The Dark (and Seldom Spoken) Side of Sourcing Social Networking

May 18, 2010

In my last article I challenged the audience to show me where most of America’s employees are locatable on the Internet. You can read that challenge in the third paragraph of the article here.

One brave soul — or maybe not so brave; how brave is it to post anonymously? — seemed to take umbrage with the challenge and recited the number of membership numbers of six networks that I failed to mention in the article. To repeat the useful info, they are, in the words of “Source This”:

  1. Jigsaw: 21,607,128 contacts with email and work number.
  2. CareerBuilder Archive: 26,145,391 searchable passive resumes (searchable resumes posted outside one year and all the way back to when CareerBuilder started. These are people who never removed their resume, but were looking for work at one time.
  3. Online Directories: I recently found a highly targeted, industry specific, national directory which contains more than 3 million individuals with contact info (this is 3 million passive candidates within the industry we serve!!!!)
  4. State Licensing Boards: in the millions.
  5. Professional Association Directories:  in the millions.
  6. Facebook: 400 million active users (not the best resource, but you can use the advanced search to search by title or employer).

Though those numbers recited above may be dizzying, and may appear to fly in the face of my challenge, here are the facts:Most of the resources above are worldwide numbers, and most companies in America, where most of us are doing most of our business are interested in U.S. citizens for most of their jobs. Notice I use the word “most,” so don’t jump to the conclusion that I am speaking de facto across all needs. The key words in my assertive challenge are: not able to be identified/sourced for a specific reason — that reason being, in our industry, to fill a particular role.

What this means specifically is that a small percentage of those names that are on the Internet contain all the requisite info that ties them specifically to a common cause, and that cause would be — in most of our cases — to fill a very specific open position.

To be more specific, and as an example of what I mean, let’s say you want to source architects out of specific companies in Texas. The companies your customer wants are publicly held architectural and engineering firms with gross sales over $20 million. He wants these caveats included because he wants people out of what he perceives to be high volume companies with proven world class competitiveness.

Sure, as listed in my detractor’s list above, there is a professional association for architects in Texas that promises, “Architects, interior designers, and landscape architects must be registered by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners and adhere to specific standards and criteria set forth in law, including the completion of continuing professional education every year. It is against the law for any individual to claim to be an architect, landscape architect, or interior designer unless they are registered by this Board.”

Most states have organizations like these as well, but for our purposes we’ll choose Texas, an economy in its own right and, as some would claim, a country set apart as well. After all, don’t they say, “Everything’s bigger in Texas”? (By the way, I’d agree with that sentiment. I am a Texas fan.)

Accessing their member directories really isn’t such a trick and lookie; you can even search by firm name in this Texas directory!

Pick one of the larger architectural and engineering companies headquartered in Texas, Fluor Corporation, one of the world’s largest international design, engineering, and contracting firms that is on your customer’s target list. The company provides engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance, and project management services for a variety of industrial sectors around the world with almost $22 billion in revenue. Plug Fluor into the firm name box. Don’t forget to further fine tune your command by choosing only the “architect” selection. Press the magic button and you get … “No results found.” And that’s across all states by the way!

How disappointing. And I was filled with such hope. Let’s try another requested large Texas company: KBR, with $12 billion in market share. KBR builds, designs, and manages airports and energy and chemical plants; provides engineering, environmental, and transportation services; performs security and threat analyses; and designs and manages urban rail projects. It looks promising. Dang. No results found again.

Let’s ratchet it down a mite to $6 billion. McDermott comes up on the radar — a global engineering and construction firm active in offshore oil and gas construction, power generation systems, and government contracting. You’d think it’d have architects wouldn’t you? Nope. Not listed in this state directory.

Now, let’s use one of the dirty little tricks that many sourcers know, and just put the first initial of the firm name in and let’s see what happens. Don’t forget to choose the state you’re working in; for some reason, this directory searches all states but your customer only wants people in Texas, remember? So let’s choose an initial — any initial will do — let’s choose “M,” which also allows us to double-check the no results thing on McDermott. When we put the initial “M” into the firm field and dutifully select Texas and “Architect,” what do we get? A whole slew of architect names that are licensed with corresponding firm names that start with “M” but again, no McDermott. I guess the first query was right. (By the way you can use this first initial trick in many online databases, even in the member name box, all the good that it’ll do ya’ sorting through the myriad results.)

Hmmm. It looks like Morris Architects is one firm that allows its firm name to be tied to its employees’ names listings, but when I look at Morris’s overall structure it seems it only has 150 employees. Maybe my customer will want to target Morris, but when I propose this addition to what is usually a hard-and-fast target list he stammers, “But that’s my client!”

Back to the drawing board. Marmon Mok looks promising. Darn, it only has 55 employees and $6 million in revenue. I’ll ask anyway. No, it has to have to have a minimum of $20 million in revenue.

There’s another one. Meeks + Partners. Turns out it’s just barely on the radar with $200,000 in sales and three employees. I feel stupid for asking.

My customer isn’t buying.

Let’s return to his original target list and run through the rest. Like I said, my customer isn’t buying my proffered targets — the ones that have their employees listed in the database. I’m beginning to look like a fool for asking, so let’s stick to what he wanted in the first place.

Just one more query before we move on. I know a company in Texas in this architectural and engineering space. It’s pretty big, I think. It turns out Austin Industries, with $2 billion in sales, is pretty big but it isn’t on the list. I’ll ask about that one. After all, it provides construction, maintenance, and electrical services for the chemical, refining, power, and manufacturing industries. It’s employee owned and for that reason has been left off the customer’s target list. I’m getting nothing but “no” here from my customer. When will I learn?

Lauren Engineers & Constructors is on the list with 100 employees and $375 million in revenue. It’s a contractor that targets the power, chemical, special metals, and oil refining industries. In addition to its core engineering, procurement, and construction capabilities, the firm offers fabrication, project management, and mechanical and electrical maintenance services. Plug it in. Nope. No go. No names.

I give up. Let me try another way. Let me go to LinkedIn, the current popular social networking drug of choice, and see what I can find. Into the search fields I enter:

Architect (Title)

Flour (Company Name)

Current (Employment Status)

Yippee-Skippee! Forty results. Oh wait. A half a dozen are in Texas, and most of them don’t give me their names, just the taunting “Architect” title on the results line. I spy a couple duplicates in there too. What were these guys thinking signing up more than once? But here’s one: Juan Maas Project Architect at Fluor International in Houston, Texas. I wonder if he’ll work. Oh, no. It turns out he’s already on the customer’s list of “names not to duplicate.” (By the way, I get more and more of these today; most of the names generated off the Internet.) No wonder. I bet these other names on the list came off LinkedIn. Yep, looks like they did …

I know I could x-ray LinkedIn from outside for those names that were hidden but, to tell you the truth, I don’t want to. I know you sense my impatience and that’s because when I first started sourcing I spent thousands of hours foolin’ around on the Internet, forestalling that moment in time when I had to get on the telephone. I’m not sayin’ all that Internet cruising wasn’t fun. It sure was. But I learned the fastest and most direct route was to spend a few minutes on the ‘net, capture some information, and then get on the telephone to fill in the gaps.

It’s the best method for finding passive talent in the entire universe of recruiting and I’m going to be talking about it at SourceCon, September 28 and 29 in Washington, D.C. If you come to my sessions, here’s what you get: a step-by-step method of generating the names of people who are working in the jobs you are recruiting for right now. Mark your calendars.

To return to my complaint: The above example is a typically frustrating Internet search I did here as an example with no searching on my part to find an example to fit the bill of the claim I make that most employees inside American companies cannot be found on the Internet in a connection that makes them suitable to your immediate search. Now, if I had spent the two hours it took to assemble and search the information I offered here on the telephone instead I may well have procured most of the 50 — yes, that’s the number of names the customer wants — out of the dozen or so companies on my target list. A skilled telephone sourcer is entirely capable of this. How do you want your researcher spending her time?

I’m going to say it again. Most employees in corporate America are hidden away from the prying fingers of Internet diviners. If America has 150 million-plus workers, rest assured the greater majority of them are not locatable on the Internet. (I welcome argument on this fact. When I say “not locatable” I mean they are not able to be identified/sourced for a specific reason — that reason being, in our industry, to fill a particular role.)

Anyone wanna debate?

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!