Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Understanding Researchers
December 1, 2007, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Recruiting, Research

Recently, I read a terrific article by Adam Bluestein titled Understanding Geeks, A Field Guide To Your Tech Staff. While reviewing the article, I found myself chuckling because of all the similarities between what tech geeks deal with and what research and sourcing geeks like myself experience. So I decided to rewrite the article and substitute the IT stuff for research stuff. I hope some of you find this educational, and I know many of you will be entertained and will find yourself smiling and nodding as you read.

Adam, a hat tip to you for writing the original piece and inspiring me to follow suit!

A field guide to your loveable geeks in sourcing

You need your research and sourcing team like never before. But often, decoding what the members of your research team do – and getting them to understand what you want – just leaves you confused and frustrated. To non-researchers, sourcing isn’t just a different discipline; it’s sometimes misunderstood as an admin/clerical function. So I’ve put together a guide to that culture. Here is everything you need to interact with your company’s researchers and sourcers with confidence.

Researchers and sourcers typically like peace and quiet. It’s not that we are hermits or even overly reclusive. It’s just that the nature of what we do requires concentration on a train of thought. When we are interrupted constantly by a lot of surrounding noise, we can lose our place in a search and forget why we were on a webpage or why we were searching using a particular keyphrase. Don’t force us to sit in the middle of a noisy room just because others need that buzz. It doesn’t work for us! For those working in an office setting, give us a cube stuck off in a quiet corner, or better yet let us work alone in an office with a door or at most with one other researcher or someone else who works quietly. You might also find us rocking out with our headphones on. We have brain music that helps us concentrate on what we’re doing. Each researcher is different; some like punk, some like classical. But it is always a selection that gets us in the zone. Ask Mike Notaro, winner of the SourceCon grandmaster challenge. He put his headphones on during the challenge to drown out the surrounding noise and keep his thoughts on the task at hand.

And like with our techie counterparts, don’t touch the items on our desk. We have organized clutter and messing with it will throw us off with our searches.

No matter if you call us researchers or sourcers (do NOT call us junior recruiters!), we tend to have at least some characteristics in common. SourceCon was a perfect example of this comraderie. All the folks in attendance hit it off quickly and still to this day speak to each other in eager anticipation of the next time we can get together. Check out some of these character traits (some copied from the original IT geek article):

Perfectionism. We certainly share this trait with our geek counterparts. The tendency is mostly a good one, but a good sourcing function DOES need a good mix of these folks and the ones who just ‘get ‘r done’.

Lust for gadgets. Show me a researcher who doesn’t have at least three or more of the following:

  • iPod or other MP3 player
  • PDA phone
  • Bluetooth headset
  • 2+ computers at home (personal laptop in addition to work laptop/PC)
  • Digital camera
  • GPS that may or may not get used
  • 2 monitors, one of which is probably a flatscreen
  • 4+ remote controls in their home
  • Blog, podcast, wiki, or some other form of personal communiqué with the research community
  • Home office (even if they do not work from home) complete with wireless network and print server – personally set up, of course
  • An extra hard drive laying around, or an external hard drive – just in case!
  • Various other computer parts laying about for tinkering

Intellectual curiosity. Put a “regular” person in front of a computer, and he’ll just sit there and think that ‘research’ is typing a word or two into Google and reviewing the results. A researcher will probably sit there for several minutes before beginning the search. Don’t mistake this for inactivity – there’s a lot going on in the brain! Game planning the search, trying to decide what resources would be best used, mapping out a path to find that perfect person. And this is very often a leisure activity for the researcher because it’s not just a job, it’s fun too. This curiosity may lead itself as a compulsion to investigate and subscribe as many streams of information as possible to produce as many pathways as possible to reach that perfect candidate.

Systematic thinking. Researchers see nothing magic about technology and internet research, only problems to be broken down and solved. In addition, we will often say things that you may not understand and throw our hands up in disgust at you because to us, it’s common sense and why don’t you get it.

Competitive nature. Being quicker than our peers is really important for some researchers. We are constantly honing our skills with the aim of doing something that no one’s been able to do. Some more so than others. (I certainly can put myself into this category in some instances!)

Researchers like money as much as everyone else, but there are other ways to make sure we do a stellar job.
Give us props. Since researchers and sourcers are typically at the end of the blame chain when a req falls through (“They didn’t give me enough candidates”, “They didn’t find people fast enough”, “They didn’t get me the right people”, etc.), we like recognition when we’ve done good in your eyes. Like it is suggested in the original article, take your research guru to lunch and allow us to tell you what we’re up to. As with a techie, you may not understand much of what we talk about, but letting us share this information makes us feel special and appreciated, which will make us work even harder.

Research Dos and Don’ts
Do try to gain a basic understanding of the job function. Though researchers will always know a ton more than you about our job, it is good to have a basic understanding of the work we do so you’re not sitting there wondering if all we do all day long is ‘play on the internet’. (How many researchers out there have had this accusation thrown at you at some point in your career??)

Do provide details with your requests. Saying “I need a sales rep in Atlanta” ain’t gonna cut it. We need to know how many years of experience, what level sales, if its business development or account management, if they must have a college degree, salary ranges, if the client would consider relocating a good candidate, any competitor companies to target, etc. With that being said, WRITE IT down for us as well. And don’t wait until one day before you need candidates to tell us about the search, either.

Don’t send us a search and ask at the end of the day if we’ve completed it. As a recruiter, you know that your part of the process can take many days, weeks, and months to move from start to finish. In order for us to do our job properly, we will need more than 2 hours to track down the appropriate people for your search. See note above if clarification is needed.

Do have your research team meet people in similar functions as the reqs you have presented to them. To the internal research team, this means making introductions to employees within the company and allowing us to get to know them. The more we know about the people already working with us, the better we will be able to find similar people to fill our company’s openings. For external search firm research teams, consider taking your researchers on client meetings. Introduce them as part of your recruiting team and allow them to explain their research process. Guaranteed this will impress your client.

Don’t wait to befriend your researcher. Sudden sucking up followed shortly by a request to conduct a search is transparent and will backfire.

Don’t assume your researcher will fix your computer for you. Yes, most of us have developed computer skills beyond those of the average person, but please don’t ask us to fix every little issue with your computer. See above. We get enough of that at family gatherings. I’m sure our techie geek friends experience the same thing.

While I do not have a glossary to share, I will re-post in italics a couple of the terms Adam put out there and then write my notes on how this applies to research:

Empire builder: An insecure IT administrator or engineer who tries to make himself indispensable by keeping code, passwords, or other knowledge of a system to himself. Bad for morale; bad for your business
We would call this person a search hoarder. Most of us are eager to share new researching tips with each other. See above section on competitive nature and motivation.

Geek: Someone with an intense curiosity about a specific subject. Not limited to tech–there are also gaming geeks, music geeks, etc.
Pretty self explanatory. If you’ve ever given your researcher an odd look because you didn’t understand what they were talking about, this applies.

ID10T (pronounced Eye-dee-ten-tee): The user is an idiot. Used in tech support when passing along said idiot to some other sucker to deal with: “I’ve got an I-D-ten-T coming your way.”
I know in the past I’ve used this when talking to some recruiters. But I always explain to them what it means and they get a chuckle out of it.

I/O error: Ignorant-operator error. Derived from the term “input/output error”
This would be someone who misunderstands ‘research’ as simply typing keywords into a search engine.

Nerd: Some technologists self-identify as nerds; others find the term insulting. When in doubt, use geek instead.
Yep. Just like ‘Geek’ above. This has become a badge of honor.

So hopefully you’ve gotten a laugh or two out of reading this, but I really hope that you’ve learned a little but about us. When you begin to understand how our inquisitive minds work, you’ll understand why we do what we do. Why many researchers loathe the phone. Why we go home at night and continue to snoop around the internet on our own time. Why we work so much harder for those of you who compliment us on our work. Love us for who we are; for research is quite different from recruiting but equally as important in the hiring process.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Can I have your glossary and can I add your new terms to mine?

maureen at

Comment by The Edge

I love this article! Everything applies to what we do .. and I have ALL of those gadgets .. except the GPS thing! 😉

— jeff V. Management Recruiters of Grand Rapids

Comment by Jeffrey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: