leave you with a final thought on CRM that to me this year has resonated louder than any other: Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.

If your process, tools, systems, and strategy are transparent, then your customers better understand the challenges and opportunities you collectively face, allowing you to move past the “how to hold both parties accountable” phase and focus on what is really important: spending the time removing the roadblocks and delivering on results. It’s a win/win proposition. I intentionally did not get down into the weeds in this article around how to make all these programs and strategies come to life, because the reality is that what is originally dreamed up or white-boarded takes a large amount of effort to realize. More importantly, it takes a very passionate group of individuals coming together and sharing a collective vision. Without such a team, none of these programs and strategies would ever have been born in the first place.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Jeremy Langhans

    great article rob! glad to see you guys are doing well :-)

    warms my heart to know that the stuff some of us have been doing for awhile now is becoming standardized at big companies like microsoft, yahoo, ea, etc …

    CHEERS !!

    jeremy langhans
    yahoo! inc.
    senior sourcer
    search marketing engineering
    jlanghan@overture.com

  • Glenn Gutmacher

    Rob is telling the truth in this article; it ain’t just gospel. As a relatively new team member (joined this summer), I can tell you there’s great synergy between the recruiting researchers, callers and account managers. Add to this wide range of talent the vast resources one can (and I do!) tap into at a company like Microsoft, and I can say personally that I’ve been learning a lot. If there’s a downside, it’s that we’re still trying to fill the opening for one more world-class phone sourcer. I’m looking forward to contributing in my current role and pushing to find other ways where I can help fulfill the promise of this sourcing model.