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Recruiting tool TalentBin helps Groupon find 'hidden' candidates

Social sourcing only works if qualified candidates are visible on social media sites. Groupon uses recruiting tool TalentBin to help fill the gaps.

Many HR professionals are now harnessing the power of social sourcing by searching social media sites. But what if the people that recruiters are trying to find have inadequate social media profiles or none at all?

Elliott Garms, a tech recruiter at Chicago-based daily-deal site Groupon, recounted the difficulty of solely using LinkedIn to find software engineers. "A lot of engineers don't have a LinkedIn profile or don't check it because of spam," he said. "When I was searching on LinkedIn, I would get a lot of people who weren't a fit for me."

While LinkedIn Recruiter, the social media site's subscription service, revolutionized recruiting, it still runs the risk of providing an incomplete picture of the talent pool, according to Pete Kazanjy, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco, Ca.-based recruiting tool-maker TalentBin.

"The search functionality is only as good as the information that people put on their profiles," Kazanjy said. "For software or electrical engineers or biotech people, they have no reason to be on LinkedIn -- they're well-paid and [there aren't] many of them."

TalentBin debuted a year ago, attempting to address this problem. Groupon has been using the recruiting tool since February, and Garms testified to the fact that TalentBin has enhanced his company's recruitment process. "Within the first week or two of me using it, I had found a person who was a really big hire for us," he said.

But Garms isn't your typical recruiter. While he wholeheartedly agreed that TalentBin gives Groupon a leg up in tech recruiting, he emphasized that it's how the company's recruiters use the tool that makes the difference.

Comprehensive search saves time for recruiters

Garms got his start in tech recruiting when he was 16, working for his father. By the time he started at Groupon in January 2012, he had developed a deep knowledge of the Chicago software engineer market.

"I spent a few years going to all of the conferences and hearing from the engineers what they thought made bad recruiters," he said. "I was educating myself to make sure I wasn't going to do any of the things I was hearing pissed them off."

A few weeks into his job at Groupon, he heard about TalentBin and decided to try it out. "I remember I typed in a few buzzwords and the first results that came back were a bunch of people who were truly awesome -- usually those people were fairly hidden," he said. "I knew from past experience that I was looking at 15 of the best engineers in Chicago, so I knew this tool was legit."

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According to Kazanjy, TalentBin works by compiling information about people from any site that they maintain a presence on -- from social media giants such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to industry-specific platforms such as Quora, Meetup, GitHub and StackOverflow.

"People who have really high value -- like scientists and engineers -- even though they may not have put their skill information on their LinkedIn profiles, they have a tendency to exhaust that information on places on the Web," he explained. "So if you can consume that professionally relevant activity and make sense of it -- that guy keeps tweeting about microwave synthesis, or answering questions about Java on StackOverflow -- you end up with a profile that's much richer."

The primary benefit of this comprehensive search functionality for Garms was saving time, since he had already been searching specialty sites on his own. "I was checking five to 10 specific places myself. It was effective but time-consuming," he said. "From that side of things it was a huge improvement because TalentBin saved me tons of time [by] being able to search all at once rather than individually."

Garms added that the recruiting tool might have further benefits for recruiters at other companies who may not be aware of these specialty sites. "It's super valuable because I think most recruiters don't even know to look in those places," he said.

Sourcing is step one of the recruitment process

But as any recruiter knows, sourcing is only half the battle. In the incredibly competitive market for software engineers, courting candidates and making attractive offers can be as difficult as finding them in the first place.

For instance, Garms explained that after he compiles a list of strong candidates, he takes the time to create a personalized letter of introduction -- a key step that TalentBin helps him with, but one that he suspects many recruiters skip.

"A bad recruiter could use TalentBin and find 500 people to send a template email to," he said. "You can absolutely abuse TalentBin and use it for that, but that's just not my style of recruiting."

Instead, Garms reviews all of the candidate's work and familiarizes himself with his or her interests before initiating contact. "To write those emails, I need to look at their links online, and TalentBin has all those links --  everything you need to know to research them [is there]," he said. The recruiting tool also provides recruiters with candidates' contact information, according to Kazanjy.

Once a candidate has been engaged in the process, his or her resume is transferred to Jobvite, Groupon's recruitment system, in what Garms described as a "one-click" process. Kazanjy said TalentBin's application programming interface (API) allows recruiters to view search results in their company's HCM system.

Because the software's strength is in sourcing what Kazanjy referred to as "knowledge workers," the tool might not be as useful for companies with less need for such professionals. While Groupon uses the recruiting tool almost exclusively for sourcing engineering roles, Garms doesn't rule out its potential for sourcing other types of positions. "It seems like a great tool for specifically tech, but it wouldn't surprise me if you could find great people who weren't in the tech world on TalentBin as well," he said.

Kazanjy's intentions for the tool, which was named "Awesome New Technology for HR" at the 2012 HR Technology Conference, are ambitious. "Google is a search engine that is document-centric, not people-centric." he said. "We want to make sense of all documents in the world that are related to a person. It's a different way of thinking about search."

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