Real Recruiting: Talent Identification AND Acquisition

As you might be able to tell from the name of my blog, I’m passionate about leveraging information systems for finding candidates. Unless you’re running 1 word or title-only queries, you can’t search the Internet, LinkedIn, Twitter, your ATS/CRM, or a job board resume database without using at least the most basic Boolean logic.

When I post links to my search-focused articles in various LinkedIn groups, I often get comments and responses expressing the sentiment that using various sites and technologies to search for candidates isn’t “real recruiting.” I’m always a little saddened and frustrated to see responses like this, because it reflects the fact that there are plenty of people in the recruiting and staffing industry that just don’t “get it.”

Hysteron Proteron

To say that “real recruiting” lies only in the aspects of establishing relationships with and gaining the interest of, selling to, and consultatively closing “passive” candidates is preposterous, and in most cases – self serving.

You can be the best relationship builder, interest generator, objection overcomer, opportunity seller, and candidate closer in the universe, but you won’t achieve a single hire/placement until you find the right person to build a relationship with and “close.”

Bottom line – you cannot recruit someone you haven’t found in the first place (that’s where the hysteron proteron part comes in). In other words, that would be like putting the cart before the horse. However, it’s worth pointing out that even the worst “recruiter” in the world, with horrible closing and consulting skills, could get a hire if they found the right person at the right time.

Let that one sink in deeply before reading further. It’s important.

Talent Identification AND Acquisition

The recruiting life cycle includes both sourcing (talent identification) and recruiting (talent acquisition). You can’t hire someone you haven’t identified/found. If anyone reading this article has actually accomplished this feat – please let me know.

While I could be politically correct and make some people feel comfortable by saying that the recruiting life cycle is 50% talent identification and 50% talent acquisition, I won’t. I have to be true to what I know from being in the trenches of the recruiting and staffing industry for a little over 12 years (yet I will be the first to tell you that years of experience is meaningless – you can master the craft of recruiting in less than 2).

Because you can’t close and hire someone you haven’t found, I’d have to say that the talent identification piece of the recruiting lifecycle puzzle is actually bigger than what most people consider to be the “real” part of recruiting – building relationships, overcoming objections, selling and closing. It’s certainly more critical, because in reality, talent acquisition is DEPENDENT upon talent identification.

The Match

Let’s not forget that a significant and highly critical portion of the recruiting lifecycle is actually screening, evaluating, matching and selecting potential candidates. Even if you can find candidates to establish relationships with and uncover and address their career “wounds,” you won’t achieve any hires if you can’t accurately and effectively screen, evaluate and match candidates based on their skills, experience, capabilities, and personality to the positions you’re recruiting for.

And before you can effectively screen and evaluate candidates, you have to first have a deep understanding of the position (and department, project, manager, etc.) you’re hiring for.  Good luck performing “real recruiting” on positions to don’t fully understand with candidates you can’t truly assess and evaluate.

“Real Recruiting” is Actually Quite Easy

Although many proclaim that building relationships with passive job seekers, understanding the needs and desires of potential candidates, and consultatively selling and closing is the myserious and hard-to-learn “art” of recruiting – I don’t buy it. I’ve never found the “art” of recruiting to be difficult or challenging.

I’ve called plenty of candidates “out of the blue,” with no indication as to what their job search status was – and they had no idea who I was, how I found them, or why I was calling. Talking with potential candidates to discover what’s happening with them, what’s important to them, what they would ideally like to be doing, and matching them with opportunities that closely align with their ideal employment scenario has never been the challenge for me – and I don’t think I’m special or unique in this regard.

If you’re a recruiter and you find talking to and establishing a rapport with people difficult, or if you have a hard time finding out what’s important to people in their career and assisting them with making sound decisions to advance themselves professionally – I’d advise you to make a career change.

Oh…the irony.

E-Sourcing Only SEEMS Easy

Finding and talking with and relating to people isn’t difficult. Finding the right people to talk to has and will always be the real challenge. As I’ve said before – the proverbial haystack is getting larger, exacerbating the issue. Perhaps for this reason alone, sourcing isn’t dead and will never die.

Many of the people who respond to my articles who believe that e-sourcing isn’t a part of “real recruiting” often say that running searches to find people is easy, and that anyone can do it. I agree – running simple and imprecise searches on the Internet, LinkedIn, an ATS/CRM, Monster, etc., is actually quite easy. In fact, deceptively simple.

However, just because you CAN do something, it doesn’t mean you’re any good at it. I can cook, but I’m certainly not a chef. It’s also important to point out that simply having access to something (e.g., the Internet, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) does not imply any level of expertise.

Ever step on a golf course?

Bottom line – finding people is easy. Finding the right people is not.

Illusory Competance

Unfortunately, many people are in a state of ignorant bliss when it comes to their sourcing skills. I believe one of the major contributors to this phenomenon is the fact that when you search a site or a database, it’s impossible to see the candidates your search didn’t find. Sadly, to most sourcers and recruiters – anyone not retrieved by their searches is assumed to simply not exist. The fact that most people aren’t even aware of this is the crux of the issue.

Also at work here is that most people don’t have any basis of comparison when it comes to running searches on social networking sites, the Internet, and resume databases to find people. That’s similar to someone believing they’re pretty good at golf, yet they’ve never seen anyone else, let alone a top professional, play the game.

Technology is Ever-Changing

The core aspects and best practices of what many believe to be the “real” part of the recruiting life cycle haven’t really changed or evolved over time. Essentially – what worked well 20 years ago will still work beautifully today. And that’s a good thing!

However, in just the past 5 years we’ve seen advances in Internet search techniques, highly evolved ATS/CRM applications become available, the rise of social media and social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and countless niche job board resume databases spring up. It seems that a new way to find people electronically springs up almost daily.

With each passing moment, more data becomes available for more people somewhere – whether it be a social media profile, a resume submitted to a company, a Tweet, a blog, a press release, etc. While you can not DIRECTLY find everyone online or in a database somewhere today – with each passing day, you can find more and more people through sourcing. And you actually CAN indirectly find anyone electronically – but that’s a whole ‘nother article.

Unlike relationship building and consultative selling, technology will continue to rapidly change and evolve, requiring those in the recruiting industry to adapt to and learn how to effectively leverage these sources of talent. Anyone failing to do so will be at a competitive disadvantage, whether they are aware of it or not.

The Secret

I’m going to let you in on a little secret I discovered only a few months into my recruiting career. If you can find the right people, there really isn’t much heavy lifting required in the realm of so-called “real recruiting.” Yes, even for the most “passive” of candidates.

The recruiting life cycle will always involve establishing a rapport with potential candidates, building relationships, gaining an understanding of what’s important to candidates, and consultatively selling and closing candidates. However – when you are able to find the right person at the right time, by design, you will find you don’t really have to “sell” the opportunity or “close” the candidate. The most satisfying “closes” of my career were actually the ones that “closed” themselves.

In fact, I believe that some people that have to rely heavily on their “real recruiting” skills of closing and selling do so out of necessity – because they lack the ability to find the right person at the right time. If you can’t find a round peg for a round hole, perhaps shaving away the corners of a square peg will facilitate a fit. However, I’ll happily continue to focus my efforts and expertise on finding the round peg in the first place.


“Real” recruiting involves the entire recruiting life cycle: sourcing (aka talent identification), establishing rapport, building relationships, gaining the interest of and uncovering the needs and motivations of potential candidates, candidate screening, matching and selection, as well as consultatively selling and closing to result in hires (aka talent acquisition).

No single step of the recruiting life cycle is any more “real” than another. However, due to the simple fact that you cannot recruit people you can’t find in the first place, talent identification is the most critical step of the recruiting life cycle.

Ideally, one should strive to excel at every aspect of the recruiting life cycle. If your relationship building and consultative selling and closing skills are already well-honed, mastering the critical first step of the recruiting life cycle enables you to find more of the right people more quickly, allowing you to increase your quantity of hires while maintaining, if not improving the quality of your hires.