The Sourcing Problem We All Face

by Dave Forbes

I recently read an article by Madeline Laurano called Sourcing Strategies Continue to Fall Short. In it, she talks about how companies’ attempts at building effective sourcing strategies are falling short of their intended purpose of finding people for hiring managers to interview for their positions. In most respects, she is absolutely correct. Most companies are having difficulty sourcing people in the current talent marketplace. What has worked the last 10 or so years isn’t working anymore, or at least not as well. However, the reality is a little more nuanced.

We’ve been here before

This isn’t our first rodeo with tight labor markets. I’m going to date myself here. Does anyone remember Y2K? How about the Dot Com bubble? Does the time leading up to the great recession ring a bell? The biggest difference in what is occurring now is the breadth of the impact on the sourcing of candidates for positions. Historically, the impact of a competitive labor market has been restricted to a few specific industries and has been finite in length, except for Information Technology. It has been a tight market since the late 1990s.

What about the Search Firms

In my opinion, one of the most telling differences with our current talent shortage is that even the sourcing experts, the agency recruiters, are struggling with sourcing. I started my career in Executive Search. Now, this was before the internet and we still used fax machines, but having to hunt people down and build contact networks to get to the candidates you’re looking for was how you were successful. The fact that these professionals, especially the old-school recruiters, are struggling is a sign that the obstacles within the current talent marketplace can’t be underestimated or solved easily.

So, what about solutions

The fact is a lot of people have left the traditional job market and, by some accounts, even our population growth rate isn’t going to be able to keep up. By the way, there have been warnings about this since the early 2000s when everyone started talking about the Boomers retiring and the struggles that will ensue. The term “war for talent” started way back then. I know, I was there. So how do companies react and keep their sourcing pipelines effective given the current state of things?

  • Manage expectations – While people say there are solutions to every problem, the reality is unless we open our immigration system a lot (a total political minefield there) or somehow magically create/clone people, the shortage of talent isn’t going away anytime soon. We all need to admit that the last decade or so before the pandemic was great for sourcing, but now it’s become something that technology or process isn’t going to solve completely. It’s a Stockdale Paradox- hope for the best, but one needs to confront the brutal reality that it is going to be more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to find the right people for our open jobs. Managers and executives need to understand that it’s changed and imposing previous standards or success factors is only going to burn out your recruiting staff. It’s no wonder that, according to Korn Ferry, nearly 30% of recruiters are looking to get out of the industry, not just find new jobs.
  • No school like the old school – The age-old tactics of building networks of people, or talent pools, and socializing openings are back. To some, it may have never left. Fortunately, technology has made this a lot easier. With most ATSs, there is the ability to create mailing lists to send out notices to candidates. If your ATS doesn’t, look into partnering with Marketing and see about other services that can do this, like Constant Contact, HubSpot, etc. Recruiting is about timing. I’ve always said that I would rather be lucky than good any day of the week. This tactic can help create a little luck by being at the top of peoples’ minds. Also, keep in touch with people. Hiring Managers and recruiters may want to change their vocabulary and start saying or thinking “not yet” as opposed to a hard no. While you can’t possibly stay in touch with everyone, you should always keep the good ones on your “radar.”
  • Team Contact sport – everyone in a company has a role to play in recruiting people for their company. It’s time to enlist employees if you haven’t already. Whether that’s internal mobility and promoting the people ready for the next job or creating a bonus program for referrals, every sourcing effort needs help. A small group of recruiters is no match for an entire company of people that believe in the mission, the values, and the people they work with. Enlist these people to help. If they aren’t helping, then you need to look at your employee engagement and better understand why not.

There is no secret “pool” of resumes out there. There isn’t a job board or service that is going to uncover people at the rate some companies need to find them. The simple fact is that recruiting, more specifically, sourcing, is a grind. Technology can help make things easier, but it isn’t going to solve the problems we’re facing. Anyone or product claiming this is making it up. And even the possible solutions above are only going to help. As Ms. Laurano pointed out, we have to rethink how we approach the tasks of sourcing. There is no silver bullet here. It’s going to be a combination of things, some tried and true, some tedious and mind-numbing, others creative and completely out of the box. The point is you have to keep innovating and trying new things. As for the old school, isn’t it interesting that the more things change, the more they stay the same?


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