The Latest Trends in Executive Search? Big Data. Big Data. Big Data.

The executive search industry has witnessed a dramatic shift in how board and senior-level executives are recruited.  Co-Founder and General Partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz Marc Andreessen believes LinkedIn is “eating” the recruiting industry. Yes, that’s the actual verb he uses in an essay he wrote for The Wall Street JournalWhy Software is Eating the World” and yes, as an investor in LinkedIn, Mr. Andreessen has a vested interest in promoting the idea. But he has a point.

Software is changing how we do what we do in fundamental ways. But with every cool new advance in technology, there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always?)

There is now a treasure trove of data available on candidates.  However, in most cases, it is not current, it is incomplete, and increasingly it is not structured.  Moreover, there is so much information available, recruiters are suffering from information overload. Increasingly, they’re missing top talent, not because the candidates are hard to find, but because they cannot see the forest for the trees. Recruiting “best practices” were never designed to deal with Big Data.  It represents both a threat and an opportunity that I detail in our latest video.




We welcome your thought and comments on the trends you’ve witnessed.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Top 5 Talent Acquisition Inspirations for the New Year

Our Top 5 Talent Acquisition Inspirations for the New Year stand at the intersection of talent with big data. While great leaders are made of flesh and blood, the data that tell their story are made of binary zeros and ones. Every time we transact business online or at the supermarket, every time we interact with a government entity, every time we tweet, like, or comment, a digital record is born: we, increasingly, are the sum of all of that. There is a treasure trove of data available to be tapped — beyond candidate resumes and LinkedIn profiles — that can revolutionize search as we know it. Let the following examples serve as a guide:

1. Nate Silver. 

Nate Silver

Nate Silver is a statistician and blogger who first rose to fame in 2008 when he called the presidential election with incredible accuracy, getting 49 out of 50 states right. But then in 2012 he topped himself: he correctly forecast how all 50 states would vote for president. He even predicted a tie in Florida and projected it eventually would tip to President Barack Obama, which is the equivalent of predicting a coin landing on its side. He did it by taking polling data, weighing it for past accuracy and running 40,000 computer simulations at a time. He is author of the newly published book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t. He is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and has appeared as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. He has spoken at TED and SXSW, and has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. What does this have to do with executive search? Everything. (See #2.)

2. Moneyball, the book.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis is a book about the Oakland Athletics baseball team. More important, it’s a book about talent acquisition.  Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane had a problem: his recruiting budget was small than nearly every other team.  He couldn’t afford to sign Major League superstars. Instead, he decided to outsmart the richer teams. He signed undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games.

3. Moneyball, the movie.

Moneyball is a 2011 biographical sports drama film directed by Bennett Miller from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it is time. There’s a reason Nate Silver got his start as a baseball statistician. To quote colleague Dan Lyons, “Bear in mind that before turning his attention to politics in 2007 and 2008, Silver was using computer models to make predictions about baseball. What does it mean when some punk kid baseball nerd can just wade into politics and start kicking butt on all these long-time “experts” who have spent their entire lives covering politics? It means something big is happening.”

4. Obama for America Data Analytics Team

The Presidential Election is our Nation’s executive search for Commander-in-Chief. No matter what your politics, the success of the Obama Campaign’s is a case to be studied. In fact, a right-leaning digital strategy firm Engage has just released its analysis comparing the technology strategies of the Obama and Romney campaigns. The report states that the Obama campaign’s analytics team employed 50 people, including an embedded analytics team measuring the campaign’s own internal operations. By comparison, the Romney campaign employed a data team of four people. Moreover, the Chief Digital Strategist for Obama for America Joe Rospars and his team did something no other campaign team had done before. They created a single massive system that merged the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states. Time Magazine reported the new megafile didn’t just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals. The Obama campaign’s so-called persuadability score “ modeled how susceptible an individual was to changing their mind based on campaign appeals.”

5. Numb3rs.

In this digital era, we, the people, are all reduced to binary zeros and ones as data about us is captured in applicant tracking systems, resume databases, and social networks and in a near-infinite amount of databases outside the world of HR. The secret to recruiting great talent lies in the numb3rs. And no wonder: so too does the secret of the universe.

Now that we’ve share our inspiration, we’ll move on the innovation in executive search in coming posts.


Social Media Miasma: Recruiters Wear Out Their Welcome

As the novelty of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter wears off, some users are growing tired of getting friended, connected, poked, pitched, and, yes, even recruited.  That could explain why we’re hearing corporate recruiters complain that they’re not getting the enthusiastic response they’re used to getting online and why Intellerati has seen an influx of business from employers eager to recruit candidates who are not actively marketing their wares on LinkedIn. Maybe it is that what started as a place to connect with people we really know and people we’d like to know has turned into a place where we’re getting incessantly marketed to — not just by companies but by human beings who are attempting to be their own brands. I get that that is what executives have been told to do in book after book on how to optimize their careers. But, not everyone deserves to be a brand.   

Social Media Real Life

Moreover, the “too much information” overload is exacerbated by jarring commentary from those with whom we’ve connected. We learn things we wish we didn’t know that an acquaintance inexplicably feels compelled to share online — like the time a friend uploaded gory accident aftermath photos of his own injuries or the time a family member made overtly racist remarks about our Nation’s President. And then there are Facebook friends whom we absolutely do not know —  a friend of a friend of a friend — whose self-indulgent updates take over our feeds with the mundane details of their existence. I get that they are trying to share.  I just wished they could write. In the end, we are left wondering who are these people?

2012 has been the summer of discontent for social networks. Social media stocks, with the exception of LinkedIn, have been getting hammered since going public. Facebook experienced its first ever year-over-year decline in unique visitors in June.  Yet, I suspect the real reason for the reduced responsiveness of social network users may be that we’re getting increasingly twitchy over privacy concerns. I know that embedded in the fine print of most social networks is legalese that says they get to do pretty much what they please. Moreover, there’s usually a clause that asserts they can change the rules at any time.  Until this year, the risk/reward ratio seemed to tilt in the favor of full participation with little concern about where all my personal information would end up.  I didn’t mind sharing my interests with the multinational corporation that happens to be my social network in exchange for getting content more aligned with my interests. But I started getting creeped out when I saw details gleaned from my social profiles aggregated, marketed, and sold elsewhere to anyone who “googles” my name. A serious line had been crossed when companies like MyLife popped up in search results, offering to serve up my personal home address and age in bold print. It didn’t really register at first until I had an intriguing conversation with the former CTO of Stanford. He told me that the University recently stopped using the year of graduation in the email addresses of its alumni. It made the change to its email naming convention after actors and other people of consequence had complained: those with a predilection to ageism simply do the math.

I don’t know how MyLife and other sites like it got my information. Moreover, I don’t know why it kept telling me someone had been searching for me  – a name they’d share if I’d only sign up — when apparently that never happened. (A lawsuit has been filed alleging that was a complete scam.) I do know this year a critical mass of weirdness had been reached. I spent the better part of a weekend opting out of places like MyLife because, to my knowledge. I never directly opted in.  (I’m pleased to say the instructions I followed actually worked.)

Still, removing personal information from the Internet is a little like whack-a-mole. You can can lock down your social network privacy settings, and still, you’re left with the sense that it might very well end up in someone else’s hands. LinkedIn user passwords were compromised back in June and the privacy policies of the all the leading social networks seem in a constant state of flux. LinkedIn was going to use member photos in advertising, turning users into shills, until a backlash taught the business social network it was not so smart a move.  And, in case you didn’t notice, social networks are making it harder for users to find and change their privacy settings. I understand that social networks need to monetize their businesses: they just don’t have to do it by being sneaky.

That we are all connected, that we are given a voice, that we can do amazing things — together — online, that remains the promise. But there’s a reason marketing communications professionals have noticed a decided decline in the responsiveness of the average social media user. It may be social media fatigue, but I suspect that lately it is more a matter of trust.

The LinkedIn Illusion

Just 17% of the nation’s workforce are members of LinkedIn.  What does that mean for employers? If you limit your passive candidate sourcing and recruiting efforts to LinkedIn, you are ignoring 4 out of every 5 potential candidates.

A growing number of employers are investing in LinkedIn recruiting licenses, and for less important roles, it can be an effective tool. However, for most executive, mission critical, and hard-to-fill technology roles, it simply does not go the distance. The talent pool is too shallow and, well, it’s been over-fished. Recently, a number of our clients have observed that an increasing number highly sought-after candidates — the ones you actually want to hire — are experiencing recruiter-fatigue.The minority of passive candidates that are on LinkedIn are getting barraged with LinkedIn InMails from talent acquisition teams. The more they hear from recruiters on LinkedIn, the less inclined they are to respond.

Question Mark Lady

Another disadvantage of focusing passive recruitment efforts on LinkedIn is that you are competing with every other employer that is vying for your candidate members’ attention. LinkedIn candidates are the proverbial low-hanging fruit ripe for talent acquisition’s plucking. By climbing higher up in the tree — by conducting original investigative research to identify and recruit top talent that is not so obvious — employers gain a powerful competitive advantage. Investigative research consistently uncovers candidates employers never dreamed existed. Even better, these candidates are not actively marketing their wares on LinkedIn.  In other words, by climbing higher in the tree, you pretty much get candidates all to yourself.

There are other things you should know about LinkedIn:

  • Only 1% of LinkedIn users visit daily, compared to Facebook’s 76%
  • The more senior the person (SVP, EVP, CXO), the less likely they are to have a member profile.
  • Many profiles like the most basic detail. (i.e. a profile with the title “Engineer” do not tell you what kind of engineer or what level.)
  • Many profiles are abandoned and outdated.

Ask yourself why LinkedIn doesn’t display the “last updated” date, a critical field that is available in every database. In other words, they have that data, but are choosing not to show it. If they displayed it, users would be shocked to discover that the vast majority of members haven’t updated their profiles or logged in for a very long time.

LinkedIn does not tell employers who is interested, who is qualified. and who is able to make a move at this point in their career. More important, it does not tell you who is good. In other words, there is still a lot of recruiting that needs to be done to turn LinkedIn prospects into viable candidates.  We regularly provide additional bandwidth to corporate executive search and recruiting teams.

In passive candidate sourcing strategy, LinkedIn is a but step in the process. To recruit the best talent, it is a step that must be followed by original, investigative research to uncover, map, profile, engage, screen, and qualify the contenders. In other words, LinkedIn is not a panacea. It is a starting place, not the finish line.

We invite your observations and comments.

On-Again, Off-Again LinkedIn

A few days ago, LinkedIn turned out the lights and, for a while, those of us who login daily stumbled around in the dark wondering what to do.

LinkedIn decided, in its inimitable wisdom, to make it impossible for users to select text in profiles by layering in some javascript that interfered with the ability to copy/paste. Needless, to say, the change did not fly with paying customers. Glen Cathey’s Boolean Blackbelt blog captured the angst as we puzzled over how LinkedIn could do such a thing, especially to those of us who pay hundreds of dollars monthly per seat for LinkedIn access.  AmyBeth Hale, ResearchGoddess that she is, weighed in:

Glen, we are experiencing that here at Microsoft right now with the Recruiter accounts. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past LinkedIn at this point to re-introduce ‘copy/paste functionality’ as a paid feature after this move. Perhaps if we collectively make a big enough stink about this, they’ll reverse the decision.


We could just not become over-reliant on one tool ;)

SocialTalent CEO Jonathan Campbell put together an excellent webinar detailing the recent LinkedIn changes with instructions on how to track them in the coming weeks and months.  Never one to miss a legitimate opportunity to partake in public discourse , we chimed in as well:

We’re experiencing un-selectable text here as well   . . . at our recruiting research firm Intellerati in Connecticut.   Thanks, Glen, for your superb documentation on a work-around. My issue is the following: 1. We helped build LinkedIn. They are penalizing the super-users who are the very people that evangelize their product and who serve as a powerful magnet attracting users to LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook where the vast majority of users login daily, only a small percentage on LinkedIn do. (That would be us.) 2. I am a paying customer. 3. Their security settings are idiotic. They cloak 3rd degree names that are visible in public profiles. So where’s the logic? The choice is pay and we hide the name as our way of thanking you or don’t pay and you get to see the entire profile because the member has chosen to make it public. Not only that, as you have documented so brilliantly, LinkedIn is also attempting to prod people to increase their privacy settings. Who’s the genius that came up with that brilliant move? If you encourage people to do things so that they will be found by fewer and fewer people, that would seem to me to be an invitation to shrink, not grow, a social network.  

This isn’t the first time we’ve noted LinkedIn toying with its members.  In an article in December, The Trouble With LinkedIn: Grey Goo, we detailed our concerns:

Our “issue” with LinkedIn has to do to with how it attempts to be the arbiter of relationships. To this day, LinkedIn asserts in its list of  user agreement ”Do’s and Don’ts” that one must not invite “people you do not know to join your network”.  They assert the “legally binding” right to define how one must “know” an individual, and will (as it once did to me years ago) kick you out of the network without warning or explanation should someone forget how you two met at a conference. LinkedIn knows very well that a significant portion of its member base really does want connect with people they do not know.  Clearly, members who indicate they’re open to career opportunities want to network with recruiters — people they don’t yet know but are eager to meet — an activity that I sense is one of the leading drivers of growth in LinkedIn membership. By comparison, while it is by no means perfect, Facebook defers to its user’s own ability accept, reject, or ignore friend requests and to friend and unfriend people at will.

While LinkedIn’s skewed take on relationships is a disconnect that dates back to the very beginning in the fine print of its user agreement, a growing number of users just now are waking up to that reality.  Consequently, when LinkedIn made text impossible to select without first announcing when or why it would do such a thing, users on the site  thought it might first be a technical issue — some small bug or glitch –and then it dawned on them.

Social networks are built on trust and trust is a fragile thing with connections “loosely joined” on the Internet.  We may be Facebook “friends”, but we don’t really hang out.  We may network on LinkedIn, and for the ability to do so, we may have uploaded our entire business “social graph” to LinkedIn. But this latest move by LinkedIn and others like it are not “right purpose”.  LinkedIn explained they decided to make text un-copy/paste-able to protect the “data and privacy” of its members and “of the LinkedIn website”. Actually, I don’t think so.  Redacting data in profiles that LinkedIn users have chosen to make public is not acting in their best interest. Quite to the contrary, it is doing the opposite of what members have said that they want. Interfering with the ability to copy/paste to hinder networking is not acting our best interest. In other words, LinkedIn’s turning out the lights has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with LinkedIn,which is why our rant on Boolean Black Belt continued . . .

4. How is it that I cannot select data of my first degree connections or for public profile data that LinkedIn users have chosen to share with the world? Remember, all of the data that they’re steadfastly shutting off access to is only in the database by the grace of every user. (Well, that and they did a pretty good job of vacuum-cleaning up every name in our Outlook with ‘nary a thank you . . .) 5. I’ve noticed in Google search results that my public profile doesn’t have a Google cache link for the page. What’s up with that? Is that something that also has gone the way of the buffalo? I thought one reason people participated in LinkedIn was to “brand” themselves and to enable others to find them for business purposes. If LinkedIn text is not selectable and if, in so doing, they make it not indexable or if LinkedIn slowly disappears its public pages from Google cache as appears to be the case with my public profile, then how are people going to network? I mean, seriously! Even more important to LinkedIn, how are people going to find LinkedIn? It appears the social network is becoming decidedly anti-social as it attempts to monetize its recruiting business. We should take LinkedIn’s move as a cautionary shot across the bow and remind ourselves about the many implications of LinkedIn entering the recruiting business. Randomly doing stupid things like throwing a switch so that the UI frustrates its most loyal customers is a very risky move on their part. Social networks can turn on you. But apparently treating its relationship with us as disposable is the thanks we recruiters get for being the very reason so many people come here. LinkedIn is taking our money, our business relationships, and competing with us and as it does, it will continue to shut off access in every way it can so it can jack up its fees, even if it is to information that is otherwise public. Whenever Facebook has introduced a change that was an overstep, users objected en masse and Facebook,to some degree, relented. Perhaps its time we expressed our disappointment in their misbehavior. Alternatively, we can take our toys and go elsewhere. Google+ keeps looking better all the time . . .

 And then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over.  We awoke today to discover LinkedIn had turned back on the lights. We could see again because we could copy/paste again for legitimate business reasons. Because in the end, the information belongs to us, to our friends, and to friends of friends,  not to LinkedIn, no matter how hard it tries.

LinkedIn Street Cred: Low User ID

How Low Can You Go?

In social networking circles, a low LinkedIn member ID number gives you street cred. Because LinkedIn numbers its users sequentially. the lower the member ID, the longer you’ve called LinkedIn your business networking home.  Of course that raises the question, how does one find one’s user number, particularly if your LinkedIn profile sports a vanity URL? For instance my personalized LinkedIn profile ID is However, that’s just my public profile. When I click on the button View Full Profile, I get taken to a page that has my ID in the URL.  Just look for the number after the “id=” part of the URL.  Your number comes right are the equal sign in


It’s a little easier to find the exact date that you joined LinkedIN.  Simply login and click on Setting in the drop-down under your name in the upper right hand corner of your screen. Settings wil take you to a window where LinkedIn displays your start date after the words “Member since” on the upper left side of the screen:

The How Do I Find My User ID topic came up in comments on a article I wrote for called The Trouble with LinkedIn: Grey Goo.

I thought it would be fun to set up a separate thread to invite people to share their LinkedIn numbers and start dates.  It would be interesting to see when most people started as well as to see how low we can go!  Please comment with your start date and user ID To begin the experiment:

Krista Bradford: December 10, 2003, LinkedIn Member ID 5957

The Dumbest Things Recruiters Do, Redux

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan

HR thoughtleader and ERE columnist Dr. John Sullivan recently came out with a list of the dumbest things recruiters do, asking readers to choose their top five from a list of thirty.  (Today, he reported the results of that survey.) Those lacking a sense of humor may find Sullivan’s “linguistic frame” a bit harsh. Corporate recruiters may do dumb things, but many of them are managing a stunning number of requisitions (250+) with limited tools and support. With that disclaimer, we at Intellerati thought the list was a valid exercise aimed at improving recruiting for one and all.  As we sifted through Sullivan’s initial list thirty, five “dumb things” stood out as being particularly relevant to candidate sourcing efforts focused on the front end of the recruiting process. Below is our Fav Five gleaned from Dr. Sullivan’s initial list.

Intellerati Top 5 – The Dumbest Things Recruiters Do

    1. Using “active” approaches to recruit “passive” candidates — most who apply for jobs are active candidates however, many recruiters make the mistake of using the same active approaches to find the currently employed who are not looking for a job.
    2. Mistaking software as systems or solutions — software is a tool that supports or automates process, but by itself it accomplishes little. Great efforts require that tools be wrapped in well-designed processes and procedures, which combined make up a system or solution.
    3. Assuming that recruiting tools work — it’s a mistake to use the approaches that “everyone else is using,” good recruiters assess on their own what tools work and what tools don’t work.
    4. Dropping  rejected candidates – it’s a major mistake to discard the resumes of top candidates who were not hired, rather than shopping them to other hiring managers or revisiting them later.
    5. Dropping the overqualified — prematurely dropping candidates who are overqualified can cause you to lose some superior talent.

To drill down, we thought it might help to share our thoughts on the Top 5 and our reasons for selecting them.

Sullivan: Using “active” approaches to recruit “passive” andidates — most who apply for jobs are active candidates however, many recruiters make the mistake of using the same active approaches to find the currently employed who are not looking for a job.

The first dumb thing that recruiters do is treat passive candidates like active ones, a stance that mistakenly presumes intense interest, if not desperate need, for the job. However, I would add recruiters who do want to treat passive candidates differently often lack the right tools. Outside of an email inbox or a spreadsheet, most recruiters don’t have  a place to put passive candidates that enables them to manage those relationships in a scaleable way.

Sullivan: Mistaking software as systems or solutions — software is a tool that supports or automates process, but by itself it accomplishes little. Great efforts require that tools be wrapped in well-designed processes and procedures, which combined make up a system or solution.

That observation brings us to the second bullet point in our Top 5: mistaking software as a system or solution.  Applicant tracking software does not a passive candidate system make. Applicant Tracking Systems are not designed for evergreen candidates.  The workflow is wrong.  In addition, for EEO reporting considerations, it is best to keep your applicant database separate. Increasingly, we help clients find better ways to manage passive candidates and integrate research to leverage its full value.

Sullivan: Assuming that recruiting tools work — it’s a mistake to use the approaches that “everyone else is using,” good recruiters assess on their own what tools work and what tools don’t work.

Increasingly, we see clients replacing traditional recruiting tools — job boards and job postings — with a much more proactive approach.  Would you rather post a job and hope the right candidate applies or identify the best candidates and then simply recruit them? We have found the latter is the most direct route to the best hires.

Sullivan: Dropping  rejected candidates – it’s a major mistake to discard the resumes of top candidates who were not hired, rather than shopping them to other hiring managers or revisiting them later.

I would agree that dropping rejected candidates or applicants is short-sighted. But again, the problem is the lack of passive candidate tracking systems to make those efforts possible.

Sullivan: Dropping the overqualified — prematurely dropping candidates who are overqualified can cause you to lose some superior talent.

Last, from where we sit, dropping the overqualified is so dumb it verges on insane. But it happens so frequently we have lost count. On numerous occasions, stellar A-player candidates who were motivated, interested, and fine with the salary range were ultimately snubbed by the recruiter because they were overqualified. If a candidate is serious about joining an employer at the level they have been offered, then that is not a problem — it is an opportunity.

A Sourcer’s Worth? How About $100-Million+

What is a sourcer’s worth these days? Amybeth Hale, Editor of ERE Media’s The Fordyce Letter, raised that question in a recent column entitled Determining a Sourcer’s Worth.

Amybeth Hale, Research Goddess

Amybeth Hale, Research Goddess

In it, Amybeth (also known affectionately in sourcing circles as the Research Goddess) notes that the answer she gets back frequently ranges from an hourly rate of  $6 dollars  to well in excess of $100. The difference in cost reflects a difference in approach from quantitative and qualitative sourcing. However, while the hourly rate may tell you what the going rate is for most sourcers, it doesn’t necessarily answer Amybeth’s question of worth.

Recruiting research known as sourcing — the study of the talent ecosystem — can be extraordinarily valuable once you realize it can do oh-so-much-more than inform than talent acquisition.  Qualitative, investigative sourcing — the kind Intellerati does —  can also be used to inform other corporate activities, including M& A.  To that end, what would you say a sourcer is worth if that research also leads to the acquisition of a business worth in excess of $100-million dollars?  When you stop to think about it, the most talented executives and technologist can be found gathering around emergent technologies, hot startups, and stealth market-creating enterprises. The movement and aggregation of top talent create patterns that gifted qualitative researchers recognize and analyze for competitive insights that are  so valuable to they verge on priceless.

Of course, there is a place for quantitative sourcing. For volume recruiting, quantity may, indeed, be the requirement.  To that end, there may be advantages to be found in global labor arbitrage that reduces the cost of some candidate sourcing activities to as low as $6 an hour.  Of course, often low hourly rates are off-set by reduced efficiency and limitations on what kinds of work they are capable of doing. Off-shore sourcing tend to be more appropriate for repetitive, data-entry intensive sourcing tasks – the kind that can be described in step-by-step instructions, such as resume database searching and Internet sourcing using a list of bookmarked boolean keyword search strings.  For companies whose number of openings more resemble an onslaught, recruiting processes first need to scale, in order to move from reactive to proactive mode. Sourcing, whether offshore or on, is an an effective way to create and sustain talent pipelines.  It can help take some of the pain away. However, if you’re not careful, a quantitative approach can create even more pain if the real problem is that there are many candidates, instead of too few.

A Sourcer’s Worth: M&A Intelligence

Qualitative sourcing takes a strategic approach to recruiting research, one that focuses on recruiting top talent. It drives efficiencies in recruiting, in diversity initiatives, and succession planning because it supercharges recruiting research with competitive intelligence. Its filter is critical thinking — analysis that transforms information into actionable intelligence that identifies the shortest path to best and brightest.  It is that critical thinking that leads to other competitive insights — observations that return extraordinary organizational return on investment, known as ROI. You don’t get that kind of value from sourcers performing repetitive, if not mindless, tasks. Quite the contrary. This is about as mindful as one can get.

Jobsian Candidate Sourcing: Less is More

Candidate sourcing teams could take a lesson from Steve Jobs.  The Apple founder understood better than most that “less is more”. While other companies piled on an overwrought array of features, Jobs opted for elegant simplicity — but one button on the iPad and iPhone — the Home button — but one click wheel on the Apple iPod. He took away things like floppy drives and hard disks, so that we could focus on what mattered most.

Steve Jobs


The Internet is serving up a near infinite number of job applicants and potential candidates. And compared to the opacity that clouded the recruiting process up until now, that seismic shift represents a tremendous opportunity for candidate sourcing teams, if it doesn’t kill them first.

Imagine standing in New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, moments before the ball drop at midnight, in a crush of a half-million to a million people. You know your ideal candidate is right there, with you, in that sea of people — only you can’t see him or her for the crowd. You start scanning an endless stream of people walking by. No, not that one. Not that one. Not him. Not her. You attempt to move to get a better vantage point to find “the one”, but soon all access is choked off. Soon, you are unable to focus on anyone but those that immediately surround you, those that, thanks to the growing crowd, are now invading your personal space, inches from you. You cannot move and, for the most part, you cannot see. That perfect hire is standing right in front of you, in plain sight, only your view is completely obliterated.

Employers are suffering from “too much information”. There are simply too many active and passive candidates that get in the way of the people that deserve to be hired. Most recruiting processes are applicant-centric, designed simply to process what comes over the transom. Because the Internet has made it possible for practically anyone to apply with a simple click of a mouse, they all do. Applicants that bear no resemblance to the job description apply en masse. Clients have told us that only about 1-2% of applicants meet the basic qualifications, meaning 98% of the time they spend sifting through useless applicant-after-applicant is wasted. Keyword filters help with some of the processing, but they are by no means perfect and often eliminate the very candidates you are seeking.

If that were not all, there is also an endless list of passive candidates. And, yes, it is thrilling to have all that talent within reach, as you surf the ‘net, but soon comes the crushing realization that there simply isn’t enough of you to manage it all. And the utter irony is that even with the millions that are now available online, only 60-75% of candidates are discoverable on the Internet, meaning that you’re missing one out of every three or four. That’s a pretty significant hole– dare I say “gaping maw” — in your sourcing strategy. Intellerati’s investigative approach to candidate sourcing regularly uncovers top talent who make it a practice to leave very few bread crumbs on the Internet — from powerful VIPs and luminaries to emergent stars. In other words, while you may be drowning in candidates, you still have not yet identified the best talent.

The Zen of Candidate Sourcing

Intellerati believes that executive search and talent acquisition teams deserve more than an endless list of potential candidates. You deserve to know who is good. To start, if your organization is committed to quality hires, you need to lay down some serious due diligence in the way of candidate identification to stop missing top talent keeping low profiles. However, basic candidate identification only gives you the “more”. It doesn’t tell you which passive candidates are good and which are sociopaths. Traditional name generation and profiling hasn’t been designed to take you from more to less, when it should. Recruiting research needs to move from the quantitative to the qualitative, one that identifies and calibrates the “best of the best” as it preemptively weeds out questionable prospects. In other words, one must design a simple, elegant process that focuses on the talent that matters. While the talent pool is near infinite, there is a finite number of executives and technologists who outperform. Steve Jobs had it right. Less is more.

Is Your Executive Search Firm Just Now Figuring Out LinkedIn?

If you’re a buyer of retained search, you should check to see whether your executive search consultant is ahead or behind the social networking curve.  Since real world analog and online digital networking is essential to surfacing the best candidates, you want to ensure that your consultant has clocked enough hours in the digital realm to achieve mastery of that medium.  More important, you want to avoid hiring those that were latecomers to the social networking party, a delay suggesting that they are not as forward thinking and as plugged in as they need to be in order to serve your organization well.

One way to calibrate the social networking savvy of a retained search consultant is to simply visit that consultant’s LinkedIn profile page and check the web address for the recruiter’s member number.

For example, if you visit my LinkedIn Profile, you’ll notice that the URL is  My member identification number is 59572, which means I am counted among LinkedIn’s first 60-thousand members. That is no small feat in a network that now totals 80 million members, a population larger than the United Kingdom, Germany and France.  Unlike those countries, the population of LinkedIn is growing by one new member per second.

Social Networking Puzzle

When you do the math, (59,572/80000000) less than one-tenth of one percent of LinkedIn members (.074 percent) managed to join LinkedIn by December of 2003 when I became a member — the same year the social network launched.  If you plug that percentage into the Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model, this .074-percent is counted among the first wave of users in a technology lifecycle, a wave referred to as Innovators. According to this model, Innovators are more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented — the qualities you’d generally want in a search partner. Innovators embrace new technologies before Early Adopters, and well before the Early Majority, the Late Majority, and the Laggards.

So before you engage a retained search partner, do your social networking due diligence and check the recruiter’s LinkedIn member ID.  The smaller the number, the better. Or simply ask the consultant when he or she joined.  If it is long after the network’s official launch in May 2003, then you are at risk of doing business with a consultant who doesn’t entirely get it.  And that, my friends, is a frightening thing.