This was a discussion started in July of '05 over on ERE. You can see the original here.

"You get your names over the telephone?” the potential customer wanted to know.

“How do you do that?” he further inquired.

“After I’ve gone to the net or my former research for some names to get in with, I pick up the telephone and I dial,” I answered.

“That’s novel,” he reminded. “Can you get names for me?”

It’s that simple. Or is it? The main reason we’re hired to names source is usually because a hiring manager has a very specific problem – he has an open position that is not easily filled by the traditional venue of perusing easily available and multitudinous resumes.

So they call us to find that needle-in-a-haystack. They want us to deliver names to them that solve this problem: They’re hoping to see “fresh” names that nobody’s seen before. Names that carry titles that are closely aligned with the desired skill sets. We’re usually given a title and a few other titles these persons may carry. Then we’re set loose to do our thing.

There’s a huge controversy that raises itself now and then and that is the idea that one type of candidate (passive) is better than the other (active). The thinking goes along the lines of “If they’re looking, there must be a reason they’re looking!” In other words, there’s probably something wrong with the guy – if his resume’s still out there he’s been passed over. On the other end of the spectrum glistens the shiny new – that person popularly known as the “passive” candidate. The accompanying reasoning goes something to the effect, “If he’s out there and nobody’s talked to him before, I’ll be the first one at the table to get the best (and biggest) portion.” In reality, both lines of thought are problematic.

I’m reminded of the Clay Walker country song line, “When the new wears off and the old shines through...”. In defense of the actives, there are good people represented in the mix – and they’re going to turn up in some of our “passive” searches anyway. It’s just going to happen the more thorough we become in our sourcing skills. I don’t like to leave anyone behind and I try not to. The reality is, passives aren’t always truly “passive” and actives aren’t always “active”. Some “actives” have gone to ground, so to speak, and are fully engaged in another job that really gives them those desirable “passive’ characteristics that are so highly regarded nowadays. Skipping over them in any job search is a mistake. We must bear in mind, anything we put out on the net is going to stay out on the net, regardless of our efforts or desire to remove it. So if someone has a resume, say “out there” somewhere, he or she could turn up in a future search regardless that they’re looking at present or not.

There are passives who really aren’t passive at all. They know what they’re doing to market themselves – they know how to glisten beneath all that fallen snow that assures they’ll be the first snowflake picked out. I’m talking about the person who is active on the net, who does a lot of posting (or a little) that includes a lot of biographical information that, at first glance, appears extraneous. It’s not, usually – those tagline signatures that give us names sourcers those delightful Eureka! moments should be approached with some hesitation. The question to ask yourself is this “If I found them, who else hasn’t?” I know it’s exciting when your Boolean search ferrets out that exact title in the exact location that the job is calling for and it appears that all you have to do is dial the number and confirm that the guy’s still there. I know that temptation to end there and call it finished.

Don’t! Doing this is short shifting your customer as well as yourself. This little “gem” you uncovered as a result of your knowledgeable Boolean entry (you did work so hard to learn Boolean, didn’t you?) sometimes is tantamount to someone’s resume being posted out there – it screams, “Hey recruiter, look at me – I’m what you want - call me for your new job opportunity –I’ll make it easy – here’s my office number and my cell!

Know what I mean?

“Foul!” you cry. “They’re mine to find!”

Yes, they are. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Is that all there is?” You know the answer is a resounding “Of course not!” That “passive-active” usually has a team of coworkers he interacts with everyday – the best way to set that little hard rock into your job setting is to build his organization out around him – and that usually means (actually I don’t know of any other way) that you must get on the telephone and call him, or call his administrative assistant, or call his manager, or call the guy in the cube next to him, or call someone in the Mail Room who delivers mail to him and his group everyday, or call the VP of Engineering’s Executive Assistant, or call someone that will give you the names of the other people in his group! You must remove (at least one hand, momentarily) from the alphabet portion of your keyboard to dial that number. You must become an active names sourcer vs a passive names sourcer! If you don’t your research will suffer the consequences. More and more people are learning (and depending) on Boolean to fill their searches. Set yourself apart by honing your telephone techniques. They’re the ones that are hardest to master and they’re the ones that return the greatest results! They’re the ones that give you the only advantage of finding the truly passive candidate – the guy sitting at his desk doing his thing, 8-12 hours a day, too busy to even think about another job. The guy who doesn’t “post” for ulterior reasons or isn’t listed in some fab online gathering. He’s the guy who’s gainfully and masterfully employed doing what you need him to do for you – go get him!

The important thing to keep in mind is the overall quality of the pipeline. Proactively adding both passive and actives into it at the same time is going to give you a healthy mix in the end.
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