A Tale of Two Cities: The Merging of Sourcing and Recruiting

May 31, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.  — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Of course, Dickens was referring to sourcing and recruiting circa 2012. What Dickens was really saying is that with the emergence of LinkedIn and related networking tools, sourcing should not be split apart from the full-cycle recruiting process. The work involved in both now overlaps to such a degree that you can’t logically separate the two without compromising performance. Reading between the lines of his epic novel, here’s why Dickens believes this way.

Since developing a list of potential target candidates is now relatively simple, the real hard work involves contacting and recruiting them. Since these people are all networked with others of similar ability, you need to get referrals from them if the person turns out to be inappropriate for the job at hand. If sourcers only present candidates who have passed the filter of qualified and interested to their recruiters, they miss the opportunity to recruit and network with these people. Then if recruiters focus only on assessing the person as to whether they’re worthy of presenting to their hiring managers, they miss the chance to connect and network with them. To prevent this significant double-double calamity, Dickens is saying sourcers should become recruiters and recruiters should become sourcers. I’m saying everyone should become a full-cycle recruiter.

While there are gaps in skills that need to be learned, becoming a strictly name-generating sourcer nowadays is far simpler than becoming a great networking-driven sourcer and a great recruiter. With this bias in mind, following are the minimal core skills this combo sourcer-recruiter needs to have to play in the big leagues of full-cycle recruiting.

  1. Understand the basics of Boolean. Realistically from a Boolean standpoint all you need to know are how to use the OR, NOT, parentheses, and quote functions as part of your keyword searches. LinkedIn’s Recruiter version provides 20+ filters to find profiles, so you don’t need to be too skilled in Boolean to find suitable people down the block or with a specific degree from a target competitor. In the keyword box, you’ll use the OR (embedded OR firmware) if one or the other terms is essential and the AND (Ruby AND scrum) if both are. The parenthesis is needed to separate the phrase from the rest of the stuff in the search box. Use the quotes if you use a search term that has multiple words, e.g., “It was the best or times.” You can use this in Google searches, too. Use NOT in front of anything if you don’t want it in your results. For example, if you’re looking for directors for a job, but don’t want someone who has been a vice president, you can narrow your search results by including  NOT (vice OR VP) to your keyword search.
  2. Be clever at selecting keywords. Being a Boolean guru is becoming less important in a networked world, but you do need to become more clever. Given the lack of time and increasing search workloads, you need to become more productive and more efficient. One way to do is to shrink your focus and deal only with “worthy” people. I define a worthy person as someone who is either an ideal prospect for your job opening, or is directly connected to someone who is. As part of starting the sourcing process, prepare a list of keywords or terms that indicate your prospect possesses the Achiever Pattern. These are recognition terms the person would include on their resume or LinkedIn profile. For technical people it might be obtaining patents, being a speaker at a specific trade conference, or preparing a whitepaper. Just using the term awards or honors in a keyword search helps narrow the search. Recognition could also include being awarded a work-study fellowship, earning a scholarship or winning a prize or given an honorarium. Also search on specific honor society names like Beta Gamma Sigma or Tau Beta Pi. During the intake meeting, ask the hiring manager what type of industry or academic recognition a top person in the field would likely obtain. Then add these terms in your keyword searches using the basic Boolean search functions.
  3. Find worthy nodes. In a networked world, think in two dimensions when starting a new search project: direct and connected. The direct dimension of course is developing a list of names for people who are possible candidates for the job. I find this less effective than getting warm pre-qualified referrals by finding people who are connected to these people. I call these people nodes. For example, a headmaster in Ireland can lead you directly to great instructors in advanced high school math; a scrum leader can you tell you about the great Ruby developers who were on her last team; and a buyer at Home Depot can tell you about the best national account managers they know in the DIY tool market. To try this out on your next search, prepare a 360° work chart with the hiring manager during the intake meeting. On this work chart list the titles of the people your ideal candidate most likely interacts with on a day-to-day basis. The nodes will stand out. Then use the simple Boolean techniques noted above to find the names of some of these people. Then contact and connect with these nodes. On the phone, never ask “who do you know?” Instead search on their connections and ask about the best people listed. This “cherry-picking” networking technique is how you can find some great passive prospects within a day or two of taking the assignment. In my mind this is the real value of LinkedIn Recruiter, the ability to search directly through your first degree connections’ connections.

Think Inside-Out, Not Outside-In

In this merged sourcing/recruiting model, you need to forget about preparing a long list of target people to call. Instead develop a short list of 10-15 worthy people (nodes and target prospects) and start contacting them. The goal is to not just qualify them, but also network with them in parallel. Once connected and using LinkedIn Recruiter, you can then search on their first-degree connections using the clever and basic Boolean techniques noted above. This way if the initial contact is not a worthy prospect, just ask about specific people (e.g., name names!) in their connections who are. This is how you can quickly get at least two warm, pre-qualified referrals on each call.

This is a much better technique than running down an endless list of names hoping to find a perfect match. I refer to this technique as the Golden Rule of Recruiting. You can short-circuit the first round of cold calls by finding some of your current company employees who are connected to these worthy prospects using the same inside-out technique.

The Inside-Out approach is based on the idea that calling a referred person is more efficient than calling people at random. For one thing there’s a higher chance they’ll call you back, and if they’re already pre-qualified, you’ll save even more time.

Of course, you’re not done yet, since very quickly during the course of this sourcing and networking, you’ll find some top people who could be great, but need some pushing to Bridge the Gap from a person being qualified, but not interested, to becoming interested. This is why great full-cycle recruiting skills are so important for a sourcer to possess. You can’t bridge the gap unless you know the job and hiring managers, and can uncover the person’s career pain points. These skills are required on every inside-out call especially when dealing with passive candidates.

When the sourcer-recruiter determines the person is not worth recruiting, you need to instantly shift to networking by searching on their connections. The problem is that if you only have a sourcing mindset, you’ll ignore the need to recruit everyone contacted. If you only have a recruiting mindset, you won’t recognize the golden opportunity and importance of sourcing  and networking with everyone. When the roles are split, all of the great people who could have been recruited or mined for referrals fall in the wasteland of lost opportunity. That’s what Dickens meant when he said “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

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