Guerrilla Sourcing Techniques

As the economy strengthens, the supply of good candidates will begin to decline just as your own hiring needs start to accelerate. Now is the time to develop some contingency plans to minimize the impact of this imbalance. By planning properly ó using what I call “guerrilla sourcing techniques” ó you can improve the flow of top candidates without adding a great deal of cost. As we all know, costs can increase rapidly when you are under pressure to deliver candidates quickly. Following are some sourcing ideas you might want to consider as you begin this planning process. Start by categorizing all of your sourcing ideas into one of the quadrants in the following planning matrix. This matrix compares various sourcing approaches by effort and cost. The left-hand column lists most of the common sourcing tactics on a cost basis, going from inexpensive to costly. The column on the right describes more sophisticated approaches for each of the basic sourcing tactics. This table provides a good high-level overview which you can use to prioritize your current sourcing efforts as you begin to improve them.



I. Lower cost, basic III. Lower cost, advanced
  • Basic advertising geared to all
  • Branded, creative, targeted advertising to the top 20%
  • Resume databases w/agents
  • Push advertising w/opt-in and screening
  • Internal hiring
  • Complete manpower planning with farm-team program
  • Events: fairs, open houses
  • Well-managed, targeted candidates pushed to event
  • Employee referral program
  • Proactive networking to solicit top candidates from employees
  • Military and college recruiting
  • Aggressively promoted, managed and worked

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II. Higher cost, basic IV. Higher cost, advanced
  • Diversity hiring programs
  • Corporate-sponsored affinity groups w/employees involved
  • Website career center
  • Candidate-friendly, step application, job-branding
  • Basic tracking systems
  • User-friendly, screened & rank-ordered candidates
  • Direct sourcing, networking
  • Trained in-house recruiters w/heavy networking, JIT
  • Outsourcing w/recruiters
  • Negotiated strategic alliances by job class/specialists

With an improving economy, you’ll need to use more sophisticated versions of existing sourcing tactics or put your efforts into new, more costly programs. As a general rule, it’s less costly to add sophistication to something that already works than it is to try something totally new. In essence: first get better at the basics. On the table above, this means shifting from left to right before going top to bottom, which is certain to add costs before you see better results. With this idea in mind, here are some things you should do first. Writing Better Ads If you’re already posting ads on some of the biggest boards and getting decent results, you can do some simple things before targeting niche boards and adding a lot of cost. First, write better ads. I’ve written a number of articles on this, but this is the most basic way to begin. Here’s some proof. We just hired a top accounting manager for our company through Monster (I hate to admit this, but it works). The headline said, “Dust Off Your CPA, and Dust Off Our Books.” We then described, in a fun way, how the person needed to use their accounting skills to make our financial reports more meaningful to a bunch of dough-heads. Within four days we hired Michelle. She’s a top-notch, big-5 CPA with great industry experience who found our ad compelling. It took only 20 minutes to write a great ad and get a great candidate, yet it’s a pretty sophisticated approach that few companies use. You don’t need to spend a lot on employer branding and recruitment advertising to pull this one off. Even as you target specialty boards, make sure you write fun and compelling ads. There is nothing else you can do that will have a bigger impact for so little cost. Manpower Planning Next, consider some form of manpower planning. This will help increase the level of sophistication of all of your existing recruiting programs. Anticipating hiring needs allows you to pinpoint resources into targeted areas without adding a lot of costs. If putting together a complete manpower plan for the whole company tied to your annual plan is not possible, at least put together a mini-hiring-needs analysis for critical positions. Product marketing, sales, design engineers, or call center operations typically fall into this category. Talk to functional VPs and hiring managers. They know how many reqs they’re going to be turning in over the next 60-90 days. Get the numbers now and start sourcing. It always costs more when you have less time. Even if you’re using an external recruiter, you’ll get better terms if you have time to plan and compare alternatives. With a mini-manpower plan, you can build a pipeline of potential candidates before the pressure is on. This is simple version of just-in-time (JIT) hiring. Networking With the Right Candidates Combine this manpower plan with an aggressive form of networking to leverage your employee referral program. Make sure someone personally talks to every current employee already in one of these critical jobs. During the meeting, have the employee draw org charts for their previous jobs identifying all of the top people they have ever worked with or have ever known from some professional association. Have someone from recruiting (not the employee) directly contact these potential candidates, and then continue to network with them. This will quickly establish a source of top candidates to fill up the pipeline. If you use some form of resume data-mining (for anything other than newly posted resumes), you know how time consuming this can be. Instead of calling dozens of candidates and leaving voicemails that are never returned, send an email. In the subject line put in a clever title like, “We found your resume for our facilities wizard job.” Include in the email an expanded version of your creative job posting. Then ask the candidate if they’re available to explore this significant opportunity. If they’re not, ask for referrals. If they are, have them submit a resume with a half-page summary of a major related accomplishment. This approach gets the candidate to pursue you, rather than you pursuing the candidate. This is always a more cost- and time-efficient sourcing tactic. A final note: As more higher quality candidates begin applying, make sure your career website doesn’t turn candidates off. If your website is hard to navigate, time consuming for searching jobs, or cumbersome during the application process, you’ll lose more top candidates than you’ll find. Most sites are designed to filter out unwanted candidates, not induce top candidates to quickly apply. What type of site do you have? While it takes some time to fix, this will become more important as the supply of top candidates declines. Strong candidates won’t want to endure an obstacle course to check out one of your positions if someone down the street is offering something more compelling. Keep this principle about human nature in mind as you develop sourcing tactics to handle a growing economy: If you want to hire top people, treat them as very important customers, not commodities, every step of the way. Once a top person feels less important, you’ve forever lost him or her from your candidate pool.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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