When the “as-a-service” concept launched, it caused a major disruption as it took tasks that are common within an industry vertical and offered it in a way that leveled the playing field for all. By standardizing all common back and front office components, software-as-a-service vendors (such as Salesforce, Marketo) have freed sales-driven organizations from the drudgery of lead tracking, qualification, and sales pipeline management processes and allowed them to focus on honing in on the art of selling. Can this same model be created to level the talent sourcing playing field?
Talent sourcing — “sourcing” for short — contains a number of regular tasks that are common, mundane, and can be easily automated, outsourced, and wrapped in as-a-service platform to create sourcing-as-a-service. This platform would bring state of the art sourcing to all recruiters and would cease to make sourcing a core differentiating advantage. This development should be good news to all recruiters as the sourcing-as-a-service platform would leave them time to concentrate on the truly human aspect of sourcing such as understanding client needs, culture, developing relationship with talent, and closing the job req.
How the Software-as-a-Service Model Disrupted the Industry
Let’s back up for a minute and take a look at why the software-as-a-service model was created. When the SaaS model became mainstream, it created a fundamental operational change that was accompanied with a restructuring on how sales teams are organized; in other words, cheaper reps qualifying customers and booking appointments for more expensive account managers, or “closers,” to seal the deal with a customer. This combination of sales tasks specialization and its accompanying software component yielded fresh new heights of performance in sales teams across many industries.
SaaS at its core is a simple delivery model that takes the common activities, processes, and software along with best practices in an industry and aggregates them in a centralized delivery unit. Because this unit is able to accommodate an infinite number of participants who are constantly sending feedback, the software is always up to date.
SaaS strategically produced three distinct and disrupting changes in the industries it touched:
- Back-office stopped being a competitive advantage. Having a better CRM, lead management process, or more recent version of the software with industry best practices baked in, stopped being a strategic competitive advantage and became table stakes.
- By reducing the cost of doing business, SaaS has lowered barriers of entries and allowed smaller, more specialized players to participate. The proliferation of viable hyper-specialized players is good news for the end-user who now has viable alternatives to large multi-purpose incumbents.
- It simply upped everybody’s game. The model made everyone concentrate on their core business, be that manufacturing, re-seller, etc. In a nutshell, it made them better!
With this specialization of the sales process came the change in the competitive landscape among sales-driven organizations. The days of a unique sales process having a stronger effect on a company’s performance are almost extinct. Indeed, the differentiating factor between a great sales organization and poor ones is their ability to relate to the customer and get their company’s product on the right hands, not the ability to track leads or the sales funnels. SaaS has been a great equalizer that has elevated the playing field of all participants. ATSs/CRMs have brought many of these benefits to the back office of the recruiting industry. However, that leaves much more to be done in the front office with recruiting and namely sourcing.
The Future of SaaS in Sourcing
Every recruiter I have spoken with can break down their sourcing process into atomic, indivisible, comprehensively exhaustive and repeatable tasks. If this exercise is possible, then it should be possible to automate the entire supply chain with a combination of software and outsourcing or crowdsourcing. The natural conclusion of assembling such a platform is that state-of-the-art sourcing would not be a differentiating advantage any longer. If anybody can set it up or buy it, then it becomes your stake in the ground. Using technical recruiting as an example, this thought exercise yields the following insights:
- All the sources of people data are the same and available to all: LinkedIn, Github, StackOverflow, and personal blogs (plus social networks, sometimes).
- There are plenty of “people” search tools out there, many of which are roughly equal or will be shortly. They all source from the same places, so it is just a matter of time before indexing and identity attribution is table stakes. [Note to the enterprising reader: You can even rent your own web crawlers nowadays and set up your own candidate search tool!]
- The bits that are not computable such as accurately identifying someone or reaching out to them can be solved with labor outsourcing. For less than $2,000/month you can have very talented people working for you full time finding data, making a short list, pre-qualifying candidates, setting up interview appointments, doing cold outreach, etc.
A platform that aggregates, automates, and operationalizes all sourcing tasks would result in a reliable stream of candidates with complete information on them and significant cost and time savings to all. With a reliable stream of candidates recruiters can then spend more making sure their candidate/employer matches are a better fit, understanding their clients’ culture, hiring process, and anticipating future people demand.
Sourcing is an information discovery problem that has been solved with the aid of computers many times over. Personal information is getting more disseminated, not aggregated. Very soon a subscription to LinkedIn Recruiter and canned emails will not be enough to supply you with quality candidate flow. Advanced crawling tools along with a streamlined outreach and vetting process will be the norm. It will be at that point that sourcing-as-a-service will be most beneficial and will elevate the recruiting profession to new heights of efficiency.