Sourcing for talent – Q&A with Nicole Cain, sourcing expert at Profusion

NicoleCainSourcing in a nutshell is using advance research skills, utilising mainly Internet tools, to find passive talent. Interpretation of what sourcing entails differs from one company to another. Sourcing can cover a range of activities, including job board management, database mining, search engine techniques, referral optimisation, social networking, knowledge management etc. Broadly, any activity that leads to talent can be put under the sourcing umbrella.

Of late sourcing has gained increasing prominence in Australia (Sourcers have their own social network) as companies compete for the best talent. The explosion of channels to find candidates and a deluge of data accelerated the importance of sourcing. Today, sourcing is a fast maturing stand-alone profession in the talent acquisition business.

We spoke to Nicole Cain, Manager, Knowledge Acquisition & Market Intelligence at Profusion, to set the records about sourcing straight.

DT: Firstly can you tell us a bit about your professional background and Profusion?
Profusion is an Executive Search, Recruitment and Human Capital firm, specialising in Banking and Wealth Management. Based in Sydney we work with clients across Australia and Asia, North America and Europe. Established by four founding partners in late 2004 Profusion has enjoyed a period of sustained organic growth, ranking No. 26 in the BRW 2008 Fast Starters.

Prior to joining Profusion I spent close to 10 years in professional services both locally and in the U.K. as a librarian and business researcher. Looking to expand my horizons and sensing an increasing demand in the search and recruitment market for experienced researchers and information managers, I joined Profusion in August 2007 to lead the newly created research team. As Manager – Knowledge Acquisition Market Intelligence, my role is to identify key talent in the market and ensure that relevant market intelligence is shared and disseminated effectively across the business.

DT:Sourcing is a fairly new field/profession in the recruitment industry, can you shed some light on what exactly sourcing entails? How does sourcing add value to the talent acquisition game?
Sourcing is about applying a variety of research techniques to identify potential candidates. At Profusion we follow a well defined research methodology to support our specialists on assignments. Our process includes combining many of the tried and tested techniques such as mining our candidate database, telephone research and generating referrals through existing contacts, with the latest in online search techniques.

By investing in a dedicated research and sourcing function Profusion has enabled its specialists to be more focused on fulfilling the needs of both candidates and clients through ongoing relationship management and business development. Combining the tacit knowledge acquired throughout the recruitment process with that provided by the research function results in a collective of market intelligence which adds value not only to our business but ultimately that of our clients.

DT: In general, in your experience, what are the best sources of candidates?
Definitely referrals. Being specialists within Financial Services our consultants have built a solid network of trusted contacts. As a result we receive a high level of professional referrals and direct approaches by prospective candidates. It would be fair to say that referrals equate to approximately 40% of actual placements, closely followed by advertising response at 25 – 30%. The remaining 30% are generated through proactive research and by tapping into our existing pool of candidates and contacts i.e. people we already know.

DT: Is monitoring and participating in social networks a daily part of your work? In your experience, how effective are social networks in finding talent?
As a relative newcomer to executive search and recruitment I have embraced the emergence of new media and have incorporated it into our research methodology as a vital part of the sourcing process. In terms of the demographic of our target market, LinkedIn has been the most effective networking site for identifying and connecting with talent in Financial Services both locally and overseas. Our specialists are provided with tailored training on how to effectively search professional and social networking sites to identify and connect with talent and build their professional profile online.

Part of our strategy to support candidate acquisition has been the creation of an online ‘virtual’ talent manager to represent Profusion across numerous digital touchpoints such as LinkedIn, FaceBook, Friendster and Xing. Candidates, both new and existing can make direct contact with our online talent manager to obtain career advice, find out about job opportunities, or be put in touch with the most appropriate specialist (if they don’t already have an existing relationship). Whilst still in its infancy, our online talent manager also drives additional traffic to our website and increases awareness of our brand across new media. Over time we expect to see an increase in traffic to our website and direct approaches to our online talent manager as we invest time in developing her presence and building her networks.

DT: Do you use job boards to source candidates? How do you rate them in terms of finding talent?
Profusion carefully allocates its advertising spend across a range of generalist and industry-specific job boards. Specialists will utilise respective job boards depending on the role, industry sector, geographic location and level of seniority. For example a role for a financial planner may be advertised on Seek and MyCareer; a senior banking role in Singapore might be advertised on efinancialcareers; and a role for a senior IT professional might be advertised on JobServe and SeekIT.

From time to time we may trial a new or niche job board or explore alternatives for advertising jobs such as sending alerts about roles out to our networks via status updates on LinkedIn. Whilst we haven’t yet placed anyone in a role from a LinkedIn status update the activity alone promotes awareness of our brand and expands our network.

In terms of the overall effectiveness of the various job boards in finding talent we monitor and track the source of our candidates on a regular basis via our CRM and Google Analytics to ensure our advertising spend is directed in the right areas.

Nicole can be reached at

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3 replies
  1. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole through a networking function I organised as part of the Australasian Researchers Network. It’s really great to see interest in sourcing taking off in Australia, and even better to see local sourcers profiled as Nicole is here. Great post!


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