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What does the future of sourcing look like? Yes, there’s probably some advanced artificial intelligence, but there’s also going to be a ton of marketing expertise and gut instinct (a sourcer’s best friend, right?). I recently hosted a webinar on the topic with CSRA’s Justen Baxter, a veteran in the sourcing community, with more than 10 years of experience recruiting and sourcing in the defense industry. (You can get the recording here.)

We answer all the questions we couldn’t get to during the webinar, from machine learning to tracking marketing campaigns to building a talent network. Plus, more on the top skills of the future sourcer in Justen’s recent guest blog post.


What is AI and machine learning, and how does it relate to talent acquisition?

Chris: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are two terms we’re hearing a lot in talent acquisition recently. AI is the larger concept of machines being able to use data to learn and make smart decisions on your behalf. Machine learning refers to the manifestation of this intelligence and how machines actually tackle our problems.

In both cases, these concepts focus on one thing: leveraging technology to help you be more efficient and make smarter decisions. They have some really interesting applications for talent acquisition teams, like being able to more effectively find deliver candidates in your database to your sourcing team (think asking a bot for all the talent in your talent network and ATS that has 10 years of experience in Java, lives in Boston and have been at their current employer for more than 4 years – then getting back a ranked list).

I also see AI being able to provide teams with better insight on the candidates that sourcers should be talking to within their database, driven by multiple variables like skills, experience and fit with our organization, so that they can more effectively build relationships and understand where to start their campaigns.

The one caveat is that AI and machine learning WILL NOT replace the sourcer; it will make them more efficient.The knowledge and domain expertise that sourcers have in understanding every stakeholder, from candidates to hiring managers to leadership; understanding your message, value and brand; and being able to build meaningful relationships with candidates, all remain essential to success and can’t be fully replaced by a robot at this point.


What’s the difference between a campaign and a personalized e-mail to an individual pitching a job opportunity?

Chris: When we use the term “campaign,” we refer to a targeted message to a specific audience that can be tested across different communication channels. In either a mass personalized campaign to a large targeted subset of candidates (i.e., Java developers in California) or an individual email to a skilled prospect about a job opportunity, I’d treat it like a campaign.

For campaigns, there is an expectation of testing and measurement. That means we should be looking to deliver and understand the messages we send and their performance in terms of response rates and unsubscribes. It’s not enough to just send out emails; we really should aim to understand what email messaging works so we can get better candidate responses.

More on measurement of these campaigns below.

Justen: When I think of a campaign, I think of targeted drip campaigns and messaging developed for branding purposes across larger audiences; multiple messages or emails that build on a larger goal to increase brand awareness and fuel an action. When I think of an individual email, it is a single message to a single candidate referencing one specific job.


How do you manage and track campaigns?

Justen: The best way to track campaigns is to adopt a robust CRM; there are several out there. I would suggest making sure your CRM can track the ROI of your campaigns, applications, clicks, and ultimately interviews and hires to really understand what works and what doesn’t. This would mean functionality that integrates with an ATS.

Having the data to know your opt-out rates and see how your campaigns and messaging are performing, you can replicate what’s working in the future and eliminate what’s not working now.

Chris: For every campaign you run, I would look at four things: open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribes and response rate/applications. Open rate refers to the percentage of candidates that open the email, meaning they have clicked on the email title and read the content of the email. Click-through rate is the percentage of candidates that clicked on the call to action in the email (i.e., Visit our Engineer Page or Apply Now). Unsubscribes are the number of candidates who opt out of future messages, a good indication of bad content. Response rate can be the number of candidates who respond if you send individual messages, but it also could be tied to a downstream goal, like the number of applications that campaign led to.

In every case, it’s important to have a goal in mind with each campaign and consistently improve content that doesn’t work and reuse concepts that do work.


At what point do you consider someone part of your talent network? Do you add someone to the list as soon as you source them? Or do you ask permission or ask them to subscribe to the network?

Chris: The short answer is that someone becomes a part of your talent network when they opt in to receive communications from your organization, either through talking to a sourcer or by opting in via a talent network form on your career site or other channels.

That being said, there are concrete legal rules to who and how you can contact potential candidates, and they are detailed with CAN-SPAM laws (detailed fully here). These rules apply to contacting your talent network as well.

When you source contacts into your talent pipelines, make sure that you know who has opted in to your campaigns, verbally or best case via a talent network form, to add to your mass campaigns. Individual email correspondences from sourcers are fine, but you’ll want to make sure that candidates you source provide consent to receive mass emails from your organization if you want to include them on a larger email distribution list.

You also need to make sure that you offer every candidate an ability to opt out of communications that they are receiving for every campaign you send out – this is usually done with an unsubscribe button/link in the message.


Is there good affordable software for doing a quick search of a large number of resumes (not LinkedIn profiles) for a certain keyword or skill?

Justen:  A CRM is a must-have for any sourcer to be successful and competitive today. There are advanced aggregator tools like HiringSolved that allow you to create robust Boolean searches quickly. I can’t recommend any one software in particular, as it really depends on the number of job reqs and resumes and how large your organization is.

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