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The trick to building healthy sourcing relationships

Have you ever met a person for the first time and all they do is talk about themselves? Perhaps you try to inject a little about yourself into the conversation but are rewarded with barely an acknowledgement before returning to the endless ‘me’ monologue.

If you have, did you enjoy the experience?

Probably not.

No matter how amazing the person or their experiences, when the conversation is all about them, it’s not that engaging. Not only is it likely boring after a while, it also sends a clear message of “I care about me far more than I care about you” which is not a foundation for a relationship.

This “me, me, me, me…” approach is not effective for first dates or meeting colleagues or making new friends. At least, it’s not effective if the intention is to build a relationship.

It’s also not effective for building a relationship with a new candidate pool or sourcing partner.

Building relationships is bi-directional

The best relationships are bi-directional. They involve mutual respect, a balance of informing and listening, and a conversation that evolves with both parties’ contributions (rather than just saying what you want then waiting to talk again). This includes relationships with candidates, candidate pools and sourcing partners such as educational institutions, associations, and community groups.

Heathy relationships are not just stronger and longer lasting, they are also far more mutually beneficial. With sourcing relationships, it is more than just filling your pipeline with candidates. Strong relationships fill your pipeline with strong, interested candidates and provides the means to best attract and engage those candidates so they are more likely to be lasting future employees.

So how do you turn candidate sources and candidate pools into strong relationships?

Here’s a few tips:

Don’t just tell, ask

Rather than just using the candidate source as an avenue to convey information, use it to listen. Ask the candidate pool what is compelling to them – what they want in a job, benefits, culture. What makes them excited to take a job or turns them off to an opportunity? Listen to what they want so you know how to best resonate with them. This can be talking to a selection of students at an educational institution, or joining an association meeting, or hosting a virtual or physical event.

Tailor the interaction for listening; not promoting or recruiting. With listening, interest will follow.

Here are a few example questions:

  • What makes you excited about a job opportunity? What makes your nervous or hesitant?

  • What is most important for you when considering job opportunities?

  • What is a ‘red flag’ – something that will make you turn down a job offer or stop an application process?

  • What benefits do you need? Which benefits do you hear about but don’t really interest you?

  • What do you wish employers understood about you, but don’t?

  • What would you like to see different (or more of) in a hiring process?

Invite critical feedback

There is a traditional ‘wisdom’ that it’s better to get a job offer and turn it down, than to not get it at all. Therefore, people who are in the process of applying for a job or those considering a job with your organization will be far less likely to be critical of your processes and approach, independent of what they think. Therefore, without even knowing it, your processes could be eroding their desire to accept a job if offered and increasing the risk of attrition during or after the hiring process.

To ensure that your hiring process and the candidate experience are effective and are what you intend, you need feedback. Just as with listening, invite participants within your source to provide feedback on your hiring processes in general. These virtual or physical forums will allow for more anonymity of the participants while giving you data correlated with the source. In the end, it will help ensure the processes and experiences are as inclusive as possible.

Here are a few example questions:

  • In your experience, what has been effective hiring and candidate screening techniques. Why?

  • What have been ineffective or undesirable hiring and candidate screening techniques? Why?

  • What would you like to see different (or more of) in a hiring process?

  • What was the worst hiring process (or interview) experience you’ve had? Why?

  • What was the best hiring process (or interview) experience you’ve had? Why?

And for more organization-specific questions, here are a few more tips for generating feedback questions.

Know and align with the goals of the source

Beyond the candidate pool, there is also the partner itself. These organizations; educational institutions, associations, community groups, advocacy groups, non-profits focused on employment, etc. have a purpose and a mission and a balance sheet just as you do.

Understanding what drives the sourcing organization will allow you to align with those needs. Imagine the difference if instead of the relationship dominated by what you want, it instead is a partnership to meet everyone’s goals. How would you treat a partner that makes you look good or helps your team succeed vs. a partner that just takes, takes, takes?

Don’t just tell the sourcing organization what you want – more candidates, more access, more relevant training for candidates, etc. Understand what drives them and how you can help them reach their goals. This could be as simple as assisting with promotional language about job opportunities to attract more members to their community. It can be outlining valuable curriculum to prep their members to be successful candidates. It could be cross promotion or sponsorship at an event. It could be providing a testimonial about how great a partner they are. Align to their needs, and they will prioritize yours.

Here are a few example questions for your sources:

  • What is success for you – what metrics or goals do you need to achieve?

  • What is your purpose and mission – how do you as an organization / business succeed?

  • What are your top priorities as an organization / business?

  • How can we be a great partner for you?

  • What are your best partners like? What are your worst partners like? Why?

Bringing it all together

Relationships thrive when they are mutual, bi-directional, and respectful. Build great relationships with your candidate pools and sourcing partners by listening as well as informing, aligning to their needs and priorities, and inviting open and honest feedback.

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