Sourcing Candidates: The Spot-On Resemblance Between March Madness & Recruitment

Sheridan Gaenger
March 17 ․ 13 min read

The Matchups that Matter Most


Every year, college basketball hosts March Madness, and for a few weeks, hoops is all anyone can talk about. People fill out their tournament brackets; research their favorite teams (or just teams they believe will advance to the Final Four); and follow along with the action online, on TV, or on their smartphones.

Sourcing candidates might not seem like it has anything to do with the NCAA Tournament, but it actually is an apt comparison. Recruiting departments are faced with plenty of options when hiring candidates, and making the right choices is imperative to success—just like your tourney bracket. So how is does the health of your bracket stack up to today’s world of sourcing?

It’s an Entirely New Ballgame

For decades, March Madness has been quite the event (now up to 68 teams in the tournament), but in the digital age, it has truly exploded. In fact, it’s a bit frantic in that anybody can get online and fill out a bracket, get live updates, and follow their progress. Exciting chaos as I would phrase it. The same goes for the world of recruiting: There are a lot of moving pieces, there is a lot of great talent, and it’s anyone’s game to win. So where does one start?

We exist in an “Expectation Economy,” where the workforce, active and passive candidates, are in the driver’s seat. Patrick Rooney, our Head of Marketing and Innovation, says, “At this moment, our society—and our workforce—has an excess of three powerful things: choice, access, and freedom.” With that sort of control in their hands, sourcing is more more critical than ever. With all the channels from which candidates can learn about your company, there is obviously a greater challenge for recruiting departments, but also greater potential to find and hire the best people for your organization. It starts with leveraging the right solution that provides the capabilities, the opportunity, and the memorable experience to connect with talent, wherever they are.  

Learn more in our latest ebook, “Recruitment Marketing to Millennials: How to  Connect with a Connected Generation »

Plenty of Hungry Players, aka Candidates

Does it seem like everyone in your office participates in the annual March Madness pool? Even my grandparents are catching on and challenging me to a bracket. Every year, more and more people are getting into the swing of March Madness, especially when there is a golden ticket or a pot of cash at the end to claim. It’s true, millions of people who aren’t generally interested in college basketball, who really don’t even follow the sport, complete a bracket every March—it’s just as easy as getting online and filling out a form. Sounds simple, yes? It actually can be quite complicated and demands some strategic discipline. Yes, it’s a friendly game, but it can get heated and intense because it’s a game, a title, and a prize you want to win. Think about it: You play against your family, you play against your work buddies, you go up against your pals, and sometimes you even go up against strangers! That is a whole lot of people you must stand out against.

Though the tactics to win or, in this case, hire are a bit different, the game is level-set: More candidates + more hungry companies + the need for top talent = an intense, ongoing match for all players. Same goes for sourcing. Rewind to even just a couple years ago—you had a job opening, you found a candidate, you filled it.

Fast forward to today—goodbye post-and-pray, hello omni-channel recruitment. In today’s digital age, engaging candidates is an entirely new playing field (or court in this case!). In Patrick’s post referenced above, he says: “Every career move will start with a story, rely on relationships, generate an experience and require perfect timing; this process will become a cycle we repeat 10-12 times in our ‘careers.’ ” What used to be a transaction is now a relationship. What used to be a single opportunity has multiplied into an experience. What used to be a simple job is now a complicated game. To set yourself up for a talent win, recruitment organizations must prioritize the end-to-end candidate experience, be where the talent lives and breathes, and understand that the days of one channel recruitment marketing are over and omni-channel is the norm.

Every touch point someone makes with your hiring channels—a click on a link, an opened email, a retweet, a visit to your hiring website—can be tracked, analyzed, and used to drive future interaction. More players do not have to mean more frustrationit simply means you need the right tools, technology, data, and creativity so you can attract, nurture, and hire the right candidates, wherever they are.

It’s Your Game to Win

A variety of strategies comes into play when picking a winning March Madness bracket. Some people even pick their teams by their favorite uniforms. No one method is absolute; many should be considered because, after all, there are more than 9.2 quintillion possible brackets for a 64-team field (not even considering the four play-in games). I will state it again—9.2 QUINTILLION POSSIBLE BRACKETS! Exhausting? Maybe, but exciting? YES! We would say, when it comes to sourcing top candidates, similar feelings apply.

The possibilities for finding candidates may vary—one recruiter's approach may different from the next—but what doesn’t change is that you have jobs you must fill and need the best solutions in order to hire better.  According to the 2015 Talent Trends survey of more than 20,000 employed professionals in 29 countries, nearly 1 in 3 said they are actively looking for new work. And just think, that doesn’t include the individuals who are immersed with your brand, connected with your brand on social media, engaged with your advocatestelling us that it’s anyone’s gamebut it comes down to experience you foster and the avenues of communication and transparency you leverage.

With so many players accessible to join your team, the question becomes, how do you get in front of your best candidates?

Symphony Talent’s X-cloud, delivers best-fit candidates by providing a high-quality experience with persona-based targeting, while improving recruiter productivity by building rich talent pools, running behavioral-based marketing campaigns, and using artificial intelligence to recommend best fit candidates to jobsmaking connecting employers to talent seamless and measurable.

Access to a 360-degree of your candidates empowers your recruiters to address current talent demands and helps them hire bettermaking it your game to win. Leveraging this diligent approach, we guarantee that the odds of hiring the best candidate will be better than 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

As the Pressure Mounts, the Stakes Increase…

As the tournament progresses, correct picks are worth more points in your March Madness pool. Pick too many teams wrong early and your bracket will suffer later in the tourney. However, a wrong pick or two in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 can be just as devastating—remember that feeling when you were so close you could taste victory? But because of a wrong pick here or a wrong pick there, you were forced to watch your bracket crumble? This kind of pressure presents itself during sourcing. You must be successful in attracting quality people at the beginning of the candidate’s journey, because as they move along the hiring process, losing candidates becomes costlier and impacts not only the relationship they have with your brand, but also your revenue bottom line.

In our latest webinar, Mastering Key Consumer Marketing Tactics for Talent Acquisition, Kevin Grossman, President of the Talent Board, explains this cause/effect situation: “Six years of Talent Board talent acquisition and candidate experience research demonstrates conclusively that on average 41 percent of tens of thousands of candidates globally who believe they have had a ‘negative’ overall 1-star job seeker experience [based on a 1-5 Likert Scale rating] say they will definitely take their alliance, product purchases and relationship somewhere else.”

With this perspective, sourcing is much more than just finding candidates—it a critical piece of talent acquisition, a piece that can’t be overlooked or mismanaged because it ultimately impacts your brand reputation and hiring ability.

Ultimately, the key to March Madness success, whether it’s a hoops fan filling out a bracket or a participating team eyeing the Final Four, is diligence, research, and hard work. Sourcing is no different. Consider the words of Ben Eubanks from Lighthouse Research & Advisory: “When you think about the sourcing process, it’s pretty focused on finding right-fit candidates, not just blasting the job out to unqualified people and hoping for a response.” The qualified candidates are out there; dynamic sourcing, especially with the help of an end-to-end talent acquisition solution, gets them on your radar, just like that underdog college basketball team you trust will pull off the big upset.

Good luck with your bracket this March, and good luck with your sourcing. I’m rooting for Pac-12 teams!!

What sourcing strategies are working well for you?

Recruitment marketing to millennials