Why I am still in love with Talent Sourcing after a quarter-century

Shally Steckerl
When I first crash-landed into the world of recruiting in 1996, the “public” Internet was little more than a toddler, about five years old. Businesses had only just begun to underestimate its potential.

Even as a naïve initiate of the staffing world, fresh out of the Peace Corps, I immediately recognized its powers of disruption and disintermediation. I thought it would be a game-changer. And I was right.

It was to be the death of recruiting as it was, and the birth of how it would be.
Leveraging this realization enabled me to achieve my first great success in this business. I went from a hapless rookie to an industry leader by doing one simple thing: connecting with people online. No one had recruited like that before. This taught me a valuable lesson about the business of hiring people: you have to adapt and innovate to succeed.

From that time forward I have strived to adapt and innovate, vying to remain at the forefront of an ever-changing landscape of technology and corporate culture.
Since 2004, I have helped influence the development of literally hundreds of products—from LinkedIn Recruiter to Seekout.io—tools that make it easier for us to do our job. So much so, that you might think that technology would become my focus, but it hasn’t. You see, I’ve come to believe that, while technology is a great enabler, it is not the sole answer to the quest for talent. It is our human spark, our creativity, the innate human desire to explore and discover that makes it possible to find the unfindable. This spark is the soul of adaptation and innovation.

Since first “pitching” my unique methods for finding and attracting talent in 1996, I’ve seen seismic changes in the practice of sourcing, watching it evolve from an arcane skillset to a widely adopted and mature specialization employing almost half a million people worldwide.

I’ve also watched it grow more complex. The information available to us all has grown exponentially. And because of this information overload, what was once a simple proposition of matching keywords in a pile of text now produces so many results that we suffer from analysis paralysis. No longer is our task to find a needle in a haystack but rather to find the needle in stack of needles.

And in our confusion, we are tempted with the wrong-minded compulsion to turn blindly to technology for answers. But the answers we seek are those that computers are least equipped to provide. These answers can only be arrived at through the application of human intuition, by taking leaps in logic and identifying patterns and through understanding both context and subtext. This is the only way to identify the hidden gem, the perfect candidate, the purple squirrel.

Looking forward, I see the barriers around walled information gardens falling. I see more and more people becoming more and more visible. And I see the candidates we seek becoming more and more obscured by the crowd. You may think that with all the search technology out there it has become easier to find people, but the truth is the opposite. The technology is being developed precisely because it is that much harder to find people when there are so many more to sort through.

Taking Innovation Forward 

My new charter is to bring to life a vision I have evolved and matured throughout my career, and one that is shared by all of us here at TSI University. In creating this I will need to borrow not just from everything I have learned over 25 years of experience in every aspect of the recruitment lifecycle, but also call upon the strengths of the worldwide Talent Sourcing community at large.

Technology, and innovation, are not enough. For recruitment to align with leadership expectations it must evolve out of the endless treadmill of advertising jobs only to reject applicants. Even with all the top recruiters using all the best technology, jobs remain unfilled because escaping the gravitational forces of inbox recruiting requires the mindset to synthesize the appropriate tools with adequate skills, reasonable methods, and simple automation.

My vision is to harmonize the people, process, and technology of Talent Sourcing. We call this PowerSourcing. It is at home with TSI because to deliver on such a promise requires the dedication of a creative values-driven team empowered by a culture of continuous learning, driven by the pursuit of operational excellence.

After constructing and deconstructing every conceivable formula as I solved some of the world’s most extraordinary Sourcing challenges at companies like Sage, Motorola, Cisco Systems, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, and Fiserv, I arrived at the foreseeable conclusion that the ingredients are most certainly not the recipe, as the adage goes. To me that means that what matters most is rarely the platform but rather the ethos.

PowerSourcing is the zenith of all that experimentation and growth. It is the most effective, efficient, and sustainable way to find and engage talent because it solves the entanglements left behind by process remnants hastily stitched together along with stacks of half-used technology.

For the first time in many years I can enthusiastically say that I look forward to exploring a new frontier of Talent Sourcing and expand its possibilities. I can’t wait to reach out to my colleagues all around the world with new problems to solve, and in return share with them the new discoveries that no doubt await us.