People often say that recruiting and marketing are more similar than not, but we don't always take this to its logical conclusion. If recruiting talent and attracting customers are so alike, why don't more companies try to source talent from their customer bases?
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It was this question that spurred former marketer David Sokolow to found WeFind, a recruiting software company that helps organizations turn their user bases into powerful talent sources.
The Short Leap From Marketer to Recruiting Software Company CEO
During his time as a marketer, Sokolow worked with many companies as a strategist and data analyst. It was in his tenure at Grubhub that Sokolow recognized the growth potential and high-demand of certain digital roles, as well as the trouble many employers experienced in filling these roles.
"One of the biggest challenges companies are having today – if not the biggest challenge – is finding and hiring great people," Sokolow says.
The opportunity to solve this problem motivated Sokolow to start WeFind – but the shift from marketer to recruiter wasn't exactly dramatic.
"If you think of a modern digital marketer, when they're trying to acquire a customer, they are constantly thinking about ways to optimize how they get that customer," Sokolow explains. "They want the best, most valuable customers they can find, and they are optimizing mobile channels, different types of advertisements, and whatever else they can to find those very valuable people."
The only difference, Sokolow says, is that recruiters are thinking about how to optimize for talent rather than customers. And while recruiters are always scouring social networks and employees' personal and professional contacts for new talent, they're leaving one critical channel unused: the customer bases that marketers work so hard to build.
"There are all these companies out there that have huge user bases connected to them," Sokolow says. "The great part about users – which is greater than any other social network companies have access to – is that every single one of your customers has the same relationship with you company: They bought something."
The fact that these people bought something from the company means they're already acquainted with the brand and likely perceive it positively. If recruiters drilled deeper into how often customers bought and how much they spent, they could find the brand's most ardent supporters, among whom might be the next great hire.
The Advantages of Recruiting From Your Customer Base
Sokolow began WeFind with a simple premise: Companies' user and customer bases were networks filled with high-quality talent that was already interested and engaged. So far, WeFind's operations have largely confirmed this initial hypothesis.
"Recruiting is very much a funnel, and it's not only about who you're looking for, but also who is interested in you," Sokolow says.
For example, a company may be looking for top salespeople, but simply finding a candidate with excellent sales-related skills isn't enough. No, the company has to find a candidate with excellent sales-related skills who is actually interested in taking the job.
"Ninety-nine percent of hiring managers and recruiters I speak with do not think that way," Sokolow says. "They think, 'I want to find the top person who has the skills I'm looking for.' They do not think, 'Is that person actually interested in working with me?'"
Recruiting, Sokolow believes, is a matter of conversion: If a candidate isn't interested in you, they won't become an employee. The major benefit of sourcing talent from a user base, then, is that candidates from this population are likely to convert more easily. After all, they've already expressed interest in the organization.
How WeFind Works
Companies share their user bases with WeFind, which requires access to users' names, email addresses, and frequency metrics (e.g., how often they have ordered from the company). WeFind then uses this data to find customers elsewhere on the internet, combining data from their public profiles on sites like LinkedIn and GitHub with the user base info to answer two crucial questions:
1. How qualified is someone for the job that needs filling?
2. How interested are they in the company and the brand?
WeFind identifies candidates who are both interested and qualified and reaches out to them. Those who respond favorably to the opportunity are forwarded on to the hiring company, which takes it from there.
WeFind started in 2015, and Sokolow went full-time with it in the summer of 2016. As the company has grown and its technology improved, Sokolow has also begun to look at possible implementations beyond the recruiting space.
"One thing we've discovered is that the user base as a source for talent is also just a great asset for companies in general," Sokolow says. "We've realized that the companies we're targeting have talent challenges, but also growth challenges, consumer understanding challenges, and so on. What we're realizing is we've got really good at analyzing the data base to help them solve these types of problems."