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Adapt | The End of Transactional Sourcing

The End of Transactional Sourcing: Adapting for niche or volume hiring

by Stuart Brown, Global Strategy Consulting Senior Manager & Carrie Brophy, Global Technology Consulting Senior Manager

Let’s start with a prediction—Not only will the continuous evolution of talent markets we’ve witnessed over the last few years continue, but the pace will accelerate as we progress through the remainder of 2020. What’s more, this evolution will mean different things for different talent market segments. If this prediction comes true (which we can almost guarantee it will), it will mean two things: 

  1. A signal that there has been marked change in the market dynamic between employer and candidate, shifting away from what we’ve become accustomed to.
  2. How we interact must also change in response to this new dynamic to become more agile and reflective of new market norms.

The most common ways this dynamic shift will play out are at either extremes of the Talent Acquisition spectrum—niche hiring and volume hiring. If your hiring for highly skilled niche skillsets, be warned that the so-called “War for Talent” will become ever more intense. In contrast, if you’re requirements involve low-to-mid range skillsets, hired at volume, you need to prepare for the likelihood of a potentially overwhelming increase in the volume of applications you’ll receive for open roles. 

For this new reality, the old methods of “post and pray” sourcing will no long work. The days of transactional sourcing are over. You must start with a well-informed and inclusive strategy, tailored for either niche or volume hiring that includes supporting technology, to create a consumer-grade experience to attract the best talent. 

Niche Talent: Needles in haystacks no longer as eager to be found

Let’s be clear, sourcing for niche talent has always been a challenge. Great talent is always in high demand and short supply. That basic conundrum remains as prevalent today, but it’s now overlaid with a further challenge; fear. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, candidates in stable and secure employment are more reluctant than usual to seek, or even entertain the prospect of, new opportunities at organisations they don’t know. As they witness furloughs and layoffs, it becomes challenging to trust or have confidence that a role at another organization will be as stable and secure as their current role. I use the words “trust” and “confidence” intentionally, because that is now the core of the challenge. 

The sourcing mindset, as opposed to the recruiting mindset, is the key to addressing these fears and building trust and confidence. The good news is that finding niche talent has become easier in recent times through improved sourcing methodologies and technology. The real value of Sourcing now is engaging niche talent in a targeted, thoughtful and pro-active manner. 

All of that in mind, there are some critical considerations and actions for sourcing niche talent:

  • Take advantage of new tools. Sourcing technologies have evolved in recent years to incorporate AI, allowing you to target candidates with laser precision. 
    • Look for tech tools that will alert you when candidates come into your talent pools, so you can quickly make contact and engage in real-time. 
    • Proactively search any public data and enterprise data to ensure you have both the widest reach in the market and the most current candidate listings available. This allows you to supplement existing niche talent pools or create new ones. 
    • Utilise campaign management functionality available in most CRMs to produce slick communication templates for reaching out to your fresh talent!
  • Inspire confidence. You need to assure individual candidates, and to the market more broadly, that moving to a new role with your organisation does not have any inherent risk. You need the market to see the opportunity and prospect instead. This is an ideal opportunity to amplify your employer proposition and position yourself favourably. 
    • Use a combination of institutional security and individual growth in your message—educate the market that you represent a stable and secure organisation, undergoing some growth in this respective team, and you’re offering a fantastic opportunity for personal development.
    • Choose a variety of methods to get your message out, such as video or content generated by your existing teams. Spot the opportunity to demonstrate your culture through your people. Consider creating custom portals utilising multimedia which work as a “shop window” and showcase what life will look like at your organisation.
    • Be proactive—really. This is especially critical as candidates will want a longer period to get to know you and assess your suitability for them. Hiring in November? Start engaging talent in September. A two to three month lead time allows you to build candidate relationships.
    • Take advantage of your CRM. Build workflows to automate clever communications to go out to keep your brand and your company values fresh in the candidate’s mind. 
  • Look inside as well as outside. Don’t forget about an amazing source of talent who will already be bought in to your culture, have invaluable institutional knowledge, and have quicker time to productivity than any other source—even if they don’t have exactly the right skill set for the role you’re hiring for. There’s never been a more important time to reassure staff that career progression is still available and also to allow your employees to tell you what they want in their career, which may have shifted during the pandemic, going forward. An internal mobility portal which allows your internal population to quickly update their mobility preferences and share their goals with you is a wonderful way to increase engagement and start conversations about the future of the organisation in partnership with them.
  • Think ahead—as far ahead as possible! Alongside better uptake of technology, it’s essential that your Sourcers and Recruiters are also out in the market, having real conversations and building real relationships with the niche talent you know you’re going to need in the next three to six months. Pro-actively engage this talent ahead of demand to have candid conversations without the immediate pressure for candidates to make concrete decisions. Allow the necessary space for nervous candidates to become familiar with your proposition. 
  • Know what you’re looking for. To successfully engage talent requires skilled Sourcers, and potentially Hiring Managers too, but it also requires a solid understanding of your upcoming needs. You can’t pro-actively engage an entire market, so you must be clear on who you want to engage pro-actively, and for what purpose. Don’t waste their time or yours on empty conversations that can have the opposite effect!

Volume Hiring: Balancing quantity and quality with experience and efficiency

Much of current and future market precariousness is focused in the low-mid range volume market segment. With many COVID-related lay-offs at this level, it’s highly likely that every open role will receive a much higher volume of applicants. Having increased candidate choice is a positive, but a surge in applicants comes with specific candidate management challenges. The goal is still to hire one quality candidate per requisition so a large increase in application volumes significantly distorts how you manage your candidate funnel, particularly at the top end. 

Unless you react to the change in volumes positively, there will be an impact on your employer brand and ability to attract top talent in the future. The mandate here must be twofold. First, it’s vital that each candidate receives a quality candidate experience regardless of their fit for the role. These candidates may not be suitable today, but they might be a future prospect, or they may be a retail customer of your organisation who you want to retain! Secondly, you need to manage your funnel in the most efficient way possible to find the quality talent you need amongst the volume of total applicants.

Luckily, both of these goals can be supported by a technology play. In fact, using technology to support efficient funnel management and application processing leads directly to an opportunity to manage candidate experience. Here are three ideas to consider:

  1. Stack and rank candidates Use an AI tool to quickly analyse applications. There are a number of excellent tools available at the moment which use job, organisation and candidate data to perform predictive modelling to quickly rank applicants and your wider talent network to deliver a shortlist at lightning speed.
    If you don’t have an AI tool in your stack, spend some time reviewing your current application process to make sure that you are capturing quantifiable skill driven data relevant to the role as part of the candidate application to help you process applications quickly and fairly. It’s more manual than using AI but will still save you time long term, and will support a more objective and quantifiable assessment process. 
  2. Let assessments lighten the load. After stacking and ranking your applicant pool, consider using an online assessment tool relevant to the role, such as a numeric and verbal reasoning tests, to help further refine the talent pool and highlight top candidates.
  3. Don’t miss a chance to engage. Ensure that every candidate is receiving highly relevant emails throughout the hiring process even if they’re not suitable for a role. Remember that your employer brand is reflected in every interaction and one of the most common complaints from candidates is that they’ve not had a response from an organisation. Automate your communications from your ATS to ensure you’re keeping in touch with candidates and delivering a great experience during a challenging time.  

While technology can be a huge support in managing volume recruitment, remember to put people at the centre of your process. How someone feels about their experience is so important to their overall impression of your organisation. Ironically, a common outcome in managing a significant increase in application volumes is that you spend more time and effort rejecting unsuitable candidates than hiring great talent! Don’t become a rejection business—be smart in your branding and attraction efforts to attract the right people, use technology to support your assessment efforts, and remember to ensure a thoughtful and positive candidate experience regardless of whether that candidate is going to be your next star. 

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