Hard to find talent isn’t interested in submitting resumes or engaging with career sites - even in these pandemic times. These are busy people, still employed, deeply focused on a project or idea. Reaching them is not only difficult – it’s often next to impossible.
Many deliberately do not have an online presence. Most will not respond to emails, Tweets, or phone calls – if you are able to find them. They are known to their circle of friends and colleagues only and participate online primarily in technical forums, professional sites, and through emails with associates.
An engineer I know is top in his chosen field. He is highly sought after by a small circle of technical experts for his depth of knowledge and experience. He has no LinkedIn profile, no Facebook page and does not Tweet. He only answers his phone when he knows the caller personally. Yet, he regularly changes jobs depending on how interesting the project offered. He has never spoken with a recruiter unless through a referral. He finds his projects through his narrow, but powerful network of fellow engineers who refer him..
How would a recruiter ever find him – or the hundreds of others who are similar? How would they get a referral for him?
Crowdsourcing may hold the answer, but it is not a panacea nor is it easy. It requires the recruiter to have highly relevant, specific and engaging content, a fast response time, and solid technical information. Most high talent candidates are tough sells. Successful recruiters need to be well-informed about the area they are recruiting for and be able to answer technical questions as well as assess talent for the right mix of skills.
Success requires a well thought out strategy that attracts and engages them and the talent that already work in your firm.
Uncover Hidden Talent with Content
Ask the most talented of your employees to take part in a webinar, Zoom/virtual meeting or panel about a topic or area of interest to your organization and to them. Ask them to invite their colleagues to participate. If the content is targeted to the interests of these talented folks – whether they are engineers, doctors, nurses, auditors, investment bankers or whatever – they will want to contribute their expertise, questions, ideas, and solutions. Create a Facebook or LinkedIn group and ask them to join for future discussions and networking. Alternatively or in addition, get them to register using email and/or a mobile phone number.
“Engineers are roughly five times more likely to turn to a person for information as to an impersonal source such as a database.” Rob Cross, et.al. The Hidden Power of Social Networks.
Create a partnership with Internal Talent for Engagement
Whether it is your own firm’s forum or a public one, get your top employees to do more than just ask people to join it – ask them to actively participate in the online dialogues, identify exceptional contributors and refer people for your consideration. Ask your internal experts to rate various people and build a talent map of who’s who is a given field. Your internal folks are more credible and better able to understand what interests a particular potential candidate. You should act as a partner to the experts, moving into action when they have identified someone exceptional. Up to 40% of hires come from referral programs in organizations with good programs.
Build Interest Subtly; Engage Over Time
Crowdsourcing can be efficient, but it is often a slower process of discovery and relationship building that pays off downstream. Talented people will come to the forums or participate in webinars when the content interests them. The biggest challenge is to make sure content stays current, is targeted, and has subtle hooks that generate interest. Ideally recruiters should not own the forums. Your in-house technical experts should be the owners and primary participants, while recruiters act as the catalyst to get them started, organize and operate them, but otherwise remain in the background. Engineers, in particular, but probably most professionals have large networks that they tap into for help and information regularly.
“We learned that individual expertise did not distinguish people as high performers. What distinguished high performers were larger and more diversified personal networks.” Rob Cross, et.al. The Hidden Power of Social Networks.
Sell Projects or Problems, not Jobs
Talented folks already have jobs. They are looking for work that is exciting, engaging, and different. They want to make a difference, get a patent, solve a problem, become better at some particular things whether it is in using a new piece of equipment, being offered a change to experiment in some new ways, or just having a larger role than they currently have.
The new way of working is to be part of projects and move on when the project is finished or no longer interesting. Fewer people are focused on a lifelong career in one firm, but move readily between firms as new ideas and development take place. You need to be ready to capitalize on this, predict when interest is waning and take advantage.
Your forum will need to bring up whatever new project is being discussed, even if only in a general way, or create excitement about a new development or area your firm is exploring.
Create an Easy Way to Express Interest
Crowdsourcing often fails because it is too difficult for people to express their interest. It should be crystal clear that if anyone is interested in exploring the possibility of being part of a new project or activity that there is a simple, confidential, and efficient way to apply or be contacted.
Talented people often have no resume or CV. They do not have social profiles. They have reputations and colleagues who know them and often recommend them. They are also frequently concerned about keeping their interest quiet.
The application process should be as simple as is legally possible and, initially, just enough to get them into conversation with you or a hiring manager. Once they are excited and committed, they will then be much more likely to fill out any required paperwork.
Offer an Alternative to Full-time, Regular Employment
Many professionals are more interested in solving a problem or contributing in some specific way to the organization short of becoming an employee. Given that we are working remotely, being able to tap someone’s expertise no matter where they are are how they are employed makes more sense than ever. By offering contracts or short-term work you can expand the number of interested people, build a larger and more diverse network, and expand globally.
Crowdsourcing is not as simple as some make it out to be. It is a powerful and sophisticated way to trump traditional referral programs and online sourcing efforts. It requires effort, planning, and salesmanship and the result is a better quality of hire.