Fishing in a Small Pond

Krista Bradford recently wrote a timely and provocative article here on ERE about LinkedIn.

One of ERE’s long-time members, Ted Moore, in a comment to that article, stated, “If you rely heavily on LinkedIn and similar tools to connect with those your clients can easily find and recruit on their own, at least as they perceive it (and what else matters?), I look forward to competing with you.

I know Ted and I also know he means what he says.

I also know as time marches on those who think LinkedIn is sourcing are eventually going to pay a heavy price for their growing addictions.

In my “Help Me Help You” document that I send to all my new customers requesting telephone names sourcing, there is a paragraph that instructs the customer to provide me:

— Any names you might already have — this does two things: 1) avoids me duplicating your efforts and 2) gets me in to the targets faster. Be sure to include their titles and any contact info you have on them — their titles help me understand how close I am to the target and what these folks may be called at the respective companies and their contact info gives me clues as to how to get inside their organizations.

More and more we have the LinkedIn discussion.

THEM: Do you use LinkedIn?

ME: Not much.

THEM: We’ve already done LinkedIn.

ME: Silence.

THEM: We can’t find anything that works.

ME: Silence.

THEM: That’s why we’re calling you.

Me: Silence.

THEM: I’ve read your articles. Do you really think the majority of candidates are not on LinkedIn?

ME: Absolutely.

THEM: I think I believe you. I’ll be frank; I didn’t believe it at first.

ME: Silence.

THEM: You once wrote maybe 3% were findable online (see comments here). Do you still think that percentage is accurate?

ME: Absolutely.

THEM: That’s hard to believe with 135 million members!

ME: Silence.

THEM: I recently looked at the numbers — that’s how I came across one of your articles.

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ME: Silence.

THEM: About 35% of the site’s members are American. We do all of our recruiting here in the States.

ME: Silence.

THEM: I’ve recently seen numbers that estimate only about 10-15% of LinkedIn profiles are in the active range.

ME: Do the math.

THEM: That would mean only about 4 to 7 million Americans have profiles that mean much of anything on LinkedIn.

ME: There are about 150 million workers in America. I’ve seen the number pegged closer to 200 million recently.

THEM: What do you need to get started?

What I haven’t included here is the question some ask: “What if the names you send me are on LinkedIn?

ME: Depending on the space we’re working, a small percentage may be. If it’s recruiters you want, chances are most of them will be and you don’t need me. Have at it. But if it’s Uranium Geologists you want, I guarantee the companies you desire won’t have many of their GeoScientists listed. But let’s do this. You do LinkedIn first. Please do it first. Send me the names of people you find. I won’t send you them. How’s that for fair?

THEM: I don’t have time.

ME: Silence.

THEM: So I suppose if they do turn up on LinkedIn that’ll be up to us to swallow.

ME: Silence.

THEM: That’s fair. What do you need to get started?

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


36 Comments on “Fishing in a Small Pond

  1. Maureen, phone sourcing has a real future problem: a lot of people don’t/won’t have office phones anymore, just like they dont have home phones anymore.

    I gave up my phone extension years ago and I dont miss it. With unified messaging and cell phones, you are going to voice connect with people by user name in the future, which is another ball of wax…if you want me, send me an email or call my gatekeeper, but I dont have a device to “pick up” anymore that is seperate from my online identity….

  2. Im not really understanding what The Beadle said. If you work for a company and the company has a phone the person who answers that phone has your phone number whatever kind of phone it is.

    Maureen knows that sales reps who are on the road a lot often leave their cell numbers on their regular voicemails.

    Case closed.

  3. Great points to ponder, Maureen. As I am responding to your article, I have one candidate sitting onsite today for a face to face, who I found on LinkedIn. With that being said, I think it is important to use ALL avenues within your scope of knowledge to source candidates. You do great work, you are the best at phone sourcing and I can only wish my skills were as good as yours. With the economy the way it is, and all the future predictions about where sourcing and recruiting are going, and the technology that will be available or not available – there will never be one perfect way to source candidates.

  4. Animal, when you retire your rotary landline (is that what you use to weekly scream weakly into the Internet?) you might replace it with a unified system.

    The case is most open Animal- there simply will not be a “number” to find you beyond your usual online identity, even if the gatekeeper will pass you. Getting someone’s mobile phone number is a higher trust deal, and many people simply will not using phone extensions anymore.

    Voice access to me is valuable, and technology will reflect that value.

    A lot of execs I know (esp. international) are mobile only/unified messaging already. To get em on the blower, you need to Skype them. Would that be phone sourcing?

  5. Beadle if U want to call into the Recruiting Animal Show next Wed or sometime thereafter to argue your point feel free. It is so absurd as to be incomprehensible. Maureen uses landline too bTw

  6. First of all, Ted Moore is absolutely correct in his statement. Absolutely no contest as far as competing

    Second, Maureen once again shows us that her insights and her experience make her a valuable addition to this community.

    I look forward to more of her work in 1012.

  7. P.S. If we are discussing using landlines here – I use one too, and will continue to do so as long as I source and recruit!

  8. Animal next week interferes with sunning my bloated self by the pool, but I’d love to come on sometime soon to discuss the “Representativeness Heuristic”, which is likely why you find the obvious future absurd, and why I dont have an office phone.

    I know your audience and hangers-on would enjoy that kind of egghead topic, but can you take it?

  9. Loved your article Maureen. There are pluses and minuses to every method. Yes, the phone situation is changing somewhat, which means the phone sourcer must also change and adapt. For example, I noticed someone asked if Skype would be considered a phone and yes, it would be.

    As for LinkedIn, yes LinkedIn has been overplayed–this means a lot when recruiting. A lot depends on how many connections one has and who they are connected with on LinkedIn. Sometimes LinkedIn just gets way too busy and can be a time waster/distractor from one’s main target candidate.

    Of course different positions mean different or combined methods of recruiting because different means of communication will be used.

  10. @ Maureen: Thanks, Mighty Mo.

    @ Martin S: I’d like to talk with you more about heuristics and recruiting off-column. 415.672.7326

    @ Everybody: I think we may be discussing the wrong question. It’s not: “How/where will we find potential candidates?” but “Who will find potential candidates?” IMHO, for the vast majority of potential candidates that need to be found and contacted- pay the $6.25/hr folks such as I often use to do basic internet, phone, and major resume-board sourcing (on their own board licenses). If the potential candidates are the “I don’t want to be found” type such as the Uranium Geologists Maureen mentioned, use her and other world-class folks like Irina, Glenn, etc., and pay them $40+/name. It’s well worth the cost. Either way (unless you’re really broke or you’re a world-class sourcer yourself), DON’T DO IT YOURSELF.



  11. I just got off a call with Ken Peck, CEO of BlackDog Recruiting Software (Gopher) who observes that the software developers he uses don’t have profiles on LinkedIn. They’re so good they do not need and do not want to go there. Peck contends there is a subterranean pool of talent that choses to frequent social networks in a big way. In the case of his developers, it may be because they know the many frightening things that can happen to all our profile data.

    I guess where I go with LinkedIn is that if it works for you as your sole recruiting solution, great. If you’re feeling the pain, however, you need to figure out why you’re hurting and it may be you’re fishing in too small a pond, as Maureen so wisely points out. Every day, Maureen is calling in and mapping companies person-by-person. In doing so, she knows better than most who’s on LinkedIn and who is not. And guess what? If you care about recruiting the best, you need to get subterranean to uncover game changing talent that prefer to stay on the down-low.

    Now that the holiday season is upon us, another analogy springs to mind. It reminds me of a child-like belief in Santa (LinkedIn). He’s not such a bad guy. He rocks red suits and that beard thing he’s got going on is quite the signature look. But now that we’re all grown up, do we really need to continue to crawl up into Santa’s lap to whisper into his ear a list of the presents we want him to bring (qualified candidates) if we stay very, very good? I don’t know about you, but I find that a little creepy. Sure, invite Santa to your family gathering (recruiting vendor list) and offer him milk and cookies. He’s a nice guy But (warning: make sure no kids are reading this . . .), that magical-reindeer-sleigh-riding-awesome-present-delivery-in-just-a-day-dramatic-exit-flying-up-the-chimney thing? That’s actually Mom and Dad (recruiters and sourcers).

  12. While I do agree in parts that LinkedIn is getting over populated with recruiting services which in turn may turn away individuals to join or even for those that want no part of it, I think it is still a relevant and great tool to use.

    It sounds like the client didn’t do a good job at putting together a recruiting plan to know where the best source of candidate for them may come from.

  13. I woke up in the night regretting the condescending tone I took with the Animal on this thread. To be sure, his hangers-on are a fun group and I meant no offense to THEM.

    Something to do with the passing of Chistopher Hitchens? Maybe….ones’s own mind is an unknowable universe…

    My word for 2012: humble. Good till Jan 2, for sure !

  14. Hey Beadle, you make make your last minute snivelling apologies to Santa and The Elves but The Recruiting Animal and Crew do not need your pity.

    Case closed.

  15. In seconds I just found 300 uranium geologists on LinkedIn. The real value recruiters bring is getting them to interview based on job specifications. What other pond can I use to find 300 geologist in seconds? To your point I can find 300,000 recruiters in seconds which can be overwhelming.

    To say subterranean talent outside of LinkedIn is preposterous. There are a few countries where LinkedIn is just emerging but in the US I would be a little concerned if a Tech person is not on LinkedIn.

    I know an FBI agent on LinkedIn. If you are worried about being stealth; I would be even more inclined to get an extensive background check.

    To Martin’s point what ever type of phone people are picking up less in 2012 and this trend will probably continue.

  16. Robert –

    To your point I know an Accountant, a Marketing Analyst, a Director of Supply Chain, a CFO, a Sales Rep, etc, etc. – all on LinkedIn. What I’m trying to convey (and what Maureen conveys on a consistent basis) is that while you’ll find a a snapshot of what exists out there, not everybody is on LinkedIn. You’re not going to find ALL of the talent available, just using technology-based sourcing tools.

    Much like Maureen, I suggest to my clients that they not only use LinkedIn but other online sourcing techniques to find talent for their organization. There are only so many that can be found online – and all of the recruiters are contacting the same candidates.

    Phone Research is a great way to complete the sourcing puzzle. All companies should use all of the sourcing tools that are available to them – phone research, all technology-based sourcing, 3rd party search – to find the best talent for their organization. That’s the ultimate goal and there are many different paths that will lead you there….phone research being one of them.

  17. @ Grant: well said.
    I believe there’s a simple “Rule of Thumb”-
    If the sourcing/recruiting work you need done doesn’t require $40+/name, $50+/hr, or 30-35% fees, then you can do it for $6.25/hr or less, and will probably lose out economically if you don’t do it for that rate. Work that costs in between that range is *likely to be over-priced low-level work, or under-quality high-level work.


    Keith “Wants Folks to Compete/Charge at the High Level, Not the Low Level” Halperin

    * However, in tough times, people have to do what they need to do to get business, and sometimes that includes cutting their rates considerably.

  18. Who was apologizing? I merely regretted that my tone did not reflect well on my wonderful self and your well-meaning [if terribly misled] crew.

    It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”

    -P. G. Wodehouse

  19. What I think people are saying is that as long as you have a method for someone to “call” you, there will be a place for sourcing. It may be video chat in the future ala Captain Picard, but there will be a method and a way.

    And I think your Unified Messaging concept is slightly out of whack. It’s “Messaging” meaning if someone can’t reach you, it allows you to access your “message” anywhere you are (in your inbox, on your cellphone, etc). Now if you can operate with NOONE ever able to be “calling” you on a phone with an immediate response than I congratulate you, you have reach virtual nirvana and must be someone HIGHLY important; however, the rest of us have people we report to, and I don’t know about you, but when my boss calls, I better have a freaking number he can call me on.

    And if that number exists, I have NO DOUBT Maureen can find it.

  20. Robert – to answer your “In seconds I just found 300 uranium geologists on LinkedIn.”

    No you didn’t.

    You pulled people with certain keywords and your results were a mishmash of everything – but persons with the EXACT TITLE “Uranium Geologist” – well, no you didn’t pull 300.

    You see, you’re missing something that is critically important in phone sourcing.

    My customers ask me to penetrate specific companies – 9 times out of 10 they’re world-class competitors.

    What they DO NOT WANT is a mishmash of crap off LinkedIn (or any Internet site) that needs sorting to winnow out the few.

    What they do want are whole teams of people inside organizations.

    So for me to go to LinkedIn and look for “Uranium Geologists” working in specific countries at specific companies – well; to me –it’s usually a waste of time.

    It’s far faster, far easier (for me) to get on the phone.

    To answer Martin’s original query – allow me to offer a real-life scenario.

    Curiously, for the past moth or so, we’ve been sourcing in Africa.

    It’s been a trip!

    We’ve been targeting specific companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo-the DRC – including Zambia – where infrastructure – in particular phone infrastructure – is very limited.

    Connections to a real office are very difficult if you’re calling from overseas.

    Most times, you can’t get through; in some cases it depends on rain in that country!

    So the Africans and foreign countries with interests in the DRC -particularly mining interests – are communicating via cell or satellite phone. Some offices in the DRC have published a cell or sat phone as their main office number. They know they don’t have a phone book, they know it’ difficult to call in to their own country.

    So when you do get someone on the phone and you need help finding others and their numbers, they are acting like the phone book.

    They’re used to giving out information like this!

    Why do they give you a name and a number? I suspect it’s because at the core of business you must have a certain amount of transparency and “findability” to be taken seriously; otherwise you’re cutting yourself off from opportunities and maybe the world.

    Another one of my sourcers reminded me that during Hurricane Katrina cell towers went down, cable television lines went down, cutting off all communication for some. She was there as a volunteer to get news out via the radio (because of her past radio experience)and it was the land lines that were working.


    By the way, phone sourcing in the Congo was (is) the only way to go. It’s a real test to sourcing.

    Martin, (and everyone else contributing to this string):


    ALWAYS if you’re willing to try ALL WAYS!

    Maureen (part of the wayward and misled Animal troupe)

  21. Nate, unified messaging is not only for people who “can’t” reach me- a voicemail, email, or text or email/IM from a social network all get to my mobile without people having my mobile number, which I’m not passing around like candy, and my “extension” such as it is, does not “ring” anywhere. My boss has my number, of course, but the chances of some inbound caller getting it are slim to none without a darn good story.

    And yes, I am VERY important:

  22. Hmmm. I wonder if there are or will be options for automatically allowing only certain numbers to ring through and the rest to go to VM…

    Keith “Not an Early Adopter” Halperin

  23. But don’t you see Martin, that’s why people like Maureen exist, if everyone’s contact information or number were easy to get, there wouldn’t be a need for phone sourcers.

    As an agency recruiter my life would be easy cheesy if I could just look through this little directory of Java Developers and find everyone like in the white pages.

    Cute youtube by the way.

    I think we are missing the most important point. What is it that you do Martin? The rest have been open about this. What is it that you do that doesn’t require you to have an “extension”.

  24. Maureen,

    Once again great comments, and mostly true. I can tell you that for a current project for cracking furnace and another for nuclear, almost no one I would consider a candidate has come from LinkedIn.

    LI is a tool, just like career-mosaic was years ago. How useful the tool is, and how the tool owner allows you to use it may make more, or less valuable to you. As we saw years ago, Career-mosaic was great when it was free to users. They made some ad $$ and eventually sold it, I forget to who. Then it became just another job posting site.

    With the coming 3 talent Tsunami’s, the ability to do what you, I and Animal do, will become that much more valuable.

  25. 1. Retirement

    2. employees playing, company musical chairs

    3. The general shortage of qualified people we all have been talking about as the talent crisis.

    We are already seeing #1 starting. The gov’t just released info w/in the last 2 days about this just w/in the gov’t

    I hate to say it but it’s a tsunami, not a crisis. Someone offer up webex time and let’s for a webinar on it. I have been chiming this bell for over 10 years now

  26. Nate, that is a question that has followed me for my entire adult life !

    You can find me on LinkedIn 🙂


  27. Thanks, Alan.
    1) Except for gov folks: who can afford to retire on their 101ks and 201ks?

    2) Until we have rapid job growth and much lower unemployment, where will most of these unhappy, overworked, burned out folks go?

    3) TO get the best, a company needs to be the best at something (salary, benies, real opportunity, stability, QoL-work/life balance) besides marketing hype. If you’re a 60th percentile company and you work hard and are lucky, maybe you can expect to get a 70th percentile person, but not the “Fabulous 5%”. So companies: get realistic, ante up, and stop whining about the “war for talent”- this isn’t 1999.

    Happy Friday,

  28. Grant, Maureen, and Alan… I agree that LinkedIn is not the end all it is just the best source. But we all should fish in ponds, rivers, oceans, aquariums… where ever the fish are. And a phone is vital.

    Maureen it would be unusual for a “Geologist’ to limit themselves to a Title of just “Uranium Geoligist”. If I search on Title; “Geoligist” with keyword “Uranium” I get 237 results. Sure always some false positives or fish you’ll throw back in the water. But any sourcer worth their fee can find talent in this “mish-mash”.

    If it is not too personal question do anyone of you have a LinkedIn premium RPS license?

  29. Robert,

    It’s really NOT the best source.
    It’s just the flavor of the month.

    I understand the need to believe that Krista spoke of in this string.
    I understand it COMPLETELY.

  30. Maureen,

    If you are on a retained search and have the ability to just bill hours… I agree it is not the best source. Like an attorney the need for speed is not in your best interest.


  31. Wow…. what a classic debate between classical headhunting VS new age sourcing.
    Sourcing rocks!! Whether it’s phone OR internet. Go where candidates are – if not on internet, pick up a phone…

  32. I hope (some of) you enjoy this.

    (Sing to song written by Randy Bachman and performed by Bachman–Turner Overdrive (BTO) on the album Not Fragile)

    You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

    I met a devil social site
    It took my heart away
    They told me what was comin’
    But I wanted it that way.
    I think that any list is a good list, so
    I took what I could get.
    Oooh, oooh, it looked at me with greedy eyes
    And said:

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
    B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
    Here’s something that you never gonna forget
    B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    And now I’m feelin’ poorly
    ‘Cause I found out for sure
    That social site’s free access
    Was only just a lure.
    It said “any lists are good lists”
    So I took what I could get
    Yes, I took what I could get
    Oooh, oooh, it looked at me with greedy eyes
    And said:

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
    B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet
    Here’s something, here’s something that you never gonna forget
    B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
    Any lists are good lists
    So I took what I could get
    Yes, I took what I could get
    And then, and then, and then it looked at me with greedy eyes
    And said

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
    Here’s something, here’s something,
    Here’s somethin’, mama, you ain’t never gonna forget
    B-B-B-Baby, you ain’t seen nu-nu-nu-nothin’ yet
    Ha Ha
    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    You joined each an’ every social site
    You ever met
    Entwined yourself hopelessly
    In the Internet.
    You ain’t learned no new skills
    You resisted sharpening your phone skills
    Baby, Baby, Baby
    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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