Inferential Reasoning and the Power of Implicit Search in Sourcing Candidates

The pressure to hunt and capture the right candidates continues to mount on recruiters. With unemployment at a 16-year low and a growing talent shortage, especially in high-tech jobs, recruitment is an uphill battle that job postings alone cannot address. A recent survey by Talent Tech Labs found 69 percent of business leaders are worried about the talent shortage. This number rises to 80 percent within larger organizations that fill more than 2,500 roles per year.

When you think about it, the job description should sit at the core of any search and act as the primary source of information. While job descriptions have come a long way over the years in terms of how they are designed and optimized, today's postings still fall short. While they present a company's explicit desires, job postings don't necessarily point toward the proper roadmaps for finding the right talent.

Enter Implicit Search

Companies that want to come out on top cannot limit themselves in the pursuit of talent. Whether it's high-volume or hard-to-find hiring, explicit sourcing tactics that solely rely on limited keywords from job descriptions to find exact resume matches are not enough. Search must be focused additionally on inferential reasoning and the right implied terms to build more aggressive and agile search strings and strategies.

Here are a few categorical approaches leveraging implicit/inferential search:

1. Stated vs. Implied Skills: Use inferred keywords that relate to job description terms but are not explicitly mentioned to strengthen your candidate search.

Tip: If searching for an executive support specialist, include the people they would support and likely list on their resume ("CEO," "president," "VP" or "C-level") in combination with other explicit keyword terms.

2. Location vs. Commute: For roles that do not offer flexibility in schedule or work-from-home arrangements, focus on a commutable search radius rather than a set mile range to narrow in on realistic target profiles.

Tip: If searching for talent in Monroeville, PA, for a role 20 miles away in Pittsburgh, PA, take into consideration average commute times. Distance does not equal time.

3. Large vs. Small Companies: Use separate and agile strings that successfully target talent in varying company structures. Large companies will often dictate narrower functions and slower title ascension, while smaller companies will translate to broader sets of responsibilities and more accelerated title ascension.

Tip: If searching for a manager at a Fortune 500, look at profiles within smaller companies that may be at a director or vice president level where the skills and responsibilities may be similar.

4. What vs. How: Pay as much attention to verbs as to nouns. It is not always the "what" (e.g. a specific tool or skill) but the "how" that can successfully narrow the search.

Tip: If searching for an experienced HR systems admin, do additional research on candidates who have only used the term "ATS" to verify their level of experience. Additionally, include more experienced verbs in your search strings such as "implemented" or "designed" alongside the names of various ATSs (e.g., "Taleo," "Kenexa") to uncover more experienced candidates.

5. Resumes vs. Profiles: Most skilled talent today is either passive or inactive; their resumes may be inaccessible or may not exist at all. Profiles of these talented candidates can only be found on social media, personal websites, and networking sites.

Tip: If searching for an industry expert in Java development, locate some of the more popular tech blogs and sites (e.g., Reddit, Hacker News) and monitor commentary to target pundits and leaders who may be potential candidates or rich referral sources if engaged the right way.

The battle to source and capture the right talent will not be won with existent and assumed sourcing practices. Search functions need to be forward-facing at all times, and recruiters must constantly apply human acumen and creativity to their processes. This continuous improvement and raising of the bar will keep companies ahead of the curve and successful in finding hidden talent before competitors do.

Ross Dzurko is director, talent services, at Sevenstep.