Dig This: The Scavado Blog

Moneyball: A Lesson in Dogma for Recruiters

I watched Moneyball a couple of weeks ago, and it hit a home-run in so many ways.

The movie inspired some thoughts that got me pretty fired up.  Whether it’s baseball or HR, business is business.

The timing was pretty ironic, because a few days later a long discussion unfolded on a popular LinkedIn group and sparked quite a debate between purist Boolean search practitioners and people that utilize sourcing tools to help them identify prospective candidates and recruit them.

It isn’t personal, it’s business. Companies and shareholders expect talent departments to identify, attract and recruit the best possible prospects. They care about time to fill, cost of hire, retention rates, etc. What they don’t care about is how you do what you do. Success in filling your job requisitions in a timely manner with exceptional talent is the goal. Why do people always get hung up on the “how?”

Here’s an example I’ve heard on so many occasions:

A large company reached out to us for advice. They have 90+ in-house recruiters that were sent to Internet search training to learn Boolean search techniques, and they spent well over $100,000. After 1 year they analyzed their investment and realized a 0% decrease in time to fill and time to source (the two major sourcing metrics they measure).  It wasn’t that the recruiting team didn’t enjoy the methods they learned or didn’t want to find the best prospects. When asked why they didn’t implement their new techniques, some of the team said they didn’t have time. Others admitted that they “don’t think like that.” They’re recruiters, not programmers.

Companies send their people to Boolean training because “that’s what you do when you want to source candidates on the Internet.” It’s the same way companies have approached online sourcing since we started using the Internet to recruit in the 90’s.

Similarly, baseball scouts had always chosen their players the same way until the Oakland Athletics’ Billy Beane came along.  My favorite scene in Moneyball shows Beane meeting with the owner of the Boston Red Sox after his new strategy had proven very effective for the A’s. It was a powerful scene that reminded me of the “status quo” thinking we see so often in business:

For 41 million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Peña and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent 1.4 million per win and you paid 260 thousand. I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall… it always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will bet you’re crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sittin’ on their a** on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the world series.

Scavado has taken it in the teeth from purist sourcers and some of the people who make their living training recruiters on Internet Sourcing.  “The first guy through the wall… it always gets bloody, always.”

For believers in the status quo, Scavado isn’t for you. Good sourcers don’t have to worry about how they find people, either manually or with help from a tool. If you deliver exceptional talent to your hiring managers, you’ll always have a job.  How you get it done is irrelevant.  Our industry is too caught up in theory and perfection when it comes to online sourcing.  The idea that there’s a single right way to approach the art of recruiting is ludicrous, and no tool or technique will ever replace the soft skills it takes to be a good recruiter.

A certified Internet sourcer came up to me at a conference 2 years ago and confided that she had secretly bought our sourcing software and paid for it on her own because where she worked, she couldn’t admit to “selling out” and using a sourcing tool. She said Scavado made her faster and helped her make more hires, but she didn’t want anyone to know.

I don’t know of any solid practitioners — surgeons, builders, architects, engineers — that have to hide innovation to be better at their trades. Why did this woman find shame in being more efficient?

In business and baseball, there’s no right or wrong way to build a team.  Don’t be afraid to change the game by using what works for you.

About Lori Fenstermaker

Lori is the Founder and Search Guru at Scavado. She has spent over 18 years as a recruiter, participating in thousands of sourcing projects in various disciplines and running her boutique RPO for several years. That experience led to the famed "Mandarin-speaking cosmetics formulator" search that launched Scavado.