White Noise Sourcing; Damaging Engagement and Failing The Recruitment Process

By Andrew Mountney

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Andrew Mountney

While the conversation continues over whether sourcing is over (Dr John Sullivan); moving from 1.0 to 2.0 (Glen Cathey) or is still in vogue I am becoming increasingly wary of another trend for direct hiring teams and external recruiters who seek out and approach candidates. The numb candidate!

This shouldn’t really be a huge surprise and while I don’t think of myself as a veteran of the industry it’s something I’ve seen before.

I started out as a “researcher” in Rec2Rec (sorry about that) and dare I say it I was pretty good, usually capable of getting 20-25 interested candidates a day to speak to my colleagues. But part of my success was the novelty. In the dawn of the job board most of our competitors thought they had candidates on tap so rarely headhunted. The pitch we made was researched, considered and good but for many it would be the only call they got that day or that week. Fast forward two years and a researcher could barely spit out their ‘name’ before being told they were the fourth or fifth headhunt call of the day… At 10am. Returns were typically under 5 candidates a day.

As an anecdote to today’s recruiting world this may seem unimportant but it’s not. The result of this was recruiters of all levels thought they were in demand, set higher expectations, expected higher salaries, wanted better jobs. For a period it was a stalemate, candidates rarely talked, would often blow interviews with over expectation supporting minimum preparation and an preference to be sold to by employers who still felt they had the controlling interest and were frankly just looking to fill jobs in their structures…

Fast forward to today and I’m finally writing something I meant to write weeks ago due to seeing @alcartwright tweet that he’s heard that recruitment agencies are now able to get the same level access licenses on Linkedin as corporate recruiters. Now if this is the case not only does it change the game but it’s part of a trend that is making being approached from a candidate perspective all too common, less exciting and enticing and more often now something to ignore. Essentially approach work will be treated as SPAM!

Two years ago my CIRE executive search forum at one of its first meetings discussed approaching candidates when you’re in-house. Almost all of the members were previously external headhunters who looked forward to using the brand to their advantage on their first few approach calls, a golden bullet surely? Well no! They actually found that pre-conceived views of the business held in competitors often meant a brand free approach worked better! It became clear to them very quickly that the quality of approach and the level of research that supported it still had to be outstanding if not better to get over that initial view.

Why is this relevant? Well today however good you are at your approach work the context has changed. If your network and method of contact is Linkedin be aware that so it is for your competitors and they may not be as good as you! If your candidate pool is now saturated by regular but poorly scoped approaches that do not lead to great new roles well why is your call or Inmail any different? I spoke to one in-house recruiter recently who was astonished that as many as 80% of people they approached did not have the courtesy to even acknowledge the call/invite/email/inmail. If you’re one of hundreds why would they, your opportunity is their spam?

The game is changing for sourcing, if everyone is accessible and available then you need to have an outstanding and properly researched proposition that stands out from the volume of ill-judged approaches because otherwise you’re just white noise like the rest.

And after that?

Well you had better be able to hire someone too because a population that’s constantly engaged but constantly kept warm, rejected, or put in a talent pool/pipeline will soon leave the community and settle back into their current role. 


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