Turn Your Database Into a Gold Mine

It is really ironic that our most crucial resource in the personnel services industry is our database of candidates and it is also the most neglected. Most owners and practitioners would admit that they could do a much better job of keeping their candidate records current. Those same industry professionals believe that 70% of the candidates in their records are current. The reality is most databases are only 30-50% current at best.

Many candidate databases contain thousands of records. The impracticality of calling them all and maintaining current information on the majority of them is often cause for doing nothing. The incidental search through the database to seek a “fit’ for a current search most often results in a lost candidate. He or she has moved on and left no forwarding address with us least of all, a current telephone number. Occasionally we get lucky in that we find someone at a previous employer who can lead us to our “lost sheep’. Usually it is a dead end resulting in a deleted candidate.

We also lose many other valuable benefits of continuing and current communication with candidates. First, we are not gaining the referrals they can provide. Second, those that are in a hiring capacity are probably working with your competitor who stayed in touch. Thirdly, our presence in our niche shrinks everyday as our candidates fade away from our benign neglect.

The vast majority of our candidates, (estimated by some to be 90% or more), have Email addresses. Many have more than one Email address. This recruiter has seven. Most of us know that contacting old friends and acquaintances by the occasional Email message is a commonplace practice today.

A simple and inexpensive process will keep our records current and reap all the rewards they can provide. This process requires existing basic resources, such as:

  • A reasonably updated desktop or portable computer system
  • Internet access (cable modem or DSL based access preferred)
  • Email management software (Several exist such as Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.)
  • Administrative assistance
The process requires the recruiter to obtain the email address of every candidate. Most current recruiter specific, desktop management programs and database programs accommodate email addresses or are modified easily to record them. Once each address is entered into the email management program in the address book the process of sending emails is as simple as sending the group you select.

I recommend that you send them in groups of like disciplines and similar income ranges. Try to send out groups of one hundred at a time. These transmissions of emails can be sent automatically after business hours to minimize cost and the monopolization of fax/modem lines. Your ISP may also prefer bulk emailing to occur during non-primetime hours in consideration of bandwidth usage.

These email messages should contain a simple message stating your desire to stay in close contact and keep the candidate aware of the best opportunities for which they may have an interest in pursuing. Candidates love recruiters who really do stay in touch (Most say so, and then disappear until they need that candidate again. This process molds the candidate perception of our efforts as a positive one. They will appreciate our efforts to keep them in “THE LOOP”. Limiting our efforts to sending a message that says, in so many words, “I want to know how to reach you.” can backfire when interpreted by a candidate as a self-serving ploy by a recruiter. We can include several things in the Email messages that give the right impression and add value to the candidate who receives it. Some suggested, internally generated additions are:
  • Articles that offer career and interview advice.
  • A simple newsletter that provides advice on career moves such as getting a promotion or raise.
  • Lists of Internet sites and hyper-links to them of interest to professionals.
  • A questionnaire on what they would like to see in working with a recruiter.
  • Resume tune-up tips
Results will vary. How we manage the results and secondary efforts can determine the larger part of our success in keeping current with candidates. My experience shows that about 70% of a database is comprised of “lost sheep” candidates. Sending out one email will often prove this true. The second effort to find them includes sending another message to their alternative emails. Many Internet browsers and web sites offer email locator programs that can prove helpful in identifying a second or third Email address, or a candidate’s web site.

A word of caution… sending email messages to our candidates at their place of employment runs the risk of it being reviewed by others and could jeopardize that candidate’s position or at minimum damage their superior’s opinion of their “loyalty”. Exercise great due diligence in gaining your candidate’s permission and clearance to send any Emails to their place of work. In the effort to locate and update a candidate in the database, it is advisable to call their last known employer instead of sending an Email.

The recommended frequency of contacting our candidates to maintain a current record is every 30-60 days. When we include valuable attachments or text helpful to each candidate on a professional and personal level, they will start looking for them and be the first to contact you and let you know they were missed.

At what point do we try other means? I believe in the rule of three, after the third Email we make a few calls to former employers and contacts, perhaps references given to us. Sometimes we get lucky and find the person through old employer contacts. Sometimes we hit the delete key.

Finally, I am not suggesting that a recruiter should compromise valuable prime time activities and efforts to handle this process. Administrative assistance is your best bet. The recruiters and owners should review the results as they come in, advise on the next steps when another fails, and finally make the investigative calls to follow up on the ones that seemed to fall through the cracks. Many secondary opportunities lie within those calls to recruit candidates, initiate client relationships and discover new contacts.

Many candidates get lost in the shuffle. Some just disappear below our “radar screens”. As search practitioners, we can dramatically increase the number of candidates we retain in our active records by simply staying in touch. A candidate, once recruited and subsequently lost through neglect, is an opportunity lost. Sending out emails, and following up on the few that slip between the cracks and assuring absolute currency in our proprietary databases will make us more competitive in the candidate driven marketplace of this new millennium.

As our candidate pool shrinks at a historically high rate, we cannot allow any loss that is within the reach of practical effort. Keep what you find fresh and watch your network grow organically as a result.


By Doug Beabout, reprinted with the permission of Doug Beabout
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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