What is Sourcing? I Propose a New Universal Definition.

Posted by | Sourcing | 13 Comments

 

Definition of Sourcing on TwitterWhat better time than at the beginning of a new year to take a critical look back at where we’ve come from, to reflect on our current state and to look forward to a next step in the evolution of sourcing?

It believe it would certainly be helpful and beneficial to have a universally agreed upon definition of exactly what sourcing is. If you’ve attended any sourcing and/or recruiting conferences, it doesn’t take long to notice people using “sourcing” to describe different types of activities. When anyone talks about the sourcing function at their company, it immediately begs the question of exactly what the sourcers are tasked with. Do they find people and pass them on to recruiters to contact, or do they also engage the people they find? The same goes for hiring sourcers – one of the first questions is always whether or not they will be responsible for engaging potential candidates. 

Am I the only person who thinks this is a bit absurd, if not just unhelpful and annoying?

The fact that there is no universally agreed upon definition of what sourcing is when it comes to talent acquisition has always bothered me. Don’t you think it’s well past time to move the ball forward and make the attempt to develop a single definition of “sourcing?”

Historically, sourcing was typically used to refer to talent identification only – name generation, org charting, finding resumes and social profiles, etc. However, I have noticed over the past few years that more people and companies are starting to use sourcing to describe both the identification and the engagement of talent, which aligns with what I’ve always believed sourcing to be.

Let’s take a look at other people’s opinions on what sourcing is and leverage what sourcing is considered to involve when it comes to procurement to see if we can achieve some parity before I share with you my proposed definition of sourcing. Read More

Boolean Strings, Semantic and Natural Language Search – Oh My!

Posted by | Boolean, Boolean Logic, Semantic Search | 8 Comments

An entertaining blog post by Matt Charney was recently brought to my attention in which he tells the world to shut up and stop talking about Boolean strings – he argues that Boolean search is a dying art and that “investing time or energy into becoming a master at Boolean is a lot like learning the fine art of calligraphy or opening a Delorean dealership.”

You can read the snippet regarding Boolean Strings below – click the image to be taken to the entire post, in which Matt addresses mobile recruiting and employer branding.

Matt Charney Boolean Strings

I enjoyed Matt’s post and his approach, but I did not find his arguments to be thoroughly sound – although I suspect he wasn’t trying to make them so (after all, his blog is titled “Snark Attack”).

I’m going to take the opportunity to address the points Matt raised – not because I am trying to stay “relevant,” as some might suggest (my blog is a not-for-profit personal passion and I don’t consult/train for a fee), and also not because I have a vested interest in “keeping Boolean search alive” (because I really don’t) – rather, because I am still amazed that a fundamental lack of understanding of search and information retrieval – both “manual” Boolean search and “automated” taxonomy driven and/or AI-powered semantic search – and I am constantly trying to help people not only understand both, but also appreciate their intrinsic limitations, as well as separate reality from hype.

So, without further ado: Read More

Free LinkedIn Sourcing Webinar Wednesday November 20 @ 2PM ET

Posted by | LinkedIn | 2 Comments

 

LinkedIn Sourcing Webinar November 2013

When you search LinkedIn, are you finding top talent, or simply those people who are easiest to find?

Would you know the difference?

While some people firmly believe that LinkedIn is “over fished,” I can confidently tell you that nothing is further from the truth.

In fact, what if I told you that you routinely find only a fraction of the people that can be found on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn 259 Million UsersNow that LinkedIn has grown to over 259,000,000 registered users, finding people has become much easier, but finding the right people becomes increasingly more challenging, and finding all of them even harder. As such, knowing how to effectively source talent on LinkedIn is now more important than ever.

During Wednesday’s LinkedIn sourcing webinar, I’ll review advanced human capital data retrieval concepts, techniques and strategies that you can leverage in LinkedIn Recruiter, including Dark Matter, Maximum Inclusion, Adaptive Search, Strategic Exclusion, Intelligent Results Processing, and Moneyball Sourcing.

Be sure to attend this LinkedIn webinar live, because this session won’t be recorded and the slides won’t be distributed afterwards.

Also, I simply have to recognize the LinkedIn team’s graphic designer for putting this “Lord of the Strings” image together – I’m a huge LOTR fan.

Although I like the concept of Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn having my back in the war for talent, I think I’ll stick with my shaved head. :)

Lord-of-the-Strings 2 LinkedIn

Some Very Interesting Google / LinkedIn X-Ray Search Results

Posted by | Google, LinkedIn, x-ray search | 7 Comments

 

While I was writing last week’s post in which I explored using Google to X-Ray search within specific LinkedIn groups, I decided to perform some general X-Ray search syntax testing to challenge some assumptions, as well as to compare X-Ray results to LinkedIn Recruiter results.

I notice quite a few folks seem to use the “people you know” phrase when using Google to search LinkedIn, and I wanted to see if it was better than other phrases/techniques for isolating LinkedIn profiles and eliminating non-profile false positive results.

I ran 4 searches that were suitably limiting to get a manageable number of results back to back, only changing one aspect of the each search – how to target profiles and eliminate non-profile results:

  1. site:linkedin.com -pub/dir “location * new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  2. site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -dir “location * new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  3. site:linkedin.com “people you know” “location * new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  4. site:linkedin.com “you know” “location * new york city area” sqoop pig hive

I scraped the total results from each search and sorted them in Excel so I could compare them for any variations.

When you look at the chart below, you’ll notice there is very little difference between the 4 different X-Ray searches, but the fact that there are differences at all is interesting. While the searches only vary from 22 to 24 unique results – 2 is 9% of 22. Also, notice that some searches have results that others don’t and one search had duplicate results (“people you know”) while none of the others did.

LinkedIn Google X-Ray Search 4 comparison

LinkedIn Recruiter vs. Google X-Ray Search

When I ran a [sqoop pig hive] keyword search in LinkedIn Recruiter and selected a location of “Greater New York City Area,” I got 48 results – 2X or 100% more than the best Google X-Ray search above.

LinkedIn Recruiter Sqoop Pig Hive New York

This is proof positive that when you X-Ray search LinkedIn, you are only finding a fraction of the results available.

Also, searching for [“location * new york city area”] does in fact find people who have a different location phrase on their profile that is included within LinkedIn’s “greater new york city area,” so this cannot explain the differences in results between LinkedIn Recruiter and Google X-Ray searching.

LinkedIn Location Phrase NJ in NY Greater

LinkedIn X-Ray Search Results Can Be Inconsistent

Although this was only a quick experiment, I noticed that some of my results changed from search to search, with the exact same search. Here’s an example:

LinkedIn back to back X-Ray searches

Granted, that’s a small difference – 1 result out of 23 – but the fact that you can get different results from the same search within 5 minutes is a bit disturbing. It also certainly makes performing and replicating these kinds of tests challenging.

Google Can See Some Things You Can’t (at first)

When I noticed Giri’s profile popping up in the second search above, I decided to check it out.

I clicked on his profile link and noticed he is a 3rd degree connection, and because I was logged into LinkedIn, it wouldn’t show me his full profile and I could not confirm that all of my search terms (sqoop, pig, hive) were all there.

I decided to type his name into LinkedIn and pull up his profile – then I checked for my keywords. I noticed sqoop wasn’t there.

Here’s all I could see in his skills – even though it appeared as though I was looking at his full profile, I clearly wasn’t – otherwise sqoop would have to be present.

LinkedIn Skills Sqoop Public Profile Not Present

I checked his profile out in Recruiter and could see all of his skills, including sqoop.

Sqoop in Skills LinkedIn

I then tried to view Google’s cached result for Giri, but for some reason I consistently got an error and could not view it:

Sqoop crash LinkedIn X-Ray Google Result

I then tried another person’s profile and successfully viewed this cached result, but alas, sqoop was still nowhere to be found via CTRL-F.

Confused for a moment, I right-clicked on the cached result and proceeded to view the page source. Lo and behold, sqoop was hiding in there in the “miniprofile-container jellybean” as an “extra skill:”

Google LinkedIn Cached Result Sqoop Page Source Code

Now that I had found my search term, I went back to inspect the cached page to see where sqoop could possibly be hiding. I noticed “View All (50) Skills” was clickable – so I clicked it, and all of the skills were then displayed, including sqoop.

Google LinkedIn Cached Result Keyword Not Visible

Google LinkedIn X-Ray Cached Result All Skills Sqoop

Full Location vs. Partial Location Phrase Searching

I then decided to run another 4 searches back to back – the same ones as above, but this time I put the full location phrase in the search by adding the word “greater” – [“location * greater new york city area“]

  1. site:linkedin.com -pub/dir “location * greater new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  2. site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -dir “location * greater new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  3. site:linkedin.com “people you know” “location * greater new york city area” sqoop pig hive
  4. site:linkedin.com “you know” “location * greater new york city area” sqoop pig hive

Once again I scraped the total results from each search and sorted them in Excel so I could compare them for any variations.

When you look at the chart below, you should notice:

  • All searches returned more results than those above – 5, 5, 1 and 4 respectively
  • [-pub/dir] and [site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -pub/dir] outperformed [“people you know”] and [“you know”]
  • [-pub/dir] and [site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -pub/dir] both returned 1 false positive result of a job
  • For some reason [site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -pub/dir] returned quite a few duplicate results when combined with [“location * greater new york city area”] vs. [“location* new york city area”]
  • When de-duped, [site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub -pub/dir] returned the same search results as [-pub/dir]
  • “people you know” had the least number of results (again)

LinkedIn X-Ray Search Full Location Phrase 4 search results comparison

Final Thoughts

From my very basic testing it appears that using the full LinkedIn location phrase, e.g. [location * greater new york city area”] is important for maximum inclusion, even though the asterisk in [location * new york city area”] should “cover” the word “greater.”

You may want to reconsider using the phrase “people you know” in your LinkedIn X-Ray searches to target profiles, as both of my tests showed it had the worst performance compared to other phrases/syntax.

Interestingly, simply using “you know” works at least as well as “”people you know,” and in fact outperformed “people you know”  – at least in my quick and dirty comparison tests.

[-pub/dir] appears to work as well as, and in some cases better than, [site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com -dir].

As I’ve implored many times before, please don’t just copy and paste other people’s search syntax – it’s easy and it may seem painless, but there can be consequences, such as getting fewer result than you could otherwise.

Please experiment more! Yes, putting even this minor experiment together was quite tedious – at least the results scraping, formatting and comparison – but as you can see, some discoveries were made that likely could never have been had I not painstakingly compared different searches back to back.

Finally, you certainly can’t find everyone on LinkedIn through X-Ray searching – you could be missing up to and even potentially more than half of the LinkedIn profiles that actually exist, for the reasons I detailed thoroughly in the middle of this post.

Using Google to Search for People in Specific LinkedIn Groups

Posted by | Google, LinkedIn, LinkedIn Groups, LinkedIn Search, x-ray search | 8 Comments

In this post, I am going to share with you the journey I took and the discoveries I made while investigating the answer to a Boolean search request for help I recently came across online about using -dir in a Google X-Ray search of LinkedIn. Some of you may enjoy and appreciate seeing my methodology, others will likely learn a thing or two about using Google to search for people in specific LinkedIn groups, and I’ll remind you of a few reasons why you can’t find everyone on LinkedIn using Google, Bing or any search engine other than LinkedIn’s.

Here’s the original search that was shared in the request for help:

site:linkedin.com “Front end developers group” (.Net |dot Net) Greater Boston Area) -dir -job -jobs -sample -samples -template -resume service -resume writers -resume writing

I was going to quickly answer with a cleaned-up search string, but what really caught my attention was that he was trying to target folks in a specific LinkedIn group.

Now, I have a LinkedIn Recruiter license and I don’t often X-Ray LinkedIn to find specific group members, so I poked around a bit on the topic and found this little gem posted by Balazs, my former partner in world sourcing domination, back in 2011:

Here’s the sample string Balazs offered: site:linkedin.com inurl:(in | pub) “logo Boolean strings” -inurl:dir

I used his search and noticed the total number of results  was very low (only 2 pages) and also that there were many false positive, non-profile results. It was clear that much has changed since Balazs wrote the above post nearly 3 years ago and that, among other things, “logo GROUP NAME” no longer works as it once used to.

LinkedIn Group X-Ray search 1

As such, I decided to take a look into one of the actual profile results and view the cached version to see what Google was hitting on.

Cached view option

Then I right clicked to viewed the page’s source:

Here’s what I saw after using CTRL-F to search for the word “Boolean:”

You can see that the the logo image is followed by the phrase “Boolean Strings – the Internet Sourcing Community logo.”

Here’s the specific piece of code:

<img src=”http://m.c.lnkd.licdn.com/media/p/8/000/2be/00f/059184c.png” width=”60″ height=”30″ alt=”Boolean Strings – the Internet Sourcing Community logo” />

So, in order to leverage that specific format/order of words, I constructed a quick search targeting the LinkedIn group that the person from the original question that caught my eye was trying to target, which was the Front End Developers group, using “Front End Developers Group logo” in the string:

site:linkedin.com “front end developers logo” (C# |.Net) “location * Greater Boston Area” 

Google estimates 83 results:

However, you should never pay attention to Google’s “About XX” results. If you click to page 2, you can see there are really only 11 results.

I then decided to check LinkedIn Recruiter looking for people who live in the Greater Boston Area and either mention C# or .Net, and, using LinkedIn’s brilliant Any Group functionality, I searched for members of the Front End Developers Group.

Surprise, surprise – I got 11 results:

However, while the number matches between Google and LinkedIn, the people do not.

Interesting, yes?

That opens up a whole different can of worms, so to speak.

Google is not an All Seeing Eye

Keep in mind that people have the option to not show the logo of a group they’re in on their LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Group Settings Visibility

If someone chooses not to display the group logo on their profile, then you won’t be able to use Google to find people in the manner demonstrated above presumably because the logo (and associated logo phrase) won’t be on their public profile. If it’s not there to be “seen” by Google, you can’t retrieve it.

Additionally, let’s not forget that:

1. Some people’s LinkedIn profiles are invisible to search engines which means you can’t X-Ray search them. People can choose to make their public profile “visible to no one” (see the image below for LinkedIn public profile content settings), meaning their profiles are not crawlable/indexable by search engines and thus cannot be retrieved.

2. Even if people choose to make their public profile “visible to everyone,” if they select “Basics,”  the only things that LinkedIn allows search engines to “see” are a person’s name, industry, location and number of recommendations. That means you can’t retrieve their profiles if you search for anything beyond their name, industry, and location. These folks could actually display group logos on their profiles, but searching for group logos won’t retrieve them because LinkedIn isn’t allowing search engines to “see” them.

3. Even if someone chooses to make their public profile visible to everyone and they don’t select “Basics,” they can still pick and choose from a long list of things that can or cannot be “seen” by search engines. Anything a person decides to not make visible can’t be found/retrieved with Google, Bing, etc., – this can include groups, skills, summaries, current and past positions, and more.

Another Way to X-Ray Search for and Target LinkedIn Groups

While writing this post, I stumbled across a specific question about how to use a Boolean search in Google to target members of a specific LinkedIn group. Lois Grimshaw responded to the question, and I noticed that she took a different approach than using the “GROUP NAME logo” phrase – she used “logo * GROUP NAME.” I added java to the search to get the results down to a more manageable number for testing:

site:linkedin.com “people you know” “logo * Ernst & Young Employees and Alumni” java

I scrolled to the last page of results to see that Google returned 461 results:

Googe X-Ray LinkedIn Group

I then decided to run the same search, but use my “GROUP NAME logo” phrase format, shortening it to “Young Employees and Alumni logo,” because there isn’t any other group that uses the same specific phrase, there is actually no need to include “Ernst &.” I also happen to be a fan of minimalist strings.

site:linkedin.com “people you know” “Young Employees and Alumni logo” java

That search returned more results – 496.

Google X-Ray LinkedIn Group

In case you were curious, I decided to also test this search format:

site:linkedin.com “people you know” “Ernst * Young Employees and Alumni logo” java – 480 results.

I then decided to check on LinkedIn using my Recruiter license – 735 results.

For the many reasons I listed above, I wasn’t surprised to find significantly more people using LinkedIn’s search than I did using Google.

Group Search: Asterisk vs. Straight Phrase

I decided to go back to my original Front End Developers group search and use Lois’s “logo * GROUP NAME” search approach to see how the results differed from my simple “GROUP NAME logo” phrase search:

site:linkedin.com “logo * front end developers” (C# |.Net) “location * Greater Boston Area” 

If you got to page 2, you can see that the search returns a total of 15 results, which is 4 more than my original search.

Works better, right?

Not so fast – in this case, using the asterisk allowed additional groups to get returned, such as the Chicago Front-End Web Developers group…

LI Group Logo 1

…and the Front End Web Developers – CA group.

LinkedIn Group Logo 2

One could argue that scooping up some additional groups is a good thing, and in this case, that is actually true (both folks live in Boston even though the groups are for locations other than Boston).

However, it’s easy to see that using the asterisk in a group-targeting search can have unintended consequences, and it’s not difficult to imagine scenarios in which irrelevant results could be returned.

Unique LinkedIn Group Name Search

Lastly, I’d like to point out that if the name of the LinkedIn group you’re interested in searching for is unique, you may not even need to use the word “logo” in your search.

For example – all 3 of these searches return 27 pages of results:

No mention of logo:

site:linkedin.com “boolean strings – the Internet Sourcing Community” “location * greater atlanta” “people you know” – 27 pages of results

“GROUP NAME logo”

site:linkedin.com “boolean strings – the Internet Sourcing Community logo” “location * greater atlanta” “people you know” – 27 pages of results

“logo * GROUP NAME”

site:linkedin.com “logo * boolean strings – the Internet Sourcing Community” “location * greater atlanta” “people you know”27 pages of results

The Boolean Search Bottom Line(s)

1. Be curious! Don’t just copy, paste and implicitly trust other people’s search strings – take the time to tinker with them to understand why and how they work (or don’t!), and to improve upon/simply them.

2. Don’t pay any attention to an Internet search engine’s estimate of the number of results on page 1- always navigate to the last page of results to get the real number, especially when comparing alternative search strings.

3. Always, always, always inspect search results below the surface and look for patterns to make sure your searches are working precisely the way you intended. If they’re not, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn by tweaking your searches and watching how the volume of your results varies and how your results get more or less relevant, and specifically why.

4. There are often many different ways of achieving the same search / information retrieval / sourcing goals – very seldom are Boolean search strings “right” or “wrong,” although there can be a wide variance in the volume, relevance and inclusiveness between seemingly similar searches.

5. The “GROUP NAME logo” phrase search works well for using Google to search for people within specific LinkedIn groups, and for unique group names, you don’t even need to use the word “logo” in your search.

6. You can’t find everyone on LinkedIn using Google, Bing or any search engine other than LinkedIn’s. One could argue that perhaps some of the best people on LinkedIn are unfindable via X-Ray search because, as highly sought after passive talent, they’ve taken steps to limit what, if anything, Internet search engines can “see.”

 

LinkedIn Certification, Talent Connect and Boolean NOT Update

Posted by | Boolean Logic, Boolean Search Tips and Tricks, LinkedIn | 3 Comments

LinkedIn Recruiter Certification

In case you missed it, LinkedIn has launched a recruiter certification program!

LinkedIn Certification-Badge

If you think you’re ready to get certified, between now and December 31, 2013, LinkedIn will waive the exam fee for the first 500 customers that register for the LinkedIn Certified Professional—Recruiter certification exam. Click/see the coupon code below:

LinkedIn recruiter certification free

Before you attempt to take the certification assessment, you will definitely want to see what I only recently discovered about LinkedIn’s support of Boolean search exclusion operator (NOT vs. Minus sign) – skip to the bottom of the post to learn more.

LinkedIn Talent Connect

Talent Connect 2013 Logo

I’m honored to be presenting again at both Talent Connect events this month in Vegas as well as Talent Connect London, which happens to be the largest corporate recruiting event in Europe.

The event in Vegas is sold out, but you can view the live stream – click here to to register.

I will be presenting two sessions on LinkedIn talent sourcing on Wednesday the 16th in Vegas and one session on Thursday the 24th in London,  covering core principles and advanced strategies.

Now that LinkedIn has grown to over 238M profiles, finding people has become easier, but finding the right people has actually become more challenging. As such, knowing how to effectively source talent on LinkedIn is now more important than ever. In the foundation session, I’ll be reviewing information retrieval best practices, the importance of understanding the behavior of the people you’re looking for and that of your competitors, and how to develop the ability to ask better questions with Boolean logic. In the advanced session, I will cover Dark Matter concepts, Maximum Inclusion, Adaptive Search, Strategic Exclusion, and Moneyball Sourcing.

LinkedIn Boolean Search Exclusion: NOT vs. the Minus Sign

You may recall that I broke the story on LinkedIn’s undocumented Boolean search operator over two years ago.

In preparation for the LinkedIn Recruiter Certification, I inquired with the team at LinkedIn about any differences between the Boolean NOT operator and the minus sign (-).

They responded, and you should know that LinkedIn officially only supports the NOT operator for exclusion, as there are some “corner cases” in which the minus sign will not work for exclusion – this is true for searching LinkedIn for free as well as for LinkedIn Recruiter.

Now, if you’re a fan of words like I am, you may especially appreciate their specific use of the term “corner case,” which clearly came from their engineers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia offers an excellent explanation:

corner case (or pathological case) is a problem or situation that occurs only outside of normal operating parameters—specifically one that manifests itself when multiple environmental variables or conditions are simultaneously at extreme levels, even though each parameter is within the specified range for that parameter.

For example, a loudspeaker might distort audio, but only when played at maximum volume, maximum bass, and in a high-humidity environment. Or a computer server may be unreliable, but only with the maximum complement of 64processors, 512 GB of memory, and 10,000 signed-on users.

Contrast a corner case with an edge case, an issue that occurs only at a (single) maximum or minimum parameter. For example, a speaker that distorts audio at maximum volume, even in the absence of other extreme settings or conditions.

Corner cases are part of an engineer‘s lexicon—especially an engineer involved in testing or debugging a complex system. Corner cases are often harder and more expensive to reproduce, test, and optimize because they require maximal configurations in multiple dimensions. They are frequently less-tested, given the belief that few product users will, in practice, exercise the product at multiple simultaneous maximum settings. Expert users of systems therefore routinely find corner case anomalies, and in many of these, errors.

Mind you, you can still use the minus sign in lieu of the Boolean NOT operator to exclude terms and OR statements, but be advised that there are some rare scenarios where the minus sign won’t work.

Now, I’ve personally never encountered a situation in which the minus sign did not work exactly as the NOT operator, so what are the corner cases in which the minus sign won’t work?

Ah, you know I have already asked the LinkedIn team…I am eagerly awaiting their response.

 

Is Boolean Search Boring and Less Effective than Semantic Search?

Posted by | Boolean, Semantic Search | 5 Comments

 

Boolean Search is Boring

Do you think Boolean search is boring, tiresome and ineffective, and that semantic search delivers faster results that count?

I was struck by the image Marc Drees used in his #SOSUEU: the day after post, which you can see above.

I would have loved to sit on that panel discussion and contribute my experience and thoughts on the subject – I was actually supposed to attend and speak but I left the sponsoring company just prior to the event.

Such is life. :)

Regardless, I am happy to weigh in here, and I believe that the majority of people simply aren’t looking at search properly in the first place.

I’ll address the statements from #SOSUEU in order.

Boolean Search is Boring

Let’s hit the reset button first and get a couple of things straight:

If Boolean search is boring, then searching the Internet, Amazon, etc.,  for anything is boring. Any time you use more than 1 term in your search on Google, Bing, Amazon, eBay, etc., you’re using Boolean search. The same is true with LinkedIn and many other sites you can search to find people. Am I alone in this simple understanding?

This may confuse some people, but “Boolean Search” isn’t about Boolean – it’s about search. Searching is about finding things you need and want, and there are many ways that you can search for and find those things. Do you find it more “exciting” to select from a list or check a box on a LinkedIn facet?

Github list and LinkedIn Facet

Whether you type in keywords, select from a list, check a box, apply a filter, etc., all you’re doing is configuring a query to get results to review.

I don’t think there is anything intrinsically “boring” about Boolean operators. I think the real issue is that some recruiters just don’t enjoy searching for people, and if you don’t enjoy something it’s common to find it boring. The same people who bash Boolean search don’t find typing terms into separate search fields, picking from lists and checking boxes exciting or particularly enjoyable.

Some people really like searching databases, social networks, the Internet, etc., for people to engage and recruit. Others would be happy to post jobs and wait for people to come to them and would rather not ever have to search for potential candidates to engage.

To say that Boolean search is boring is to say that carefully looking for and trying to find people (paraphrasing Merriam-Webster’s definition of search) is boring. Semantic search solutions alleviate the boredom of searching for those who find it tedious, because similar to posting a job and getting responses, semantic search solutions often allow you to enter minimal information and get results.

I’d be willing to bet that those same recruiters who don’t enjoy searching to find people to engage also don’t enjoy reviewing responses to job postings as many are unqualified – they would much rather be given a list of well matched people, which semantic search solutions claim to be able to do.

What do you think?

Boolean Search is Tiresome

If you think Boolean search is tiresome, I say you’re lazy.

Why?

Well, for basic Boolean search, we’re talking 2 operators and 2 of modifiers – in many search engines you don’t even need to type AND, as any old space will do.

Is typing in OR, -, ” ” and ( ) really tiresome?

Is filling out multiple search fields (e.g. Twitter below) any less tiresome than typing a couple of Boolean operators? By the way, the common elements of most “advanced search” interfaces are essentially AND’s (All of these words), OR’s (Any of these words), NOT’s (None of these words), and quotation marks (This exact phrase).  Oh wait – that’s basic Boolean, right? Snap!

Twitter Advanced Search Interface

While I love the concept of natural language queries, I actually find writing them tiresome and limiting (e.g. Facebook Graph Search).

Facebook Graph Search Tiresome

Is it less tiresome to use Facebook’s search fields? They’re all essentially linked by AND’s, btw.

Facebook Graph Search Interface

If there is anything that people really find tiresome about any non-semantic search, Boolean or otherwise, is that it requires you to think and expend mental energy.

I know – thinking is tough!

If you’re read a lot of my content over the years, you know I like to bring up the study of information retrieval techniques that bring human intelligence into the search process, otherwise known as Human–computer information retrieval (HCIR).

The term human–computer information retrieval was coined by Gary Marchionini who explained that “HCIR aims to empower people to explore large-scale information bases but demands that people also take responsibility for this control by expending cognitive and physical energy.”

I know the dream is to have computers read our minds so we don’t have to type a single search term – but until that day comes, you should be aware that experts in the field of HCIR do not believe that people should mentally “check out” of the information retrieval process and let semantic search/NLP algorithms/AI be solely responsible for the results.

Having said that, I can see why some people would see the process of building a massive OR string for all of the ways in which a person could possibly reference a certain skill or experience to ensure maximum inclusion as tiresome. It’s exhaustive work – especially if you don’t want to exclude great people who simply don’t reference their experience with the most commonly used search terms.

This is one of the main value propositions of semantic search solutions for people sourcing – through taxonomies and/or NLP-powered AI/algorithms, a user can enter in a single search term and effectively search for other related terms without requiring the user to know and search for all of the other related terms.

Sound great, right? Letting a taxonomies and/or algorithms doing the conceptual search work for you is certainly a lot less tiresome than having to perform research and pay attention to search results, looking for patterns of related and relevant terms to continually refine and improve Boolean searches.

To be sure, there are some solid semantic search offerings for talent sourcing on the market today that make sourcing talent faster and easier for people who find Boolean search boring, tiring, difficult and ineffective. However, to think that semantic search solutions don’t come with their own host of challenges and limitations would be ridiculous.

In case you haven’t see it before, you may want to quickly drive through my Slideshare on Artificial Intelligence and Black Box Semantic Search vs. Human Cognition and Sourcing derived from my 2010 SourceCon keynote to get a high-level overview of some of the challenges faced by semantic search solutions specific to talent sourcing.

If you don’t want to flip through the presentation, here’s a very brief summary:
  • Human capital data/text is often incomplete and widely varied – many people with the same job have different titles, explain their experience using different terms, and in many cases simply do not explicitly mention critical skills and experience
  • Semantic search solutions can only search for what is explicitly stated in resumes and social profiles
  • Taxonomies are difficult, if not impossible to make “complete” and thus they can exclude qualified talent
  • AI/NLP can be useful in determining related terms, but not necessarily relevant terms
  • Many semantic search solutions suffer from “once and done” query execution – there is no way to refine and improve searches or to exclude false positives/irrelevant results

Boolean Search is Ineffective

The effectiveness of Boolean search strings has more to do with the person writing the queries and the sources being searched and less to nothing to do with Boolean logic.

When used in a search, Boolean operators are essentially being used as a very basic query language, and according to Wikipedia, “an information retrieval query language attempts to find…information that is relevant to an area of inquiry.”

Any search a user conducts, whether they know it or not, is essentially a formal statement of an information need.

How effectively a user can translate their information need into a query/search string largely determines the relevance of the results – Boolean logic itself often has little to nothing to do with search relevance!

Assuming a sourcer/recruiter has a solid understanding of  what they’re looking for (a dangerous assumption, by the way – try giving 5 people the same job description and then ask them separately what they’re looking for), the effectiveness of any search they use, whether Boolean, faceted, semantic, etc., is more dependent upon the user’s ability to “explain” their needs to the system/site being searched via an effective query.

For example, let’s say you’re sourcing for a sales leader and you have a military veteran hiring initiative. Regardless of whether you decided to search your ATS (e.g. Taleo), LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc., you’re essentially asking the same question, “Do you have anyone with experience leading sales teams who is also a veteran?” (among other things – just trying to keep it simple here).

How would you construct a Boolean search for a sales leader who is also a veteran?

How would (and/or could!) a semantic search engine search for a sales leader who is also a veteran?

Ultimately, it comes down to how many ways can someone who has sales leader experience could possibly express that experience on their resume or profile, and how many ways someone who is a veteran could possibly reference their veteran status.

Do you know them all?

Does any semantic search engine know them all? Some don’t know any because they simply aren’t included in their taxonomies. Others could use NLP to find some, but definitely not all. However, a person with decent sourcing skills could produce a veteran query like this one in about 5 minutes (not too tiresome) and continuously improve it:

(Army OR USAR OR “U.S.A.R.” OR “Army Reserve” OR “Army Reserves” OR Navy OR USN OR USNR OR “U.S.N.” OR “U.S.N.R.” OR “Naval Reserves” OR “Naval Reserve” OR “Air Force” OR USAF OR “U.S.A.F.” OR USFAR OR “U.S.A.F.R.” OR “Force Reserve” OR “Force Reserves” OR “Forces Reserve” OR “Forces Reserves” OR Marines OR “Marine Corp” OR “Marine Corps” OR USMC OR “U.S.M.C.” OR USMCR OR “U.S.M.C.R.” OR MARFORRES OR “Marine Expeditionary Force” OR MEF OR “Coast Guard” OR USCG OR “U.S.C.G.” OR USCGR OR “National Guard” OR Veteran OR “honorable discharge” OR “honorably discharged”)

The effectiveness of any search, Boolean or semantic, can be measured by the relevance of the results (e.g., a high percentage of the results are exactly what the searcher is looking for) and the inclusiveness of the results (how many relevant results are retrieved as a percentage of the relevant results available to be retrieved – those available but not retrieved are excluded into the abyss of Dark Matter).

Only the person conducting the search can judge the relevance of the results returned by any search, Boolean or semantic, as relevance is defined as the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user, and only the user truly knows what their needs are.

When it comes to inclusion, I am aware of some folks who are proponents of “good enough” searches and search solutions (e.g., finding some good people quickly is good enough and there is no need to find all of the best people).

Try telling your company’s executives that you really don’t care about finding the best people available to be found and that you believe that the quickest and easiest to find should be good enough for your company’s hiring needs.

Let me know how that works for you.

Okay, but what about Context and Weighting?

Some folks argue that Boolean search is ineffective due to the fact that Boolean searches are not contextual (e.g. you search for a term and it shows up not in the person’s recent experience, or in their experience at all) and that all terms in a query are given equal weight (e.g., if you search for 10 terms, some terms are likely to be more important than others, but basic Boolean logic doesn’t allow you to differentiate the value/relevance of specific terms).

Admittedly, some Boolean searches are.

However, if you have well parsed/structured data and a search interface that allows you to exploit that structured data, you can use simple Boolean logic to search contextually. For example, most recent/past employer and title, most recent/past experience, etc.

Some search engines do in fact allow you to assign different weights to terms within a single Boolean query (e.g. Lucene, dtSearch, etc.) – this functionality is sometimes referred to extended Boolean search. These same search engines allow you to search for terms in or exclude them from specific areas (e.g. top of the resume, bottom of the resume) via proximity search – functionality that also allows you to perform powerful user-specified semantic search at the verb/noun level to target people with specific responsibilities (have goosebumps yet?).

Okay, that was easy to address.

So, Is Boolean Search Boring and Less Effective than Semantic Search?

For some people, yes – Boolean search is boring, tiresome and less effective than semantic search.

For others, Boolean search is exciting, easy, and more effective than semantic search.

What do I know about any of this?

I’ve evaluated, implemented and used extended Boolean search solutions as well as semantic search solutions. In addition to using them myself on a regular basis, I help 100’s of recruiters use them effectively to find the right people for 1,000’s of real positions. From my practical hands-on experience, I can tell you that sometimes semantic search produces very good results – sometimes it doesn’t. Sounds similar to Boolean, yes?

To all of the “Boolean Bashers” out there – you’re missing the point.

The effectiveness of any Boolean search has more to do with more to do with the person writing the queries and the sources being searched and less to nothing to do with Boolean logic and search syntax

Let’s remember what the goal of sourcing is – to easily find and successfully engage people who are highly likely to be the right match for the roles being sourced/recruited for.

The ultimate sourcing solution would parse resumes and profiles into highly structured data that could be searched via semantic search (autopilot) and extended Boolean (manual control) to ensure that any user could quickly find the right people under any circumstance.

I’m honestly not sure why anyone believes sourcing solutions have to leverage semantic search and exclude Boolean/extended Boolean search capability.

Building Talent Pipelines and Just-In-Time Recruiting – Part 4

Posted by | Lean/JIT Recruiting, Talent Pipelines | 5 Comments

 

Lean, Just-in-Time RecruitingWelcome to the 4th and final post of the “Building Talent Pipelines and Just-In-Time Recruiting” series. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read parts 12, and 3 before reading this post.

In Ben Franklin’s the Way to Wealth, he talks about the issues associated with carrying unnecessary inventory, “You call them goods; but, if you do not take care, they will prove evils to some of you…You expect they will be sold…but, if you have no occasion for them, they must be dear to you.”

If Ben were alive today and in the recruiting industry, he’d tell you that building, maintaining, and managing the turnover associated with in-process candidate inventory (traditional candidate pipelines) consumes a great amount of time and effort which ultimately may provide little-to-no value to candidate or client alike, at great cost to you.

So how can recruiters go about creating more value for their candidates and hiring managers with less work?

Just-In-Time Recruiting

Just-In-Time recruiting is based on the Lean, pull-based strategy of providing hiring managers/clients with candidates that exactly match their needs, when they want them, in the amount they want, without the safety net of a traditional candidate pipeline/WIP inventory.

Instead of proactively building and maintaining work-in-process (WIP) candidate pipelines without an actual hiring need, JIT recruiting has a primary focus of tapping into “raw material” candidate inventory (resumes, candidate profiles, etc.) and contacting, qualifying, and delivering candidates only in direct response to a hiring need.

JIT recruiting is replicable – anyone and any organization can achieve it.

How?

I’m glad you asked.

How to Achieve Just-In-Time Recruiting

Anyone can find and develop candidate pipelines, but not everyone can achieve JIT recruiting and delivery.

This is because there are a few system and recruiter capability requirements that must be met before Just-In-Time recruiting and delivery can be reliably accomplished.

JIT Recruiting Requires Access to Human Capital Data

In Part 2 of this series, I introduced the concept of resumes and/or candidate profiles (ATS, social networking sites, etc.) as potential candidate “raw material” in the sense that they can be converted by processing (contacting and screening) into a new and useful product: a live and viable candidate.

In order to achieve JIT recruiting, a recruiter must have ready access to a volume of human capital data in the form of resumes, candidate records, or social network profiles that they are able to retrieve on-demand.

Any recruiter or organization hoping to achieve JIT recruiting should have their own well-stocked candidate database in the form of an ATS/CRM solution into which every candidate that responds to a job posting, that is found through a search, referred into or otherwise identified by a recruiter is permanently captured.

In an ideal scenario, a recruiter would have access to a Talent Warehouse. A Talent Warehouse is a specialized use of a CRM solution that is both manually and automatically populated on a daily basis with potential candidates that have been identified, parsed, and permanently captured from the Internet, social networks, and major/niche job board resume databases.

In addition to having access to a well stocked private Talent Warehouse (or at the very least, an ATS/CRM app), having access to 1 or more major and niche job board resume databases would further enhance Just-In-Time recruiting capability.

It should go without saying, but I am also factoring in access to LinkedIn and the Internet itself as significant sources of human capital data (raw material candidate inventory).

The Power of Numbers

When it comes to raw material candidate inventory – the more the better!

For some individuals and small local companies, 5,000 to 10,000 resumes/profiles may suffice. For larger, national, and global corporations, hundreds of thousands to several million records would be more ideal.

Having fast and easy on-demand access to more human capital data increases the probability that you can easily find the right candidates at the right time, either directly (search and retrieval) or indirectly (referral/network recruiting).

It’s simple statistics.

X Degrees of Separation

Speaking of numbers and statistics – one thing to keep in mind is that if you have access to a source of 10,000, 100,000, or 1,000,000+ people, the value of having that access is not limited to solely those individuals. Every single one of those individuals knows other people, who also know people, and so on.

In that sense, every source of human capital data, whether it is an ATS, a job board resume database, etc., is not unlike LinkedIn, except you can’t “see” the people who they know. But they do know them.

So for people who say that using technology for talent identification (resume databases, applicant tracking systems, etc.) has its limitations because not every person can be found electronically/online somewhere – they don’t have to be.

Although I would argue that with each passing day, more and more people ARE able to be found electronically somewhere – a trend that will never decrease – the simple fact of the matter is that any source of human capital data can be used to access a MUCH larger network of people who may or may not be online anywhere today.

With strong referral recruiting/phone networking skills, a recruiter can use a database of 10,000 candidates to essentially reach 300,000 or more people, or an ATS with 1,000,000 people to reach over 30,000,000 people – whether they can be found anywhere online or not.

How’s that for power?

JIT Recruiting Benefits from High “Searchability”

The more “searchable” a source of human capital data, the easier it is to reliably achieve Just-In-Time recruiting and delivery.

The minimum level of searchability to facilitate JIT recruiting would entail support of full Boolean logic queries of at least 400 characters.

An ideal level of searchability would go beyond basic Boolean and include manual proximity search, variable term weighting, and root word/stemming coupled with an AI/matching/recommendation engine. ATS/CRM solutions should also feature automated resume/profile parsing and field-specific (most recent title/experience, etc.) and derived data (years of experience, etc.) searching.

Thankfully, LinkedIn is highly searchable, although annoyingly, it does not support stemming/root word search. Most major job board resume databases are also highly searchable, including field-specific search, fixed proximity (Monster’s NEAR), and matching/recommendation capability (Careerbuilder’s R2 and Monster’s Power Resume Search).

High searchability facilitates a sourcer/recruiter’s ability to quickly (as in <1 – 5 minutes in most cases) and easily find people who have the highest probability of either being a great match for a specific position, or are highly likely to know someone who is, and contact and engage them. In other words – convert resumes/candidate profiles in their raw material form to screened, qualified, and engaged candidates.

JIT Recruiting Requires Effective Engagement and Referral Tactics and Strategies

A critical link in the process of Just-In-Time recruiting is the conversion of candidates from their raw material form into in-process candidates. This involves successfully contacting and engaging potential candidates in 2-way communication. Having quick and easy access to a large talent pool is great, but if you’re not very good at establishing 2 way communication with candidates you haven’t already established a relationship with, you’re going to have a very hard time achieving Just-In-Time recruiting.

By very good, I mean >75% response rate to initial email and phone contact attempts to candidates, regardless of their job search status (active, casual, passive, not looking).

Remember that when tapping into large pools of human capital data, we’re not targeting people based on their job search status – the goal is to find, contact, and engage anyone who is potentially well-qualified. Practically anyone can get an active or even casual job seeker to call them back or return their email. However, very few people are able to reliably get >75% of people who are not looking at all to respond to an email or phone call.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that 32% of all people are “passively looking” and that 34% are “not looking.” That’s fully 66% of the potential candidate pool – and the portion of talent that most recruiters and employers covet the most! If you can’t successfully connect with and quickly gain the interest of these people, you’re at a significant disadvantage in achieving Just-In-Time recruiting (or any form of passive candidate recruiting, for that matter).

I honestly believe this may be one of the core reasons why traditional proactive candidate pipelining is used as a solution to meet hiring needs. If you can’t get the majority of passive and non-job seekers who you’ve never contacted before to respond to you – your only option is to make the most of the people who you HAVE already contacted (your WIP inventory). However, being able to get practically anyone to respond to emails/call you back changes the game entirely, as you are no longer limited to the candidate inventory you happen to have on hand (your pipeline).

I know I’m onto something here – more on it later.

Just-In-Time Recruiting Requires Search Ability

Having access to a decent volume of high quality human capital “raw material” via systems that are highly searchable is quite literally worthless without the ability to actually leverage the data and the search capability. The value of information is directly related to the ability to retrieve precisely the right information, exactly when you need it.

To achieve Just-In-Time recruiting, sourcers and recruiters don’t have to be “Boolean Black Belts,” but they must be proficient in candidate search best practices, techniques, and strategies. In order to retrieve information from information systems, it’s critical to speak the “local language” – and there’s no getting around Boolean logic for querying data. Artificial Intelligence/Semantic Search applications and recommendation engines are great to have and can certainly help, but they are not a solution in and of themselves – they are not “the answer.”

Pipelining – Proactive vs. Reactive

Contrary to what some people may believe, Just-In-Time recruiting does leverage candidate pipelines – just not in the traditional way.

First, Just-In-Time recruiting involves the pipelining of raw material candidate inventory, in the form of resumes/candidate profiles. Recruiters and recruiting organizations should be both proactively and reactively, manually and automatically building a database of potential talent on a continual basis, 24 X 7.

Unlike traditional candidate pipelining, when these resumes are identified, acquired and permanently captured, the people that the resumes and social media profiles represent do not have to be contacted without an actual hiring need.

Second, Just-In-Time recruiting creates candidate pipelines as a result of sourcing and contacting potential candidates for a specific need. Any candidate that is not available, interested, or immediately qualified for the specific position being recruited for essentially becomes part of a work-in-process (WIP) candidate pipeline.

This can be referred to as “reactive pipelining,” and opposed to the “proactive pipelining” which involves contacting and engaging candidates without an actual hiring need.

Yes, I said the dreaded “reactive” word. I am well aware that many in the recruiting industry think “reactive” is a four-letter word. However, I am here to tell you that it most certainly is NOT. It’s an 8 letter word.

Seriously though, it is a common misconception that proactive = good, reactive = bad. In reality, Lean/TPS best practices dictate that an ideal state of production is one in which a product is produced or a service performed directly in response to a customer need (pull).

Ultimately, building candidate pipelines as a result of JIT recruiting efforts is actually a mix of both reactive and proactive strategy. It’s reactive in that people are contacted for a specific hiring need, and proactive in that anyone not interested, available, or the right fit for the position being recruited for enters the candidate pipeline for future opportunities.

There, that should make everyone happy. :-)

Just-In-Time Recruiting is Not Anti-Relationship

I received a few comments throughout this series from people who seemed concerned that Just-In-Time recruiting was anti-relationship – that it might somehow endorse “forgetting” about great candidates you’ve spoken or met with.

Nothing could be further from the truth. No aspect of the Just-In-Time recruiting concept and strategy has anything to do with not building and maintaining relationships with great people. I just wanted to take a moment to clear that up.

Just-In-Time Recruiting Requires Less Candidate “Processing”

While JIT recruiting supports building and maintaining relationships with candidates, it does not endorse doing so for no other purpose.

Remember that Just-In-Time is a Lean concept, and Lean is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful. I asked readers in Part 3 what they felt was the ultimate value they provide to candidates. Jeremy Langhans responded with what I believe is the most accurate answer, which is “a job.”

Many recruiters who proactively build and maintain relationships with candidates for which they do not have a current need never provide any real value to the candidates. These recruiters proactively pipeline the candidates for their own personal benefit – to be able to have people they can quickly “activate,” requalify, and submit when a position finally does open up. However, what real value is being provided to candidates who never move past the “relationship maintenance” phase in the recruiting lifecycle?

You only need to look at a few of the insightful comments left on previous posts in this series by people who have recently been on the candidate side of the experience to know that being kept warm doesn’t really do much for them.

In a JIT recruiting scenario, candidates are not contacted prior to actual need – their time is not potentially wasted in a perpetual state of being “kept warm.” If a candidate is contacted for a specific opportunity and it is determined that it is not a proper fit, or that they are not interested or available, they do enter the candidate pipeline for future opportunities and become work-in-process candidate inventory.

However, in Just-In-Time recruiting, the level of “processing” (relationship maintenance) involved in being a pipelined candidate is typically lower than that of candidates who are proactively pipelined ahead of need. In Lean terminology, this means that JIT recruiting reduces waste (overprocessing) and increases value for the candidates involved.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate this point: I was recruiting for a project manager with telecommunications industry and EAI experience and I found someone with a very strong resume – which was posted 6 months prior to the time I found it. I called him, left him a good message, and he called me back. He explained that he was not looking or available because he was working on a contract that was scheduled to end in 6 months. In about 10 minutes, I found out more about him and informed him of the kinds of positions I recruited for and typically had available. Then I asked if I could reach out to him in about 5 months. He said sure, so I set a reminder to call him in 5 months. I literally forgot about him until my reminder popped up 5 months later. I contacted him, qualified him some more, and submitted him to one of my clients. 2 phone calls, 1 submittal, 1 interview, 1 hire.

My point here is that I did not keep this person “warm” by chatting with him every 2-4 weeks during the 5 month period, and in no way to it prevent me from having a client hire a fantastic candidate who was extremely pleased with the opportunity. Minimal processing, maximum value for all involved – Lean/JIT recruiting at its purest form. I could have called this candidate every 30 days, but it would not have added any additional value to him or to my client.

Final Thoughts

In an effort to continually improve processes is critical to identify the assumptions and beliefs behind the current work process (i.e. “the way it’s always been done”) and to challenging them – significant breakthroughs can be achieved when you are able to identify untapped opportunities through challenging and assumptions and traditional beliefs.

Do you really think the way that the majority of people and organizations currently execute sourcing and recruiting is absolutely perfect, offering no room for improvement?

I’m trying to move the ball forward. I am not content to with the way things have always been done. I do not blindly accept what others tell me, and neither should you. There’s always a better way – what are you doing to find it?

I think that most people are trained on or learn about the concept of traditional candidate pipelining early in their careers, and I may be one of the few who was not. This seems to have given me somewhat of a unique perspective on the subject. In other words, no one ever told me the world was flat – that the most effective way to recruit has to involve traditional candidate pipelining.

It’s important to understand that I did not just sit around and think these ideas up, trying to adapt Lean and Just-In-Time production to recruiting. On the contrary, practically everything I write about comes directly from experiences I had during my first years in the recruiting industry, in the trenches, working a recruiting desk in a highly competitive staffing agency, 10 years before I even heard of the concept of Just-In-Time, let alone the Lean concepts of Value, Waste, Pull, and Perfect First-Time Quality.

What I learned largely through my own trial and error in the process of trying to not only keep my new job but also become the top performer for the company ended up being uncannily aligned with core Lean philosophy – creating more value for my candidates and clients with less work, and giving them exactly what they want, when they want it.

The expression “learning to see” comes from an ever developing ability to see waste where it was not perceived before. I’d like you to try and work in a Lean approach to everything that you do – to view the expenditure of time and effort for any goal other than the creation of value for your candidates and clients/hiring managers as wasteful.

I am not asking you to become a Lean/JIT recruiting convert – I’m just asking you to think, and to examine your recruiting processes and practices with a critical eye for waste, such as unnecessary WIP candidate inventory, over-processing, excessive waiting, overproduction, and defects.

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading!

Building Talent Pipelines and Just-In-Time Recruiting – Part 3

Posted by | Lean/JIT Recruiting, Talent Pipelines | 4 Comments

 

Lean, Just-In-Time Recruiting In Part 1 and Part 2 in this series, I explored many of the intrinsic limitations and hidden costs of building traditional talent pipelines – sourcing, screening, and “keeping warm” candidates for which you do not have a current need.

To recap, traditional candidate pipelining:
  • Is a “push” based strategy that is not based on an actual customer (client or candidate) need
  • Often results in recruiters pushing their candidate inventory (what they have on hand) to clients rather than going out finding the best candidates
  • Creates a work-in-process inventory that is highly perishable and requires significant time and effort to maintain
  • Poses an opportunity cost when recruiters spend time re-qualifying and re-verifying the availability of their candidate pipeline when an actual hiring need arises
  • All of the time and effort spent maintaining relationships with candidates that will never be submitted to a hiring manager, interviewed, or hired is waste – it provides no value to candidate or client alike
  • Creates 5 of the 7 classic wastes of Lean production: over-production (recruiting more candidates than necessary), over-processing of candidates that will never be advanced in the hiring process, excessive WIP inventory, defects (candidates who do not match actual hiring requirements), and waiting (the vast majority of WIP candidates never move forward in the hiring process and spend most of their time waiting for something to happen that never happens)

Now that I’ve bloodied my knuckles putting a serious beating on candidate pipelining, let’s explore what I think is a better way to get the job done and provide value to candidates and clients: Just-In-Time (JIT) recruiting.

What is Just-In-Time Recruiting?

Just-In-Time (JIT) is a Lean concept that has been highly refined by Toyota. Lean is centered around creating more value with less work, and Lean production considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer (in recruiting – candidates and clients/hiring managers) to be wasteful.

JIT is a pull-based production strategy that strives to improve a business’s return on investment by reducing in-process inventory and associated carrying costs, making it easy for companies to react to specific demands with agility and speed with the goal of producing the exact product (or performing the exact service) that a customer wants, when they want it, in the amount they want.

Applying this concept to talent identification and acquisition, Just-In-Time recruiting is a pull-based strategy of providing hiring managers/clients with candidates that exactly match their needs, when they want them, in the amount they want.

Instead of proactively building and maintaining work-in-process (WIP) candidate pipelines, JIT recruiting has a primary focus of tapping into “raw material” candidate inventory (resumes, candidate profiles, etc.) and contacting delivering candidates only in direct response to a hiring need.

When properly executed, a recruiter can source, contact, screen/interview candidates and submit the best to a hiring authority for consideration within 24-48 hours of being given the “green light” for a specific position – all without having a traditional pipeline of candidates that have been “kept warm.”

Yes, even for “purple squirrel” requirements.

WIP Candidate Inventory is the Main Source of Waste

The activities associated with proactively building and maintaining work-in-process candidate pipelines involve 5 of the 7 wastes identified by Lean/TPS: overproduction, inventory, defects, over-processing, and waiting. These 5 wastes occur mostly due to the fact that traditional candidate pipelining involves contacting and maintaining relationships with the candidates who are contacted.

The relationship maintenance aspect of proactive candidate pipelining automatically qualifies the candidate inventory as work-in-process (WIP) – because most of the candidates are often perpetually “in-process” (the waste of waiting).

WIP candidate pipelines are a perishable inventory that requires time and effort to maintain, and WIP inventory is one of the major wastes that Lean/JIT production is specifically designed to reduce. Moreover, proactively recruiting candidates ahead of actual need leads to overproduction – engaging more candidates than needed to deliver to your customer.

One could easily argue that screening and maintaining relationships with candidates that will never be moved forward in the hiring process (even submitted to a hiring manager for consideration) qualifies as over-processing.

And any candidate that is recruited proactively ahead of need that does not in fact meet the job specifications when it becomes available can qualify as a defect of the recruiting process. The same goes for candidates that were recruited ahead of need that are no longer available or interested when the need actually comes open.

Raw Material Candidate Inventory Reduces Waste

In Part 2, I introduced the concept of “raw material” candidate inventory, and it serves a critical role in Just-In-Time recruiting.

A raw material is something that can be converted by processing into a new and useful product: broadly – something with a potential for improvement or development. I believe that resumes and/or candidate profiles (ATS, social networking sites, etc.) that sourcers and recruiters have access to and are able to retrieve on-demand are essentially candidates in their “raw material” form.

These are people who have been (or can be) identified as potential matches for current and/or future hiring needs based on their candidate data, but no time or energy is spent in an effort to build and maintain a relationship with these potential candidates prior to actual need – they are not “in-process”.

In a Just-In-Time recruiting scenario, sourcers and recruiters do not focus on proactively building and maintaining WIP candidate pipelines ahead of need, and instead focus on producing candidates only in direct response to a hiring need.

They do this by searching for and identifying candidates from their resumes, candidate records (ATS/CRM), and/or social network profiles (e.g. LinkedIn Recruiter) – candidates in their raw material form – and contacting them only when they have an opening to hire for.

JIT recruiting does not suffer from the waste issues associates with carrying an excessive WIP inventory of candidates that are in a perpetual holding pattern of “relationship maintenance.” This is because:
  • Resumes are not “in-process” inventory – candidates are not contacted until there is an actual need, which also means there is little-to-no over-processing
  • Overproduction does not (or at least should not) occur when the object is to recruit candidates for a specific position once the need has been identified
  • Defects are less likely to occur when a recruiter is sourcing and contacting candidates for an actual need rather than a projected/forecasted need
  • Only candidates that are contacted and submitted in consideration for a specific position are waiting (as opposed to traditional candidate pipelining in which all candidates that are being “kept warm” are waiting)

Push vs. Pull

Push

If you recall from Part 1 in this series, I identified traditional candidate pipelining as a “push” strategy – one in which batches of a candidates are sourced, contacted and screened, not in direct response to an actual/current customer need. These candidates are processed and “pushed” downstream (kept warm) whether there is a need for each candidate or not.

Push systems often result in the production of large inventories of product that require time and effort to maintain, and that perish or are never fully finished or sold. In recruiting, candidates “perish” when they are no longer available or interested, and they are not “fully finished” unless they are submitted to a hiring manager and interviewed, nor are they “sold” unless they are hired.

Essentially, traditional candidate pipelining that involves the building of an inventory of work-in-process candidates results in a large number of candidates that end up “sitting on the shelf” – most of whom “expire” without ever being fully processed or “bought” (hired). The vast majority of these candidates represent excess inventory that was not directly required for any current openings.

Pull

Just-In-Time is an ideal supply chain system which reduces WIP inventory costs and makes it easy for companies to react to specific customer demands with agility and speed – which is an excellent example of a “pull-based” system.

A pull-based strategy aims to respond to specific needs, not to anticipate them (e.g. a forecast). A fundamental principle of Lean is demand-based flow production. In this type of production setting, inventory is only pulled through each production center when it is needed to meet a customer’s order.

In Just-In-Time recruiting, recruiters only contact, screen and submit candidates in response to a client’s (internal or external) “order” – these processed candidates are pulled through the recruiting lifecycle based on actual demand.

Deli Analogy

A good example of a push-based system would be a deli that pre-makes their sandwiches every day. A deli with this business model would have to anticipate (forecast) the demand each day – by both total quantity and type of sandwiches. Customers are only able to choose from the sandwiches that have already been made – if you don’t like what they have available, you have to go somewhere else. For the deli, the pre-made sandwiches are WIP inventory, and any sandwiches that have been made and are not bought will eventually expire (due excessive waiting), can be considered as defects of the production system, and will be waste as a result of over-processing and overproduction.

A deli with a pull-based system would be something similar to Subway. They don’t pre-make sandwiches – everything is relatively custom made in a Just-In-Time manner based on each customer’s specific order. The only inventory they carry is raw material – the components that make up every possible combination available. There is essentially no work-in-process inventory, no over-processing, no overproduction, and very few defects (because each sandwich is made-to-order). As such, this is a very low-waste system because Subway is never left with any sandwiches that have been made but not sold. And customers are generally happy because they can get their sandwich they way they like it, with some degree of customization.

See where I’m going with this analogy? :-)

Yes – it is that simple.

Don’t resist applying sound and proven Lean/JIT supply chain principles to recruiting because people are not sandwiches (or any commodity or traditional “product”). Lean principles can be applied to ANY service or production process. It’s time to move your cheese.

All Pipelining is Not Created Equal

Many people have commented (here and here) on my first 2 posts in this series expressing that the ideal recruiting strategy would involve both JIT recruiting and candidate pipelining.

I am inclined to agree. However, there’s a catch.

Traditional candidate pipelining, in which sourcers and/or recruiters spend a lot of time finding, contacting, screening, and maintaining relationships with candidates for whom there is no current need, is highly wasteful.

I believe that to reduce waste (overproduction, over-processing, defects, waiting, and WIP inventory) and to provide more value to candidates and clients (internal or external), WIP candidate pipelines should be created as a byproduct of JIT recruiting.

In other words, any work-in-process candidate inventory should only be built as a result of contacting candidates for specific positions. Essentially, any candidate that is not available, interested, or the right match for the position being recruited for now becomes WIP inventory.

The critical distinction is the primary focus.

In a Lean/Just-In-Time recruiting model, recruiters have a primary focus of producing the exact candidates that a customer wants, when they want them, in the amount they want, in direct response to actual hiring needs. Recruiters should spend very little, if any, time focused solely on sourcing, contacting, and maintaining relationships with candidates for which there is no current need.

However, any candidate that is contacted for a specific opening that is not interested, currently available, or qualified can be entered into “relationship maintenance” mode – aka WIP inventory/your pipeline.

But should they be?

Provide Real Value to Your Customers

I believe traditional proactive candidate pipelining delivers very little value to the customers involved – candidates and clients alike.

I think this is mainly due to the fact that traditional candidate pipelining practices were developed primarily to aid recruiters in delivering candidates to hiring managers/clients in a timely fashion, as well as to provide greater insight into each candidate’s motivators which can facilitate closing and control. I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like it puts the candidates’ interests first.

I have heard all of the “benefits” recruiters claim that candidates supposedly gain as a result of being in regular contact with recruiters while they’re being “kept warm” – industry/market information, resume and interview advice, etc. It certainly sounds good coming from a recruiter.

However, I’ve spoken with many active, passive, and non-job seekers who have candidly told me that they feel that it is a waste of their time to be in regular contact with a number of recruiters who have nothing “real” to offer them. It’s not that industry/market intel and interview/career advice isn’t appreciated or that it doesn’t provide any value, but it’s not what most people (candidates, mind you – not recruiters themselves – they are a little biased) see as the ultimate value that recruiters provide.

Also, most people are busy, have a life, and already have plenty of friends – do you really think that all of these great candidates out there need a new best friend or have the time to maintain a “relationship” with multiple recruiters? Do you think they want to?

Yes, developing, building, and maintaining relationships with great candidates will always be the central pillar of effective recruiting. However, from the candidate’s point of view, what do you think is the ultimate value you provide as a recruiter?

Do you think it is being “kept warm” in relationship maintenance mode and getting industry and career advice they could just as easily get from a blog, or that they are already getting from another recruiter?

If you take an objective step back, I find it hard to believe that no one else doesn’t see that traditional candidate pipelining primarily serves to benefit the recruiter – not the candidate, nor the client/hiring manager.

Most recruiters contact and build relationships with candidates ahead of an actual hiring need in the hopes that when a position finally does open up, they can contact the candidates they’ve built a relationship with and submit them to their hiring manager in a timely fashion.

One might be able to argue that traditional candidate pipelining does deliver value to clients because it can aid (but does not guarantee) a recruiter in being able to produce candidates when a client or manager needs them. However, as I’ve detailed in this post, a Just-In-Time recruiting model can effectively render traditional proactive candidate pipelining unnecessary and obsolete as a method of delivering the right candidates at the right time, in the right amount to your clients.

In fact, JIT recruiting can provide more value to your clients in that you can spend less time pushing your pre-packaged candidate inventory and spend more time finding and recruiting the best candidates, rather than spending all of your time trying to maintain and re-qualify your WIP candidate inventory that will inevitably and regularly perish.

Some Tough Questions for You

I realize that last section may have rattled some people. I think I even hear faint cries of “blasphemy!”

Hey, what can I say? I am trying to get people to think, question their assumptions, question what they’ve been taught (the assumptions of others), question the very foundation of what most people believe is THE way to recruit. That’s what it takes to make progress and improve a process – to find a better way.

To that end, here are some questions I’d like you to answer:

  • Precisely WHY do you maintain relationships with candidates?
  • What is the ultimate value you provide to candidates? Your clients/hiring managers?
  • What are you paid to do?
  • How much time should a sourcer/recruiter spend maintaining relationships with pipelined candidates for whom they have no current needs?
  • What is the ideal level of candidate processing prior to actual need?
  • How often should you stay in touch with in-process candidates?
  • How many candidates can you realistically maintain a “relationship” with?
  • Do you honestly feel that you are providing maximum value to candidates that you “keep warm,” but ultimately never even get submitted to a hiring manager in consideration for an opening?

Part 4, Really?

When I started to write the first post in this series, I wasn’t even intending it to be a series!

Innocently enough, I thought I could bang all of this stuff out in one article. However, when I started outlining all of the content and even in rough draft form it started to approach 8000 words (this post alone is over 2900 words), I realized there was no way to realistically package the paradigm shift involved in the comparison of traditional candidate pipelining vs. JIT recruiting into one post.

With each week that I set out to write the final post in this series, I both want to and find it necessary to go into more detail to thoroughly explore and explain the issues involved. If you do some Internet research on the topic of Lean or JIT recruiting – you can find a number of results, but they’re most are fairly shallow and don’t go into much detail. So I’m doing my part and adding some deeper content for others to find.

I thought this would be the final post – however, I’ve realized that you deserve one more, one specifically dedicated to HOW to achieve a JIT recruiting model.

I’ll also address many of the excellent comments and questions I’ve received in response to Parts 1 and 2.

While you wait for Part 4, take a stab at answering those tough questions I asked above, and be sure to “step outside of the box” in an effort to leave your comfort zone.

Building Talent Pipelines and Just-In-Time Recruiting – Part 2

Posted by | Lean/JIT Recruiting, Talent Pipelines | 5 Comments

 

Lean, Just-In-Time Recruiting In Part 1 of this series, I explored and challenged the practice of traditional candidate pipelining.

Some people may have interpreted my thoughts on the subject to mean that I don’t believe in any form of proactively building candidate pipelines. That would be incorrect. Anyone that really knows me knows that I am not a black/white, either/or kind of guy.

What I am is the kind of guy that will tell you that anyone who says there is only 1 way to do something is ALWAYS wrong, because there is always more than 1 way to do anything. I’m also the kind of person who wants to find the BEST way of doing a thing – I am not satisfied to do things “the way they’ve always been done,” nor will I blindly accept what other experts tout as best practices.

There is always a better way.

The comments I received from Part 1 in the series were fantastic! They gave me significant insight into what many of the industry heavyweights think – and it’s obvious that traditional candidate pipelining is alive, highly valued, and practiced often.

At the end of Part 1, I mentioned that the ugly truth is that proactively pipelining candidates ahead of need has many intrinsic limitations and hidden costs that no one seems to want to think or talk about.

So let’s talk about them.

The Hidden Costs of Pipelining Candidates

No one seems to attach a value to all of the time and effort it takes to develop and maintain Work-in-process (WIP) candidate inventory – a pipeline of candidates that have been sourced, screened, evaluated, and “kept warm” through ongoing relationship management.

But don’t kid yourselves – there is a heavy cost associated with all of this work!

Building and maintaining a traditional pipeline of candidates requires quite a bit of time and effort. First you have to source well qualified candidates who closely match the forecasted/projected requirements – this often means a mix of phone sourcing, internet sourcing, social recruiting, and network/referral recruiting.

Then you need to screen and evaluate the potential candidates to verify that they are in fact good at what they do. After that, you’ll have to stay in regular contact with them to maintain a relationship and stay abreast of any changes in their situation and motivators.

Multiply this effort X 20, 50, 100+ candidates and simply the relationship management aspect of recruiting becomes the single largest time consuming aspect of pipelining candidates.

There must be some value being provided by all of this work being performed to proactively find, screen, and build and manage relationships with candidates for whom you don’t currently have a need, right?

From the comments I received on Part 1 in this series, I can tell many seasoned recruiting veterans certainly know the value that candidate pipelines generate for them.

However, the real question is what value is a recruiter providing to their customers – both candidate and client (hiring manager) – by all of this pipelining activity?

That question is trickier to answer than most people think. It’s actually a pretty deep question, and it can’t be answered by you. Value can only be determined by your customers – both candidates and clients. I’ll be dedicating a whole post to this concept in the near future.

Waste

I think that a large percentage of the time and effort associated with proactively building WIP candidate pipelines (candidates that have been found, screened/evaluated, and kept “warm”) is pure muda.

Muda is a Japanese term for an activity that is wasteful and doesn’t add value or is unproductive. One of the key steps in Lean production and the Toyota Production System is the “identification of which steps in a process add value and which do not. By classifying all the process activities into these two categories it is then possible to start actions for improving the former and eliminating the latter.”

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written about my theories of Lean Recruiting – I honestly worry that it’s not a topic most people are interested in reading about because it is definitely “outside of the box” of traditional recruiting. However, I feel that Lean production concepts (including JIT sourcing/recruiting) will be a big part of the future of recruiting and staffing.

“Lean production is a practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Basically, lean is centered around creating more value with less work.” Now can you see why I’m such a Lean nut?

And remember – we’re not talking about the value to YOU, we’re talking about the value to your customers – candidates and clients.

The 5 Deadly Wastes of Traditional Talent Pipelines

The activities associated with proactively building and maintaining work-in-process talent pipelines involve 5 of the 7 wastes identified by Lean/TPS: overproduction, inventory, defects, over-processing, and waiting.

Overproduction

This happens each time you engage more candidates than needed to deliver to your customer. Proactively pipelining candidates ahead of need almost always leads to overproduction. Chances are you’ve never looked at it this way. What kind of candidate experience comes from being an “overflow” candidate?

Inventory

A proactively built pipeline of WIP candidates is inventory and requires time and effort to maintain. Sitting in the “relationship maintenance” phase does not provide  a real value for the candidates or clients. What happens when the positions you pipelined candidates for never get approved or never become available? What happens when the people in your talent pipeline take other positions? No one is “permanently available” to interview and accept an offer for a new position.

Defects

According to Lean, a “defect” is something that does not conform to specifications or expectations.

I’m not suggesting that the people themselves are defects. However, candidates that are proactively sourced, contacted, screened, and with whom a relationship is maintained that do not ultimately match the actual hiring need are defects of the pipelining process. Defects arise whenever job specifications/requirements change from forecast, rendering pipelined candidates no longer qualified, or when candidates are no longer interested, available, or when their motivators change change away from your opportunity.

Forecasts are never perfect – they can’t be.  Positions and requirements change, and people don’t stay interested or available forever.

Over-processing

Over-processing occurs any time more work is done than what is required by the customer. Screening and building and maintaining relationships with candidates that will never be submitted to a client/manager can be seen as performing more work than necessary. Are your customers (candidates and clients) requiring you to maintain relationships with a large number of people who will likely no longer be available or interested or even qualified when you actually have a need?

Waiting

Whenever candidates are not being advanced through the recruiting and hiring process, they are waiting. In most traditional recruiting processes, a large part of a candidate’s life is spent waiting to be moved forward in the process. Maintaining relationships with candidates is not moving forward – it’s a holding pattern, which for many candidates, is permanent.

This is What I’ve Got vs. This is the Best Candidate

One of the biggest issues with building candidate pipelines/work-in-process candidate inventory is quite insidious.

What does a recruiter do when they’ve built a deep candidate pipeline and a specific hiring need finally becomes available? They will go to their candidate pipeline of course.

At first glance, this seems like the logical thing to do – they’ve spent all of this time and effort building their work-in-process candidate pipeline – so why wouldn’t they start there? However, when recruiters do this, what they’re essentially doing is going through their inventory – what they happen to have on hand – which they produced not in response to this specific and “real” need, but a more general forecasted need.

Does this sound like a process designed to produce the best candidate at the right time?

I’ve watched many recruiters push their inventory. In many cases, after sorting through their candidate pipeline and determining who is still available, interested, and who actually fits the opening(s) – they may have had some candidates to submit to a client/hiring manager. However, the probability that the “best” candidates in their pipelines were still available and interested was low.

The issue here is pushing candidates just because you have them, without asking the critical question of whether or not they are actually the best candidates you can find.

Your hiring managers would certainly prefer the latter.

Opportunity Cost

One of the opportunity costs of developing traditional candidate pipelines comes in the form of spending time and effort following up with candidates and checking to see if they are still available, interested and qualified rather than simply going out and finding the best candidates available.

When that position finally opens up for which you’ve been pipelining for – your first order of business is to make contact with everyone in your pipeline to see who is still available, who’s still interested, and who actually fits the job specifications. This can take a lot of time and effort – time and effort that could arguably be better spent simply going out and finding the best candidates you can, rather than checking your inventory.

And what happens when none of the best candidates in your pipeline are available, interested, or even fit your current hiring need?

Perhaps the reason why many recruiters seem to have too little time to find more and better candidates is because they’re spending so much time maintaining relationships with their candidate pipelines rather than trying to find the right (and/or the BEST!) people.

The Alternative to Work-In-Process Inventory

Now that we’ve taken a critical look at traditional pipelining – proactively building work-in-process (WIP) candidate inventory – let’s take a look at another way of viewing candidate inventory.

If you recall, work-in-process inventory is comprised of candidates that a recruiter stays in routine contact with, without a specific and current need. This is what many refer to as the relationship maintenance phase. It’s called “work-in-process” because they’ve been “processed” (sourced, contacted, and screened to some extent) and they also remain “in-process” as long as the recruiter maintains routine contact with them.

So could there be a form of candidate inventory that is not “in-process?”

Yes – I’m glad you asked!

Raw Material Inventory

I believe that resumes and/or candidate profiles stored in CRM, ATS and social databases (LinkedIn) that sourcers and recruiters have access to and have the ability to retrieve on-demand are essentially candidates in their “raw material” form.

A raw material is something that is acted upon or used by human labor to create some product. To paraphrase Merriam Webster’s definition, raw material is material that can be converted by processing into a new and useful product: broadly – something with a potential for improvement or development.

“Raw material” candidate inventories consist of readily accessible resumes and/or relatively detailed candidate data (ATS solutions, resume databases, LinkedIn, etc.). These are people who have been identified as potential matches for current and/or future hiring needs based on their candidate data, but no time or energy is spent in an effort to build and maintain a relationship with these potential candidates prior to actual need.

Now, before you go thinking that I am commoditizing people – I’m not.

Remember, the resumes/candidate/social media profiles are the raw material – NOT the people they represent.

So What’s the Alternative to Traditional Candidate Pipelining?

I know it’s not easy getting people to question “the way it’s always been done.” That’s why I’ve spent so much time thoroughly exposing some of the intrinsic issues associated with traditional candidate pipelining.

Now that I’ve shown you a different way to look at candidate inventory (WIP vs. raw material), in my next post I will explain Just-in-Time sourcing and recruiting, under what conditions it can be achieved, and why it’s superior to traditional candidate pipelining.

I’ll also reveal what I believe is the ideal method of pipelining candidates.

Yes, I know that it might come as a bit of a shock to hear that I do believe in building candidate pipelines, especially after the thrashing I’ve given to proactively pipelining candidates ahead of need. However, the method of pipelining I’ve used to be highly productive and to provide maximum value to both candidates and clients isn’t traditional pipelining. :-)

Speaking of value – In my next post I’m thinking of exploring what the true value is that recruiters provide candidates. Here’s a hint – it’s not pipelining. Because when you really get down to it, pipelining primarily helps YOU, not the candidate.

But more on that in the next part in the series. :-)