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20 July 2017

Approaching candidates directly: 6 Facts about Active Sourcing, which every recruiter should know

Carerix is also active in the German market and works closely with commercial journalists to highlight trends within the market. This article is a translation of:
Direktansprache: 6 Fakten über Active Sourcing, die Recruiter kennen sollten (German)

How can I reach candidates who are a perfect fit for my company? This is currently a burning question for recruiters! Active sourcing is regarded as the panacea in this context. However, anyone who proceeds in a random and unstructured manner when approaching candidates directly will find it difficult to get candidates interested.

Active sourcing: quality not quantity

In the age of Web 2.0, career portals and social media, it is easy to approach a large number of people in a short time. But it is no use logging into Xing or LinkedIn for the purpose of active sourcing and randomly writing to candidates who are somehow suitable. This brings frustration on both sides. On the side of the recruiter, who fails to land any candidates in spite of great effort. And on the side of the candidates, who are constantly receiving job offers that are not right for them. Nevertheless, for a long time, recruiters followed the quantity principle in active sourcing and hardly limited their search. Anyone who, for example, frequently appeared at the top of the search result list of a career portal as a candidate constantly received mail. An increasing number of high potential candidates stayed away from the business portals, with the result that many CV databases and career networks are now considered to be overexploited. 48 % of the employees who were surveyed in 2016 for the University of Bamberg’s Recruiting Trends Study reported this.

1 – The right strategy

Wasted opportunity? Not necessarily: there are modern resources which can be used to track down candidates who are making themselves scarce on the Internet. How precisely these work – well, more on that later. First, it is necessary to reiterate: anyone who bombards candidates with bulk e-mails again here will not enjoy any recruitment success with these tools either. In principle, candidates have nothing against job offers, but they have to be right for them. This is also reported by the Recruiting Trends Study. Therefore, the following points should be observed for successful and tailored active sourcing:

  • Only approach candidates who correspond to the advertised position by at least 80 %.
  • Work with the specialist department to define the right key words for your search, so that you can find the right people.
  • When you approach a candidate, present in detail – with specific references to the candidate’s CV – why they are perfect for the advertised vacancy. This makes the candidate understand: The recruiter really means me! The chance of a reply is then considerably higher.

2 – Using the right technology

The good news: the technology which can make active sourcing easier for recruiters is now much more sophisticated than the search templates in career portals, social networks or Google. The chance of finding a lot of suitable candidates with a few clicks of the mouse and the right key terms has thus been significantly increased. I am referring to sourcing tools. These are smart algorithms which simultaneously browse several (CV) databases, social media such as Twitter, Facebook etc. or business networks such as Xing or LinkedIn on the basis of predefined criteria.

3 – Identifying and qualifying

Even specialist communities such as GitHub or Stack Overflow are not left out. After the identification comes the qualification, in order to guarantee as great as possible a fit between the candidate and the vacancy. Technology helps here too. It arranges the information gathered about each candidate in a ranking list based on the accuracy of the fit. This tells the recruiter the order in which the candidates should be approached.

4 – Data privacy

But there is something that keeps worrying recruiters at this point: the issue of data privacy. Recruiters can remain relaxed about this. The use of sourcing tools is completely compatible with data privacy, as only data which is publicly available in generally accessible sources is gathered by the search engines. According to the law, this data can both be collected and saved in an applicant tracking system. This is clear from Section 28 (1) Sentence 1 No. 3 of the German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). This will not fundamentally change with the revision of the European Data Protection Regulation in May 2018.

5 – The type of contact

Contact details such as the e-mail address or telephone number are generally not publicly available, however, but are particularly valued by the networks on which the candidates are found. Recruiters initially have to make contact with the candidate directly via the network. If the latter confirms the request, all the data is available to the recruiter, who can now contact the candidate. The sourcing tools provide the recruiter with all the sources on which the individual profile information can be found. Many recruiters complain about this as unnecessarily circuitous and regret that contact data cannot be retrieved directly using the sourcing tool – after all, it can take a while for the candidate to confirm the request for contact. But from a legal point of view, it is better to accept this. If recruiters want to contact candidates with a direct message, they are in a grey area under competition law. In this area, the case law is quite old and does not really take the digital age into account. Therefore, the express consent of a candidate is required before they can be approached directly electronically in contrast to an approach by telephone. The express confirmation of a request for contact by a candidate via a social network can be deemed consent from a legal point of view. If this is not available, the contact is illegal. However, even in the event of a successful confirmation of a request for contact, recruiters should definitely take note of whether a candidate has indicated in the respective network that they are interested in job opportunities and make a screen shot of this when approaching a candidate through a direct message. In real life, the risk of a legal dispute with a candidate is extremely low. A candidate has never yet taken legal action because of an individual direct message. But better safe than sorry!

6 – After the approach: staying patient

If the candidate does not respond after a contact attempt through a direct message, the recruiter should leave it at a single approach. Anyone who asks repeatedly is legally moving from a grey to a red area. Alarm! The manifested lack of interest in the form of a failure to reply must be regarded as an indirect statement that a more in-depth contact is not desired. However, recruiters should always be patient before they delete a candidate from their list: they should give them up to seven working days. Highly qualified candidates often receive several enquiries per week. If they do not reply at first, this does not necessarily have anything to do with a lack of interest. On the contrary, they need time to investigate the letter. If the response rate is constantly less than 50 % in spite of the maximum accuracy of the fit between the vacancy and the candidates, recruiters should scrutinise their method of approaching candidates.

  • Was it possibly too superficial?
  • How could the interest of the candidate be aroused?

It does not hurt to conduct a field test amongst recently employed candidates for the purpose of gathering fresh ideas. They may be able to give a recruiter a decisive tip for how to improve the procedure from an applicant’s point of view.