The transformation from search agencies to individual networks

It’s been one of the strongest assets of search agencies to claim they know the talent pools better than the client do. That in combination with the search agent understanding the company and their culture has been the main sales arguments for why search agencies is hard if not impossible to remove from the recruitment process. It used to be the era of databases. It used to be like that.

The social media talent space has brought transparency and with that, the ability to measure the impact of talents in greater detail than ever before. It has vastly challenged the traditional strength and USP of search agencies which now has to battle a situation where they no longer have a natural stronger access to talents nor natural better understanding of their needs and preferences than their clients.

What happens when clients start networking with talents online and utilizing social media statistics to measure what drives their impact? The result is: they soon get a stronger reach to relevant talent profiles than their search agency could provide them with in the first place. But perhaps even more important, the understanding of their recruitment target group.

“Our database is huge, we have worked on it for more than ten years.”

I know. But is there a single one in your database who isn’t found online? Is there a single one of the talent profiles in your database which is more up to date than his profile would be online? My guess is not. And the challenge you face in this respect is when it comes to Actuality, Reach and Relevance. These are the three key determinants.

Actuality: Is the profile up to date? Does our knowledge reflect a true image of the talents skills, résumé, experience and personality? If it doesn’t, then what is your database worth? A profile which isn’t updated the last year might provide a reasonable frame for a talents general profile but if the recruitment requires any more advanced thought than that, the sample to look at when it’s time to recruit won’t be good enough. Actuality is arguably the greatest of advantage when it comes to social media. Talents are people. People are online. The strongest social media channels all show immense activity and foremost it has created a desire to showcase oneself accurately to friends and connections. That means actuality.

Reach: How many people do we have access to when it comes to certain profiles? What is actuality worth if we know only nine or ten people of a certain competence or who fulfill certain criteria? The reach is massive and the rapid speed of growth puts old databases in the midst. Entering chosen social media platforms to look at certain talent profiles, no matter how advanced targeting or narrowed filtering, you find a whole bunch of relevant people. In combination with the above mentioned Actuality, it becomes a powerful sourcing idea. Very powerful.

Relevance: The talent experience is important. Search agencies could and often also did before state that they are a better channel of choice since talents expect to be communicated to, through their databases. They argued that talents had signed to their e-mail lists because they were genuinely interested. This is of course as true now as it was then. Relevance matters. The relevance is however not something that we can decide. The relevance is an experience, something the talent feels. Talents will always use some channels for different purposes. This is no rocket science whatsoever but people tend to forget about it. In some channels talents will realize and expect relevant offers and in some they won’t. Even if Actuality and Reach always will provide great opportunities, the relevance is what will determine the impact of engagement and interest in the end. Choose your channels where to communicate your career offers carefully.

The image below shows that LinkedIn is by far the strongest source of traffic to corporate websites in the social media sphere. While it could be argued that there are many reasons for this, one important part is nearly impossible to deny: It is because of the relevance factor mentioned above. LinkedIn has constructed an environment where talents and professionals actively want to interact and engage with companies and other professionals – meaning the interest to seek more information from LinkedIn is naturally high.


“So what can we as a search agency do?”

In order to remain a leader and enabling yourself to tell clients about their talents preferences and profiles you must be in forefront. If your clients are online, so must you be. If your clients have the ability to measure their talents preferences, you must be those who understand them in deeper contextual meaning. If your clients shall entrust you with sourcing decisions the coming 50 years as they have in the past, you must become the experts in understanding the data and providing advice upon it.

All this means you also fall under the criteria mentioned: Actuality, Reach and Relevance. One thing always remains the same, the Know-how. But it won’t have the same market value if you score lower than your client on the criteria mentioned. Your know-how is partly your experience but also the amount of data to your disposal. Upon that you can act as a trusted advisor.

Be active. Be online. Be engaged.