Sourcing Is Like Finding A Needle In A Haystack

Just like the Twilights’ sung in the 1960’s, “needle in a haystack, what did I say, needle in a haystack,” many recruiters today are searching in the same place yet expecting a different result. Now, who was the lead singer of the Twilights?!
The Challenge
Think of online data as the haystack, and candidates as needles. The haystack is getting bigger by the minute: the needles are getting buried deeper and deeper, and becoming harder to find. You may have gone through the haystack, but have you found all the needles? There is so much variation in data, so how do you make sure you haven’t missed any potential candidates during your search?
My Experience
[bctt tweet=”Always apply a systematic approach to your search.”]
Recently, I was with a client in the resources sector. They expressed their difficulties in not only identifying which haystack to search, but how they would identify the needles. Having conducted many sourcing workshops over my twenty years of recruiting, I have found that these questions come up on a regular basis.
So, what would you do to find the “Needles in the Haystack”?
Let me share my process.
First Have a Plan!
I can hear you say it now, “What plan?! I don’t have time to plan!” Right there is your first mistake. “Failing to plan is planning to fail” was a lesson share with me by the trainer who initially taught me how to recruit. How true this was, and how true this still is today.
Build Your Search Plan
When I build my search plan, I use a mind map or a whiteboard to map out my approach.
Below are some questions to ask yourself, as well as networks, hiring managers, and colleagues –

  1. Are they online, and what will they look like?
  2. If so, do they have a high or low online presence?
  3. What channels would they mostly hangout out on?
  4. Where should I focus my effort?
  5. What if they aren’t online, or only pop there head up occasionally, how can I capture them when they do?
The Next Step Is To Develop My Search Plan!
My search plan will highlight:

  • Job Titles
  • Things they DO not just SAY (descriptive words)
  • Technical Skills
  • Companies
  • Associations
  • Conferences
  • Qualifications
  • Locations

Now before I jump into my search, and start heading down that dirt road never to surface again, ask yourself this question –
[bctt tweet=”How many ways could a candidate express on their profile what you are searching for?”]
Easy to answer, right?! Wrong.
My previously mentioned client from the resources sector was searching for HSE Specialists. HSE specialists have a critical job ensuring safety at a mine site, and are a number 1 priority for the organisation. No HSE Specialists, no mines!
HSE Specialists are online, or at least some of them will be. That being said, the best place to start is with your internal database, and then focus on LinkedIn. With this client, we started to populate our search plan by eliciting information from profiles, whilst asking the question “How many ways could a candidate express what we are searching for?” You need to start somewhere. You have no control how the candidates will categorise their information on the internet, so it is imperative to cover as many categories as possible.
We started with Job Titles
“hse advisor” OR “hse officer”
Keywords (phrases, technical terms, skills, expertise, education)
(“technical guidance” OR “project safety”) (controls OR procedures) (“cert iv” OR “certificate iv”)
Perth, WA
This systematic approach to your search is simple, but not always practiced. Our search achieved some great results, but I was sure there were many potential needles buried within the haystack. I asked myself, how can I find more needles?
Should we be satisfied with the results?
Most would be happy with this search, but what if I had only found the HSE Specialists every other organisation was finding? I wanted to find more needles in the haystack! To do so, we expanded upon our two job titles to more job titles, combined with phrases as well as skills and expertise. Additionally, we looked at ideal profiles that were internal and external to this organisation. This enabled us to quickly elicit unique information that may be found on profiles we were yet to find.
My advice to you is to constantly ask yourself, “How many ways could a candidate express what you are searching for?”
How many job titles?
So how many job titles do you think I elicited from profiles that performing this role now, or did in the past? Maybe 8? How about 14? Nope, not even close! 31!  Yes 31 different ways a HSE Specialist could express their job title.
I have listed all 31 below –
HSE advisors” OR “HSE Advisor” OR “HSE superintendent” OR “HSE manager” OR “Project HSE Manager” OR “HSEQ Manager” OR “HSE consultant” OR “Rig HSE Advisor” OR “Health and Safety Advisor” OR “Senior HSE Advisor” OR “Lead HSE Specialist” OR “safety advisor” OR “HSE Officer” OR “Safety Co-ordinator” OR ” safety coordinator” OR “Deputy HSE Manager” OR “OH&S & ERT Coordinator” OR “Health & Safety Coach” OR “Senior Safety Advisor” OR “project hse advisor” OR “ES&H Advisor” OR “HSSE Manager” OR “hsse advisor” OR “Regional HSE Manager” OR “SNR HSE Advisor” OR “H&S Advisor” OR “Offshore HSE Advisor” OR “OHSE advisor” OR “HSSE Lead” OR “Corporate Safety Advisor” OR “HSE Professional”
Granted, this may be a tad extreme, but it is competitive out there! So, if you want to find a HSE Specialist, this is the systematic approach you need to apply.
[bctt tweet=”We all have access to the tools, and can search the data. What counts is your application to the search!”]
Hence I searched for 31 job titles, whereas most will search for 2 or 3. Just try it!
So maybe when you are searching for your next HSE Specialist, apply this process. Identify at least 7 or 8 different job titles, coupled with the other criteria we talked about above, and see what different results you get!
Now who was that lead singer
“Needle in a haystack what can I say” just in case you are wondering – Glenn Shorrock.
Can’t get this bloody song out my head now!
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