Sourcing For Your Search Type: Commodity vs. Specialty

It should come as no surprise that the 2023 labour market has done an about face to a candidate-rich market.  Job postings that gained little traction mere months ago are now overflowing with applicants. Some of the many contributing factors include;


  • Immigration backlogs being cleared
  • Layoffs in the tech sector (fortunately these cuts are thus far, less deep than our Silicon Valley Counterparts)
  • Parents of children who were affected by the pandemic closures returning to the labour market


Despite the rise in active applicants and recession doom forecasted in the media, the job market is still quite healthy.  A quick search on LinkedIn reveals over 4000 developer job postings at the end of March in Toronto alone.


For commodity hiring this might be a welcome relief from the candidate-scarce market we’ve endured the past few years.  But for niche, technical, or highly visible roles, this market…plain sucks!  Interview-to-hire ratios have shot through the roof, which means more time, effort, distraction, and opportunity cost (hello hiring fatigue and overwork) for your managers  – often for just so-so results.


If you’re struggling to fill roles, the issue might lie in whether you’re using the right tool for the type of hiring you’re doing.


Most evaluation processes are designed for commodity hiring; reduce a large number of prospects into a workable talent pool. I call this the Eliminator model.  It’s one of the oldest business processes and still resembles today how companies whittled down applicants from the first newspaper job postings in the early 1900’s.


It’s like fishing with a net. And for commodity hiring it’s perfect because there’s a lot of variations of acceptability that will be represented in your applicant pool.


The hallmarks of hiring that benefits from the Eliminator model are;


  • Experience criteria that is broad with varied combinations of acceptable skills
  • Greater appetite for on the job learning and development
  • Usually a structured or mature environment with established processes, documentation, and support
  • Large number of suitable applicants within the active market

So what if I’m not seeing what I’m looking for?

This is when you start to get into the realm of specialty hiring.  Any of the following may apply and be the limiting criteria in your search;

  • Highly specific experience criteria or deliverables limiting the search (i.e. product development, R&D, niche technologies, specific domain or project experience, etc.)
  • Looking to acquire expertise with a shorter ramp up period or the famous requirement “hit the ground running”
  • Often a less structured environment or exceptional environmental factors, more independent work, ability to handle ambiguity, and sometimes has decision making authority
  • There are few, if any, suitable applicants in the active market; Eliminator has kicked out too few qualified applicants and the search is stagnating


If any of the above apply, it’s not the time to double down on the Eliminator process that’s not working.  For example, if your target candidate pool is roughly 50 people – expanding your reach to 400 makes no sense at all…you’re knowingly adding 350 decoys.

Not only is it making more work for everybody, it’s killing your employer brand with the passive prospects you’re trying to court.

There is nothing worse than direct recruiting a passive prospect and then treating them like a commodity in the Eliminator.

You’re drowning in aspirational applicants and resume sameness already.

Instead of a net, you need a spear.  That’s right –good old-fashioned Headhunting.

Unfortunately, like many skills from the pre-technology days, the wisdom hasn’t necessarily carried through the generations.  So while there are many ways to direct recruit passive candidates, they ALL require more intensive effort than the ubiquitous LinkedIn InMail “spray and pray”.


Further, using LinkedIn (or any scraping technologies) relies on candidate-controlled data…so it’s out of date for most passive candidates.  (When was the last time you updated your profile? When you were looking for a job, right?)


Direct recruiting can be a slow process and it’s a constant effort.  Some of the ways that we build pipelines of talent are;

  • Dedicated Candidate Marketing (that goes beyond, “have job, interested?”)
  • Referrals
  • Local Meetups
  • Conferences (big ones in Toronto this year are Collision in June, Elevate in September, and Big Data and AI in October)
  • Tons and tons of research, both in house and through paid subscriptions. This way we know what’s going on with different companies, who to talk to, and how to reach them outside of LinkedIn.

This can be a department on its own, and for most companies, it’s not worth the investment.

If you’re going to partner with a third party search firm, look for one that will create a differentiated strategy to access your target market and that is willing to guarantee delivery of the right candidates, like Recruition!

Happy Hiring!



Shannon Roach

Shannon has spent the last decade working to restore human connection to the forefront of hiring. She writes about the realities, humour, and heartbreak of engaging talent and standing out in this age of soundbites. Playing different roles as businesswoman, wife, mother, and advocate, Shannon hopes the future leaves room for us to be our whole selves, our best selves, at work.