Employer, Retention

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 process that’s not working.  Instead of a net, you need a spear.


Let’s say 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 for 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.


So what’s the alternative?

There are many ways to direct recruit passive candidates, and they ALL require more intensive effort than the ubiquitous LinkedIn Spray and Pray method of InMail blasting. Not only that, using LinkedIn (or any scraping technologies) relies on candidate-controlled data…so it’s already out of date for most passive candidates.

Some ideas to engage passive talent;

  • Dedicated Employer Marketing Programs
  • Employee Referral Program
  • Local Meetups
  • Conferences (big ones in Toronto this year are Collision in June, Elevate in September, and Big Data and AI in October)
  • Third Party Search Firms – look for those that guarantee delivery, like Recruition! 

If you think you fall into the specialty hiring category, give us a call to explore our 4 step process and see if it makes sense for your search.



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.