Catch and Release Sourcing

Apr 17, 2008

Catch and release is a practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. After capture, the fish are unhooked and returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury. According to the Wikipedia definition, using barbless hooks makes it possible to release the fish without removing it from the water (a slack line is frequently sufficient).

Catch and release has been practiced by some countries for centuries as a management tool to reduce the cost of stocking hatchery-raised trout, and as conservation to prevent target species from disappearing in heavily fished waters or “prized” circumstances.

Reading the Wikipedia explanations for catch and release, I was struck by how it could be applied to names sourcing. Certainly, what we do when we source candidates with specific skill sets is “capture” them. But how effectively are we releasing them back into our companies’ bloodstreams? By “releasing” them into a vigorous pipeline, we can reduce the “cost of stocking”.

Reduce the cost of stocking? Yes, we can reduce the cost of future hiring if we, once having captured them, “release” them with the understanding that they will become part of a “fishery,” or a database that we can pull on in future need. Most potential candidates are amenable to this.

“Do you mind if we keep in touch?”

“Is it ok if I send you opportunities now and then?”

“Let’s get to know each other.”

“Is there anything I can do to help you today? I’d like to if I can.”

Who would say no to this approach? This is often forgotten by recruiters who are afraid of reaching out and touching people. Why they are afraid is a whole subject for another article but as it applies to “capture and release” of possible candidates, it may be said that fewer and fewer people today possess the social skills required to engage others. Very few possess effective “capture” skills, the area of sourcing that requires great technique and long, hard hours of practice, but release skills are much more easily developed.

When your good sourcer gives you a list of names to call and you have the ability to sit down at your desk and call through the list, do just that. Don’t let that list languish or age: most lists lose 20% per year, so it is imperative that you discipline yourself in the process to call through your lists immediately. Even two weeks can see the loss of one or two people off a 50-name list!

As you’re calling through your list, be mindful of the physical circumstances surrounding the people you’re calling. Occasionally, you’ll call someone who may have someone else in the room with them and now is not the best time to talk to you. If you’re attuned to the person on the other end of the line, you’ll hear the discomfort and they’ll appreciate you “releasing” them at that particular point in time.

“It sounds like now might not be a great time to talk. Would it be ok if I called you this evening? What’s your at-home number and I’ll call you at 8!”

This line may be met with relief on the other end!

Sometimes you have to think for the other person and understand their motivations. This will give you an advantage addressing the other reason for practicing catch and release, as conservation to prevent target species from disappearing.

Chances are the people who you’ve hired or charged an in-house sourcer to find are “swimming” in heavily fished waters. Knowing this and appreciating their “rare” status in this ever-more accelerating talent war we’re operating in will give you a leg up on your competition.

“I know you’re busy and I appreciate the time you’re taking with me today,” will go a long way in acknowledging the other person’s status and they will appreciate it. That’s not too hard to say either, is it?

One Fishy Caveat

However, there is research that deep sea fishing catch-and-release doesn’t always work so well. In fact, most deep-sea fish species suffer from the sudden pressure change when wound to the surface from great depths; these species cannot adjust their body’s physiology quickly enough to follow the pressure change.

This is an interesting light to cast upon this subject. Wikipedia suggests, “In light of this research, anglers must show responsibility and restraint when deep sea fishing and, after catching and keeping a reasonable number of deep sea fish, cease fishing for them.”

The same may apply to names sourcing in the sense that there are some people in some industries who are just too deeply embedded in their organizations for you to effectively be able to pull them out. Reasons include lucrative and promising stock options, pay tied to project performance, deep-seated emotional/intellectual attachment to a parent company, restrictive competition covenants in employment contracts, and others.

The defense industry comes first to mind when speaking of this species; our educational system has not produced enough technical talent in the last dozen years and many of these companies are staffed with older and unusually dedicated workers. It’s harder to pry them loose.

Pharma/biotech also is prone to more difficulty as are a few other industries, including high tech, some areas of finance and IT, and many areas of engineering. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it will take effort.

But overall, where “deep sea sourcing” is concerned, maybe we should consider heeding Wikipedia’s warning to “show responsibility and restraint” after catching and keeping a reasonable number of candidates.

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