Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Challenging

1 10 2009

This is the second of a series of three articles discussing Microsoft’s approach building pipelines and talent communities.  The articles are entitled:

  1. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Rewarding
  2. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Challenging
  3. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Painful

In the first article of this “Being on the Cutting Edge” series, I discussed our Web 2.0 Recruitment Marketing Platform how we achieved success both from the solution we implemented from acknowledgement from the recruiting industry.  But the greatest barometer of success was how we performed for our business clients.  The article pointed out that by using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), over 95% of our jobs were on the first page of Google (the holy grail of SEO).  We saw how SEO reached a significant portion of the target audience that was actively looking for work.  In addition the talent that was demonstrating online behaviors that mirror active candidates (i.e. looking at jobs) could also be reached with our outreach.  But, even with the efficiency of SEO, we were not reaching the remaining 75-80% of the talent supply.  To put that article in the context of this discussion, SEO is a tactic that we employ as part of our talent engagement process (figure 2 below).

In this article we are going to look at our process at a high level and discuss the challenges that this type of initiative must overcome.  The challenges segment nicely into three buckets—designing a process that incorporates Web 2.0; the technological challenges of finding a solution; and the human challenges.  This article will also illustrate how we reach into the 75-80% of the prospect talent pool that is not demonstrating the online behaviors of an active job seeker.

Process Challenges

Designing a process that incorporates Web 2.0 proved to be very challenging; the process needed to connect to social media as well as incorporate a diverse target audience that represented the ten different business talent pipelines (micro-segments) that we were building.  The micro-segments of talent required a method of identifying and engaging them in a manner that incorporated the uniqueness of each segment.  And speaking of challenges—creating and implementing a solution at Microsoft and its complicated environment proved daunting at best.  The challenges of our process development can be summarized in terms of four considerations:

  • Microsoft Staffing Goals
  • Segments of Talent Supply
  • Talent Acquisition Strategy
  • Talent Engagement Model

Microsoft Staffing Goals

The reoccurring themes of Microsoft staffing goals—to source|recruit the best prospects|candidates in the world and to enhance the candidate experience were a part of the DNA of our approach.  Identifying the best prospect versus the best available candidate required that we incorporate great competitive and talent supply intelligence into our thinking.  The improvement to the candidate experience is not targeted at the people who go through the Microsoft interview process (which post interview surveys’ reveal is a great experience), but rather to the ones that got away.  They got away by not being ready to interview for a new job; or not seeing the right job; or by being screened out (and not knowing it); or a host of other reasons.

Segments of Talent Supply

A reoccurring element of the conversation about challenges is illustrated in the graphic below—the segments of the talent supply.  Rather than just active and passive, the governments suggests there are four segments of the talent supply—active, casual, passive and  those not looking.  The fact that our respective target audience is in a state of flux adds to the challenges as different parts of our audience are in different places at any one time.  I like to think of this as the “job search cycle.”

Figure 1: Segments of Talent Supply

Talent Acquisition Strategy

Our talent acquisition strategy is highlighted in the graphic below.  To have our “recruiting house” in order, we need to think about talent identification and talent engagement.

A significant challenge to “talent identification” is that we must pipeline talent that is segmented into target audiences that map to our respective businesses.  Our approach to talent identification and mapping to each business is unusual.  It is not the mapping that makes it unusual, it is the volume of the information harvested that sets us apart.  If you asked me one difference between what we do and the majority of the sourcing community is that we pipeline thousands of targets for each of our businesses.  While the prospects are vetted for general quality and education, it is the quantity of prospects that allows us that we can reach deeper in the pools of prospective talent.  We are getting the “gettable” talent, but also, we are engaging the typically “ungettable” prospects.

The talent engagement tactics are outlined in each of the pillars.  The list of tactics is not exhaustive, but provides an overview as to our thinking about the challenges of a comprehensive Talent Acquisition Strategy.  Our approach to talent engagement is amplified in the process flow chart in the next section.

Figure 2: Talent Acquisition Strategy

Talent Engagement Model

One of the greatest challenges to engaging prospective talent is not just the just the sheer volume of prospects, but also honoring the unique gifts and abilities of each individual.  To improve the candidate experience, you must treat your worst prospect as your best friend.  We must do this because the Microsoft brand is perceived is not what we say it is, but what our respective target audiences say it is.  While we can influence our brand (discussed in greater detail in the final article of this series) we do not control it—our audience does.

Back to the talent engagement!  In a recent article, I discussed our “talent engagement model” (see figure 3) in greater detail.  The essence of our thinking was to find a way to break the “apply or goodbye” nature of much of our relationships we forge with prospective talent.  By staying in a transaction model, we miss the opportunity to deepen the relationship with the prospects that we worked hard to develop.  It is similar to a sales force that develops new prospects as opposed to making additional sales with their existing customers.  We think it is not an “either|or” proposition, but rather a both|and opportunity.

Figure 3: Talent Engagement Model

Are We Really Reaching The Passive Prospects?

I realize that most recruiters approach passive prospects–but are they really reaching the potential of the passive market?  I think most often we reach passive prospects that have behaviors that mirror an active prospect.  The true passive audience can only be reached by mirroring the actual web activities that the passive prospects are engaging—that is usually related to their profession, additional training, etc.  This outreach can be automated such as a Recruitment Marketing Platform that aggregates information on                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           the target audience and iteratively reaches out to that audience with different messages that address their interests.

While we look at the talent supply (see figure 4) in terms of active, causal, passive and the non job seekers, it is useful explore the subject a little more deeply.  If we looked at the talent supply in the context of the methods that are used to reach our target audiences it is easy to see the challenges of working with a job search cycle that is nuanced.  The Recruiting Roundtable illustrates this point with the cleaver labels.  This graphic also points out another important point—much of the sourcing of passive prospects is aimed at the very difficult to recruit prospects.  To reach this audience, it takes the best research and highly impactful headhunting tactics.  While effective, it is difficult to leverage this approach to any scale that makes economic sense (particularly in a high volume, high bar type environment).  In short, it takes more than a simple human touch—it takes a “high touch” to engage these prospects.   A conclusion arrived at is that we tend to work at both ends of the spectrum—to engage the very easy to source and the very difficult to source.  And, I believe, we tend to miss a casual and passive audience that falls in the “easy to source” and “difficult to source” categories.

Figure 4: Job Search Cycle

Another layer to the discussion is “touch”—technology and human.  In my previous article, I made the case that SEO was the “technology touch” in our discussion.  And indeed, a technology outreach could capture some of the “causal” audience that was demonstrating web behaviors that mirrored an active job seeker.  This part of the audience was described as “SEO Gettables. “  But, we still have that opportunity in the middle.  We estimate that 30-40% of the available causal and passive audience is not reached with normal sourcing efforts.

It is the Talent Engagement Model that facilitates a human touch.  Just as a high touch is key sourcing and recruiting executives and key contributors, we leverage technology and a human touch to engage a more skeptical and the less active prospects.

Figure 5: Reaching Target Audience

Our experience with community has convinced us that we can scale a human touch using social networking sites.  We think about building relationships with prospects as Guanxi—capturing the spirit of the well-know Chinese core value.  Our goal is to place a significant premium on the relationship that we have with causal and passive prospects (something that is lacking in our world of transactions).

We created community on the existing communities (LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook) and used the respective platforms to engage the appropriate segments of their membership.  Research indicates that people are flocking to social networking sites to meet people, entertain themselves, learn something new or to influence others (Complete, Inc survey).  Forrester’s Technographics research indicated the majority of adults in our society (especially the best educated, highest paid professions as well as the new entrants to the job market) have joined social networking sites.  So when you consider that Facebook (in the near future) will have as many members as the population of the USA; that LinkedIn has over 41 million members representing many of the professions recruiters seek; and Twitter with its explosive growth, has a high quality (“early adopters” and ”persuaders”) membership that is also attractive as a target audience.

Figure 6:Community of Communities

Joining Existing Communities

While we have created talent communities (Jobster & Job2Web), we strategically decided to create community where communities already exist.  .  One way to think about forming community in existing communities is that we are organizing an existing community in a way that could enhance the functioning of that community as long as it aligns with the interests of its members.

An important “ah-ha” of the last two years is that only about 10% of a target audience will join a new community (those numbers held true in multiple situations).  We quickly understood that a community of communities would be the best approach.  The Recruiting Marketing platform facilitates the distribution of information to the respective communities.  The graphic below illustrates the distributive nature of our approach.

Figure 7:Connecting The Moving Parts

Technology Challenges

Matching a process that will work for Microsoft with a vendor solution is quite challenging.  Add the dimension of allowing for community and conversation and we have just doubled or tripled the challenge.  Most technology solutions that we looked at did not allow for web 2.0 community.  While they are great at processing a transaction, the available solutions are not designed for how candidates want to interact with potential employees.  In general terms, most of the solutions we reviewed were a web 1.0 solution in a web 2.0 world.

We discovered our vendor partner Jobs2Web about one year ago.  While their solution was the best and most affordable, we made the selection on their ability to migrate their existing platform to match the processes we designed.  While the rollout has been challenging, I believe we have made each other better.

As we have worked through the technology challenges with our vendor partner, Jobs2Web, we are still left with the human challenges of adopting this model.  The SEO piece is easy as it doesn’t require any real change in recruiter behavior.  But the “human touch” aspects of community building are the remaining challenge.

The Greatest Challenge of the Cutting Edge– “The Year of Guanxi”

Early in this work stream, we realized that it was going to be extremely difficult and challenging to introduce this approach into a recruiting process that was basically comprised of a series of transactions.  And, to make things even more interesting, we reward recruiters on the basis of executing those transactions at a very high level.  Talk about strangers in a foreign land!

So, at the end of our second year, the one last hurdle to greater success comes down to people.  It comes down to our ability to engage our recruiting colleagues and their hiring managers in the process.  The Recruitment Marketing Platform is in place; all the moving parts are connected; the activities can be metrixed—but internal engagement is required to move success to the next level.  We will report on our progress towards meeting this challenge in the future.

In the final installment—Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Painful-we will explore what my boss calls—creating under the corporate microscope.  Also, we will discuss other pain points that this type of initiative.


Sourcing: Group Training Best Practices

12 08 2009

image by via Creative CommonsWhat is the most effective way to train people in the art and science of sourcing?

One of the most common forms of group training in the sourcing community is the webinar. Some are free, others cost money. Some are internal corporate trainings, and others are delivered by 3rd party trainers. Although web based training is relatively easy to deliver and it offers the ability to train large numbers of people across multiple locations – the question must be asked – how effective is it as a training method?

The ultimate measure of any training method’s effectiveness is the extent to which trainees can reliably and properly execute the techniques, tactics, and strategies that they were exposed to during the training.  The reality is that most people do not absorb and retain information effectively by watching and listening to a trainer – this applies to web-based training as well as live classroom training.

Research in occupational training shows that people retain about:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and use
  • 70% of that they say
  • 90% of what they say and do

That means that any training that only involves reading, listening, and watching has about a 30% retention rate. Would you say that’s a good return on investment?

I’ve delivered many web-based trainings myself out of simple necessity – it isn’t always practical or even possible to perform live training for large groups of people who are geographically dispersed – and I’ve been amazed at how little people actually retain from 1 to 2 hour web-based training sessions. No matter how knowledgeable the trainer is, the simple fact of the matter is that people retain only about 30% of what they see and hear.

Retention might improve somewhat (research would suggest 50%) if people would leave a training session and immediately go try everything they were just exposed to, but in my experience most people don’t. Even if they did, without the benefit of an on-site expert/trainer to observe what they’re doing and provide the appropriate guidance, most people aren’t able to self-evaluate, particularly with newly gained skills.

The Missing Link

What’s missing from most training – web-based or live – is having the trainees actually use what they’ve been exposed to during training and while they’re doing so, explain what they’re doing and why. This is where the magic happens – the trainer/mentor can actually verify the trainee’s level of understanding by observing and evaluating the techniques, strategies, and thought process they apply when faced with a practical (“real world”) challenge. Only when a trainee can solve multiple challenges by properly applying the techniques they’ve been taught and they are able to explain WHY they used the technique/approach they did can the trainer have confidence that there has been true knowledge transfer.

The What vs. the How and Why

Most sourcing and recruiting training that I have been exposed to focuses heavily, if not exclusively, on the “what.” The “what” is domain knowledge – such as “here are a bunch of Twitter search apps,” “this is LinkedIn’s search interface,” and “here are Google’s search operators.” While this can be very good information, it’s not very different than reading an instruction manual, and instruction manuals don’t typically produce experts.

The “how” goes beyond simply how to use with something such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google to search for people  (e.g., syntax, fields, etc) and into exactly how to find the right people using such tools. This is process knowledge and can be quite valuable.

The “why” is perhaps the most critical aspect of training and knowledge transfer. Being able to go through the motions and copy what a trainer has shown you isn’t real learning in my opinion. If you are able to explain precisely WHY you’re using a particular site, syntax, or search strategy, then as a trainer I can truly assess whether or not you really understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If you recall the occupational research statistics, people tend to retain approximately 50% of what they hear and use, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say and do. What’s missing from most sourcing training is incorporating hands-on use of the training by the trainees into the training program/session, along with having them explain what they’re doing and precisely why. That’s exactly how a training session can go from 30% retention of material to 90% retention.

It’s no secret that the vast majority of people learn by doing, so for maximum knowledge transfer, it’s critical for training programs to allow for attendees to use and apply what they’ve been exposed to in the training. This enables the trainer to assess each attendee’s level of understanding and provide appropriate guidance to those who do not fully understand the training and techniques. While it may not be practical to incorporate this level of two-way interaction in some web-based training scenarios – especially with very large groups – it’s not impossible.

In Conclusion

For consumers of sourcing training, demand more of the how and the why, and whenever possible, choose training programs that allow you to use the techniques you’re being trained in under the guidance and evaluation of the trainer.  For sourcing trainers, be sure to incorporate some form of assessment into your training programs whenever practical.

Expecting to master sourcing techniques and strategies from web-based or live training that doesn’t involve interactive assessment and evaluation of your understanding of the content is like expecting to master golf by watching a golf video or by taking golf lessons where the instructor doesn’t let you actually swing the club in their presence and offer guidance and advice.

Expect more from your training!

About the author:

Cathey, Glenn photoGlen Cathey is the author of, a blog about sharing best practices for leveraging the Internet, job boards, resume databases, and social networks for sourcing and recruiting. With over 12 years of experience in the recruiting and staffing industry, he currently serves as the V.P. of Recruitment for a large staffing firm and trains hundreds of recruiters every year in the art and science of leveraging technology for talent identification and acquisition.

Connect with Glen:

Research is Research, No Matter What

10 08 2009

Just about a year ago, if you said to me recruitment research is very similar to business research, I would probably think you are from Mars.  Don’t get me wrong, not that I was against recruiting or anything like that, I just hadn’t been exposed to that side of the world yet.  Being an Information Professional for over 17 years, I have been taught and trained to always looking for authoritative, creditable sources when it comes to business and competitive intelligence.

I started my career with McKinsey & Company where valuable information is critical to client’s success; I spoke to associations sharing industry insights, I searched high & low on commercial databases (Lexis, Factiva, EBSCO to name a few) for valid facts, and I networked with internal consultants to seek their expertise.  After that I went to work for a major bank here in Canada, again supporting research for Investment Banking and Enterprise-wide initiatives.

Reputable resources are never fully accessible on the net for free, so imagine my shock when I first heard the term “Internet Research”.  Well, that was then.  My current job started last September, and I got in because of the competitive intelligence aspect of it but fell in love because of the interactions I had with candidates.  Applying the skills and knowledge I gained over the years to sourcing, I quickly realized research is research, no matter what.

Since I am a trained Information Professional who works best with visualization, I have drafted a simple diagram here to exhibit in business and recruiting worlds, the ultimate information we are looking for are as follows:

In one of Amybeth Hale’s posts, ” What Sourcing Is Not Responsible For“, she pointed out that once the Sourcer/Researcher has delivered what the Recruiter has asked for in basic qualifications, their work is complete.  I couldn’t agree more even applying in the business/intelligence research; once we researchers exercised our curiosity practice and did it in a MutuallyExclusiveCollectiveExhaustive way, it’s really up to the management to decide whether, and how, to use the information, because behind every good business decision is an information professional.

In business, investigation is a ‘must’ process during CI information gathering, and when I was looking into recruitment research not too long ago, Geoff Webb, a highly regarded Sourcing Master here in Canada, said to me, “Good Researchers/Sourcers are investigators, but not necessarily recruiters”. It was a valid point. The only difference is that in recruiting, we deal strictly with people, and as we all know people are complicated and, quite often, unpredictable.  This is what makes it more challenging and interesting.

So, Research is Research, No Matter What.  I’ve said it and I am glad I did.  This is just my two cents of being a newbie Recruiting Researcher and an experienced Business Researcher.

About the author:
Chi, Sara photoSara Chi is a Research & Information Specialist who enjoys hunting ans   wers and connecting dots for business/competitive intelligence research. She spent over 15 years working in this field and has recently expanded her horizoninto recruiting. She currently works as a Recruiting Researcher for CriticalKnowledge.

Connect with Sara:

Who Do You Trust, And Why? Part 2

25 06 2009

Success is a byproduct of personal commitment, of cooperative interpersonal behavior, of willingly giving and receiving candor from competent people.  These factors enhance trust being developed and maintained.  Both high performance and high satisfaction are needed to achieve optimum organizational levels of quality or effectiveness, productivity or efficiency, economies, delivery, service, procedural correctness or accuracy, and (ultimately) profit.

In a trust-related experience, any action, or behavior which brings you closer to achieving your real long-term goals and objectives is considered productive.  Likewise, any action, or behavior, which moves you further away from achieving your real long-term goals and objectives is considered counterproductive.

Though many “experts” disagree with this definition, trust can be defined as anticipating a certain outcome or result, whatever the value of the outcome or the result to those involved.

Trust has five identifiable elements of interpersonal behavior:

  1. Competence: The perception that a person is capable and does their work well.
  2. Presentation: How people appear or appeal to others, as people tend to trust others more if they are: more friendly, articulate, good-humored, and show a concern for their appearance, and if they possess universal features of attractiveness.
  3. Values: People value others more if they tend to have high integrity, valid opinions, and high principles based upon if their own values, principles, goals, attitudes, and perceptions similar to oneself.
  4. Intentions: The perception that a person wants to, or tries to, do the right thing and strives for effective performance or improved achievements.
  5. Respect: The perception of the open, honest, fair, and compassionate treatment of others.  This is the single most important element of these five elements of trust in interpersonal behavior.

Self-evaluate your responses to the exercise from Tuesday and determine what the results say about you and the effectiveness of your relationships with other people.  Although it is not the intent of this contribution . . . the absence of trust is chaos, but trust is manageable if it is somehow measured, and in spite of what you have been lead to accept previously, trust can be accurately measured.

So . . . back on task now . . . as a Researcher, as a Sourcer, etc.   How do you build trust quickly with others?  Please weigh in by commenting below.


Ray Towle has experience in leading, and in contributing to, project teams, managing high volume work efforts both internally, and also in support of external clients. Ray has served in many diverse HR Roles, but primarily sourcing and recruiting, for the following companies or organizations: Hewitt Associates, Carolina Handling Company; General Steel Company; Georgia State University; Habitat for Humanity International; Hunt Oil Company; Inland Steel Company; Oglethorpe University; Panasonic USA; Phillips Consumer Electronics; SYGMA Network; The Home Depot and the U.S. Army.

Who Do You Trust, And Why? Part 1

23 06 2009

Trust is a vital interpersonal skill.  Effective people are more understanding of the elements that influence trust than are people of less interpersonal effectiveness.  People who are considered to be effective are more willing to put something of themselves at risk with another people, usually by confiding in other people.  Trust should have limits, however.

Highly effective people make adjustments about trust in different risk situations.  When those people reveal a shortcoming or flaw, they carefully, even sometimes shrewdly, risk their reputation and their self-esteem, but when they demonstrate this risk, they have usually concluded that the potential rewards are greater than the inherent risks in what they reveal.  Occasionally, this is done because of misplaced faith or inappropriate naivete.

This is a self-assessment exercise in which you will not be required nor encouraged to share with anyone, if you prefer not to.  The information you create in this “exercise” will remain within your complete control.

Take a few minutes and jot down some notes and do your best to respond openly and honestly to these five self-assessment questions:

  1. How would you describe the degree or level of your willingness to trust others?
  2. What factors affect your willingness to trust others?
  3. Is there something that you would never confide to anyone else?
  4. Why or why not?
  5. How could you be damaged if your trust in another person was betrayed?

The remainder of this topic (Part 2) will be posted on Thursday.

The Sourcing Plan: Selling the Hiring Manager on Smart Sourcing Tactics

22 06 2009

When a job order is received from a hiring or HR manager, often the first thing he or she will want to know is how you plan to source quality talent.  Quickly developing a sourcing plan that’s right for everyone as far as strategy, time and cost has become both an art and science beyond the scope of the average sourcing specialist.  Here are some tips to help create and deliver a top plan that will engage the hiring staff, let them know you are the expert and get candidates faster.

Source Matrix:

Remember that collection of books, manuals and old magazine clippings with lists of sources?  Get rid of it!  The most crucial ongoing tool a sourcing professional should be using is a source matrix.  I’m a little old-school and prefer to use a master spreadsheet with tabs divided by industry or job function, but creative repositories of information have been made on SharePoint sites or in Google applications.

This should be your central archive of job posting sites, social network notes, resume mining databases, research site links, blog lists and other tools that can be used for sourcing.  Include every piece of information you can such as links, pricing, usernames/passwords and even the first paragraph of the website’s “About Us” page.  It should be an ongoing responsibility of 1-3 teammates to keep this massive database updated with the latest sourcing options.  Because any recruiter would consider such a tool a gold mine, it should be password protected with limited access.

The Sourcing Plan “Skin”:

Hiring and HR managers want to see an attractive, easy-to-read document.  It should be content-driven and not overly-pretty, but having a uniform template for all your sourcing plans directs the eye where it should go quickly and reliably.  Pick your poison:  PowerPoint, Visio, even Word, but be sure to distribute every plan as a PDF.  Always include a section for detailing exactly what tactics have been executed, how much they cost, when postings will expire, links to the sites that were used.  Store the document with any other sourcing materials you accumulate throughout the life of the job order.

Plan Sections:

Each plan should have a table of contents that lists its various sections.  This helps others refer to individual areas easily.  I like to include these sections:

Overview: An overview is important.  You want to be brief, but also be able to explain to anyone who knows nothing about the job what the client is looking for.  The job’s official title, job number, hiring manager, HR manager, recruiter and sourcing professional should be listed here.  Also provide the names and titles of the interview panel if available.  If there are notes concerning cultural fits or other items that aren’t immediately obvious in the job description, they should also go here.

Sourcing Efforts Executed So Far: Sometimes the hiring manager or another recruiter will have already tried certain sourcing tactics.  Those should be documented here to show what hasn’t worked and how much cost has already been spent.  Don’t forget to include any postings to the client career website.

Recommended Tactics: Sometimes a recruiter will know right off the bat the best strategies to use given his/her past experience with the job type, level, salary band or geographical location.  Other times recruiters will have a standard list of tactics they like to try before getting more creative.  In any event, the sourcing professional should be able to glean from a job description and the hiring team’s input a basic strategy.  Documenting that basic strategy provides a blueprint for the rest of the team.

Recommended Sites for Resume Mining: This portion is fairly straightforward.  List the job boards or resume databases you plan to use, including their costs and samples of likely search strings.

Recommended Sites for Job Posting: Again, include the costs, duration of posts, additional features and their associated costs (premium posting feature, applying logo, banner advertising options, etc.).

Recommended Social Media Tactics: This is where the sourcing professional can get very creative.  Perhaps you plan to advertise and then release a series of position-related tweets on Twitter.  Maybe you’ll use the Advanced Search People function in LinkedIn to track down quality talent.  Some recruiters have even hosted a local networking event and advertised it on social media, usually for free.  Be sure to be clear in your descriptions to hiring teams to demonstrate value.

Recommended Industry Associations and Other Relevant Sites: Recruiters know well how useful industry association sites can be, but some allow for job posting or membership list mining and others do not.  Providing a separate section just for associations captures both in one concentrated area.

Recommended Blogs for Research: When we’re actively recruiting, we sometime forget to take a few minutes here and there to review blogs related to our target candidate’s job function, industry or geographical area.  Blogs can be time consuming, but they can provide useful information.

Other Tactics: You may have a few ideas of your own that don’t fit well into any of these categories.   Creative ideas get candidates’ attention.  Just be sure to document them on the plan.  In the rare instances when I recommend a third-party headhunter be brought in, this is the section where I list that option.

What You’ll Get: Without a doubt, this is the MOST important section of a sourcing plan.  Hiring managers like takeaways and results.  They want to know what they can expect of you as far as methods for gathering candidates, OFCCP documentation or regular updates on your progress.  Be sure to follow through with everything you promise.  If you have a document you’re keeping to track your progress and want to share that with a hiring team, mention it here.

Contact Information: Each member of the hiring team should be able to get in touch with every other member of the hiring team.  Often the recruiter is the “face” of the project, and you may want to request that all email communication is carbon-copied to the recruiter.


Using resources devoted to diversity is always important and they should be documented along with everything else.  However, some diversity sites are true job boards and others may be simply society sites where members’ information can be plucked.  Some sourcing professionals prefer to keep diversity sites a separate section, but I find it’s better to include them in with whatever category they fall into best.  If you can source resumes from a diversity site, include it in the Recommended Sites for Resume Mining.  If a particular diversity resource has a job posting function, include it in Recommended Sites for Job Posting, etc.

Delivering the Plan:

I prefer to deliver my sourcing plans electronically and immediately set up a follow-up call.  This may already be part of your process.  Conducting these calls clarifies your approaches to others and makes the sourcing professional and recruiter (if they are different people) look like pros.  If the hiring team is willing to gather again after a subsequent or more defined plan has been constructed, I recommend you do this to get everyone on the same page as far as what they can expect from the sourcing professional.

Executing the Plan:

More often than not the hiring team will not agree with all of your recommended tactics.  Cost, time or other factors may contribute to this.  That’s okay.  Be sure to get requested sourcing in writing via an email and save a copy of that communication with other sourcing documentation for the job order.  Saving that communication is critical in case there is confusion in the future about which tactics were authorized.  If you are keeping a master list of sourcing executed on behalf a client for multiple job orders, make sure you record that information as well.  When the job is filled, it is also important to cancel job postings that are still active to prevent further candidate flow.


Whether or not you are obliged to follow OFCCP guidelines, maintaining accurate documentation of your sourcing efforts is critical.  Knowing what sites yielded good leads is important not only for the health of your current job order; that information should also be notated in your source matrix.  If you are following OFCCP guidelines, HTML, PDF or text copies of all ads as they appeared to job seekers should be included with a list of job postings and resume sites.


Whatever your hiring team’s needs and your personal recruiting style are, sourcing plans are a great way to track sources, organize your efforts for future job orders, control costs and to brand yourself as a recruitment expert.  Happy hunting!

Phelps,Michael photo

Michael Phelps is a former financial services recruiter and LinkedIn subject matter expert for a Fortune 500 recruitment process outsourcing company.  He now works in his family business, Phelps Research Services, with his father and sister as the VP of Research and a LinkedIn Trainer.

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Redefined: a Paradigm Shift for Talent Acquisition

13 05 2009

First, before I toss my reputation under the bus on what may get called rantish, let me assure you that no staffing executives were hurt in the making of this document.  I’m also quite a nice guy who offers honest respect to almost everyone, but I’m constantly rolling through ideas so I’m slightly opinionated.

As a preface and insurance policy for striking a sour chord with a few folks who might otherwise retain my services, here’s a short disclaimer regarding business culture.

Business in general could use a big therapy session. 

Most of the time ideas that should be expressed remain dormant and left unsaid.  And we wonder why nothing changes.  Much of our business culture is invested in perception more than reality.  Smoke and mirror tactics, with little risk and no miracles.  Imitated voices, dialects, email styles, and temperaments, all cloned from a fear of individuality.  But who will admit this? 

It’s for this very reason that CEO’s often rely on 2nd opinion staff.  Someone who can operate outside the realm of fear and risk telling it straight.  Risk being creative.  Risk truly thinking outside the box.  With all the pedigrees and MBAs, what a shame it takes such drastic measures to get the simple truth.  Yet the need exists. 

Perhaps business and capitalism in general would benefit from better PR within our own country if everyone felt they could truly speak as an individual and express their innate creativity. 

Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Maybe we all benefit from that.

Now without further adieu, I hurl myself under the bus in search of truth.  At least it sounds deep.

Okay, I feel one reason recruitment research is still an unacceptably challenging, painfully unique sell (both when selling to search firms and to corporations alike) is because there still exists an old, infectious mentality within much of recruiting that believes every cog in the search wheel is tied directly to the placement.

Let’s unravel this for a moment.

While the pressures of recruiting and research are very different, research is in fact hard work and takes a great amount of skill to perform well.

Researchers are the messengers of data, not the users of data.  They are the intelligence arm which harvests information required by any well informed talent acquisition effort.  And like information long ago, a messenger has faith in a wise king’s ability to discern that the content of a message is no reflection on the messenger.  How it was delivered, yes.  Speed, presentation, and success in the overall objective up and to that point, yes.  But not beyond.  If the news is good news and the king is joyful so much better for the messenger, but that is simply icing on the cake. 

In real world terms today, once a researcher accrues 100 names that are spot on, there’s no guarantee any of the individuals will express interest in leaving their current organization.  In this hypothetical, 100 declines of interest is not necessarily a reflection on the research.  So what is the purpose for accumulating recruitment intel, and how do you sell the service if it’s not tied directly to the ultimate goal in staffing, the placement? 

Many seek to measure research success the same way we measure a recruiter’s success; through placements, candidate interest, etc. and therein lies the problem.

These are two distinct units with their own micro-goals.  Until this division of labor is understood and embraced, research is forced to operate under a pressure it was not designed for and the true value is lost between the forest and the trees.

Consider our CIA and military ground troops.  The CIA is not held to account for winning a war.  Air and ground forces ultimately do that.  But the military depends on intelligence to achieve that goal, and so 2 distinct groups with unique responsibilities and micro-goals work together towards a common endeavor.  In the same way, Researchers can be passionate partners towards that shared endeavor, but their role is unique and separate, with its own successes.

Data is data, it cannot do anything except in the hands of those who use it.  In strictest terms, talent acquisition research is synonymous with market research

I got my start as a Researcher at Futurestep/Korn Ferry back in 2004, and I was a recruiter before that.  I really enjoy working with RPO and executive search firms, so forgive me while I sell research as a full on replacement for both.  Look, if you’re selling for an RPO firm, you’re selling against another guy who needs the money too so how are we different?

Here it is…

When a company utilizes an outside firm for staffing, the incentive becomes defined by monetary gain as opposed to true, genuine concern for the welfare of the company.  We can dance around that or call it for what it is.  In other words, if I’m an external recruiter, I may care for my client but it’s because my client pays me to.

Name generation enables the corporation to do the work they do better than anyone, selling the candidate on working for them.  Name-gen challenges the corporation’s own internal team to be the first point of contact for a candidate, whether it’s the internal recruiter or better yet the actual hiring manager.  These lists make any market transparent for them, so they can systematically call or email any of the main players we bring back on a silver platter.


Imagine a Java developer at Pervasive Software here in Austin getting a call from a recruiter.  Like the 32 other calls he has had this week. 

Then imagine the same Java developer getting a call from the Senior Director of Development from a competing company like Troux Technologies.  Major difference.

Those are 2 totally different conversations.  The fix, if you will, for staffing is not changing the external staffing model from contingent to RPO to the latest trend — rather, it’s placing the responsibility for candidate contact and recruitment on the corporation.  That is how you get real hires that end up staying for the long haul. 

Why are more people not selling this into corporations?

Because external firms sell clients on their inability; the need for external help.  Research is just the opposite.  It enables the client to do what they do best. 

Remember, search firms are paid on placements.

As we discussed earlier, if I bring back 100 names, there is a theoretical chance not a single one will want the job. Here is the hard cold truth, this is not the fault of any one single person.  I have provided the market transparency (market research) from which a company can glimpse something of their reputation with their competition’s work forces.  If no one out of 100 passive job seekers from their top competitors wants to even talk to them, that is market research that tells them something.  Perhaps their location is bad.  Maybe they are known for poor management.  Or poor compensation.

By removing the responsibility for the placement and changing it to a responsibility for data, a corporation is in a much greater position to make key hires, even if sometimes it means the research results in none.

By using research, no one is paid to convince an individual to take a job.  What if a dating service begged you to take a mate for marriage when you knew it was in their financial interest to do so?  See the problem?  Research solves this from A to Z.  But because it can’t promise the placement, it’s still a hard sell when it should be the easiest.        

They say we don’t reinvent the wheel.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s because the wheel works.  Yet as long as I’ve been in it, the staffing industry has seemingly recreated itself several times over.  Take a moment to consider why that is.

Take a few more seconds.

It’s not always about the placement.  Sometimes a company learns more from its loses than its successes.  All throughout nature, harsh forces shape canyons and coal into beautiful things.  Triumph through adversity.  What if the staffing industry as a whole sold on that honesty instead of promising the moon to secure revenue?  Maybe we wouldn’t be right behind lawyers on that sink to the bottom of the ocean joke list?   

The market tells a story.  When a company knows the market, their hiring strategy is the response.  Researchers bring a talent market into transparency. It’s not designed to convince individuals to take jobs.  That responsibility is incumbent upon the party hiring. 

When realized in this broader context, the value of professional, strategic name-generation deepens as expectations are aligned with the market, instead of promises of placements where commissions and bonuses hang in the balance.

One reason the perceptions of research may have remained twisted stems from the irritations inherent in recruiting itself.  Because let’s face it, full lifecycle recruiting can be stressful work and to think that someone on the team should get paid well without having to suffer those same pressures seems unfair.  So research often gets hung on the same hook, so to speak.

To be totally honest, this not an issue that’s caused me a single concern while on a client engagement.  Not once.  My references will back that up.  But it is an issue when trying to sell the service to new clients.  I would love to be a better salesman for my company Horse2Water, but unfortunately sales has never been my strength.  If it’s yours, call me and let’s team up.  All the same, I believe with great confidence in my service and ability.

As a former corporate, RPO, and executive recruiter, I realize the value research holds at the fundamental level.  But the primary reason such an excellent service is not an easier sell rests in misplaced expectations.

I seek simply to right that wrong.  It may take a paradigm shift in staffing as a whole to accomplish that, but hey I’m not afraid.



horse2waterReagan Jones is the founder/Lead Researcher for Horse2Water. As an AIRS certified Recruitment Research professional with an extended track record for executing electronic research strategies in support of corporate, RPO, and executive search engagements, Reagan provides advanced internet search capabilities and e-dentification methodology, with a specialization that stems from a proven, combined experience in both executive search and high-level corporate recruiting.