Yesterday I was at a conference on recruiting the passive job seeker. The contemporary theory is that people not actually seeking a job are what recruiters should be looking for. Why? A lot of recruiters and managers believe that non-job seekers are the best potential employees. They have jobs and must, therefore, be successful. The logic here is seriously flawed, and I can show countless examples of where that is not true, but it is a common opinion. Another reason, which makes more sense, is that there aren’t enough active job seekers for the hard to fill technical jobs that exist, and that a good recruiter has to go after those who are not really looking or even thinking about moving. If this is the case, how does a recruiter go about locating these happily employed people? Most of these people have never attended a job fair, do not log onto job boards, do not attend conferences, or pass out business cards to people who would funnel them to recruiters. They are isolated and mostly unknown. There seem to be two main methods for finding them, both complimentary to each other. The first method is to improve the branding and public awareness of your company. This is done through more powerful web sites and the use of tools that entice a person who is browsing your web site to explore the employment section. The second method is to have an aggressive and targeted sourcing effort by recruiters that are trained to use the tools of the Internet. These include having recruiters well versed in using email, simple searching, advanced and sophisticated search techniques as well as the use of chat rooms. Other techniques involve “flipping” to locate potential candidates from corporate email lists or internal web pages that an employee might construct in their company, and the combing of online articles and references to people with particular skills. The question people asked all day was who should be doing these searches. Should the recruiters be learning search skills or are these specialty skills to be practiced by people with advanced training and experience? The answer, like so many others, depends. It depends on how big and how sophisticated your recruiting function is. It depends on how you are organized and where you expect recruiters to spend their time. And it depends on the volume of search you have to do. But, the skills needed to be a successful ?eSearcher? are quite different than those needed to be a recruiter. The two have as much in common as the research librarian and the writer – both complement one another but rarely are the two skills found in the same person. ?eSearch? is a highly skilled process and requires training and experience to be expert. Most recruiters have neither the technical skill to become good at it, nor the personality to spend that kind of time in front of the computer. I see a new job function emerging that I call ?eSearch.? It will attract the same kinds of people that are attracted to research and detective work, and for the most part, these people will not be actively recruiting. There are five competencies that these ?eSearchers? will have:
- Willingness to spend virtually an entire day on the computer poking around obscure corners of the net, seeking ways to locate and communicate with potential candidates.
- Thorough understanding of Internet search tools and how to use different tools for different searches.
- A detective mentality – able to ferret out obscure information.
- Skills at helping recruiters more clearly define what they are seeking. A search is only as good as its input. This role of partnering with recruiters and managers to define the job and create the parameters for search will be increasingly important.
- Understanding of advertising and of what motivates people to check out the employment section of a corporate web site. These eSearchers will have to consult with webmasters and advertising agencies to craft messages that appeal to passive job seekers.
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And, whether or not these people work for your company is really unimportant. Because there are not many firms doing this yet, most companies have tried to train their recruiters to become eSearchers with a very mixed set of results. From what I have heard, most have had mediocre success. Good recruiters are not usually good eSearchers. My recommendation is to focus your recruiters on interacting with managers, defining needs, and on interviewing and closing candidates. To expect a skilled recruiter to learn eSearch skills is probably unrealistic and unproductive. Hire some outside agencies that can focus on your needs and run searches for you, invest in technology such as intelligent web agents to help you find people, and train one or two people to be expert searchers. I believe that the eSearcher will be a rapidly growing, very popular, and important profession over the next five years. Just don’t expect every recruiter to learn these skills.