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Tips for evaluating candidate sources

For many, diversifying your workforce starts at the source. The more diversity in the candidate pool applying for your job, the more likely there will be diversity in the resulting hires. So, if you are not getting the range of diversity you need in your candidate pool, it may be time to change or expand where you are sourcing your candidates.

Job boards, associations, recruiting firms, and other candidate sources all claim the same thing – access great candidates you need to hire. They may emphasis speed, volume, quality, experience, diversity or specific demographic groups, or any other number of differentiators or other alluring buzz words.

Unfortunately, not all candidate sources are equal in quality, quantity, or diversity of the candidate pools they offer. The key is to dig beyond the marketing claims to understand their true offering.

When evaluating a candidate source for generic use or for specific jobs, here are a few things to evaluate:

1. The candidate pool

What the candidate pool looks like that you’d be drawing from.

Ask the candidate source provider for details about their candidate pool. Ask for facets like:

  • Size of the active candidate pool: how many users/candidates/contacts do they have

  • Demographics: are they candidates representing the groups you want to engage

  • Geography: are the candidates where you need them to be

  • Roles/experience/industry: will the candidates meet your needs

2. The candidate sources

Where the candidate pool comes from. In other words, how is the candidate source building its candidate pool that it is offering to you?

Find sources that offer candidates you don’t already have access to through your existing sources. Offerings that post to the same job boards you are already using or draws from educational institutions you already engage with are not going to add value to your candidate pipeline.

Ask the candidate source provider:

  • Where are the candidates coming from?

  • How do you maintain and cultivate your candidate pool?

  • How do you maintain quality and quantity of your candidates?

Organizations that can’t clearly explain the answers to those questions are either hiding something, or don’t really know. And if they don’t know, they don’t have control to cultivate or improve that pool.

3. The differentiation

Why this candidate source is different from all the rest. There are thousands of candidate source providers in the US alone. From huge job boards and massive recruiting organizations, to community centers and college placement offices, and specialty associations. Understanding what differentiates them will give you a sense of what they prioritize and how they run their business.

Ask the candidate source provider what differentiates them from everyone else and how they drive that differentiation in their business.

Look for organizations that are aligned with what you need to meet your goals – quality, speed, quantity, diversity, experience, etc.

4. The performance

How well the candidate source works. Candidate pools aren’t worth anything if the candidates don’t apply for your jobs.

Ask the candidate source provider about the performance for typical jobs and specific jobs like yours. Look for facets like:

  • Number of candidates that apply to the job

  • Number of candidates that are hired

  • Time it takes from post to apply

  • Time it takes from post to fill

Metrics like these are affected by a number of variables including time of year, type of job, industry, salary, etc. For the best insights, ask for examples that cover multiple times of year and that align with your jobs or ask for averages that represent a wide range of jobs.

5. The experience

How the candidates experience the process. When a candidate applies to your job, the candidate will attribute the experience to you. They don’t care that the rude automated message or no message at all was the fault of the candidate source provider, they will blame you.

For candidate experience, be a candidate. Go through the provider’s process, interface, technology, etc. as though you are a candidate and experience it yourself. If it’s a closed environment (i.e. members only), ask for a demonstration or for temporary access.

Ideally, be a candidate without the provider knowing it’s you so you get the full experience.

6. The proof

Data proving the claims. Claims are easy but, without proof, they remain just claims.

Ask the candidate source provider for proof. Data that backs their claims of candidate pool size and demographics, data around performance, testimonials and references of other customers, and/or surveys from candidates.

Also, always ‘read the fine print’. Understand the data – its context and scope. For example, data showing you “candidates love this process” is not valuable if the dataset is five candidates selected because they were also employees of the company.

7. The cost

How much is it going to cost for a job, candidate, and hire. Whatever the offering; small candidate pools of highly qualified candidates, huge candidate pools of mixed quality and interest, highly tailored searches to give you just one perfect candidate - what matters is the return on investment.

Understand the cost structure and what you get for that investment.

It’s not the bottom line that matters, it is what you get for that bottom line – quality, quantity, hires.

8. The Bonus: measure, measure, measure

To properly evaluate a source and calculate the return on investment, don’t just use their pricing and what you get for it, measure the results.

Measure the quantity and demographics of the candidates coming in through the candidate source provider. Measure the quantity and demographics of the candidates you hire from the source provider. Measure how many of those candidates are still with the organization six months and 12 months later. Use free trials and small pilots when appropriate (and available) – and measure, measure, measure!

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