In Conversation with Jess Gibson-Jones (Part 2)

We’re back with part 2! This time around we’re talking creative sourcing channels, new-school metrics and how to get your company on board with strategic sourcing.

Psst, if you want to read part 1 of this interview, click here.

Edda: How do companies make the transition from pipelining talent to building talent communities?

Jess: I think in this market, if companies aren’t looking at building future communities of talent, then they should! Talent pipelines are a one-dimensional, static list of people whereas talent communities are highly engaged groups of people that are in the process of buying into your brand, and that you would like to bring into the organization eventually. The premise of communities is to utilise different push and pull strategies to populate these communities and use various comms techniques to build engagement. The whole point really is to build what we are calling “talent on tap” to hire from, which really has benefits from quality of hire, speed to hire, to cost and impact on delivery to the business and candidate experience.

Edda: When is the best time to split TA and Strategic Sourcing into different functions?

Jess: If you want to improve your recruiting activities, now is the right time to invest in strategic sourcing. Organizations are cottoning onto the fact that strategic sourcing is the next wave of thinking. There was an evolution from ‘resourcing’ where people had different ‘resourcing models’, which then evolved into Linkedin changing the way we identify candidates and the speed at which we can do that. The third evolution is where I see strategic sourcing coming into play. The key is that strategic sourcing needs to be a proactive function. Focus on understanding the talent landscape and what core capabilities your business ultimately needs. We are the intermediary between the business and the market, and ultimately have eyes on where the right talent is, engage with them before we need to make a hire, and build those relationships.

Where I see additional challenges are when organisations are trying to implement a proactive function in a reactive environment and using it as a mechanism to turn on when recruiters are busy – that isn’t strategic sourcing, that is going back to resourcing. The way you solve that as an organisation is to ask one question: “What problem am I trying to solve, and how can proactive sourcing help me solve that.” That’s your starting point for aligning your strategic sourcing function.

Edda:  Can you give examples of creative sourcing channels?

Jess: Yes, certainly! First up, sourcing is the practice of identification and engagement of talent, either now or for the future. How we find candidates is step one, how we engage those candidates is equally, if not more, important. Some channels I use are LinkedIn, open web search, Boolean searching, talent forums, meetup communities, Slack, events, conferences, university groups and daily networking. But at the end of the day, how you engage with those candidates is really the critical part. 

You can spend a fortune on the channels and technology to find candidates, but if you can’t build those relationships and reach out to that right candidate at the right time with the right message, it really is for nothing.

Edda: Let’s talk metrics, what metrics do you use to measure success in your strategic sourcing function? 

Jess: When we look at the talent landscape today, I don’t think current sourcing functions align to old-school recruitment metrics. Metrics like ‘time to hire’, and ‘cost per hire’ create a quantifiable way for organizations to know if they are getting value out of their recruitment function, which is great, but I think we can do more. There are two types of metrics I look at; performance metrics and commercial metrics. 

Performance metrics help you manage the output of a sourcing team and how effective they are. I would typically look at metrics like conversion ratios at different stages of the funnel (i.e conversion of candidates at shortlist to interview – this should be high for sourcing!), and velocity (speed through the funnel). These conversion metrics help me as a sourcing leader pin point where the blockages are, either with the business speed, the alignment of the sourcing brief to the research present, or the attractiveness of our role/brand out in the market.

Commercial metrics help an organization understand if they are doing the right things to get that talent now, and into the future. Metrics like total talent engaged out of the total available market – this can be a key one, as well as cost of the held “talent bank”, or the projected cost saved from using agencies, which sit within the talent community (which is a lot!) and then things like % of candidates at the highly engaged/high qualified quadrant within the talent communities. 

‘Cost per channel’ is a metric that’s really valuable for us to work with. Then you can start to optimise the channels that you’re working in and look at the ‘application to hire ratio’. Other things you can assess are quality of applicants and the number of applicants added to the talent community for future hiring. Asking ourselves questions like; are we recruiting the right people in the right avenue? How much money is it costing us to use this channel? Is this a viable channel for me for this type of role? 

If you want to know more about new-school metrics, check out Jess’ blog post at The Talent Sourcing Collective.

Edda: What’s the best way to present new sourcing opportunities and metrics to management?

Jess: Within the industry, it’s well known that our metrics aren’t working and aren’t really measuring the right things. We’ve known that for a while. The best way to present this to your leadership team is to talk about a more holistic approach to understanding if your talent function is performing. It’s about questioning the effectiveness of your current approach and suggesting ways to make it more commercially viable – not just for the short-term, but also in the long run. And most importantly, are we recruiting the right people from the channels that we have? 

It’s also valuable to work with your team (or find a few allies) to put together an analysis of how effective your talent function is today – and where you’d like to take it. There may be some higher costs in the beginning as you’re setting up new channels but pitch the longer-term benefits and tipping points. 

Edda: What is one piece of advice for getting the ball rolling on proactive, strategic hiring?

Jess: This is why I’ve started the Talent Sourcing Collective! I wanted to build a community where people could come and get ideas and almost crowdsource different ways to recruit. 

The first thing I’d say is… Step off the hamster wheel. Which is hard when you’ve got hiring managers breathing down your neck “fill, fill, fill!”. What you can do is take a step back and attach some strategy to the next role you’re hiring for. Ask yourself, what is the best way for me to approach this role? Sometimes it’s not about posting the job, really dissect what that sourcing strategy should look like. Try sitting down and asking: Who is this candidate? Where might they be located? And what is the message that will resonate with them? 

Give yourself space, allow your mind to see things differently and let your creativity sneak to the surface. Sometimes you do need to post a job, sometimes you take to Linkedin, sometimes you need more clarity from the hiring manager, and sometimes there’s a candidate sitting in a dusty talent community that you forgot about. 

Take time to plan. It will save you time later when you have to rework a role because you didn’t get the right person. 


A huge thank you to Jess for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss all things strategic sourcing, talent communities and some practical approaches to get the ball rolling in the office!

If you’ve enjoyed our interviews with Jess, check out The Talent Sourcing Collective. Jess is releasing an online course *very soon* called Sourcing Guru. This is a course designed for recruiters to develop and finesse their proactive search and sourcing methods – to get a progressive edge in today’s market. 

To get notified when the Sourcing Guru goes live, you can put your name down here: Sourcing Guru

And to check out Toll’s Talent Community site, click here: Toll Communities


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