What is the Future of Sourcing?

It’s incredible to think just how much sourcing and recruitment have changed since businesses first began to invest in talent acquisition functions. I can’t imagine what it must have been like 20, even ten years ago, when conveniences like LinkedIn and even browsing the web were unheard of. Our sourcing resources have changed dramatically over time, to say the least. Upon looking at the past and how much things have changed, it makes me wonder just how much sourcing will evolve over the next 20 years. What new, disruptive technologies will once again transform the function? How will we utilize those technologies? What changes will we see in talent acquisition as a result?

Upon pondering these questions, I don’t think certain elements of the talent acquisition process will be affected as much. At its core, I firmly believe that recruitment requires a personal touch. The process isn’t always black and white, and the best candidates don’t join companies simply because one pays more than another. That’s where people come in; and from my perspective, no solution or technological advancement is going to change that in the foreseeable future. But don’t just take my word for it; industry experts seem to agree. Craig Fisher, Head of Employer Brand at CA Technologies and Allegis Global Solutions, states, “Any job that will require an element of empathy is not easily replaced by AI. The jobs that require finesse, and feeling and subtlety will still be needed long after the robots take over.” Human connection is an integral part of recruitment, making automation and AI integration difficult, especially when dealing with complex roles within organizations.

Having said that, there are parts of the process where I could see innovation, namely in sourcing. While the way we research and find candidates has improved dramatically over the years, there are still gaps that need to be filled. Despite the resources we have at our disposal, sourcing the right candidate can still take time. Ji-A Min, a data scientist, specializing in best practices in data-based recruitment, sums it up perfectly, “Up to 88% of resumes received for a role are considered unqualified. A recruiter spends on average 23 hours screening resumes for a single hire.” With the vast amount of information out there, lots of sifting is often required. What is deemed a proficient Boolean string may require going through hundreds of profiles/resumes to get the five that you want.

With advances in big data and artificial intelligence, huge improvements in getting to the right candidate pools quickly seem realistic. One innovation that I could see being useful would be the ability to drag and drop a job description and have a search system (LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc.) scrub over the description, pulling candidates that match the description keywords from most relevant to least. You could do the same thing with a “bogey” resume, in the hopes of getting more similar results, in effect training the system to get smarter. I’m skeptical on how well a tool like this would work at first, and it’s not something as simple as targeting most frequently used words. (I don’t want the resume with the most uses of “the”) However, if something like this could be developed and refined to the point where meaningful results could be produced, then candidate pipelines could be created much faster, with higher quality results. With the technological advances, we’ve had to this point, “drag and drop” searches seem like a plausible possibility.

Looking at things from a different perspective, I could also see additional barriers coming into play as brands and entities look to protect their information. Take LinkedIn for example, with the highly competitive landscape for candidate information, they have stripped away features and made it harder to access LinkedIn member’s data. Firms like these are blocking emails and phone numbers behind numerous barriers and attempting to strip away the use of extensions or technologies with information scraping capabilities.

Take their ongoing lawsuit with hiQ Labs for example, where, as Alison Frenkel of Reuters reports, “LinkedIn claimed it has a right to protect the privacy of its users by blocking users that violate its terms of service, just as a public library might cut off borrowing privileges for someone who used a fake ID or refused to return a book. HiQ countered that it never trespassed but only accessed LinkedIn data available to the entire world, like any onlooker in a public square.” In the fight to maintain a competitive advantage and protect their bottom line, we have begun to see businesses like LinkedIn make an effort to tighten up their accessibility. It will be interesting to see how situations like these develop as new, disruptive technologies enter the marketplace. Recruiting is highly data-driven, and cases like the one above will shape the way we can acquire and utilize information on the Internet going forward. As such, I would anticipate the way we source today being far different than how we go about the process in the years ahead.

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Matt is a Recruiter at Orion Novotus, where he specializes in recruitment optimization and skilled talent acquisition. In his 2+ years of experience, Matt has driven successful recruiting outcomes through sourcing, technical recruiting, and full cycle recruitment. Matt started his career as a Sourcing Intern at CareerPlug, then moved into corporate recruitment with Magnitude Software upon his graduation from UT Austin in 2016. Most recently, Matt has turned his focus to the agency side of recruitment, delivering talent solutions to companies ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 enterprises.

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9 Comments on “What is the Future of Sourcing?

  1. Thank you, Matt. This is a good article.
    Let me consider your points:
    1) ” I firmly believe that recruitment requires a personal touch.” “Any job that will require an element of empathy is not easily replaced by AI.”
    People frequently say this, but they don’t define what the mean by it. As a candidate, I don’t care if my recruiter regards me as a unique individual, I just want them to treat me with respect, make me feel important/valued, keep me informed, and smoothly and quickly move me through the hiring process. AIs/chatbots can do much of this, and they will improve. Much of what they can’t do now can be done by very pleasant offshore people for $4.00/hr (more or less).

    2) “With the vast amount of information out there, lots of sifting is often required. What is deemed a proficient Boolean string may require going through hundreds of profiles/resumes to get the five that you want.” “One innovation that I could see being useful would be the ability to drag and drop a job description and have a search system (LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc.) scrub over the description, pulling candidates that match the description keywords from most relevant to least. You could do the same thing with a “bogey” resume,…”
    There is a very affordable tool which will handle this RIGHT NOW. It uses machine learning to rank/rate resumes at the rate of about 1/second, greatly decreasing sourcing/recruiting eyeball time.

    3) ” I could also see additional barriers coming into play as brands and entities look to protect their information. Take LinkedIn for example…”
    The more LI and other similar monopolistic firms continue to squeeze their users/customers, the more incentive there will be to develop useful, cost-effective alternatives. I know of at least one which is “almost there,” and none too soon, I say…

  2. Matt,

    There are a number of new technologies currently on the market that address the search and stack ranking challenges you describe, and help you get around the barriers being put up by LinkedIn and others. The market leader in this space, Entelo, has a solution to the “walled gardens” created by the likes of LinkedIn, Indeed, Careerbuilder and others. Their platform has aggregated 350+ million profiles from public and private data sources and social/professional networks that allows sourcers to search, rank and select potential candidates for specified requisition requirements. And the profiles have the all important personal email address. Moreover, they have a next generation solution that is set to completely disrupt the space. In the interest of transparency, I am admittedly biased as I consult for Entelo, but I am excited about this company’s products and its future.

  3. With all of the points you raised, I think it’s best for employers to use HR tech that is available now in order to prepare for the future. Some employers don’t even think about sourcing globally, but it may be the best (only?) way to keep up in the (near) future. Therefore, they should brush up on how to source those global candidates effectively (this article sums it up pretty well: http://bit.ly/2fjIR2M). The systems that claim to use AI will either prove to be helpful or they will perpetuate biases. I don’t think they’ll take over, but HR tech in and of itself certainly will – as an aid rather than a substitute for the HR dept. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sorry to say, but this post is totally behind the curve and already there are solutions in the market that will blow anyone’s mind as to what it does and how. Take one look at a demo of newly emerged Pocket Recruiter out of NYC (do not think their homepage offering the depth and USP of what they actually do and how, only a demo will do that) and it will become clear that ‘new dawn of sourcing/recruitment’ already upon us. At first solutions like these will free up time for proper in depth conversations with candidates found/identified, over time though it will mean no more need for the more junior levels of resources and recruiters, it will all be about mastering the tech and solutions and then being damn good at engaging and enhancing the wider recruitment experience and agenda. With this we are are only starting to see what may come over the hill in bigger and bigger numbers and faster and faster.

    1. Thanks, Jacob. Very appropriate and correct- there are many tools which handle much of the grunt work of recruiting, and what they can’t do can be done offshore for much less (I’ve been turned on to a great sourcer in the Philippines who will find people and get their contact information for $50/search).

      However, as long as those who hire recruiters and sourcers prefer to be surrounded by enthusiastic, order-taking, “Sr. Recruiters/Sr. Sourcers” with 2-3 years experience (CHEAP) who think it’s “awesome’ to be onsite 80 hours /week “working/hard/playing hard” with similar-age people who are all “incredibly bright,” “passionate”, and “disrupting the industry/changing the world,” then I think the more jr. folks have little to fear, until they are not so junior themselves…

      “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

      -Chinatown, 1974

  5. Matt, thanks for taking the effort to write, but you could’ve benefitted from a little more research: to say LinkedIn was “unheard of” 10 years ago is wrong (heck, a CNN Money article featuring me as an early LI superconnector was published way before that, and likewise ridiculous that web browsing was unheard of 20 years ago (no Google then, but look up Altavista). As far as the future of sourcing, your pure focus on big data and AI ignores topics like video sourcing (see the featured SourceCon article “Using Videos to Source” by Josef Kadlec published the same day as yours), gamification, sentiment (ok that depends on big data but you could’ve called out more examples like that), voice-activated sourcing (e.g., you say “I had a bad day at work” and Echo/Siri/Cortana start auto-pushing you jobs), etc., which are in their relative infancy compared to where they will be.

  6. Sourcing is as sourcing does. Forget about the tools, the best sourcers I’ve come across are good not because of the tools they use or have access to but because of their drive, interest, and passion in doing it. Crazy as they are.

    The next big change in recruiting will…hopefully… come in the form of org structure change with defined and segmented roles that all work together for the same end goal. Starting to see it just a little, little bit.

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