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Ep 389: Automated Sourcing


Recruiting Automation is finally moving from a theoretical concept to pragmatic reality. A combination of the unique pressures talent acquisition is currently under and some quantum leaps forward in technology means automation is becoming a smart solution for an increasing number of employers. However, I know that this currently throws up more questions than answers for many TA leaders, so over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be doing some deep dives into the practicalities of automation with practitioners who have hands-on experience. We’ve recently had a couple of episodes looking at screening via conversational ai, and in this episode, I wanted to explore the growing trend towards automated sourcing.

My guest this week is Mike Smart, a hands-on recruiter and Global Talent Leader at Devo. Devo is having a lot of success using automated sourcing to deal with some tough recruiting challenges, and Mike has some valuable insights and advice to share.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Dealing with the mismatch in supply and demand of talent

• Helping hiring managers understand the reality of current hiring dynamics

• How employers can stand out on LinkedIn

• Automating manual processes

• Augmenting recruiters with intelligent technology

• Finding undiscovered candidates

• Can you effectively automate candidate outreach in a way that resonates?

• The power of being persistent

• Advice to Talent Acquisition leaders on the reality of automation

• What does the future look like?

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Interview transcription

Fetcher(ad) (0s):
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Matt Alder (1m 2s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 389 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Recruiting Automation is finally moving from a theoretical concept to pragmatic reality. A combination of the unique pressures talent acquisition is currently under, and some quantum leaps forward in technology means automation is becoming a smart solution for an increasing number of employers. However, I know that this currently throws up more questions than answers for many TA leaders. So over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be doing some deep dives into the practicalities of automation with practitioners who have hands on experience.

Matt Alder (1m 45s):
We’ve recently had a couple of episodes looking at screening via conversational AI. And in this episode, I wanted to explore the growing trend towards automated sourcing. My guest this week is Mike Smart. Who’s a hands on recruiter and global talent leader at Devo. Devo is having a lot of success using automated sourcing to deal with some tough recruiting challenges. And Mike has some very valuable insights and advice to share. Hi Mike, and welcome to the podcast.

Mike Smart (2m 16s):
Hi Matt. How are you?

Matt Alder (2m 17s):
I’m very good, thank you. And it is an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Mike Smart (2m 26s):
My name is Mike smart. I am a recruiting leader, a global recruiting leader. I have been in the recruitment field talent acquisition field for about 20 years now and currently lead our recruiting activities for a security analytics company called Devo.

Matt Alder (2m 42s):
We’ve been talking a lot on the show about the challenges that people are having in recruiting at the moment. Tell us a little bit about the challenges you were seeing in your industry.

Mike Smart (2m 54s):
I think the hardest challenges that we’re seeing right now really are just scarcity of talent. I think there are real mismatches between what companies want to hire and what is available in the marketplace today.

Matt Alder (3m 11s):
How is that impacting you as recruiters?

Mike Smart (3m 14s):
I think it makes everything, everything that we’ve just gone through with the pandemic and now just absolute hypergrowth in hiring. I think it’s given everybody a little bit of whiplash to be truthful with you, Matt. I think we went from managers who had jobs and had almost a line of candidates to consider, to now we have managers with many jobs and very few candidates and managers are always slow to react, you know, in their opinion, they haven’t changed. So they, you know, they want to know what has changed.

Mike Smart (3m 55s):
So I think for us in the recruiting field, one of the biggest challenges right now is working with the hiring managers to help them understand market dynamics and really what’s out there.

Matt Alder (4m 7s):
Absolutely. And I’m sure that’s a common problem for lots of people who are listening. One of the big trends that I’ve certainly seen over the last year or so is the way that sourcing is changing and technology is really helping that. How has your strategy towards sourcing changed? How are you dealing with the talent shortages that you have in terms of the tactics and the strategies that you’re using?

Mike Smart (4m 35s):
It’s a great, great point, Matt. I, to be honest, yes. I think sourcing has changed, maybe a little bit of a longer answer here, but if you go back to the very beginning, right, you had job sites,, career builder, you know, even LinkedIn as they kind of came in at the back end of that kind of generation of technology and recruiters spent time crafting a well-worded job description that was going to pop and attract candidates. And, you know, I think it worked for a little bit of time. And then I think it became almost derisive where you would have people say, oh, we don’t post and pray.

Mike Smart (5m 22s):
You know, we’re offensive recruiters, we go out and search for talent. And look, I will tell you, my teams have ridden that wave, that trend. We went from posting jobs and getting good applicants and putting them through our process to actually going out there and trying to attract talent and, you know, actually what I would consider farm talent and the biggest challenge for us now is it’s even harder to do that. So what can you do to take your sourcing and flex it even further than what you’re doing. And I would say taking a rath– I was trying to search for the word, a rather manual process and put a little bit of technology to automate some of those functions.

Matt Alder (6m 13s):
Talk us through the technology that you’re using and what are you, what you’re seeing coming back in terms of results.

Mike Smart (6m 18s):
Yeah. So look, I don’t think I’m any different than any other recruiting professional out there, right? The foundation is LinkedIn, right? That’s the biggest sandbox. It’s where everybody plays and you’re trying to go out there and search for profiles on LinkedIn. I think the hardest part about that is, as I just said, everybody is on LinkedIn. So how do you stand out? I think by LinkedIn’s admission, and I could be giving you a dated staff, but it’s the last I recall it was the last from our renewal. Most InMail’s have about a 17% success rate. So slightly under 20% of your activity is actually successful, which is pretty bad.

Mike Smart (7m 2s):
So, you know, one of the deltas that we tried to solve for is how can we take our time spent on LinkedIn and make it more valuable? How can we find those people? And, you know, one of the tools that we came across was Fetcher, And one of the things that Fetcher has really enabled us to do is take our time, spent on LinkedIn and really supercharge it. They take sourcing and they can do it in two different ways. You can do it with an extension, where you actually lead the search and then Fetcher uses their proprietary technology to help you find actual email addresses for the candidates.

Mike Smart (7m 46s):
Or you can do the search in conjunction with Fetcher, which is again, driven by AI and the algorithm will help pull back candidates. They’ll give you an opportunity to review their profiles. And if you think that candidate does match, you can really automate a good amount of sourcing through.

Matt Alder (8m 8s):
And do you find that you, find candidates that you wouldn’t find manually by using automated sourcing?

Mike Smart (8m 16s):
Again, and this is probably a different podcast for a different person, but due to the algorithmic nature, if that’s such a term of LinkedIn, the search results that you pull back, or the search results that I pull back will be different. There’s going to be a certain amount. If you were to do a Venn diagram where my search results in your search results are similar, but there certainly are different mechanisms in LinkedIn that I’m not qualified to explain that will mean that different recruiters will see different search results. And I will tell you my first demo with Fetcher and I was away because I had given them.

Mike Smart (8m 59s):
And I think they do it on purpose to be truthful with you, Matt. I had given them one of our run of the mill, you know, kind of technical support, you know, everyday roles. And I was kind of playing along on LinkedIn and their first five hits were wildly different than my first five hits. And it certainly caused my eyes to open because I was like, oh, that is real right. I’d always heard the rumor, but to actually be confronted with it was very different. And I will say, to this day, and we’re on our second renew– second annual renewal with Fetcher, gosh, probably plus 30,000 profiles reviewed, the number of candidates that they pull back is very unique to the tool.

Matt Alder (9m 45s):
I suppose that also reflects the way that the internet has changed. I think if we go back to some of the times that you were, that you were talking about, that I certainly remember as well, when there were sort of finite job board databases, we almost have an infinite pool of candidates and list of information to go with really. So I’m guessing that it’s kind of inevitable the AI and technology is a part of the solution here.

Mike Smart (10m 11s):
Yeah. I really do. I, there’s so many different things that I think stand out Matt from just the overall breadth of how people describe what they do. You know, a little bit ago, you were a software engineer and that was pretty much your job title. And that encompassed probably 75 or 80% of the people who programmed for a living. I could probably spend the next 20 minutes rambling off titles. That’s of– [unintelligible] and 10 years go by. And you know, when you’re searching on LinkedIn, one of the searches that you pretty much have to do is a job title search, because LinkedIn is different than, you know, the traditional job board.

Mike Smart (11m 0s):
On a Monster or CareerBuilder, you were posting a full-blown resume, a CV. And on that resume or CV, the recruiter was taught to search for keywords. You really can’t pull off a keyword search on LinkedIn and get everything because most people on LinkedIn don’t put a full resume. They might only put a very limited profile of what they’re doing and it’s usually company and job title. So you really have to think about your sourcing strategy, that part has really made the recruiters job much more difficult. I mean, you’ve really become much more of a Sherlock Holmes than you probably used to have to be.

Matt Alder (11m 41s):
One of the things that I wanted to ask you about was sort of really following on from what you said at the beginning about the low kind of level of impact in terms of, in mails on LinkedIn and those kind of things. Obviously finding people is one half of the problem, but the next and perhaps more significant part of the problem is getting those people to respond and engaging with them in a conversation. Is that something that you’re also automating and how is that working for you?

Mike Smart (12m 11s):
It is. So it’s a great question. It’s funny because when I described Fetcher to people and like, I just had a recruiter start last week and she had never used it before. So I was trying to get the full feature set. This is everything that it does for us. And it really wasn’t almost until the second hour of training that I brought up. Oh, by the way, it also does email sequencing. And at different times I might describe the email sequencing part as the key feature. Because look, as a hands-on recruiter myself, I certainly manage a book of recs.

Mike Smart (12m 52s):
A very good recruiter will send a good InMail, a good introductory message. Hey Matt, my name is Mike. I saw your profile. I’d like to talk, right. You know, there’s usually a call to action, you know, a little bit of an introduction and trying to connect with you. As I said, LinkedIn, in their sales pitch will tell you that about 17% of the time that one in InMail is going to be effective. A very good recruiter. And gosh, Matt, I think of myself highly, but I’m not sure I would even fall into that category, but a very good recruiter might do a second, a follow-up message. Hey Matt, I was really interested in your profile.

Mike Smart (13m 34s):
Let’s talk. I don’t think I know of a recruiter that does the third message and with Fetcher, it automates that whole process. So once you send the, the introductory message to the candidate, through the proprietary, you know, tool or the proprietary system that Fetcher has created, it will send a follow-up message and even a third follow-up message. It does admittedly have the ability to customize and add a fourth step. We haven’t gotten there, but really even after the third step, our response rate is north of 80%.

Mike Smart (14m 16s):
Now it’s not 80% of people saying, Hey, you convinced me. I’m totally interested, but it’s 80% of the people who are saying yes, either I am interested or be, Hey, thank you very much. I really appreciate your persistence, but I’m not. And I know that sounds hard because you’re like, well, what’s the value of that. It actually is valuable. It’s very valuable to know, Hey, take this guy off the list. He is not interested. Cause then at least, you know, who to focus on and Fetcher does that all in the background. And I will tell you, one of the greatest strength of Fetcher is that you set up the search once, you get your candidate profiles tight, these are the people I want to talk to.

Mike Smart (15m 2s):
And then you can go and move over and you can spend time actually developing a relationship with the candidates that are coming in. So instead of the 15 minutes screen, that turns into a 10 minute conversation and five minutes of note taking, you can actually have a conversation with them and actually do a true, you know, kind of recruiter, introduction and recruiter screen, and make sure you’re getting to know the people and putting valuable, you know, insight into the process.

Matt Alder (15m 30s):
There’s one of the key things with automation, sort of particularly automated messaging. One is brilliant at adding that level of persistency that you just don’t have time to do in the current environment. When it’s not used properly, it can be seen as really kind of automated spamming and being incredibly annoying. What is it that you do in terms of your messaging to make sure that it resonates and get those great results that you’re getting?

Mike Smart (16m 5s):
So, you know, honestly, Matt, and there’s a very big part of me that agrees with you, that you can read through the robotic text. And as a human, you can say, Hey, this is a computer, it’s a bot that’s messaging me. And the thing about Fetcher is while you can certainly use their programmatic messages, the messages that they’ve just used, you’re able to customize your messages. So the first message, well, Fetcher will certainly give you a template and say, Hey, use this. We find that this introduction has great results.

Mike Smart (16m 47s):
You can also write your own. So it’s not necessarily a bot that’s driving the messaging. It’s your customized message that’s going out there. And look, I’ve used it quite a bit. So I’ve played with it both ways. The messaging that they have, the templates that they use are pretty good. And I think one of the challenges that I’ve had, and again, I find it, I find different people have different opinions. Some people want a very quick succinct message and I think Fetcher does that very well. I tend to be a little bit more loquacious and put a little bit more words in my messages.

Mike Smart (17m 31s):
So I’ve tried to do the Pepsi challenge, you know, is it my, you know, kind of hand spun message that will work? Or is it, you know, the stripped down, slim down, you know, kind of template version of feature that works better. And I would say, I think they just appeal to different people. I think the real key is the persistence. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a message back from someone who has said, “Look, I was not interested. I’m happy in my job, but you are the most persistent recruiter I’ve ever encountered. Let’s talk because you must have something really good on your hands.”

Mike Smart (18m 11s):
I get that reply back at least three times a week. And look, this is a dirty little secret and I almost say it with guilt. I have to go look in Fetcher to see why I’m even emailing that person. What is this message? Who is this person? And that’s the crazy part of what we’re doing here. Being able to broadcast your message and get to those people, because look, in that search, there’s probably 10, 15 other people who said, you don’t mind, thank you very much. You are persistent, but I’m not interested, but getting the two or three people that really want to talk and cutting through the clutter and spending all of maybe 10 minutes to get to that point, I’d say incredibly valuable.

Matt Alder (18m 56s):
I think that’s really interesting as well, because we don’t actually hear that side of this story very often. It’s normally the complaints about spamming and automation and destruction of humanity in recruitment process and all those sorts of things. But I think, you know, that’s really interesting that they’re the results that you’re getting. And obviously that’s a fantastic use of technology for you. Obviously automated sourcing or automation in recruitment in general is something that lots of companies are looking very closely at the moment. What would your advice be to TA leaders who are considering automated sourcing or automating other parts of the recruiting process? What should they be thinking and bearing in mind?

Mike Smart (19m 41s):
I have seen recruitment automation as a concept pitched pretty hard for probably the past six years, maybe a little bit longer than that. And to the comment that you had just previously made, I think there is a certain amount of we’re going to replace human activity with a bot, with automation. And I don’t think that statement could be further from the truth. There is no replacing the human recruiter, recruiting in and of itself is a very visceral activity, people want to feel human touch.

Mike Smart (20m 24s):
But you need to add more tools to your recruiters toolbox, or they’re never going to be able to keep up with demand. I recently read a stat that said a recruiter loses effectiveness. Once they start managing more than like 10 or 11 recs. And I have to wonder to myself, where is this magical company where recruiters only work on 10 wrecks at a time? You know, I was about to send them my resume. It just doesn’t work that way. I mean, my average recruiter is probably managing twice that many wrecks and I have hiring managers who still think that their rec is the most important or the only rec. So, you know, the only way a recruiter can have sanity is if you take a little bit off his or her plate and say, look, we’re going to automate this part of the process.

Mike Smart (21m 12s):
You can actually spend more time doing this. So to answer your question directly now, I think the most important thing that we can do is look at automation as a supplement to your recruiters activities. And then I think the second is trying to find where you can automate something without taking out the human touch. I will admit I’m probably not the first person that you would go to and say, Hey, Mike, let’s go test this unproven technology. I’m not a very dare devil, you know, risk-taking kind of person. I tend to be a little bit conservative with my use of technology, but in looking at a tool that can do some of these things, they’re huge value adds.

Mike Smart (21m 59s):
The AI on the sourcing? It’s a huge add, right? It covers people that I’m not going to get to. It doesn’t take over the process, I still control it. Do you want to start messaging this person? I can review the profile, but it’s actually giving me that profile. So running the search has been taken off my desk. The do you want to contact them is still in my control. As we just discussed the messaging, it can be my words, but instead of having to launch individual messages and somehow be a master of your calendar to remember exactly when and how to add those people is taken out of your hands.

Mike Smart (22m 42s):
So like I said, I don’t think you can look at different steps and say, look, we’re going to eliminate them, or we’re going to turn this off to automation or turn this over to automation, rather. I think you’ll look at it as, where can I supplement what my recruiters already doing?

Matt Alder (22m 54s):
The final question that I think really follows on from some of the things you were saying there, what does the future look like? What’d you think recruiting is going to look like in sort of two or three years time?

Mike Smart (23m 7s):
Oh, wow, man. I think there’s more of this. I think there’ll be more steps. I think video interviewing with Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, I think that has replaced the phone interview. I would argue it’s probably going to, if it has not already totally supplanted the in-person interview. So I think you’ll see more automation and innovation when it comes to what a video interview can do. We’re already seeing that there’s a couple of really exciting products out there that have started to build off of, you know, gosh, it sounds funny because it’s a new technology in and of itself, but I’ve already started to disrupt video technology or video interviewing technology.

Mike Smart (23m 57s):
I have to, and maybe this is more of a hope than a prediction that, I have to think that LinkedIn, if you look at the time that Monster, CareerBuilder, Hot Jobs spent in the sun, I have to think LinkedIn is probably, you know, got a shorter horizon themselves. There’ll be something that disrupts that I don’t go a week without talking to another recruiter who doesn’t complain about, you know, the inflexibility of something about LinkedIn. So I would think that there’d be some change there for a long time. I was told, oh my gosh, wait until you can recruit off of Facebook or some of the other social media and that never really materialized.

Mike Smart (24m 38s):
So I think there’s some room for disruption there.

Matt Alder (24m 40s):
Mike, thank you very much for talking to me.

Mike Smart (24m 44s):
Thank you very much for having me, Matt.

Matt Alder (24m 48s):
My thanks to Mike Smart. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show.

Matt Alder (25m 40s):
Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

Speaker (25m 47s):
This is my show.

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