The value of a resume database

How do you value a database? I say that the value of a database lies not in the information contained within, but in the ability of a user to extract out precisely and completely what the user needs.

When talking about the value of a company’s internal candidate database or the online job board resume databases, we must always be aware that their value is more accurately quantified by the user’s ability to find and retrieve any and all candidates who are appropriately qualified for their needs.

There are 3 major contributing factors as to why most sourcers and recruiters inaccurately value the resume databases they have access to.  #1 Talent Mining capability, #2 The search interface/engine, and #3 Believing the hype that the job boards only have desperate, active or poor quality candidates.

#1 Talent Mining Capability

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and train many recruiters who are responsible for sourcing and who come from a variety of corporate (large and small) and agency (contract and executive search) environments, and I continue to be struck by the fact when they first come to my training, the vast majority of them are not highly proficient at Talent Mining. In fact, most are not proficient at all, and many come from environments where they had access to large internal resume databases as well as online job board databases.

There’s no escaping the fact that when you try to use something and you can’t get it to do what you want, there’s a tendency to blame it on the thing you’re trying to use instead of yourself. There’s also the tendency to simply get frustrated and assume it’s no good because you don’t get the results you want or expect. However – not all searches are created equal, and in most cases, the reason why sourcers and recruiters don’t get the results they want is due to user error, or at the very least, unsophisticated usage. If you can’t find it – it doesn’t mean it’s not in there. 

It’s kind of like deep sea fishing – you can go out for 4 hours and not catch a single fish – but just because you didn’t catch any fish, it doesn’t mean there aren’t fish in the ocean. The same goes for resume databases.

#2 The database’s search interface

There are few Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that have resume databases that support full Boolean logic (free text or structured field) searching, and fewer still support extended Boolean. Without the ability to create highly configurable, precise and specific Boolean queries, a user is limited to largely non-specific and imprecise results. In fact, with simple and unsophisticated Boolean searching, a user simply cannot retrieve all appropriately qualified, let alone the best qualified candidates available in the database. This is true whether the user is aware if this or not. 

All of the major job board databases support full Boolean, although a while ago Dice made a change to how they process the asterisk (*) and it’s never functioned the same way since. Supporting full Boolean logic is great – but there are many sourcers and recruiters who are not capable of fully harnessing its power – so I would refer you to factor #1 above.

Monster is the only major job board to my knowledge that supports any extended Boolean functionality (kudos to Monster!) – but it’s limited to non-configurable proximity searching in the form of the NEAR operator. Hey, I’m not complaining – I’ll take any extended Boolean I can get. Some people aren’t even aware that Monster supports the NEAR operator, and most people do not know exactly how powerful this Boolean operator actually is – I’ll be writing a post in the near (pun intended) future focusing on the NEAR operator and all of the cool things you can accomplish with it. CRAZY stuff. You’ll have to see it to believe it.

#3 Believing the hype that the job boards only have desperate, active or poor quality candidates

There is plenty of negative hype floating around about how the quality of the candidates on the job boards is declining, or simply has never been good – and a good amount of it is comes from staffing industry thought leaders. I’m not really sure where people get this opinion – I strongly suspect most of it comes from  anecdotal evidence or hearsay. However, sound statistical laws and theories (and coincidentally, my personal experience) support the reality that there are plenty of high quality candidates on the job boards – read this post to learn more. I think the real issue at hand is that most people run basic and unsophisticated Boolean searches which do not enable them to find the best, let alone all of the qualified candidates available in the database they are searching. Read this post on Hidden Talent Pools to learn more.

The next time you hear someone (or yourself!) comment on how poor a particular source of candidates is, please take a second to think – it may not actually be the source itself, but the user’s ability to extract out exactly what they are looking for, or the search interface of the source. And I’ll say it again – just because you don’t find what you’re looking for, it does NOT necessarily mean it’s not in there. The user simply may not have the ability, or the capability (enabled by the search interface) to find them.