The talent textbook: How to start sourcing
It takes a blend of approaches — and tenacity — to find the right hire.
Editor's note: Morgan Fecto is both new to the HR Dive team and to talent. This piece is the first of her new series, The Talent Textbook. If you're new to the field (or just want to refresh your methods), follow along as she interviews talent experts and explores the fundamentals of talent management and acquisition. She can be reached at [email protected]
A day in the life of a talent professional might involve juggling video calls, scrolling through job boards and planning which recruiting events to attend. Evolving tech complicates the day-to-day even more — changing the kinds of skills employers need, how candidates think about work and how recruiters themselves can conduct the process most efficiently.
Whether you're new to talent and getting a grip on all this for the first time like me or you're an experienced recruiter looking to update your practices, you've come to the right place. For this first installment in a new series on the fundamentals of talent acquisition and management, experts in the field took me step-by-step through the sourcing process. Some told me to think like a marketer or a salesperson; others said not to discount chatbots or the effectiveness of smiling. Ultimately, they all agreed that it takes a blend of approaches to find the right hire — that and tenacity.
"Recruiting is an 'always on' function," Sarah Nahm, CEO of recruiting software company Lever, told HR Dive in an interview. "You never stop recruiting."
So let's begin.
Step 1: Nail the message
It all starts with the job description. In the not-so-distant past, this might have been a list of desirable qualities and skills — one that recruiters received somewhat passively from hiring managers. Today, however, a job description needs to cut through the noise and signal to potential recruits that the employer cares about their long-term growth.
"The traditional job description ends up being this laundry list from the hiring manager describing everything a perfect candidate could have," Nahm said. "We've found that [it's better] to replace the job description with an actual North Star for the recruiter — thinking of it not as the description of the perfect candidate but as a description of the impact that you want that candidate to have."
She favors job descriptions that tell candidates what they should expect to accomplish throughout their first year in the role because such descriptions promote transparency with applicants and make the recruiter's search easier.
"Candidates love it because it explains the career growth they're going to have, and for recruiters it helps create a lot more clarity in the conversation with the hiring manager about what they're truly looking for," Nahm said.
From a more macro perspective, honing a brand message and showcasing what's best about a company's culture on sites like Glassdoor could make a difference with potential recruits. Recruiters should enter into discussions with the top brass about how company culture is reviewed by former workers and received by current workers. Because culture fit is a top priority for both employer and candidate, it's appropriate for recruiters to consider employer branding from the get-go if they want to find hires with longevity, Nahm said.
"Candidates today are evaluating companies on much different criteria than before. You know, you read about the #Metoo movement — organizations like Google and Facebook are being criticized by their own employees — and I think a lot of employees are holding their employers to a much higher standard," Nahm said. "It really creates a much more complex landscape for recruiting leaders. Maybe 20 years ago you just had to fill a role, now you have to be an ambassador of culture, of values."
This involves thinking like a marketer, which is even more essential to the next step.
Step 2: Go to the (right) source
Volume-based hiring just doesn't work anymore, according to Harj Taggar, CEO of Triplebyte, a job-matching platform for engineers. Neither does hiring from a credentials-based stance, which according to Taggar, rules out "diamond in the rough" candidates who don't have degrees.
"I think that general trend of just, ‘How do we build new credentials that can give employers confidence that their hires have skills?' is something that's changing," Taggar said. "It's driven by need, by the fact that companies just cannot hit their hiring targets by focusing on hiring from a limited number of colleges, so there's a new appetite for those signals on skill and ability."
All-star candidates can be sourced via social media, online job boards, university programs, internal referrals and more — but recruiters will find the best fits if they think like marketers, Nahm said, and meet recruits where they already are.
Recruiters can glean right-fit candidates from niche sources such as interest-based meetups (think design-thinking workshops to network with UX designers), or industry-specific job boards like Stack Overflow (for developers) and Mediabistro (for journalists). This idea carries over into recruiting diverse workers, too.
"There really are a lot of communities springing up where people are rallying around different underrepresented groups. Those can be great opportunities for organizations to align themselves with the causes they believe in," Nahm said. "I would encourage organizations that have the budget to maybe sponsor some of those groups, or maybe even offer up a space for those groups to host an event at their office."
If a company lacks diversity, Taggar warned, referrals will be less likely to yield diverse applicants because employees usually refer acquaintances from their own in-groups. He notes that finding diverse candidates is easier when recruiters can speak to an employer's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
"The idea of diversity is almost in danger — every company is interested in talking about it now, but it needs to be backed up with more information about what kind of diversity they want to encourage and why," he said. "Companies should have diversity manifestos to outline why it's a priority."
When employers sought candidate diversity in the past, recruiters could blame hiring pipelines for a lack of applicants. Nahm argues that this reasoning no longer flies in the digital age.
"Now they realize that if they truly are going to walk the walk on their commitments to being a diverse company that invests in inclusion, then they need to take control of their own pipeline," Nahm said. "That's why there's been so much momentum behind proactive sourcing."
Step 3: Interview with a candidate-first mindset
This idea of meeting candidates where they are applies to the interviewing process, too. Recruiters should think about personalizing the candidate experience first and foremost, according to Jenny Klebba, manager of talent acquisition at interviewing technology company Montage. What kind of technology will be most convenient for candidates to use for picking an interview time? How can the interview process reflect experiences that candidates might already find pleasing?
"I would say that in terms of tech, they want a similar experience to their consumer lives, and we do that through video, voice and text interviewing," Klebba said.
Automating grunt work like scheduling can leave a recruiter with more time for in-person conversations with potential hires later. For instance, Klebba uses a proprietary chatbot to ask candidates qualifying questions for hiring at Montage. Recruiters shouldn't be afraid of tech assistance, like automated follow-up emails or sending a poll to help a candidate pick an interview time — as long as it doesn't detract from candidate experience or lead to bulk messaging.
"As opposed to just a blanket email saying, ‘Hi, I think you'd be a good fit for this role,' people want to know why you're interested in them, and so the personal message has always been more beneficial for me," Klebba said. "It's really easy for a recruiter to say what's in it for them, but if you want to hook them, you have to show [the candidate] what's in it for them."
Showing your humanity can also make candidates feel more comfortable and ignite positive energy during a stressful time.
"Everything the recruiter does is based on communication," Klebba said. "Just having a smile as you go through that process can be really helpful. We don't want candidates to feel the brunt of any stress we, as recruiters, might be feeling."
Step 4: Focus on the future
Klebba encourages recruiters to adopt a "high-tech, high-touch" approach and to "always have [their] networking hat on," even when a candidate doesn't make the cut. Both Nahm and Klebba believe that recruiters in today's talent market need to build relationships with candidates in service of future roles.
"What employers are seeing with the millennial workforce coming in is shortened job tenure and higher attrition rates, which means that in addition to recruiting for the growth you want your company to have, recruiting organizations have to fill a lot more roles. That's creating a really intense recruiting velocity challenge," Nahm said. "You have to increasingly anticipate that you will be hiring for roles way in advance of those roles actually opening up, so it's a really different kind of pipelining."
That means a moratorium on ghosting candidates who aren't a good fit now — with the hope that they may be in the future. When a candidate does get the job, recruiters shouldn't forget about them either. Checking in on hires once they've settled into their roles can ensure that they stay in the pipeline for the future. It can also be a way for recruiters to gauge their efficacy.
A "high-touch" approach can include reaching out to past candidates, and a "high-tech" one can include using analytics to troubleshoot problems with turning candidates into hires. Most recruiting software platforms will track success rates at each step, helping recruiters pinpoint where candidates lost interest. Some platforms also provide industry benchmarks for success to put recruiters' efforts into perspective. In an age when recruiters "never stop recruiting," such tools can help them up their game for the next candidate.