Tech Trends Will Elevate Sourcing in 2017

By Roy Maurer Feb 24, 2017

Data-driven decisions. Candidate personas. Sourcing on-demand? These are some of the trends sourcers can expect to face in 2017. SHRM Online asked some of the leading sourcers in the industry to comment on how their roles and responsibilities will likely be changing in response to this year's trends in talent acquisition strategy and technology.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to HR Technology]

What Part Will Data Play in Sourcers' Work?

Sourcing is increasingly becoming more data-driven, and more employers are looking to automation and predictive analytics to find candidates, said Angela Bortolussi, a partner at Recruiting Social, a social recruiting firm based in Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "This is one trend that is here to stay," she said. "This year, rather than dismissing data as another recruitment fad, it's something that many of us have learned to appreciate."

Bortolussi explained that she's been using data to create talent personas, help build stronger queries for candidate searches and better assess whether a candidate will fit a role's skill set.

"Data has always been a big part of sourcing and recruiting," said Arron Daniels, a Houston-based senior recruiting sourcer at retail store chain H-E-B. Harnessing it is more important in today's increasingly competitive talent market. "Many companies are using data to identify supply and demand and hiring trends" and to enhance metrics, he added.

Maisha Cannon, a talent strategist at GitHub, an open-source software hosting service in San Francisco, said data-driven sourcing and recruitment is an empowering tool "to speak the language of our business partners who have been making data-driven decisions for some time." But she and Ronnie Bratcher, a senior technical recruiter and sourcer based in Atlanta, said data can't be the only way sourcers make decisions.

"We can use data to improve the hiring process, but we still have to keep the human touch in play and not depend totally on the data provided to make that hire," he said.

Having the data is useless unless someone can define what the numbers mean for their recruiting organization, Daniels said. "Data doesn't make the decisions, it just tells a story." 

How Will Sourcers Serve as Brand Ambassadors?

Improving the candidate experience will be a continuing trend this year, experts agree.

"Somewhere in the world of spray and pray and a fear of the phone, we lost our ability to provide a superior candidate experience," said Shannon Pritchett, a veteran sourcer and the editor of SourceCon website, a publication of ERE Media, a recruitment media company. Key to providing that superior experience is personalizing how sourcers interact with candidates. "Personalization is imperative to continue the long-standing value to our candidates and hiring managers." 

Bortolussi sees more of a focus in 2017 on the practice of candidate journey mapping—a visualization of each step of the candidate experience through the recruitment process.

"Candidate journey mapping can help you visualize what it's like to go through your hiring process and what candidates are experiencing at each stage," she said. "Sourcers are integral in the discovery stage, how they attract and interact with candidates when they first connect."

She said that sourcers will be key in identifying, engaging and preparing people for their first meeting with a company. "That 'getting to know you' phase is critical, especially for sourced candidates. Having a sourcer serve as an ambassador of the brand is impactful leading up to the first official onsite interview."

Daniels added that effective recruiters and sourcers can also have an impact on a candidate's career trajectory by establishing interview questions in a pre-screen that uncovers career goals and aspirations that fit in with the growth plans of the company. 

Are Candidate Personas the Right Tool?

Candidate personas—broad composite profiles used to outline the most effective messaging and channels for reaching specific candidate types—have been used in marketing for years.

But there are concerns with using the practice in talent acquisition, such as a tendency to discount diverse candidates in favor of sticking strictly to the persona's parameters, Cannon said.

And Bratcher doesn't think the technology is yet there to use effectively, anyway. "I think we are still in the infancy of using personas from a technology perspective," he said. "There are tools that create these personas at the sourcing stage level before we even engage the candidate. Has it been proven it works? I doubt it. It is a tedious process and balancing the social perspective or online personality of a person without engaging to solidify those values can be walking a fine line of missing out on a great hire."

Will Gig Hiring Lead to On-Demand Sourcing?

On-demand sourcing and recruiting services are sometimes used as a solution for unanticipated hiring spikes, but will the practice grow as employers embrace a workforce composition model that includes more gig and contract workers?

Sourcers don't buy it. "On-demand sourcing? How's that for an oxymoron?" Cannon said. "Video can be delivered on demand. But a high-potential candidate on demand? I think not."

Sourcing is not immediate, agreed Bratcher. The sourcing model takes time to provide a solution and strategy, he added.

"The idea that sourcing can be delivered on demand feeds a growing misconception that sourcing is magic," Cannon said. "Talent sourcing involves identification, engagement and the initial assessment of potential candidates. Sourcing done well also requires a solid understanding of the industry, role responsibilities, manager expectations and style, team strengths and weaknesses, and challenges. It's naive to think that all of that can be determined from skimming a job description and a quick sync with a hiring manager. To use a concept from my retail recruiting days, sourcing is more custom-made than ready-to-wear."

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