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Person of Interest – Recapping #SourceCon

One of my favorite TV shows in recent years was Person of Interest on CBS. It was the future thinking – not so real but maybe more real than we thought – hour-long drama of a machine built to recognize threats. A machine managed by evil government officials with a back door that provided the heroes with what were considered irreverent numbers (i.e. people) to rescue. A modern twist on the man vs. machine (made by man) storyline.

My career in recruiting started in 1993, which means I’ve been in the field longer than half of the attendees at SourceCon have been alive. While I’ve come to terms with the reality that my stories of machine recruiting (a.k.a. client server Resumix 2.0 on Unix, complete with scan stations, OCR resume processing and skills inventory libraries) are now museum artifacts, this year’s SourceCon was not to be missed. The carefully crafted formula of new meets old, man and machine, was delightfully balanced with a number of amazing female-fronted sessions and powerhouse emcee, Shannon Pritchett. The entire experience is best summarized by borrowing a phrase from my good friend Gerry Crispin, I’m a lifelong student of recruiting.

And I’m still learning – here are my top takeaways from SourceCon:

Man vs. Machine is everywhere. Chances are, I’ll entire retirement holding tightly to the truth that machines cannot replace the human in human resources. However, I’m confident that machines can enable humans to be kinder, smarter and better at what they do. Every session I attended focused on technology in a way that really pushed the envelope of what is possible now vs. later.

The annual SourceCon Grand Master Challenge came with a twist this year, though a human did win, the machine placed third and should not be underestimated. What was really interesting was that while the humans used a dozen forms of technology like data mining and artificial intelligence-based programs to compete, the differential came down to the humans’ ability to think outside the box and actually follow a hunch in some cases. I don’t think it will be long before technology adapts these same behaviors. The big takeaway being that recruiting and specifically sourcing are fully dependent on technology in more ways than we can count, and the more advanced the technology gets, the more solutions we have to find that next perfect person to fill business needs.

At the same time, we don’t need all of the shiny objects to be successful – sometimes we just need to rediscover untapped skills. Jim Schnyder from PepsiCo did an awesome job of breaking down some of what I like to call old school basics using a core candidate relationship management solution. Using the Avature CRM, Jim was able to demonstrate the basic principles of uncovering candidates you already know. In so many instances, sourcing teams focus on finding fresh talent, yet sometimes a gold mine exists with those might have forgotten.

One tip Jim gave, which I believe is critical for recruiting success, is around tracking candidates who said ‘no thank you’ and inviting them to reengage. Recruiting should be personal, but oftentimes recruiters take things personally when someone turns them down and then forget that candidate exists. Right candidate, wrong time is a formula for Right candidate, right time in the future. Inviting these candidates to a community, asking basic questions of them and creating an email campaign to reengage with them is both simple and hugely beneficial. Jim also shared several campaign emails that asked for 60 seconds to respond – the percentage of follow up from those candidates that had already been of interest and immediate value of those that are open to a conversation is a jumpstart on sourcing that next position.

There is plenty of research published by Talent Board, the non-profit organization behind the Candidate Experience (CandE) Awards, which proves that by providing a call to action to a candidate, even one who isn’t ready to join your organization, is far more likely to prompt a referral and leaves the door open to reach back out in the future.

Networking is an art and a skill. Not everyone is comfortable meeting new people – even I struggle to get out of my own way to make new introductions. (No laughing – people think it is easy for me and I assure you it is not – it is a decision, not a strength.) That said, when you’re hanging out with some of the most brilliant minds in sourcing, the ones who have pushed all the edges and still come up with new ways to find that one thing that seems impossible to find, even my decision to network is challenged by how intimidated I feel. The safest place to network with these experts is SourceCon. There is a level of we know how to do this mixed with just as strong a passion to teach it. While I am not going to be writing my own Boolean search string, or hacking a conference attendee list any time soon, I did take away a few tricks for making connections. These include the answer is always no if you don’t ask and just because they said no to your idea doesn’t mean they are judging you as a person.

If you missed SourceCon this time around, check out the event hashtag #sourcecon, follow the speakers and ask questions. A big congratulations to Shannon and her team for delivering one of the best content, conversation and educational conferences I’ve attended in a long time – setting the stage for next month’s ERE Recruiting Conference to raise the bar again.