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Celebrating 50 years of Building High Performance Corporate Teams - 1971 to 2021

As mentioned in our last post, we are examining the search-evaluation-hiring-retention process, and sharing almost half a century of Executive Search insights by answering the following 6 questions:

  1. Who am I REALLY looking for?
  2. Where am I going to find them?
  3. How am I going to evaluate them?
  4. How am I actually going to hire them?
  5. How am I going to successfully “on-board” them?
  6. How am I going to retain them?

This post deals with the second question – “Where am I going to find them?” A recent Aberdeen Survey found that 33% of the corporations they polled identified Sourcing as the top priority in the Talent Acquisition Life Cycle, above such other factors as Assessment, Hiring, and On-boarding.

Sources of Candidates

There are a myriad of ways to source candidates these days, each with their pros and cons with respect to quality and cost. The list includes print advertising, internet postings (commercial job boards, company websites, etc.), social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), industry and professional associations, employment services of educational institutions, outplacement agencies, government agencies (e.g. HRDC), networking self-help groups, personal referrals, and of course placement agencies and search firms.

Passive vs. Active Candidates

As our economy heats up and we move toward widespread specialty skills shortages at all levels, the top candidates for most positions will already be working, and not actively engaged in the job market. Placing ads (print or electronic) and hoping the best candidates will reach out to you will become less and less productive.

Recognizing that human talent is the last truly enduring competitive advantage, you will need a more systematic and proactive sourcing strategy if you want to build a long-term winning organization.

Finding the Passive Candidates

Passive candidates will have to be identified and contacted proactively to get their attention and engage them in the search process. This requires on-going marketing to promote your company as a good place to work, good networking skills to identify the top candidates, and strong messaging during your initial contact. Most recruiters (whether in-house or at placement agencies or search firms) are constantly developing their own lists of high quality talent and building on-going relationships with them for future opportunities.


Unfortunately, there is a truism that “Getting names has never been easier – making contact has never been harder!” Since there are so many scams going around via phone, text and email, the target audience is getting more skeptical of cold out-reach, so you will have to plan your campaign carefully.

Once you have selected the appropriate source(s), and developed your messaging, you are ready to make contact with your target candidates, using a broad-based communication strategy including voice, print, text, email, and face-to-face. This will usually involve an initial out-going message to briefly describe the opportunity and to request a time to discuss the role in more detail, often after work hours.

This may seem like a lot of work. Our clients are often surprised to find that we have reached out individually to 100-200 potential candidates in the course of a search. At the end of the day, though, it is definitely worth the effort, if the role is critical to the success of your organization. And remember, help is just a phone call away!