Last month I was lucky enough to attend and speak at Sourcing Summit in Sydney, Australia. Here in this amazing recruitment scene, in the middle of a gorgeous city I was able to present some of my favorite sourcing tools as well as recruiting tips. During my talk I was asked a great question:

“How do you convince your boss to let you try all of these things out?”

My immediate answer? I tend to ‘just get on with it’.

I thought about it afterwards though. Why am I able to – and allowed – to just get on with it?

I understand what frightens my boss.

Years of working in recruitment – most of the time working for the same person – has given me a clear understanding of what risk looks like in the world of sourcing. It can look like:

  • Spending a large amount of money without reasonable evidence to prove that it will work.
  • Engaging in a process that is going to use a high amount of man-hours without evidence that it will work.
  • Not measuring the return on investment.
  • Not identifying the correct output to measure – quite often, this is not financial – despite what your manager thinks.
  • Using resource where no – or little – return is expected.

To avoid these kinds of risks I strive to use and test tools and services that don’t initially take much of my budget. Some risk is always going to be inevitable, but I do my best to minimize it.

A fairly typical senior manager in any type of recruitment function – in-house, agency or RPO – will go through the same thing as I do every week.

  • You will be asked to try job boards – but spend money to do so.
  • Data companies will not let you see samples of the information they offer you in an uncontrolled way – unless you spend money.
  • Technology platforms will ask for a significant amount of money in advance to test their platform.

During this process you’ll probably experience some of the things my colleagues and I have. Here’s a small sample of what we’ve had to deal with when looking at new tech and services:

  • We have been plainly lied to (in the case of a specialist job board that claimed to have 9000 candidates – they didn’t).
  • We have been shown demos that were actually mock-ups and were nowhere close to what the actual product was.
  • We have been almost defrauded by a technology platform who were not who they claimed to be.

In each of these cases time, resources, and money were wasted with no return on investment – that’s the constant risk that comes when trying to find new tools. Unfortunately, new tools are often the best way to make your work more effective and competitive. This means that in order to be able to keep experimenting you need to find a way to mitigate the risks that come with using new technology. Put another way, if you want your boss to approve these tools you need to understand what scares her/him. 

How do you do this?

Over the past five years, I’ve taken a six-rule approach that has allowed me to continuously test new tools. By using this approach I’ve been able to demonstrate that I appreciate risk, that I avoid wasting money, and that I prioritize ROI.

Rule Number 1 – Start small

When you have identified what you want to do, keep the scale very small. Trying out a new messaging platform? Try it with a very low number of prospects first. Starting small enables you to test functionalities without incurring huge costs and ensures that if you fail, the impact will minimal. 

Rule Number 2 – Identify measurables, track them, and use them

Sean Ellis talks about identifying your growth levers – in sourcing terms, your growth level is activating a prospective candidate. You must also identify what the key performance indicators are that will lead to sourcing success. It will probably look something like Glen Cathey’s sourcing funnel but tailor it to your own business. With this data you can truly check how well a tool is working and use it to report back to your boss. 

Rule Number 3 – Keep it simple

One of the most famous growth hacks of all time comes from Hotmail. With a simple trick they grew from 20,000 to 1,000,000 users in just six months. 18 months after launch they at 12 million users and were purchased by Microsoft for $350 million. What was the trick? Emails sent via Hotmail automatically included an invite to join the service. This was simple, but incredibly powerful.

Like the Hotmail trick, the best sourcing methods are simple. They lead to good results, are easy to trace their effectiveness, and most importantly, easy to explain to your boss.

Rule Number 4 – Learn to accept failure

More often than not, the first thing you try just isn’t going to work. If you learn to accept failure and can turn it into a learning experience you can do two things: 1) Demonstrate to your boss that you will learn from mistakes, and 2) use this learning to improve the chances of success the next time.

Some of you may be in an organization where mistakes are not allowed. If that is the case get out ASAP!

Rule Number 5 – Work with the community, but find your own ways of working

The recruitment and sourcing community is a great way to learn about new techniques that you can take and try in your business. But try not to be a lemming – don’t be afraid of committing time to finding your own methods that you can apply. You will be proud of what you will achieve and have more confidence when building a business case to present to your boss.

Rule Number 6 – Never work alone

Involve other people in your team or wider business. This internal form of social proof is crucial – the contribution from others will be invaluable, new ideas will be generated and you have strength in numbers when trying to roll-out your new tool to the business.  

This process is how I discovered Hello Talent. The starting costs are low (the basic version is free), its easy to start small and scale up, you can track basic stats, there’s a well developed community, and collaboration is easy. (I get no kickbacks or commissions for writing this BTW).

Take this approach to new tech and you’ll find that it isn’t so difficult to get your boss on board.

This is a special guest post from Billy McDiarmid. With over a decade of recruiting and sourcing experience, Billy is one of Europe’s most well regarded recruitment professionals. He regularly speaks at events to share his insights and can be found on Twitter and on his blog