Martin Warren: Sourcing a Needle in a Haystack

As the song goes "needle in haystack what did I say needle in haystack" sung by a very popular 60's Australian band called The Twilights. In fact this was a no. 1 hit for The Twilights, now who was the lead singer of The Twilights?

Oops sorry for the digress but just in case you are wondering it was Glenn Shorrock.

Sourcing is about finding needles in the haystack and hopefully over time you can become a magnet to all the needles in the haystack. Even better if you can find the needles others don't or can't.

The Challenge

There is so much data online about potential candidates, it’s growing rapidly so the haystack is getting bigger by the hour and those needles in the haystack are getting buried deeper and deeper and becoming harder to find.

With all this available data online there is so many variations in data hence how do you make sure you haven't missed any needle in the haystack what did I say needle in haystack?

Recent Experience

I was running a sourcing workshop with a client in the Resources sector and they were finding it difficult not only to identify what haystack to look in but how would they identify the needles in the haystack.

This comes up on a regular basis when I run these workshops, where do you start, how do you get started?

So what could you do to find the "needle in the haystack?"

Let me share my process and how I go about finding the needles in the haystack and pulling out the needles with my magnet.

First Have A Plan!

What a Plan I hear you say, I don't have time to plan.

Now there is your first mistake no plan!

My response, make time!

As my first manager in recruitment said to me "failing to plan is planning to fail" how true this is and it still rings in my ears today.

Build Your Sourcing Map

I will build my sourcing map on a whiteboard or using a mind map where I think the candidates I'm targeting are online.

Some questions to ask yourself, networks, hiring managers, colleague etc... before you start to define your Sourcing Map.

  1. Firstly are they online?
  2. If so do they have a high or low presence online? 
  3. What channels would they mostly hangout out on? 
  4. Where should I focus my effort? 
  5. What if they aren't online or only pop there head up occasionally how can I capture them when they do?

Now I can develop my Search Plan.

Here are some of the search terms I will build into my search plan: 

  • Job Titles;
  • Technical Skills;
  • Companies;
  • Associations;
  • Qualifications;
  • Locations;
  • Things they DO not just SAY; and
  • So on....

Now before you jump into mapping out the above terms......and start heading down that dirt road never to surface again.

Ask Yourself This Question

How many ways could a candidate express what you are searching for?

Easy to answer, right!

So now back to the workshop I was talking about for the client in the Resources sector.

They were seeking to target and recruit HSE Officers these dudes are responsible for the safety on the mine sites so a critical job, the mine shuts down if there are safety issues.

I asked the group the 5 questions listed above, are they online etc...

The conclusion was Yes they are online and we should search our internal database first (see my previous blog on Sourcing is an Art and a Science) if that doesn't provide us with the needles then we are confident these needles are buried in the LinkedIn haystack so we will go search there.

We started to flesh out the search plan constantly asking yourself how many ways could a candidate express what we are searching for?

You Need To Start Somewhere

From the client PD we were able to determine some things the candidate must do and skills they need to have. So we started with:

Job Titles
"hse advisor" OR "senior hse advisor" OR "hse officer"

("technical guidance" OR “project safety”) (controls OR procedures) (“cert iv” OR “certificate iv”)

Based in Perth within 100 Km’s

We now entered this search into LinkedIn and we got some good results but had we left any needles behind in the haystack or was my search a magnet to pull all the needles from the haystack?

These guys on the workshop couldn't believe what they were seeing but should they be satisfied with the results?

Well the answer is most would be happy with the results but for me I wanted to test if there more needles buried in the haystack. Over the course of the next 30 minutes or so we went from having 3 Job Titles to identify as many as possible HSE Officer needles to extract maximum results.

Can't tell you the number yet as need to build the drama up a bit more!

Love this quote from Glen Cathey!

If you have access to tools such as LinkedIn then you should drive it like an Aston Martin ("Glen prefers a Ferrari but for me it’s an Aston Martin) or as the saying goes "drive it like you have stolen it!"

So I analysed my search results and started to elicit more variations of data (in this case) Job Titles on profiles that did this job, or inferred they did this job now or in the past and possibly even connected to people who did this job now or in the past.

Remember that question “How many ways could a candidate express what you are searching for?”

How Many Job Titles?

So how many Job Titles do you think I elicited from LinkedIn profiles that perform this role now or in the past or could be connected in some way?

Maybe 5, how about 8, not even close!

Yes 31 different ways a HSE Officer could express their Job Title. Here see for yourself.

The Job Titles

HSE advisors" OR "HSE Advisor" OR "HSE superintendent" OR "HSE manager" OR "Project HSE Manager" OR "HSEQ Manager" OR "HSE consultant" OR "Rig HSE Advisor" OR "Health and Safety Advisor" OR "Senior HSE Advisor" OR "Lead HSE Specialist" OR "safety advisor" OR "HSE Officer" OR "Safety Co-ordinator" OR " safety coordinator" OR "Deputy HSE Manager" OR "OH&S & ERT Coordinator" OR "Health & Safety Coach" OR "Senior Safety Advisor" OR "project hse advisor" OR "ES&H Advisor" OR "HSSE Manager" OR "hsse advisor" OR "Regional HSE Manager" OR "SNR HSE Advisor" OR "H&S Advisor" OR "Offshore HSE Advisor" OR "OHSE advisor" OR "HSSE Lead" OR "Corporate Safety Advisor" OR "HSE Professional"

Granted maybe this is extreme but it's competitive out there so if I you want to find HSE Officers that other can't or don't doing this will create a competitive advantage over your competition.

Hence I searched for 31 Job Titles and most search for 2 or 3 Job Titles, my Aston Martin search will beat your search every day.

Just Try It and See What Different Results You Get

So maybe when you are searching for your HSE Officer equivalent identify at least 7 or 8 different Job Titles then you are going beyond basic search and executing a search what most don't, won't or can't. In other words you are taking the Aston Martin out of the garage and driving it like you have stolen it.

The above applies to company. Think about how many ways could a candidate express on their LinkedIn profile names of the companies you want to target?

Technical terms or things they do not say and so on....apply the same process.

BTW what about misspelling or abbreviations did you think about these too?

Next Time You Source

So when you plan your next search think about all the variations of data you can search on by asking yourself the question.

How many ways could a candidate express what you are searching for?

Happy sourcing and drive it like it’s an Aston Martin.

Have to go now dinner is being served as I wing my way across the Pacific with Qantas on the way to Dallas Texas and SourceCon 2012.

Oh just in case you are interested I'm having Beef not the Pasta for dinner!

I will share my highlights from SourceCon 2012 in my next post.

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