What Do You Do When Nothing Seems To Work?

You know the scenario. Your hiring manager needs a qualified slate of candidates. They escort you to your desk when you arrive at work explaining the pain they are experiencing. Or perhaps, if you work virtually as I do, there are the impatient voice mail messages, the exasperatedly worded emails and disruptive instant messages serving the same purpose. It’s interesting; you never can find a hiring manager when you are looking for them. But there is no avoiding them when they are looking for you.

The pain of the hiring manager. If people are not hired, schedules are going to slip; initiatives will be in jeopardy; customers will be disappointed; your stock will be impacted and all kinds of calamities. You wonder how you ever became so necessary.

Your response to the hiring manager. You have tried everything.

  • Your ads are not attracting the right candidates.
  • Your tweets are not resonating with the Twitter audiences.
  • LinkedIn InMail’s are not opened.
  • Facebook is not as social as advertised when it comes to jobs.
  • Instagram users have not instantly responded.
  • The headhunter is surfacing the same people you already discovered
  • Your prayers are not answered from the spray and pray email campaign.
  • You have tried the most recent bright shiny tool, and it did not live up to the hype.
  • You are so desperate; you have even called some potential candidates.

Return to the core truths; go back to the basics.

I have found that in challenging times, I have the best results when I remember the core truths about recruiting and talent sourcing. I have found these five things to be true.

  1. People like to help others
  2. People like to be in the know
  3. Birds of a feather, hang out together
  4. People like wine, beer & liked-minded folks
  5. It’s just a numbers game


  1. People like to help. From the amazing Samaritans in Houston to everyday situations, it’s part of the human DNA to help each other. Old school recruiting called it “indirect recruiting;” the digital era calls it “crowdsourcing” a referral.

How to use this truth. The approach is simply this; ask people in your target audience to help their colleagues by recommending them for your position. This “who do you know” tactic will work with emails, InMails, telephone calls, as well as, crowdsourcing on social media. You may be surprised how many times when asked “who do you know?” the prospect will say, what about me?

  1. People like to be in the know. This is true on two levels; a need to stay informed and a desire to up our game. First, people are always curious about what is going on in their profession. Talent pipeline builders receive frequent questions about the job market.  Each profession (al) likes to have a sense of the bigger picture and make certain their career in on track. The second level is around staying relevant in our profession. The digital era requires that we keep learning (aka lifetime learners) to remain relevant in our careers.

How to use this truth. When you are marketing your job to the target audience, use language that keeps them up to date on what is going on. In fact, your opportunity may be informing them as to what the new state of the art in their profession is. This tactic of appealing to the prospects need to have relevant career knowledge/skills combined with truth #1 (asking for help/referrals) results in a trust building exchange of ideas. In the purest form, this is how relationships are built.

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  1. Birds of a feather hang out together. An elementary truth of the digital era is that people must be loyal to our profession. That makes your recruiting job much easier. If you can find the gathering places of your target audiences, then you can discover and engage the desired talent.

How to use this truth. This is where a recruiter/talent sourcer can use their initiative and separate themselves from the competition. Each profession has created a community like gathering places whether online or in-person events. They have conferences to share ideas. They maintain ties to the academic institutions that produce people in the profession. They exchange ideas in forums or social media or professional associations. The most effective tactic is to become a citizen of this professional community. Residents of the community bring value and earn trust in a community; they do not spam them with job opportunities. Networking works well because of truth #1 and truth #2.

  1. People like beer, wine, and like-minded folks. The surprise of the digital era has been the importance of social gatherings. It seems the more segmented and affinity driven, the more meaningful human interactions have become.

 How to use this truth. Throw a party. Call it a tech briefing. Call it a networking event. Call it an eclipse party. Invite everyone that is in your target audience including the people that your hiring managers have rejected based on their resume. You will be surprised how many times people that are rejected on paper are hired in person. Because of truth #1, #2, and #3 events work very well. This is the best part, for every 50 people that show up four hires will result (two immediately and two in the next year).

  1. It’s just a numbers game. On some level, there is a direct correlation between activity and results; the old input and output theme. I discovered this truth many years ago. If I was not finding the right candidates in my current pipeline or target audience, then I needed to expand my outreach by adding more people to that pipeline. I often refer to the SocialTalent study that revealed it takes 282 potential candidates to make a hire.  In other words, we must reach out to 282 people per vacancy.

How to use this truth. On one hand, the SocialTalent survey tells us that our funnel has some inefficiencies in it; some room to improve in the long term. On the contrary, this study suggests that in the short term we might want to expand our talent pool since we may not be reaching enough people to make the numbers work. In this competitive digital era of talent, we may need to rethink our metrics. Call it new math or new predictive analytics. If you are not getting results, try multiplying your outreach. There will be a direct relationship between your outreach and the number of hires. In the end, you will discover that it is just a numbers game.


So, what do you do when nothing seems to be working? You can return to the core truths of recruiting; the things that have worked in the past. It begins with an understanding of people. Regardless of the talent segment, three things are true about the targeted talent. First, people have a desire to help others; second, people want to stay relevant in their professions; and three, people are loyal to their profession. Simply leverage these truths in your outreach. That outreach might be a party.  It might be an expanded outreach. One thing is for certain is that foundational activities are correct, then more volume or increased activity may be the easiest and quickest way to recruiting success.

Marvin Smith is veteran talent acquisition practitioner who focuses on strategic talent sourcing, talent community building, social recruiting, employment branding, and the use of technology to drive talent identification and engagement strategies. He has been on teams that were at the forefront of resurgence of talent sourcing as a strategic weapon in talent acquisition. These teams piloted groundbreaking programs (ERE-Media-award-winning) work that used business intelligence, data, and technology to segment the target talent audiences and build talent pipelines and communities. His current role is a strategic talent sourcing consultant with Lockheed Martin, where he is responsible for talent pipeline building for critical skills talent; project management of a RMP (recruitment marketing platform); and driving corporate-wide, talent community initiatives. Previously, he served as senior research recruiter on an internal executive recruiting team with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a strategic sourcing program manager with Blackberry (Research In Motion); and a talent sourcer/program manager for Microsoft. He is a writer and speaker on the topics of talent communities, strategic talent sourcing, Moneyball sourcing, and talent acquisition strategies. You can follow his blog or join a community that he created on talent community development or follow him on Twitter.


4 Comments on “What Do You Do When Nothing Seems To Work?

  1. Well said, Marvin. These are all sound and sensible.
    The sad truth may be that neither the job, the company, nor the managers/execs/employees are anything special, and that they have nothing to offer the kind of people they want/you’re looking for beyond their own hype, i.e., as was said some years ago: “they’re just not that into you.”

  2. It’s definitely just a numbers game, but I wish more employers started thinking of it as collaboration rather than pushing it all on the recruiters! That just begs for bad hires. Here’s a white paper on collaborative hiring if any employers are willing to be open-minded for a minute: http://bit.ly/2ywbm5t

    Thanks for sharing these tips, though, really. We can all get slammed with deadlines when things just aren’t working out. We need to remember that employees/coworkers are humans, too! However, I don’t ascribe to the wine/beer party 😛 As long as you offer Diet Coke, we are good.

  3. Good stuff now can you help me find a plasma propulsion anti-gravity engineer who specializes in computational fluid dynamics, speaks Mandarin and has a TS clearance….oh yeah…if he could play first base and bat left handed on the company softball team that would be a nice to have:)

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