Water Witching

Family lore holds that my maternal grandfather was a “water witch.” A water witch is a person who can find water using a forked stick or rod to find water located underground.

A water witch may also be called a “diviner” or a “dowser.” Dowsing is a general term used to discover things that are hidden. Divining has been used for centuries to find water and other hidden objects.

Most employees in corporate America are hidden away from the prying fingers of Internet diviners. If America has 150 million-plus workers, rest assured the greater majority of them are not locatable on the Internet. (I welcome argument on this fact. When I say “not locatable” I mean they are not able to be identified/sourced for a specific reason — that reason being, in our industry, to fill a particular role.)

For the 62% of the jobs in America that require higher skill levels, that’s a lot of people. That’s approaching 100 million people in the United States hidden away behind closed doors and hard-mortared walls, sitting at their desks (or on airplanes or working at home or at a customer site) with the majority of them being “undowsable” by any form of Boolean.

Many of you reading this don’t want to hear it. The only way — the most assured way — to find these people is to do investigative work on the telephone.

There are many wonderful tools today that are available to help you do this that were not available 10 years ago. As discussed in a previous article, LinkedIn is the favorite sourcing flavor of the moment and if you consider that half of its 65 million users worldwide are in the United States, you must also consider that about half of that number are no longer locatable on that service without a paid membership that allows you InMail contacting. So about 16 million users signed up, meandered away, and have forgotten that they signed up. They’ve left the employment they were engaged in at the time they filled out their profile and have moved on to other pastures. (Here‘s some sound advice on what you can do to keep your profile updated and why you should do it. Here are five things you can do in 60 minutes to further improve things.) That 16 million number also includes those who have signed up more than one time, and if you’ve used LinkedIn for any amount of time you know this is true. It’s not a major number. But it exists and is why I fold it into the 16 million (basically unusable names for most people) figure that I believe are applicable to this discussion.

Notice I said “basically unusable for most people.” There is a way to use some of those LinkedIn names who are no longer at their originally reported place of employment, but it requires a deeper dive into the Internet than most people have the time for. Those of you who do have the luxury of this time understand what I mean.

Also included in that 16 million number are the ones who really don’t belong there as far as a seasoned recruiter is concerned. These include, mostly, students and house-spouses and the self-employed and the rogue ex-employed who are now, basically, unemployable for a myriad of reasons. Then you have the ones who don’t give you enough info to track them anywhere, much less forward. Add to all that the multilevel marketers who have begun to see LinkedIn as another sort of panacea and you have a whole lot of baggage the system is dragging along that might mean extra wading for you if you don’t understand how to use its search system to draw out meaningful results.

I’ve written three paragraphs on the use of LinkedIn because you should understand the capabilities as well as the limitations of any tool. Some of you feel LinkedIn is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is a wonderful tool and hires are being made using it as a resource.  This too will pass in its present glory, and I suspect the future of LinkedIn will include heftier and heftier user fees which have already been introduced. Have we forgotten MySpace? Oh, yeah, we have. AOL? What’s that? Even Facebook is about to test the acerbic water of public opinion with its new (and some say overreaching) recent privacy jettisons.

As far as the social networking tools are concerned, they’re all great if you understand that they can be used in your phone sourcing practice to “divine” the greater part of the mystery contained within America’s greatest companies. This is what many recruiters are looking for on LinkedIn — the employees of America’s Fortune companies who are best in class because they — well — they just are.

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And there aren’t that many of them (think a small percentage of the remaining 16 million we haven’t just castigated) who have the time — or the inclination — to visit a social networking site and fill out a profile that will reveal to the world who they are. Here‘s an interesting argument for synchronization of information — but alas, who knows who will be the winner of this? Social networking, I believe, is on a cusp: a cusp of public acceptance of what the masses are comfortable revealing and what they’re not. Facebook may just be the poster girl for testing this, and it’s going to be interesting what happens next. But for now, and leaving all this divining for later, let’s return to water witching.

Water witchery is much like phone sourcing. A phone sourcer relies on her intellect as well as on her gut. The theory behind water dowsing is that there is some element in the twig that acts in conjunction with the diviner to find the underground water. In phone sourcing, the element at work is the phone sourcer’s intuition. Intuition is something developed over time. This may be one subtle reason younger people find phone sourcing more challenging than Internet sourcing. After all, as I am so fond of saying, the Internet never says “no.”

Divining is an ancient practice. It has been demonstrated in the artwork of ancient Egypt and China and even Moses used his staff (a rod) to find water.

The “diviner” is sometimes said to establish a connection on a psychic level with the substance or object being sought underground. A “phone sourcer” establishes a psychic connection within moments of having the other person answer the phone — without the ability to quickly “read” the energy field of the person on the other end of the line a phone sourcer cannot zero in on the vibrations given off and cannot “move the rod” no matter what questions or thoughts she produces.

Zeroing in refers to a phone sourcer’s heightened ability to interpret clues contained in the physical environment. The physical environment a phone sourcer works in is minus a key element: sight. Without being able to see the body language on the other end, a phone sourcer must rely on what she hears (and what she knows) and must be able to interpret and extrapolate information with just that. I believe phone sourcing relies much on the human body’s nervous system’s reaction to certain factors. In phone sourcing, the factor is the phone sourcer herself.

Think this sounds crazy? Ask any phone sourcer worth his salt and he’ll tell you what I mean. If you want to uncover the hidden treasure — the greater majority, the underground resource — you’re going to have to sharpen your divining rods. For now, until they invent something better, you’re going to have to learn how to use the telephone.

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 TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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18 Comments on “Water Witching

  1. Amazing work.

    Elegant in style and filled with great content.

    The marriage of information, theme and on-point message that is the hallmark of fine writing.

    You should be very proud of this piece Maureen.

  2. Amazing how you can miss so many great resources! Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more evident that you use this medium as a tool to promote your services. I’m not saying the internet is the answer for all your sourcing needs people, but here’s a handful of them outside of LinkedIn that Maureen never seems to touch on…

    1. Jigsaw – 21,607,128 contacts with email and work number

    2. CareerBuilder Archive – 26,145,391 searchable passive resumes (searchable resumes posted outside 1yr and all the way back to when CB started – these are people who never removed their resume, but were looking for work at one time)

    3. Online Directories – I recently found a highly targeted, industry specific, national directory which contains over 3 million individuals with contact info (this is 3 million passive candidates within the industry we serve!!!!)

    4. State Licensing Boards – in the millions

    5. Professional Association Directories – in the millions

    6. Facebook – 400 million active users (not the best resource, but you can use the advanced search to search by title or employer)

    Maureen your right in saying “with the majority of them being “undowsable” by any form of Boolean” because most directories are not indexed by the major search engines, thus not showing up in Boolean searches.

  3. @Source This: agreed that these are all great tools for identifying prospective candidates. I use most of them on a regular basis as I’m sure Maureen does but to me, the intent of her very well written article was not to list all the resources that are out there but simply to encourage sourcers and recruiters to not rely on social media sites exclusively and the importance of being on the phone. I didn’t think it was self-promoting.

  4. Don’t forget about press releases, articles, association newsletters, attendee lists, alumni associations, whitepapers and depending on the position government documents.

  5. @Corey Matthews: This was a well written piece, but I was referring to this statement made by Maureen – “Most employees in corporate America are hidden away from the prying fingers of Internet diviners. If America has 150 million-plus workers, rest assured the greater majority of them are not locatable on the Internet. (I welcome argument on this fact. When I say “not locatable” I mean they are not able to be identified/sourced for a specific reason — that reason being, in our industry, to fill a particular role.)”

  6. Interesting Facebook membership breakdown country by country:
    http://tinyurl.com/36yy2g3

    Average age distibution of social networks (graph):
    http://tinyurl.com/2be9kl3

    Social networks seem to be moving in the direction of pay models. Who can blame them? As Jason Rosenthal, CEO of the fast-growing Ning platform said recently, announcing that the service was moving to a pay model, “Our Premium Ning Networks like Friends or Enemies, Linkin Park, Shred or Die, Pickens Plan, and tens of thousands of others both drive 75% of our monthly US traffic, and those Network Creators need and will pay for many more services and features from us.”

    It remains to be seen how many network creators “will pay” a minimum of a couple hundred dollars a year to continue to use the platform. It’ll be an interesting test to see if they’ll shell out. If they do – what’s next? Member fees to belong? Who knows?

    If any of you think you’re not a network creator when you create a profile on Linkedin (or any of the social media watering holes) and spend hours and hours of your valuable time inviting and accepting and posting and tweaking and tweeting – THINK AGAIN. You’re building a network that some of you will become more dependent upon than you should. These aren’t just “social networks” – these are business networks that commerce is being driven from. The owners of these platforms understand this but the average “member” (network creator) doesn’t stop to consider this.

    What I’m advocating is that before you drink this delicious Kool-Aid STOP AND THINK about what you’re doing. STOP AND THINK about how you’re going to feel when these networks start demanding coin to continue your addiction. What’s it going to cost you when they demand to be paid their vig so you can stay in business?

    Learn to use them rather than allowing them to use you. Get as adept at pressing the buttons on your phone as you are at pressing the ones on your keyboard. If you don’t it’s going to cost you – and that price may be just too large to pay someday. That’s all I’m saying. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. Really.

  7. Source This, I think that you miss the point.

    Maureen speaks to the value of the phone and ones ability to utilize it intelligently.

    All great recruiters use the phone for reasons that are endless…

    Also, I disagree about Maureen using the phone to promote her business. She is simply promoting her beliefs, ideas and methodology based upon what she does every single day.

    That is what all of us do.

  8. @Howard: You missed the point – I was simply responding to her take on “name generation” and the use of the internet for such a task. My response had nothing to do with using the “phone intelligently” for recruiting. Read the paragraph in quotes I included above, she straight out challenged the idea of identifying candidates through the use of the internet and I simply responded with useful resources to do such a task. Once again, I loved this peace, but I had trouble digesting that paragraph. Sorry for the confusion!

  9. Anonymous monikers and comments aren’t allowed on ERE forums. We have tried to contact the person listed as “Source This” to change their name to the their real one and have not heard back from them as they continue to comment on this article. Due to this, we are deactivating the account. They can continue to comment but they have to use their real name, just like everyone else.

    Please message me at lance [at] ere.net if you have any questions.

  10. You certainly bring to light the multi-faceted approaches to finding people, and again reinforce the need for good old fashioned conversation.

    Building on your social networking comments, in its entirety, it is a technology that is a killer app – but I believe it is being viewed in a similar way to how email was being viewed in the early 90s. It has quickly become a new medium for communication that many try to leverage, but in my opinion we are all struggling with trying to get a real read on ROI, usage, behavior, and tendencies.

    Social networking will change the game for talent. It has the ability to spread a message with viral effects at a fraction of the cost of any medium while simultaneously coming from a source that is usually trusted. This greatly changes the amount of work that a company would have to perform over long periods of time to broadcast their brand effectively and gain interest.

    As such, the work is clearly changing for recruiters, and the combination of dynamic information online (aka www) and the advent of online participation (aka social networking) has changed the ability to source and its respective difficulty.

    The ability to message to “trusted” people about almost any subject is really unheard of, except if you include good old fashioned referrals, which can’t move fast enough to keep up.

    Two way voice communication (currently the phone) won’t go away in recruiting, but its value and purpose will continue to shift, but only in respect to how a company allocates its own resources. 2 way communication (phone) clearly be needed on an ongoing basis, but the demand at the req level will change company to company.

    On a side note – anyone thinking you are using this forum to broaden your client base may not know the effects of writing articles on this forum. As a writer and public speaker myself, I can confirm that writing and speaking does not produce proposals the next day, and being self promoting gets poor reviews. Besides, people on this forum know who you are, and what you do. Its clear you are leader in this space, so please keep writing as it is helpful to all. Thanks for the article.

  11. @ Source This (Gone, but not forgotten) &
    @ Andrew G:

    It distresses me that those here who engage in the shameless free exchange of practical information and the pursuit of intellectual development degrade the purpose of the articles, forums, and other venues of ERE, which IMHO is to promote the businesses, publicity, prestige, reputation, etc. of those who contribute. Do you realize that if we confined our contributions strictly to beneficial, non-commercial, and non-promotional information, there would be hardly anything here on ERE at all? What if we sat down and realized there is no wondrous solution that will make all our recruiting dreams come true, and we actually have to work hard and not buy the Recruiting-Solution Snake Oil of the Day? What a horrible realization that would be!

    Keith “Shameless in So Many Ways” Halperin

  12. @ Source This (Gone, but not forgotten) &
    @ Andrew G:

    It distresses me that those here who engage in the shameless free exchange of practical information and the pursuit of intellectual development degrade the purpose of the articles, forums, and other venues of ERE, which IMHO is to promote the businesses, publicity, prestige, reputation, etc. of those who contribute. Do you realize that if we confined our contributions strictly to beneficial, non-commercial, and non-promotional information, there would be hardly anything here on ERE at all? What if we sat down and realized there is no wondrous solution that will make all our recruiting dreams come true, and we actually have to work hard and not buy the Recruiting-Solution Snake Oil of the Day? What a horrible realization that would be!

    Keith “Shameless in So Many Ways” Halperin

  13. Keith I was not sure if I was pulled into something. So let me be clear to Maureen.
    Great article and keep them coming. I was simply stating that your presence on this forum is long standing and appreciated.

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