Keeping Up With Sourcing Trends: SourceCon’s Jeremy Roberts

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Sourcing expert Jeremy Roberts shares insights from the cutting-edge in talent research and explains how to pick the right tools and techniques for your organization:

Sourcecon’s Jeremy Roberts, sourcing expert

“It’s a constant evolution.”

That’s Jeremy Roberts, editor and conference organizer for sourcing-knowledge hub SourceCon. He’s explaining how the must-use tools and techniques for researching talent change over time:

“The sourcing community is always scouring the web to find the next big thing. What was cutting edge two years ago isn’t anymore.”

It makes sense that dedicated sourcing professionals would spend the time to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. But for many folks in talent acquisition, sourcing is just one part of the work. It might be a skill they’re only just learning. Or, it might be work they don’t perform themselves, but do need to be aware of.

What are the challenges and trends they should know about? And how can they identify which tools and practices are right for their company’s recruiting strategy?

Jeremy kindly agreed to a little Q&A …

“[Sourcing has] become less about building lists of names and more about building lists of qualified, interested and available candidates.”

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What are the big challenges in sourcing right now?

Back in the early 2000s, finding information online was a very unique skill set. At that point, ‘sourcing’ referred to creating lists of names and handing them off to recruiters. Now, according to our two most recent surveys, 79-83% of sourcers are expected to engage the candidate. So it’s become less about building lists of names and more about building lists of qualified, interested and available candidates. In terms of the candidate identification, the trends are really about building those lists of names and then converting those lists of names into qualified, interested and available candidates.

The big challenge most sourcers are having today is getting to a good email address, finding a direct-dial phone number and getting those people to respond to a voicemail message or a phone call or email. In terms of sourcing technology, it’s not too hard to find a name and a title. What people want now are tools that will help them once they’ve got that name and title to help engage that candidate, by giving them an email address or some other source of contact.

How is the technology changing?

In terms of actual trends in the technology, a couple years ago we saw many aggregators pop up – tools that bring together all of a person’s social profiles into one unified profile. The trend right now is getting away from the expensive subscription-based platforms and moving towards tools like Prophet and 360social – Chrome or Firefox add-ons that are mostly free to use. The sourcing community likes free stuff!

What industries or employers are the early adopters in sourcing? The ones who lead the way in trying out new tools and techniques?

Typically it’s the people who are working on the hardest to fill jobs. Say you’re at a company where there’s only a certain type of person who can fill your open role. You get to the end of your applicant tracking system and you have to get a little more creative. The position could be pharmaceutical, it could be a senior accountant who can audit for a big firm. Whatever it is, it doesn’t need to be a certain speciality, but it has to be something with enough expertise that you couldn’t just go and find somebody with a good personality and train them how to do it.

Obviously high-tech, UI, UX and the really technical candidates are always the hardest to fill, especially in the software space on the West Coast. Typically people who recruit for technology companies, they have to be good sourcers. Whereas if you’re recruiting call centre people, for example, you can process applications and test who applies.

“The trend right now is getting away from the expensive subscription-based platforms and moving towards … add-ons that are mostly free to use.”

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Sourcing can unearth personal, even private information about people. Where is the boundary between acceptable and inappropriate tactics?

It’s a sensitive area. Laws around hacking are pretty nebulous. That’s something you have to be really careful of when you are doing sourcing and you’re doing really technical things, because a lot of times there is a grey area where you don’t know if you are breaking the law or not.

If you’re tool-stacking – using two or three different tools and you’re automating something and extracting information from a website in a way that it wasn’t intended to be extracted – that’s when you’re walking into that grey area. I don’t know anybody who has gone to jail for it, but I know people who have  been kicked off of different social networks. It is something you have to be really careful about.

What advice can you offer recruiters and employers on how to select the right sourcing tools and techniques for their needs?

It’s hard, from an organizational perspective. You have to know what each tool does and what that could help you accomplish. I’ve seen a lot of people waste time using tools that they shouldn’t have. You really have to know what your speciality is, where you’re getting your hires, and then evaluate each tool based on that. The other thing is that every organization has a different workflow and every person processes information and solves problems differently, so it’s really about knowing the tools, knowing yourself and knowing your company’s workflow.

Whatever you’re doing in sourcing – if you’re sourcing ten per cent of your day or 100 per cent of your day – it needs to be fast and efficient and work with your existing workflow. Ten years ago there were all these people who, as third-party agencies, had been billing hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years. Then LinkedIn came along and you had these veteran recruiters wasting their whole day on LinkedIn and their billings dropped from 400 to 200 overnight because they were lost in technology. So you don’t want that. Stick to your principles.

“… It’s really about knowing the tools, knowing yourself and knowing your company’s workflow.”

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SourceCon, “the must attend conference for all things sourcing”, runs September 17–18 in Dallas. Learn more.

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From an interview with Christian De Pape.