Sourcing Hacks – Are Your Hiring Managers Overthinking Resumes?

Does this Sourcing story sound familiar?

You conduct a targeted search for non-active prospects, reach out using your favorite medium, and get an excellent response. You cherry pick the best 3-4 that are spot on functionally, and have a terrific initial chat with each. You find all are sharp, strong interpersonally, and possess excellent business acumen. All is in alignment from their innate ability to functional capability. You get copies of your prospect’s resumes, and you even attach a few sentences about each in your submission email making the case as to why they should be considered for hire.

It’s a slam dunk, you congratulate yourself for your sourcing super powers and forward the candidates on. All is good…right up until you hear back from the hiring manager (HM) who has poured over the resumes searching for hidden clues that make one better than another…

You hear that one resume doesn’t demonstrate leadership and another one shows no proactive initiative and still another seems to lack intellectual curiosity. To finish this story, let’s assume these prospects don’t write resumes for a living, but even if they did, most of these takeaways are based on assumptions with no real evidence. Crazy…but all too familiar – right?

Let’s not forget that resumes began as a way to market ourselves, and have remained unchanged since the 1950’s. Yet somewhere in the last few decades resumes went from being career marketing documents to de facto career passports (thanks ATS!). When HM’s parse resumes beyond functional ability, knocking out hard won prospects, a shift is needed in how prospects are viewed. Let’s face it, determining leadership, initiative and curiosity or the like is pretty darn hard by reading a resume, but this happens all the time…

So what do you do?

I’m not sure about everyone else, but in my world sourcing is isolating, engaging, and assessing talent. I’m asked to present talent that is “qualified, interested, and available,” and to determine this I need to assess each…usually a 15-30 minute phone or Skype conversation.

To me, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, so I focus on just four areas. Here is what I ask:

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  • Why are they looking…and for how long
  • Why they want to work for us
  • What they want to do more of
  • What they are earning

The answers to these questions provide the prospect’s attitudes, interests, motivations and activity. This combined with where they work, their career level and functional capability make a compelling case for who to interview F2F or not. It demonstrates I actually spoke with them and that the conversation was valuable. The call may be 30 minutes, but I distill each answer to no longer than a sentence (tweet length is best). All four answers are added to the top of each resume as an “easy to consume” picture of the prospect. This is the only data needed beyond functional accomplishments to decide on whether to interview someone.

As for resumes, those that know me, know how I’ve plotted to get rid of them for the last 20 years. I know I am not alone as evidenced by the amazing array of “creative alternatives” (click the link -the ResumeBar candy bar is hilarious!). Today with Social Media, we’re all playing the role of editor and publisher and the resume’s demise may be closer than we think…when you consider how out dated and inadequate the resume is – it’s not that farfetched to think someone somewhere is plotting to “Uber” it…I certainly hope so…

While we wait for that…by including the attitudes, interests, motivations and activity level of your sourcing prospects with (or without) a resume, you are sure to get more of your prospects interviewed and hired…

Good hunting!

K.C. Donovan “Lives life to express, not to impress.” His low-key history of Talent Engagement Leadership has touched every facet of the industry both internally and externally. An eclectic mix of experiences previous to recruiting provides a diversity of knowledge that few can claim. Having held numerous executive positions in Hospitality, CPG, Distribution and Technology (VP’s of Recruiting, Marketing & Sales), K.C.’s dynamic innovation is best seen with the four successful companies he has founded.

His fifth company, DonoVision, launched in Q1 2018, is a Digital Talent Agency employing Advanced Engagement techniques that deliver “quality applicant” outcomes. Focused on engaging with the emerging Career Engineers who are avoiding our ATS’s in droves, recruitment marketing, branding, sourcing and cultivation are used to create a winning formula. K.C. is more excited about DonoVision than anything he’s previously created.


4 Comments on “Sourcing Hacks – Are Your Hiring Managers Overthinking Resumes?

  1. Yikes, I never “cherry pick” the best 3-4. I’m the recruiter, not the technical expert, so anyone who meets the qualifications (or is quite close – as sometimes those folks can make up for it in other ways) gets screened, not just the top few, and the process is rolling so you’re constantly sourcing, screening, submitting, and setting up interviews until they find who they want. To be so narrow in this type of approach to me is just bad recruiting. Recruiting is a partnership with the hiring manager so both sides need to be respected and while it can be frustrating at times if they don’t like someone you loved, more often than not the manager knows what’s best for his/her team. Sure sometimes you get a hiring manager that’s shooting himself in the foot looking for the unicorn, but for the decades I’ve been at it, I’ve found that giving them more, not less, is a whole lot better of a strategy than thinking a very select few are all who should be submitted.

    1. Hi Aimee – thanks for the comment! The focus of my post is that we’re parsing resumes beyond what they’re built to deliver and by assessing prospect attitudes, interests and motivations we can improve our sourcing success…

      As far as the number of prospects a sourcer should deliver – to me it clearly depends on the role. If its a specific function with an in-demand or smallish pool of talent (pretty much what I focus on), then the 3-4 person example is about right…for larger hiring initiatives of similar talent, then certainly a larger pool would be delivered.

      I’ve always taught and been taught that the business is busy running their business and it’s our job not to waste their time…we closely partner with them, learn what they seek and are able to drill down to candidates from only the top 20% of the talent market. Is that bad recruiting…hard for me to agree with you on that – but love your passion!

  2. First off, the word “hack” is entirely overused and misused well beyond the point of being obnoxious and absurd. That aside, I found several puzzling concepts in this article…

    Based on the premise that “sourcing” in this context refers to your stated purpose of “targeted search for non-active prospects”, the screening approach described seems somewhat out of place for that type of audience.

    “Why are they looking and for how long”
    — What makes you think they are/were looking and what difference does it make how long? If some random stranger contacted me and asked that, I’d be concerned and most likely annoyed. Why not tell them what you found interesting about them as a conversation starter and go from there?

    “Why they want to work for you”
    — Again, if you are cold calling, emailing, inMailing or initiating contact with someone (“non-active”) in any fashion, why on earth would you expect them to have a reason for wanting to work for you, if they’ve even heard of you? Like the previous question, the presumptuous nature of this question would trouble me. Shouldn’t you be sharing information about the opportunity in order to establish whether or not there would be any interest first?

    “What do they want to do more of”
    — How exactly is someone even supposed to put that question in proper context based on the scenario taking place here? Not everyone is prepared to get involved in a career discussion with some random person. Not too mention, maybe they are entirely content doing what they are currently doing wherever they are doing it. It seems like it would make more sense to elaborate on the opportunity itself and determine what, if any of it, appeals to that person instead of putting them on the spot to

    “What they are earning”
    — As a stranger, how exactly is that any of your business and how does their current personal financial situation pertain to whatever it is you are contacting them about? What one company decides to pay someone to perform a job is just that. Frankly, many people find this type of question intrusive, rude and irrelevant. If you feel the need to discuss money, why not explain the compensation structure and salary budget the hiring company is targeting and go from there to find out if that person cares to share whether or not that would be key decision factor.

    In addition to finding the above questions off-putting, I find it troubling that so many people tend to believe they can decipher so much about a virtual stranger’s motivations, desires, attitudes, etc., based on a brief interaction and using their own favorite “revealing” questions. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that is rarely the case.

    I tend to agree with Aimee’s points that the initial screening process described seems far too narrow and shallow. Why not provide the HM with a variety of prospect types to evaluate, then discuss variables that might not have previously been considered as must-haves or deal-breakers.

    All of that said, I do agree that HMs can be far too particular when evaluating resumes. That however, is when a consultative partner works with them to keep their expectations in line with reality and market conditions. Sometimes HMs need to be enlightened to examine things from a different perspective. Like Aimee implies, it can be a iterative process depending on each role or relationship as well as the sophistication level of the HM.

    Finally, as sucky as many (most) are, resumes are still around (despite your and others’ efforts to kill them off) because people feel the need to evaluate “tangible” content to deal with activities involved with sourcing, screening and selecting potential hires. Even if everyone on the planet were to agree that resumes need to disappear, something containing equivalent information would remain in place to achieve the resume’s purpose.

    ~KB @TalentTalks

  3. Hi KB – thanks for chiming in…I appreciate your views about politeness and cordiality…unfortunately you may have taken many of my points out of context. The areas of assessment listed in my post are not the first questions asked by any stretch of the imagination….

    By the time I get to these areas, I’ve spent 20-30 minutes asking them about their world, what drives them and learning what they’re most passionate about. I’ve already presented the idea for a new role, discussed it’s unique aspects and learned if it is compelling enough for them to consider. Taking a consultative career approach, it’s commonplace for prospects to say they’ve rarely experienced such a positive interaction with a recruiter before. None of the points you make are part of our interactions, and by the time they’re asked about the four areas I list in my post, prospects are eager to share this data.

    I currently work in a corporate setting for one of the most sought after companies in their industry and asking a prospect what they want to do more of is a way for us to understand what roles we could offer that meets something they want to do…also, why they want to work for us provides their degree of interest that let’s us know how much “branding” we need to offer as they get closer to being a candidate…why they are looking goes directly to career motivation shedding light on what is driving them if we go the offer stage in the future…and comp level is absolutely necessary so we know what level to consider…in the 10,000 or so interviews I have conducted, I can remember the few times a prospect was uncomfortable sharing this data…it’s all how you approach…the integrity, transparency and authenticity makes all the difference…

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