These Secrets of Semi-Sourcing Will Change the Way You Find and Hire Top Candidates Forever

Are you aware that you are one of 10,000 people who saw this headline? Are you aware that you are one of 1,000 people who decided to read this article? Are you aware that you are about to be only one of 100 people who will respond to the offer I’m making at the end of this article? As a result of responding to this offer, you are about to become a better recruiter. Enjoy! These questions reveal clues on how to find the best talent now available using semi-sourcing techniques. A few clues have already been presented. The first clue: the reasons why you’re reading this article and will respond to the offer below are the same reasons top candidates will read and respond to your advertising. Here’s the second clue. Following are one of the four reasons you decided to read this article. They also all relate to why candidates read and respond to ads:

  1. The title attracted your attention. Most job board advertising is unseen. This title was so big and in-your-face that you couldn’t ignore it. So what the heck, you thought, I might as well check it out.
  2. Adler’s articles are pretty practical, so even without the odd title, you probably would have read it anyway. Employers of choice have a similar advantage. Candidates go looking for them, so their advertising doesn’t have to be as visible. But if it is, and if it’s compelling, they have an even bigger advantage.
  3. You didn’t have anything else to do, so you decided to read every article on recruiting you could find. This is the least best reason, but this is what active candidates do when they’re looking for a job. This is the group you don’t want ó but when your advertising is boring and hard to find, it’s the only group you’ll get.
  4. You do have a lot of other stuff to do, but you allocate a little time each week to improving your skills. This article crossed your path at an opportune time and it appeared worth checking out. This is the same mindset of the best candidates who do look online. I call them semi-candidates. Most of the time they don’t look, but when they do, you need to capture their attention with highly visible and compelling headlines.

Recognize that there are four types of candidates. Each is motivated by something different. That’s why you must understand the needs of your target audience to get them to apply and then keep them involved:

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  • Active candidates: These are the homeless. They’ll do anything to get a job. If you attract a lot of the homeless, you know your boring advertising works. It’s too hard to find the best in this group.
  • Semi-active candidates: These are the under-employed candidates who have jobs but want something better. They look for new jobs on an irregular basis, usually when things get tough at work. There are some great people in this group. You can find them as described in this article.
  • Semi-passive candidates: These are top people who have pretty good jobs, but also feel the pressure of downsizing. They look very irregularly, but are hoping some recruiter will call with something better. You find these candidates by proactive networking (how you get them is revealed in the offer below).
  • Passive candidates: These are the people who have very good jobs and have to be lured away. The cost to attract this person is too high and not worth it if you can find someone equally good using some easier sourcing technique.

Semi-candidates only look now and then. They are strong people with jobs, but are getting ready to jump if something better comes along. They don’t have the time to hunt down you job. You must stick it in their face whenever they go online. You want to hire these people, but you’ll never get the chance if your current recruitment advertising and applicant processing techniques aren’t designed with their needs in mind. Why Does the Job Title Have To Be the Title of the Ad? Now look at your current online advertising and the ad copy. Who are you targeting: those who have nothing better to do then hunt your ad down, or those discriminating semi-candidates who look now and then? Ad titles have to stand out. This is the first secret of attracting the top semi-candidates. Look on Monster, Dice, HotJobs, and CareerBuilder. Ninety-five percent of the ads are boring and buried. They’ll be read if they’re alive and visible. Corny and long helps. Here are a few titles we’ve used recently with great success in attracting the discriminating semi-candidate:

  • “The Customer Service Manager’s Job is for the Dogs” (This was for a pet food distributor.)
  • “CEO ó An Email from Your Staff, 12/31/2003” (The ad was a future thank-you from the team for doing a great job.)
  • “Yeah, Baby, Yeah! This Entry-level Sales Job is Shagadelic” (Used the day the Austin Powers movie “Goldmember” opened.)

You have to have guts to do this. Run blind ads if you want to test the concept out. Compare the quality of the candidates from a dull, boring ad and an exciting, compelling one. You’ll have all the proof you’ll ever need to forever change your ways. Engaging the candidates is the second step in semi-sourcing. You don’t want them to opt-out before they have a chance to apply. Discriminating semi-candidates always have excuses: the job’s not me, not big enough, not compelling, wrong industry, wrong title, etc. Your advertising and applicant processing methods must anticipate and prevent these excuses from forming; otherwise the best candidates will eliminate themselves from consideration. Approximately 60% of you who started reading this article are down to this part, because it held your interest. It appealed to something you hoped would make you a better recruiter. If part of your job isn’t trying to source top candidates, you probably opted out at the first paragraph. The article actually is more about understanding human motivation than developing sourcing strategies, so those readers who did opt out missed a great learning experience. Too bad. Some of you were about to opt out until you read that last sentence. That’s another important part of advertising. You must keep the semi-candidate’s interest throughout the recruitment advertising piece, and then offer something the person will respond to. For candidates, it’s getting them to apply online and fill in all the dumb forms and take the dumb screening tests. The only candidates who do this willingly are the ones you don’t want to hire. The best candidates will only do it if it’s worth it to them. Treat semi-candidates the same way you want to be treated ó with respect, with understanding ó and then make the relationship fun. Treat semi-candidates as valued customers, not as an annoyance. The best candidates don’t need a job, they want an opportunity. Describe the opportunity in the title. Then make sure that 75% of your job description describes the opportunity rather than listing skills and requirements. Boring ads that are hard to find and simply list skills and requirements will not attract top semi-candidates. You must get these people to respond to your offer, so make sure the application process is easy. The best is a minimalist approach ó just a name, email address, phone number, and a pasted resume. Your ATS should then be able to rank order the best candidates by reading the resume and using some algorithm, bringing the best to the top (email me at for help on this). Then make sure you call all of the hot semi-candidates the same day they apply. If the job is compelling, you can add some online screening (questionnaire, testing, interviewing). But before you do this, start tracking your web stat trends at each step in the process ó read ad, read job description, applied ó so you can see the affect of any changes. The opportunity represented by the job must always be greater than the cost of applying, so you’ll need to keep this in balance. That’s why the metrics are important. Ninety percent of your sourcing programs should be targeting semi-candidates. You’ll attract their attention with great advertising that’s highly visible and compelling. Since they look irregularly, you’ll need to make sure your ads are always at the top of page one on every job board. It’s worth paying extra for this. Make sure your systems are designed to put this candidate at the top of the resume heap, and then you must call the candidate within two hours of applying. Your ad copy must describe opportunities, not list requirements. This is the only way they’ll even apply. Evaluate everything you’re now doing. How much is designed to go after the active candidate? You can eliminate 50% of what you now do if you redesign your hiring processes around the needs of semi-candidates. That’s what semi-sourcing is all about. This was a semi-article on semi-sourcing semi-candidates. As a semi-reader, you were part of the experiment. It only worked if you’ll now respond to this offer. Email me at and you’ll be invited to a free online course on semi-sourcing I’ll be hosting in August. We’ll discuss how proactive networking can be used to find semi-passive candidates. This is something you won’t want to miss if you want to be a better recruiter. It will be fun. It will be outrageous. Just like semi-candidates, it is a fleeting opportunity.

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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