More Sourcing Tactics for the Upcoming Recovery

Sourcing tactics need to match your sourcing strategies. When you change your strategies, you must make a comparable change in your tactics. Perhaps you’ve decided that you need to hire more dot-net “ITers,” or that you want to strengthen your employer brand. Maybe you want to create a farm-team hiring model or more aggressively target passive candidates. Regardless, how you execute these actions on a day-to-day basis will determine your ultimate success. The tactics needed to execute them properly might require different (or better-trained) recruiters, a new college recruitment program, a different advertising agency, more involvement with hiring managers, a different ERP program, or more money, or everything listed, or something totally different. Most functional managers (VPs of engineering, marketing, operations, finance, etc.) know this intuitively. A different and well thought-out tactical plan is part of every change in business strategy. But sometimes it also requires a change in culture and attitude. Recruiting managers need to get into the act the same way with aggressive changes in how they run their departments on a day-to-day basis. As the economy changes, recruiting managers need to be ready to roll out their new plans on a moment’s notice. Minor changes and improvements won’t do. Bold creative thinking and terrific execution will be required. The snowman model presented in my last article is a good way to examine the sourcing process. The head of the snowman represents the supply of active candidates; the body all of the passive candidates. While the passive candidate pool is the largest, it’s also the most costly to go after, requiring more time, money, and personal effort. As the economy recovers, the active candidate pool will shrink. However, the partially active candidate pool will grow significantly in the early stages of a recovery. This pool represents those employed (and passive) candidates who hung on to their current jobs during the tough economic times but who are the first people willing to explore new opportunities once they see signs of a strengthening economy. Compelling advertising, a solid employee referral program, and a professional career website represent the basic tactics to find and attract the best active candidates. Unfortunately, these tactics aren’t sufficient to reach the partially active pool. Since these candidates are employed, they tend to be more casual when they look for new opportunities. Companies need to become more aggressive to reach them. Here are some tactics you might want to try to attract this important pool of candidates:

  1. Constantly visible advertising. The partially active candidates will only look on the first page of any listing. Therefore, make sure your ad is seen without having to scroll. Pay whatever it takes for this positioning, even if you must run your ad every day. Your ad must stand out ó bolding helps, long titles help more, outrageous titles that compel the candidate to check out the job help the most. For example, a title like, “This Engineering Development Position Will Change the Biotech World. Yours, too.” will have more clickthroughs than every other ad listed in the top 20.
  2. Article Continues Below
  3. Compelling and differentiating advertising. The copy in every ad must minimize the required list of skills and experiences. You want candidates to opt-in, not opt-out, so instead describe the challenges. The partially active are already employed. They need reasons to leave. Make sure your copy reinforces the title. Quickly describe what the person will learn, do, and become in the first paragraph. Then describe how this ties to the company strategy and vision. This is what employer branding is all about at the personal level: tying the job directly to the company strategy. This demonstrates that every person is important to the company’s future.
  4. Consider “job branding.” Don’t make it too hard to find the job description after the ad is read. If you have multiple jobs with the same title or similar categories of jobs, consider job branding. Take the job classification ó all of engineering positions for the new XYZ project, for instance ó and use a complete web page to describe the importance of the jobs and project to the company. By linking the job to the company strategy, you extend your employer brand. Make sure you go into some details about the challenges in the project and why the jobs offer an exciting future. Candidates will be more willing to spend time on your site looking for a specific job for them with this type of “job branding.”
  5. Write job profiles, not job descriptions, and make sure they’re easy to find. A job profile is a list of the top three or four deliverables or projects the person taking the job will be expected to accomplish. Tie these back to the ad and job branding page. The best people always want to know what they’ll be doing before they seriously consider any job, even before applying. By clarifying expectations in the job description section of the website, you’ll attract the attention of a higher caliber person very early in the process. The best people, especially those that are casually exploring job opportunities, need something to attract and anchor their attention. A great job profile can accomplish this. In fact, top performers will often show the job profile to their spouse or friends as their interest in the job grows. This is a critical aspect of attracting the partially active candidate. Not only must you engage the candidate immediately, but you must also provide enough information to garner the support of the candidate’s advisors. The best never make important career decisions alone. Also, don’t forget to make these job profiles easy to find, or else these casual job hunters will opt out too soon.
  6. Immediate contact with recruiters. Speed is very important when you’re recruiting partially active candidates. The best partially active candidates will get called immediately by the most aggressive recruiters. Make sure you design your systems to identify the best people instantaneously, in order to enable your recruiters to contact them within hours after applying. Consider allowing candidates to request more information informally. To do this, you’ll need to get some minimum qualifying information from the candidate, and then if the person looks good, have a recruiter call immediately. Speed is vital when a top candidate has multiple opportunities. You might need to overhaul your internal processing to pull this part off, but this is a critical part of the process that many recruiting departments overlook.
  7. A proactive employee referral program. Don’t wait for your employees to refer a candidate. Instead, go out and ask them to tell you who the best people they’ve ever worked with are. Then call and recruit these people. If they’re not interested, make sure you get three more names of other top people. (See my article on networking for more tips.) This is how you find the best partially active candidates before they’ve even become partially active.

While these tactics are useful, if you’re managing a recruiting department you need metrics to know when it’s time to go after the partially active candidate, and additional metrics to know how well you are doing. To spend more time on this, I have established an online discussion group in concert with ERE and If you’re in corporate recruitment management and want to gain practical insight into this critical topic, you should join. Email me ( and I’ll send you the sign-up information. By the way, I’ll be discussing these and similar topics in a two different sessions at the March ER Expo 2003 West in San Diego. This will be another great ERE event, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to work together when you’re there. For some of us, it’s already difficult finding enough high quality active candidates to meet current hiring needs. For many of the rest, that time will soon be here. During the early stages of an economic recovery, targeting the partially active pool with aggressive and creative tactical sourcing strategies is one way to maintain high candidate quality. To get there, don’t be afraid to question everything you’re now doing and everybody who’s now doing it. If you want to continue hiring the best, you can’t rely on yesterday’s solutions to hire tomorrow’s candidates.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).