The Candidate Experience – Part 1: Sourcing and the Thrill of the Chase

(reposted from Make HR Happen5/23/2012)


In case you missed the first installment in this series (No, Part 1 is NOT the first installment) then you need to understand the logic of presenting the candidate experience in this manner. Using my Star Wars damaged brain I started the story with the final episode in The Candidate Experience – Part 3: Transition to Employee where we looked at the stakeholder involvement and influence during the final stages of hiring a new employee. Quite appropriately, this episode in the Candidate Wars trilogy is the search for the ideal candidate whose skills appear to match the job requirements for the job of Luke’s father. As we learned from Lucas’ classic tale, the apparent technological genius Anakin (He did possess the highest Midi-chlorian count ever recorded…Source: Wookiepedia) was temperamentally unsuited for the job of Jedi and was ultimately too easily seduced by the Dark Side. Clearly, a very bad hire!

A candidate experience must begin with a candidate. They don’t materialize out of thin air. Whether they are found by total accident or by proactively searching for them, they must be sourced and placed into the pipeline. The sourcing function lays the foundation for the entire hiring process.A failure here means ultimate failure. The role of sourcer, whether a standalone function or incorporated with other recruiting functions, can make or break any plan for improving the candidate experience. Processes and procedures adopted to “fix” the candidate experience at other stages will only be sub optimization of a part of the system: A classic case of “garbage in = garbage out.” Before this idea goes too far, it must also be added that the foundation alone does not guarantee building a successful campaign. The entire system needs to work together or nothing will be accomplished. It should also be mentioned that sourcers often undo themselves by infatuation with gimmicks and technology. Nothing shouts “You are only a name or a number” more than allowing a dumb tool to do the sourcing. The best sourcer of thinking, feeling and intelligent people is another thinking, feeling and intelligent human being. The real tools of their trade are more esoteric.

Perspective– One additional caveat on this study into the candidate experience is that it absolutely has to be from the viewpoint of the candidate. It is not about the company experience, the recruiter experience or the sourcer experience. Unless the process begins with a look through their eyeballs nothing can be improved. As a preview of Part 2 in this series, most candidates don’t get it. This is not an excuse to ignore them or their viewpoint, but a challenge to educate those we hire. It is all about setting expectations; both theirs and everyone in contact with them. The reality is that some problems are only imagined and the only thing that can be improved is perception.

Strategic Planning– Before starting the sourcing journey, a plan for conducting the search is essential. This is not just to set the sourcer on a correct path to finding the right candidate. In order to source them effectively the candidates must take you seriously. Planning has to begin with thinking like the candidate. Without waiting for someone to ask a surprise question, anticipate the dialog by knowing all the answers to their questions. What will they want to know? Only when there is a deep understanding from the candidate perspective can it be woven into the fabric of the dialog.

  • Who is involved in the process now and in the future?
  • What are the detailed requirements of the job, the skills necessary to accomplish the job successfully and the cultural environment? Define the JOB not the person.
  • When is this needed and does it fit into my personal timeline?
  • Where is the work to be performed and is relocation/travel/working remotely part of the mix?
  • Why is there a need for this opening? Did someone quit? Is it an expansion?
  • How is the job compensated relative to my current situation?

Campaign Planning– An experienced sourcer may say outwardly that this step is unnecessary, but probing deeply will uncover that all have some sort of mental checklist or thought processes. Effective engagement with candidates must include additional planning with the ultimate goal to form an interaction that will be mutually satisfactory.

  • Sources of candidates vary depending on the type of job, but using the sourcer’s natural telepathic ability (or maybe tons of research?) can visualize where to turn. Fish where they are swimming and use the bait suitable for their taste.
  • Channels of communication need to be determined based on the candidate’s preferences, not on any predetermined bias. It is important to use all the tools available, but a best guess as to how they want to be contacted works best.
  • Priorities of candidates may differ from the company priorities. The highest business need is where there is a significant impact on the business. This can be made more urgent if it is a hard to fill or critical opening. This doesn’t sell. Emphasis on a rewarding application of skills to a meaningful job for fair compensation does sell and should dovetail nicely with company objectives.
  • Evaluation criteria for selection and interviewing are not a deep dark trade secret. Is there any reason that the candidate must not know the benchmark by which they are measured? Openness and honesty often leads to a candidate self awareness, but first it has to be clearly defined and communicated.

Methods Development– The groundwork is set for the tactical execution of the plan. Consideration of the candidate’s interests will be paramount to moving forward or there will be little hope of building a trusting relationship.

  • Organization, time management and record keeping are an important aspect of sourcing. Just as candidates must remember that they applied to a job when the recruiter calls, sourcers must not fumble around when the candidate calls. While the message is more important than the medium, relying on memory can be faulty. Whether it is a paper tickler file or an elaborate CRM, constant attention must be given to how it impacts the impression and experience of each individual.
  • Relationship building and personal contact makes the experience worthwhile to a candidate. Whether they are active or passive nobody likes to be a number or piece of paper. The bookshelf over a sourcer’s desk must include Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and in particular exercise the rule about talking in terms of the other person’s interest. After all, it is all about them.
  • Ongoing communication and networking is critical. It is not about building a lifelong friendship but there are similar needs in creating an atmosphere of trust in a business relationship. Formulation of a plan of not only communicating but agreeing mutually on the form of communication is important to continuing the dialog.

We are now ready to move into the discussion of the actual selection, interview and offer aspect of the candidate experience in Part 2, but this does not signal a clean break with the policies of Part 1. Mid-course corrections will always be necessary. Since the process is continuous, improvements in all phases and ultimately an improvement in the experience for everyone concerned will be evolutionary.

Next: The Candidate Experience – Part 2: People Interacting with People

Additional articles:

The Candidate Experience – Part 3: Transition to Employee
The Resume Black Hole

Photo credit: Copyright © 123RF Stock Photos


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