Where Have the Diamond Mines Gone?

Sourcing good people has never been more challenging. The days when good people simply dropped off their resumes or when the average recruiter could flip through a rolodex and find several potentially good candidates are a memory. Whenever a recruiter needs to find a highly skilled candidate, they are challenged by the growing lack of good people and the competitive and global nature of the workplace.

For example, a colleague in New Zealand has to compete for healthcare professionals not only within New Zealand, but also from Australia, all of the Commonwealth countries, and from the United States. Another colleague in the semiconductor design area has to compete with India, Taiwan, and China. Scarcity is common in high-tech, healthcare, financial services, insurance, and even in blue-collar workers such as truck drivers and plumbers. Recruiters have responded in several ways. They have posted jobs on all the major job boards and on niche and local boards. They have widened their search area by using the Internet. And they have relied very heavily over the past five years on employee referral. All of these are decent methods of finding people, and they still produce results.

But these tools and techniques are widely known and used and offer little competitive advantage. It is still a difficult process to entice a highly qualified candidate, and an even more difficult chore to get them interested enough to go through the interview process. Recent data shows that postings to the major job boards have declined somewhat as these boards have become less effective in pinpointing the exact talent recruiters are seeking. Likewise, employee referrals are “dying up” in many organizations, as the current employee base exhausts the folks they know who might be interested. Internet search is so commonplace that, while it can work well for some positions, is not the gold mine we thought it was a few years ago. So where does a recruiter go to find good candidates? Are there any diamond mines left? While I don’t believe there are diamond mines, future-aware and technically savvy recruiters can still maintain a competitive edge. It takes two things to stay in front of the competition in sourcing: 1) understanding how some of the emerging tools and applications can help, and 2) building a deep understanding of what motivates and attracts your prime candidate.

First of all, recruiters should take the time to really figure out what attracted good recent hires to the organization. By spending an hour or so with a few new hires, recruiters can determine what advertising messages where effective, what parts of the website worked best, and what internal processes most enticed the candidate. Recruiters need to know the effect of salary and benefits versus the effect of values, mission, and corporate culture. They need to know if a particular hiring manager was more effective than others in conveying excitement about a job — and specifically what she said or how she said it so that others might gain from it. But, just as importantly, recruiters need to experiment with some new software tools and how to use them to improve finding candidates.

Talent Networks and Referral

The first important application to appear recently is Jobster. Jobster is, on the surface, an employee referral tool that opens referrals up to outside candidates who may not be known directly by a current employee. For example, a recruiter can post a position on Jobster and send it to a few folks she knows who might be interested. They can then decide whether to apply or to send it on to someone else within their network. By asking people to “tap others on the shoulder,” jobs get sent to relevant people who can decide for themselves what action to take. By itself this is useful, but Jobster is also a job board. It allows interested candidates to search for and apply for jobs that were not necessarily referred to them. Jobster has also added Internet search capabilities through an alliance with ZoomInfo so that recruiters can search for specific people, skills, or companies. By aggregating a variety of services and providing a range of ways people can use the application, the Jobster team has created a recruiter’s portal that will most likely continue to be enriched over time. Other tools, such as H3.com, also allow recruiters to develop talent networks. H3 has made an excellent white paper on talent networking available for free. Using H3, recruiters can also post jobs and refer jobs to people. Tools such as these have already become a major way to source candidates, especially as internal employees run out of candidates.

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Internet Search Simplified — And Made More Powerful

Internet searching has never been easy. In fact, the company AIRS was built on providing recruiters with the skills and techniques needed to navigate a world built by techies and nerds. Most recruiters have some ability to search the web, but only a handful would say they are expert. But technology has come to the rescue for those of us who are not technical gurus. ZoomInfo, for example, offers a simple interface to the Internet and allows recruiters to conduct extensive and complex searches with little or no knowledge of arcane techniques or Boolean algebra. It also continues to evolve as customers provide input. Its most recent version now exposes automatically built lists of colleagues and relationships in its summaries. It allows a recruiter to instantly see who is part of the same network and what other relationships they have. ZoomInfo also attaches whatever information is available about a person, including their photos and other personal information that is publicly available, to their summary. Individuals can also add information to their summaries themselves. ZoomInfo is now integrated into several applicant tracking tools, including Jobster, and will grow as an engine that builds searchable databases about people and keeps track of networks of people with similar skills and experience.

Your Corporate Website

Another essential element in the sourcing equation is a well-researched, carefully written recruiting website that attracts, informs, and screens candidates. Good websites are much more than brochures online; they need to have a clear path from entry to application. Organizations that have put these websites together find that the need for other forms of sourcing goes down. People most often come to company websites for information, to order products, or to find out about a service — not to apply for a job. If you can convert someone who is thinking about buying your product or service or who is just curious about what you do into a potential candidate, you will add many talented people to your talent network. If you can educate and screen interested candidates, you will have met your OFFCP needs as well as your sourcing needs. Do not underestimate the power of a well-done recruiting website as a major source of candidates. These three applications are changing the sourcing environment from one of closely held talent pools and personal networks owned by a recruiter to a global space where information about people is readily available. The recruiter’s challenge is to learn how to convert these to candidates and entice them to join your organization.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.