Cold sourcing (fun): How to make everyone in the company hire someone they don’t know.

Today, I'll be sharing a recipe on better sourcing sessions company wide. Working at Deepnote, a data science notebook startup, I constantly find myself inspired. All around me, I can see proof that successful modern recruiting requires a creative yet scientific approach just as much as data science does. This experiment-driven style of recruiting, of course, involves working (and failing) together, learning, and going back to the drawing board over and over again. The new mindset of recruiters needs to be that of explorers.

To make our sourcing and recruiting projects as successful as possible, the whole company needs to come together as a cohesive and aligned talent unit. Having the rest of the team join forces with the recruiters enables collaboration in an engaging manner by providing the necessary tools, spaces & environment.

It’s no news that startups can’t rely on a reliable stream of high-quality inbound candidates.

(Will Larson, Irrational Exuberance, 2018)

As per above funky chart, you can see that startups tend to rely on referrals that come with two major drawbacks. The personal network is small and frankly, you hire people who think, believe and sometimes look the same.

An illustration of Deepnote's early employees. There are four different people. Really!

On the other hand, the inbound pool probably won’t surface the most relevant candidates, especially at startups, you’ll naturally have to actively and consistently hype the top of your funnel. Focusing on quality is key here. You don’t want to incentivise your talent team to add a massive number of prospective hires, only to end up in the exact place you would have if you had posted the job to Indeed.com.

So let's go and have a look at our few tips on how to boost the top of your hiring funnel in the most effective way, and most importantly, I’ll throw in some tips about how to turn that experience into a good team bonding exercise. That’s why moving beyond your personal network and sourcing people you do not know can bring new diverse and tremendous talent.

(Will Larson, Irrational Exuberance, 2018)

That’s why nowadays recruiters need to keep learning from the best sales & marketing frameworks to optimize recruitment processes. The industry expects us to be much more creative and to personalize our approaches while maintaining maximum efficiency levels. In addition, we have to build communities, brand awareness, and, of course, nurture strong & meaningful relationships with candidates while at the same time becoming strategic career advisors to them. A good sourcing jam sounds like a good start.

Recipe for better sourcing jams 🍓

What’s sourcing jam? In a few words, during sourcing jams you’d be building pools of candidates to approach. Basically, if you’re a recruiter or a talent scout, you’d be sourcing for your open roles as usual, except now you’d make it so so nice for you and everyone on your company-wide team. You should never be alone with hiring. But at the same time it’s your responsibility to enable everyone on the team with good hiring help, provide them with the context, tools and information needed to make it easy, productive, and successful.

The main objective of a sourcing jam is to source as many prospective candidates as everyone can in 50 minutes. As a rule of thumb, everyone should only source people whom they’d like to work with. In the meantime, every team has to also craft the most beautiful, inspiring, amazing approaching message that we can send to the candidates.

Your ingredients for better sourcing jam

There are several things you should have in mind before organizing a successful sourcing jam.

1. Tools 🍯

I’ll divide this tools-checklist into two categories. One is for your logistic tools. The second one is for real-time sourcing. With the logistic tools you’ll make sure, you have a good foundation for running your successful event. Then you’ll need to set up and introduce your sourcing stack. This will require preparing a toolkit that you can share with your team ahead. You have to also make sure that everyone on the team is equipped with the right tools and information to help you effectively source the right candidates!

a) Logistic tools

  1. Around, we wanted this to be remote friendly, so we streamed the event for everyone joining remotely
  2. Slack, I created #events-sourcing-jam slack channel for the individual team & general communication.
  3. Spotify, you need a good playlist &#goodvibes only.
  4. Notion, served as a directory for us as you can see above.
  5. Remote drinks delivery platform. Especially if you have someone joining overseas and they may have mornings — it’s not really empathetic to send them their morning whiskey drink.

b) Tools for sourcing

  1. Gem. I added everyone into my most favorite sourcing tool on this planet. It made this game much easier but you can use spreadsheets too. If you decide to go with Gem, you can let the teams create their own projects so they can add prospective candidates with just one click from LinkedIn.
  2. Github. Our amazing guest speaker Jonas made a totally perfect cookbook on how to use github as an amazing hiring .
  3. AmazingHiring. We introduced AmazingHiring as a tool that helps us see candidate’s social footprint and professional background.
  4. Instant Data Scraper. We also share how to scrape search results.
  5. Boolean search. We also came up with a toolkit on how to work with Boolean Search & Linkedn basics.

2. Prizes 🍓

We introduced two prizes. One recognized quantity: the highest number of (relevant)sourced candidates. The second prize recognized quality: the most beautifully crafted outreach message for the first sequence. One prize came from my personal initiative — a donation towards Ukraine, doubled by Deepnote. The second prize was one extra day off.

Team Sourcing mama with not only one but two awards!

3. Teams 🧂

I let everyone sign up ahead of time — especially because I needed to know how many deliveries to make for the remote-joiners. But you can always do this ad hoc. Then we made each team toss a coin for one of the open roles and come up with a name. We had team coconuts looking for an infrastructure engineer, team “sourcing mama” looking for a frontend developer and remote team “together alone” looking for a full stack engineer.

4. Working set-up 🥜

Decide whether you want to run this remotely or onsite. The most difficult would be our case — a hybrid setup, but it’s manageable. You can go with streaming on your favorite conferencing tool and make breakout rooms for remote teams. Make sure to have snacks and drinks available to everyone, for remote teams, you can send deliveries or set up delivery vouchers ahead of time. You can bring one mentor (maybe someone from your talent team who is working remotely) who would be dedicated to your remote sourcing team.

5. Rules and your baking time 🧈

Of course you can come up with any rule you wish. I’d probably focus on defining the geography you want to source from and the size of the teams. Here is our example:

  1. You use your normal LinkedIn account, or Boolean or Github
  2. Location: sourcing people only in Europe (as per our remote strategy 2022)
  3. Teams of 2–5 people
  4. The team will the highest number of sourced candidates in the shortest amount of the time (50 mins) will be the winner
  5. There will be a second prize for the team that comes up with the most unique outreach message — we will vote
  6. There will be a captain for each team that needs to make sure that we’re only sourcing candidates we’d like to eventually work with or with high quality profiles
  7. The contest duration will last no more than 1 hour
  8. The winners will win 300 USD for a charity of their choice (if you decide to support Ukraine then Deepnote will match it)

6. Hyping 🥥

This was the first event of its kind at Deepnote. Don’t get demotivated when the first reaction of your team is overly suspicious and a bit biased. Not many wanted to join as they expected something recruitery, salesy, cheezy and outside of their comfort zone. What really helped was getting my friend, Terka, as a great cheerleader. She started with promoting our event herself. Eventually our CTO Janko and myself joined her in the hype. You can also come up with a really hot line-up like this :D

7. Adding some spice 🌶

Or any other super skilled recruiter friend! I wanted to bring my most inspiring talent network so I brought my friends and let them show their amazing recruiting powers. It was amazing as I felt I was not alone and I was so proud since my friends were really impressive.

You can help your friends with their personal brand, pump their speaking skills but also have some real fun. You can also make them judges & mentors and let them be at the disposal of the teams during the sessions.

8. Reachout notes 🧄

We made our teams come up with one reachout note in the (sourcing) meantime. It’s good to share some examples with them and they can be very straightforward.

Hi $THEIR_NAME,

I’m an engineering manager at $COMPANY, and think you would be a great fit for $ROLE (link to your job description). Would you be willing to grab a coffee or do a phone call to discuss sometime in the next week?

Best,

$YOUR_NAME

If you feel the above example is way too simple you can A/B test or simply be more creative. Checkout our winning team “Sourcing Mama” searching for Frontend Engineers.

Key takeaways

Sourcing is easier (and more authentic) when it comes from your entire team, not just recruiting. Especially because startups just don’t have much in terms of recruitment resources.

Getting people on board for that is sooooo hard, even though you only need an hour of their time. Recruiting often also seems boring or insincere to everyone. So how do you get everyone in the team on board? Make the event AWESOME. You can always add a bit of spice by combining this with Caribbean rum flights, pizza tasting, and a little friendly competition. You can also gamify it and make it even more competitive while getting bonus points for sourcing female engineers or people of colors. Here you just need to be careful about historical and demographic context.

After making your event awesome, you'll have so many requests to repeat this success again. I can speak from my experience!

At Deepnote, we sourced more than 250 high quality candidates in 50 minutes. From our last sourcing session we also successfully closed 2 amazing candidates but most importantly, we started building relationships with a tonne of others. 💙

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Tereza Machackova

Tereza Machackova

VC | Startups | Feminism | Tech | Leadership | Brain

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