Sourcing the Right Way
Shally Steckerl, who will be co-presenting the Sourcing Lab at the Recruiting Trends Conference, discusses some of the latest trends in finding talent.
By Andrew R. McIlvaine
If you're hoping to learn the latest techniques for finding and attracting sought-after talent on the web, then Shally Steckerl is the man you need to talk to. Steckerl is president of The Sourcing Institute and has served as a recruiting consultant to dozens of well-known companies like G.E, Boeing, Netflix, Hewlett Packard and Johnson Controls. He's spent decades building sourcing solutions for clients and is considered one of the pioneers in recruitment search. He's the author of The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook and a sought-after speaker at recruiting events around the world. At this year's Recruiting Trends Conference on Nov. 15 and 16 in Austin, Texas, Steckerl will be co-presenting the Sourcing Lab, which will feature breakout sessions designed to give attendees hands-on experience in the latest sourcing techniques. He will also be presenting pre-conference workshops during the morning and afternoon of Nov. 14 to teach attendees about the latest and most-efficient sourcing strategies. We recently spoke with Steckerl for a wide-ranging discussion about why recruiting is broken at so many companies, the differences between recruiting and sourcing, the right way to use social media and why some recruiters who think they're successful may actually be wrong.
What do you consider the "mission" of the Sourcing Institute to be?
We would like nothing more than to elevate the professional level of modern recruiting practices. We believe that sourcing is the key to repairing the broken recruiting industry. It's the key to covering the gap between how companies are just crushing their employment brand by doing really large, widely distributed advertising, accepting lots of applicants and then proceeding to offend, reject and/or ignore them, which has a really bad impact on the employer and consumer brand. It's unresponsive, slow, expensive and inefficient, which is why modern CEOs hate recruiting. It's a necessary evil but they know it's damaging their company when it's not done right. It's why the [recruitment process outsourcing] industry exists, because companies are looking for someone who knows how to do it. We're not trying to get rid of RPOs and staffing firms, we're just in the business of elevating professional standards so that sourcing is a much more efficient, effective, fast and humane way of conducting recruiting.
How do you define sourcing, and how is it different from traditional recruiting?
Sourcing is a capital investment, a discrete capital investment, unlike the traditional recruitment model that is viewed as a cost center. Sourcing is something that is built as a sustainable competitive advantage -- it's going out and identifying people, approaching them and engaging them instead of doing a cattle call and rejecting 99.9 percent of the people in a very unprofessional way. Instead, we espouse inviting a few key people in, treating them with respect, and recruiting and hiring them in a faster, more effective way. We expect the industry to shift so that what we now call "sourcing" will be what people now call "recruiting." Recruiters will be replaced by sourcers, while the recruiting role will evolve to become process managers, business partners, advisers and consultants to hiring managers. Down the line we're going to see three different individuals involved in the recruiting process: One who goes out and hunts down, finds and brings in people, one who owns the relationship and shepherds the candidate through the process, and the third will be a business-aligned role that oversees things like recruitment marketing and employment branding. Our key differentiator in all this is that we teach people in this business the right way of how to synchronize these roles; we educate them rather than training them.
What's the difference between training and educating?
There's a huge difference. Training is something you can impart to an individual that lets them do a particular job in a particular setting, but it's often not something they can take with them. Our core belief is that educating someone means that if they go to a new recruiting environment, they'll know that in order to be successful there are three areas that are absolutely critical: first is the pre-search process before you start the actual search, the second component is the intake meeting and leaving with all the information you need from the hiring manager in order to do an effective search, and the third most critical part is knowing where to start the search and identifying the talent. All three of these components have nothing to do with training.
Can you explain the pre-search process?
The pre-search is preparing for the intake meeting by understanding the job requirements and doing some preliminary research to find out things like what the keywords are, so you arrive at the meeting fully prepared. We have a whole process or format we use and companies will take it and adapt it to their own processes.
During the Sourcing Lab, you'll be teaching participants how to use certain tools that can help them "turbo-charge" their social sourcing. Are there some new tools in this area that you're really excited about and can you describe them briefly?
It's less about the tools you use then it is about thinking critically how you use them. For example, browser extensions are apps on your phone that let you look up a piece of text somewhere else. So let's say you go to a LinkedIn profile and you see a user name there -- these browser extensions will look up that name in a variety of sources so you can see things like what lists they're on, their career history, what conferences they attend and so on. Another category of tools has to do with engagement -- there's a tool called Crystal Knows that tells you about a person, their personality type: introvert, extrovert, formal or informal -- it analyzes the person's profile on social media and provides you with some insight on how to approach them. So it's not just about finding someone but communicating with them in a way that they'll listen and respond, rather than approaching an introvert the way you would an extrovert and potentially alienating them. Then there's some search tools in which we show people how to use Google and Bing more effectively to find the "deep web" content that doesn't come up on the surface of Google results. The content that typically comes up on a search is more common or popular but a COBOL programmer, for example, is not going to have a popular web page. We also teach people how to master the automation of the recruiting process so that you can work with these tools more effectively.
Are there some common mistakes or errors recruiters make when using social for sourcing?
A big one is to treat social media as an advertising platform. Social media is not really an advertising channel. It's very common to see recruiters fall back into the "post and pray" days of just publish it and they'll come. You can do that once in a while, it builds traffic and might generate some leads, but a lot of recruiters only do that. They don't use social media to build rapport and start conversations or conduct market analysis. So that's a big mistake. Another mistake is over-exposure, kind of like "diarrhea of the mouth." It overwhelms people and they stop following and paying attention. Now I know there's an argument that says it doesn't matter who said something first but who said it the loudest and most frequently, so there is an argument for being loud on social media, but only if you're being loud and consistent. I see too many recruiters being loud and inconsistent. So pick something and stick with it if you're going to be loud, or else don't be loud and use social as an engagement platform instead.
So what are the most effective ways to use social media as an engagement platform?
A lot of recruiters take the approach of, "It's cool to be on Twitter, so let's all go there and find people." OK, that can work, but what's better and more efficient is if you first identify where your "tribe" -- the people you want to recruit -- is and then talk to them through the channel they're most engaged with. So I see companies starting a Twitter account and trying to build a following completely unaware of the fact that the people they're targeting don't go on Twitter. So they're investing a lot of time and effort on Twitter, and doing all the right things, but the audience they're targeting isn't there. When you want to talk to people in a particular industry, software programmers tend to pay attention on Twitter. You're more than likely to engage the software community on Twitter and Slack than on LinkedIn. And every community has these idiosyncrasies. Failing to understand these macro-patterns can be a mistake, you'll end up talking to the wrong people in the right place or the right people in the wrong place.
What are the biggest takeaways that you hope attendees get from the Sourcing Lab?
The biggest thing is opening peoples' eyes to what they don't know. Recruiters tend to think they already know everything they need to be successful. That's hard to refute when they are successful, but some think they're successful when they're actually not. If you have reqs open for more than 160 days, for example, then you're doing something wrong. So it's opening their eyes to what's possible and all the ways they could improve. I think that in our industry, there are a lot of people who aren't aware that they can improve, but when they attend our sessions, their eyes open. One of the most common pieces of feedback we get from our sessions is "I've been doing this for 20 years, and I wish I knew this on my first day."