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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How GM Put Its Talent Sourcing in Overdrive

What happens when a company of 250,000 employees only has four people working in talent acquisition?
Answer: It doesn’t acquire much talent.
This may be a corny joke, but it’s also a simple truth. And back in 2009, it was a reality for General Motors. It’s pretty telling when your entire talent acquisition team can take the same Lyft ride to work. (Think about that the next time you feel your company doesn’t have enough recruiters!)  Thankfully, things have changed at GM (we’ve outgrown using a single Lyft!) – but it didn’t happen overnight.  As part of the team charged with building our talent acquisition function, I had to come up with fresh sourcing strategies, which I shared at SmashFly’s Transform Virtual 2017. Here are a few of the key principles that put GM on the path to world-class sourcing.

Craft Your Story

If we were going to fix GM’s talent acquisition, we had to understand the problem. I know what you’re thinking: “The problem was that you only had four recruiters … at GM!”  Well, yes, obviously that was a challenge. But more resources and staff wasn’t the answer. We had to get to the core of the problem, so we did research. We talked with our new hires, as well as candidates who considered joining but went elsewhere. We discovered that GM candidates were ILL. ILL is the acronym we came up with for the top three barriers we faced in hiring the best talent: Industry, Legacy, Location.

Industry: Despite technological advancements, people still view the automotive industry as antiquated, stuffy and stodgy. They pictured greasy and grimy automotive plants with assembly lines, not the millions of lines of code that go into every vehicle today.

Legacy: The company had a very public bankruptcy in 2009, and despite the progress we made, people still remember it years later. Candidates had feelings of uncertainty: How are they doing financially? Will I have job stability here? Are they on the verge of going under again?

Location: Picture your ideal city to live and work in if you had to relocate for your career. Pause. Did Detroit come to mind? Didn’t think so. When most people think of Motor City, they want to motor through it, not live there! And honestly, four or five years ago, neither did I.
To heal the “ILL” view of GM, we had to change the narrative. We needed to control and communicate the story, actively and uniquely – not just the GM story, but our personal GM story.

Like I said, I wasn’t an initial fan of Detroit. But once I began to see the revitalization of the city the past few years, it blew me away. It’s really an up-and-coming city. I can talk to people about that in an interview. I can identify with their reservations about Detroit and share my story, which will likely resonate with them because it’s personal. It’s real. So operative number one was moving away from canned and corporate and into raw and real.

Find Your Ambassadors

We all know the market is candidate-driven, and the competition for talent is fierce. We hear about it every day … wash, rinse, repeat. But you know who has no clue about our struggles? The salespeople. The software engineers. Those guys in accounting.  Talent acquisition needs to be an organizational effort – and that doesn’t just happen on its own. No one goes to work thinking they need to be recruiting or advocating or referring. It’s our job to communicate its importance to every department. 
Everyone can be a talent ambassador. And everyone should. Every employee has a personal network of friends, former colleagues, and alumni. You need to tap into those networks to attract more talent like the great people you already have hired.  Think about it: Who better to relate to a software engineer than another software engineer? Who can explain what it’s like to be in sales at your company better than your salespeople? So you need to ask and equip people to be ambassadors for your brand, setting up channels and guidelines to facilitate this process.  We haven’t mastered this yet a GM, but we’re still striving for it. It’s the foundation of a brand-led talent acquisition strategy.

Develop the Future Sourcer

Yesterday’s recruiting skills and methods won’t cut it anymore. We have to think like strategists, promote like marketers, write like search experts and inquire like data scientists. Then, we have to share and instill that knowledge in others.  As I started to build the sourcing team at GM, I looked for four key pillars:

Search Expert: Search is the foundation of sourcing. The best sourcers must be able to use new tools in unique ways to find data from a variety of sources. They have to mine information from the web and be creative in hunting for top-notch talent, truly finding needles in haystacks.

Strategist: It’s one thing to know what a hiring manager is looking for, it’s another to know how you’re actually going to find it. Sourcers are on the front line; they are the eyes and ears of your operation. They should be able to build a plan based on data, the market, competitive intel and the tools at their disposal, then communicate and deliver on that plan effectively.

Marketer: If everyone in your company needs to be an ambassador, sourcers must be the ambassadors-in-chief. They must be great communicators, turning a two-sentence formal EVP into a personal, genuine story that relates and intrigues. GM may not be for everyone, and we’re OK with that. But we want to give candidates a realistic view of what it’s like to work for us. That can’t come from a script; it has to come from that first personal touch point, like a sourcer who shares our story effectively.

TeacherIf talent acquisition wants to bring value to our organizations, we have to help and inform our colleagues. When I look for our sourcers, I want people who leverage the latest tools, techniques and technology (say that fast three times) and can share their expertise with others. Whether junior recruiters, seasoned recruiters, fellow teammates or managers, we all need to share our knowledge in best and emerging practices to better the organization.

Another part of the journey is the close partnership developed between the Sourcing team and the employment branding and social media team.  Sharing a consistent message about the new GM and why candidates should consider us vs. other employment options is an important part of our evolution.
With these key steps in action, we’re in a much better place than we were eight years ago (those “four-lorn” days are long gone). Just as the auto industry continues to evolve, so does our approach to sourcing and talent acquisition. Hopefully, these insights get your wheels turning so you can take the reins and steer your organization in the right direction. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Leveraging Data To Fine Tune a Search


I’ve been doing some thinking.  For those of you who know me, you know this is typically cause for alarm.  However, I’ve been reflecting on some things that have been fundamental or rudimentary to me during my time as a recruiter/sourcer/manager.  It has dawned on me that with all of the talk of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robots that are going to take my job (I always think of Will Smith in I, robot when someone brings that up), there’s still room for some of the fundamentals.  So today, I want to talk about leveraging data from labor market reports.  Now if you’ve ever had the unenviable task of listening to me drone on about what I think is important, you know that I believe in using data, specifically labor market data to educate, advise, and set expectations during the recruiting process.  I’m not going to go into that here because that my friends is a topic for another time.  What I am going to venture into is some thoughts that I routinely had while sitting in my sourcing / recruiting chair.  One of the things that I used to think about was “How do I find unique avenues or unique searches to find the candidates I’m looking for?”  I simply didn’t want to run the same old boring searches and look in the places that everyone else was looking.  So essentially, I was looking for leads or ideas.  Sometimes those ideas came from simple information that I gathered from labor market data.  Now I’m not here to pimp anyone’s service or tell you who to use.  I just believe that having access to this information is important and I wanted to share some of the things I used to look at when I was building a search. 

One of the things that appear on just about any labor market report that you create is a list of the other companies that are looking for any skill set that you specify.  Why is this important to know?  Well, let’s talk about that.  As we talk to candidates, I think it is important to understand some of the competitive advantages you have when compared to the other companies that they may be considering.  In order to do so, it’s critical that you know who the competition is.  These reports can help with that.  In addition, if you know that a company is looking for a particular skill set, you can safely assume that those companies employ that skill set.  By honing in on these companies, it’s possible that you could come across a source of potential candidates that you weren’t familiar with.

One of the things that I’ve noticed (which should come as a surprise to no one) is that different companies have different names for the same role in an organization.  Now while I would never promote the idea that you should search by job title, sometimes when you are looking for different avenues to pursue it’s helpful to know the different things that people in that skill group may call themselves.  On a labor market report, there is typically a section that will let you know the most recent or most frequently used job titles associated with the skills that you specify.  Remember, there will be times when you are simply looking for unique ways to find unseen candidates and this can be a step in the right direction. 

The same rule applies when it comes to schools.  If you have a lead on a school that routinely produces quality candidates then this can be a valuable resource.  The most obvious thing is to use that school as one of your keywords in your search.  With that said, that’s kind of boring.  Let’s get a little more creative and think about ways that we can cultivate and leverage a relationship with that school.  In most cases, presenting yourself as a resource to the appropriate people and you will be welcomed with open arms.  Don’t just think new grads either as you can bring alumni networks into play as well.

The moral of this story boys and girls is to never stop thinking about the different ways you can make use of the tools or information at your fingertips.  If you’re doing everything strictly “by the book”, then you’re doing what the vast majority are doing.  Be creative, be unique, and set yourself apart.

Will Maurer is currently living his dream as the Global Sourcing Manager for General Motors.  With that said, his opinions are solely his own and do not reflect the opinion of his employer.  He firmly believes that Talent Acquisition is a team sport and feels very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best professionals in the world.  You can find his random thoughts at

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My interview with Jackye Clayton of Recruiting Daily

I really enjoyed spending time with Jackye as her enthusiasm is contagious!  To view the conversation, please click on the link below.

Recruiting Live!

Monday, May 8, 2017

My Interview with Shannon Pritchett of SourceCon fame

This is a clip from my conversation with the incomparable Shannon Pritchett at ERE.  I always learn so much from the SourceCon / ERE community! 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hiring On All Cylinders

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the Hiring on all Cylinders podcast. This is a clip from my interview at ERE. Enjoy!

Here is the link to the podcast on the HOAC page as well

HOAC - WMaurer Podcast

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How Innovations Revolutionize Talent Acquisition

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the spring SourceCon event in Anaheim, CA.  It was chock full of ideas, information, and enthusiasm.  One of the highlights of the trip for me was a presentation by Kerstin Wagner.  Kerstin is the Head of Talent Acquisition for Deutsche Bahn.  The theme of her presentation was “How Innovations Revolutionize Talent Acquisition”.  Thirty minutes into her presentation I took to Twitter and announced to the world that I had a new hero.  Presentations can resonate with you for a variety of reasons, but for me, it was the attitude or philosophy that Kerstin and her team have taken in their quest to become a top employer.  I found it to be very progressive and a great example of how innovation, branding, marketing, and technology can all come together and be an integral part of an overall talent acquisition strategy.  While I could never do this presentation justice by simply putting it into words, I wanted to share some of my key takeaways.

The role of the talent acquisition professional has evolved and must continue to do so
I know that this is a hot topic for many of us and it’s something that I’ve written about previously.  Kerstin and her team have taken it as far as to identify 11 core competencies that make up a successful recruiter.  The most intriguing of these competencies they label as a trendscout.  A trendscout is someone who lives and represents the innovative image of the company.  This outlook was refreshing to me.  I was impressed because not only does the Deutsche Bahn team identify some of the core traits that are required of a modern day recruiter, but they recognize innovation and innovative thought as a core competency that they look for when building a talent acquisition team.  From the onset, it’s apparent that innovation is not only valued, but is considered a necessity. Laying this type of foundation can only help when trying to build a creative culture. 

Anyone can talk about innovation, but you must take action to promote it

As a leader within a talent acquisition function, I can tell you that while I embrace the idea of innovation, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to truly implement it within my team.  Telling someone to “be creative” sounds good but to do it without cultivating an environment that promotes new concepts is an exercise in futility.  Kerstin mentioned several ways in which they encourage innovative behavior and I made sure to take note.  The approach that she outlined highlighted a number of things including market and performance analysis, screening other companies to see how they utilize technology, and constantly challenging processes.  One of my favorite approaches that was mentioned was to constantly monitor technology and technological advances regardless of their application.  Then, brainstorm and derive use cases to utilize these technologies in Talent Acquisition.  The second approach that struck a chord with me was the formulation of digital and social think tanks.  Every 4 weeks a group of people who have volunteered and show a passion for innovation meet and discuss new ideas and philosophies.  These individuals come from various sectors of the business and they are encouraged to brainstorm in a consequence free environment.  I loved this idea.  Organizing a group of people who are interested in challenging the status quo and giving them the opportunity to express themselves in a space where they can feel comfortable I think hits the mark.  These are great ways to promote creative thinking but it can’t stop there. 

Leadership plays a key role in establishing an innovative culture

Applause rang out at SourceCon when Kerstin made the following statement “How can I ask my team to be trendscouts if I’m not being a trendscout myself?”  From my perspective, the message here is very clear.  Your leadership must embrace change and new ideas.  It’s impossible to foster a truly creative environment if the members of your team are met with nothing but resistance from the people they look to as an example.  Kerstin went on to mention a number of other things that are important for leaders to do.  Leaders must recruit employees with an innovative mind set.  They must encourage collaboration.  Again, talking about this is not good enough.  Facilitating meetings that encourage innovative thinking, promoting and recognizing new ideas, and letting the employees take control of their own creative process is key. 

Technology is to be embraced

If you want candidates to view your company as a cutting-edge company that is innovative and embraces new ideas it’s not in your best interest to be a technophobe.  Sometimes new technology can be intimidating and hard to trust.  Ask my parents and their VCR from 1994.  When utilized properly and taken advantage of, new technology can be a huge advantage for you.  This is especially true when you can tap into a technology before your competitors do.  It makes you stand out.  It differentiates you from the crowd.  I thought that some of the things they were doing at Deutsche Bahn were really cool.  I know that’s an oversimplification but trust me when I tell you that as I watched the presentation I just kept thinking “that is really cool”.  I will give you some examples.  Let’s say that you want a potential candidate to understand what a day in the life looks like when assessing a new job possibility.  Why not tap into new Virtual Reality technology and provide them with a look into what they will be doing?  This is something that they are doing and I love the idea.  You’re telling the candidate that not only do we talk the talk, we walk the walk.  Another thing that was highlighted came as a result of the use cases and the think tank that I mentioned earlier.  After observing the use of holograms from another industry, Deutsche Bahn had discussed the idea in one of their think tanks.  From there, they devised a way to apply it to talent acquisition and developed a prototype.  Now, with a smartphone as well as an inexpensive and easily accessible prism, candidates can receive a holo transported message.  After seeing this technology in action I was impressed by the impact that it could have and how it could affect your employment brand. 

All in all, it was fantastic to see how a large company could embrace innovation within talent acquisition and utilize the latest and greatest technology to work for them.  To me, this was a perfect example of human ingenuity and machine based advances coming together to produce a world class experience for potential candidates. 

Will Maurer is currently living his dream as a Talent Sourcing Manager.  His opinions are strictly his own and do not reflect the opinion of his employer.  He will tell you that all of the credit for this article belongs to Kerstin Wagner and her amazing team.  Will is a self-proclaimed recruiting nerd who has a healthy obsession with talent acquisition and an unhealthy obsession with tacos.  You can routinely catch him rambling at  He is offering to buy you a cookie at the next SourceCon if you subscribe to his blog.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Semantic Search Insights

This is from a recent post on the Career Builder resources page.  
GM Exec Shares Semantic Search Secrets to Up Your Talent Sourcing Game
A critical part of a winning recruitment strategy is being able to proactively source the right candidates at the right time. Do you or your team use semantic search or resume parsing techniques today as part of your talent sourcing efforts, or are you planning to in the near future? What should you know about and expect from semantic search efforts?
Get semantic search secrets from a pro. We asked Will Maurer, global sourcing manager at General Motors, for his insights.

CB: What is your perception of semantic search within recruiting today?

WM: I have observed a major increase in the implementation of semantic search technology within our industry. Of course it was initially greeted with a number of questions and a certain level of skepticism. As I grew to understand the methodology behind semantic search it really started to make sense.
For years, recruiting and sourcing professionals have relied on complex Boolean searches in order to extract information from databases and the open web. It only makes sense that at some point technological advancement would intervene and make this process simpler for the user.
While I think a lot of folks still have questions around the methodology, there is little doubt that semantic search can be a big time saver. This becomes increasingly important in a corporate recruiting function, where people are balancing a number of responsibilities and may not have the time to generate a number of complex search strings. 

CB: Where do you see semantic search impacting recruitment in the future?

WM: I see semantic search ultimately being a large time saver as well as a useful tool for those folks who may not be well-versed in traditional search syntax.
Search strings, as we traditionally know them, can be cumbersome to someone breaking into the industry and anyone who has limited knowledge of the various facets of the skill set that they are trying to recruit for.
In this way, I see semantic search as a way to alleviate issues and ultimately get talent acquisition professionals to the types of the candidates that they’re looking for faster.

CB: How do you see semantic search and Boolean interacting?

WM: The interaction between semantic search and Boolean is an interesting topic to me, and it’s [a subject] I’ve heard a number of people take different stances on.
For me, personally, there is room for both in a proper sourcing strategy.
The fact that semantic search can identify a large number of the relevant keywords surrounding a concept or notion simplifies the process for a lot of people. Some would argue that you no longer have to do exhaustive research identifying alternate keywords and all of the different ways potential candidates can express similar ideas on their resume. While that can be valuable, I think there is always a place for Boolean in a precise and “deep dive” search.
I appreciate the fact that semantic search can help formulate searches by making certain assumptions for me, but I also believe that it’s not safe to assume. At times variations on keywords or concepts that are brought in by semantic search are not actually what I’m looking for. With that said, I do believe that as semantic search continues to evolve, the ability to manipulate the search and truly hone in will increase and may eliminate the need for traditional Boolean.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Attack of the Resume Monkeys


I have been fortunate to have encountered a number of talent acquisition professionals throughout my career.  Aside from working alongside some very talented folks, I have also done quite a bit of networking with members of various organizations at various conferences.  I can tell you one thing with a great deal of confidence; TA professionals come in all shapes and sizes with varied backgrounds, different skill sets, and a wide array of ideas about the different facets of their job.  Although I can generally appreciate the diverse philosophies that occur in our industry, there is one type of talent acquisition professional that scares me.  These people perpetuate the idea that recruiting and sourcing professionals are order takers that should act subservient in nature.  They focus on the transactional piece of the business.  They review applicants, disposition candidates, set up interviews, and throw resumes “over the fence” for hiring managers to review.  I call these folks Resume Monkeys and they give us all a bad name.  Whether they are the bi-product of their training and environment or they don’t have a passion to be a true Talent Advisor, these people provide little value outside of reviewing and emailing resumes, hence the name.  If you want to bring true value to your organization and grow as a professional, here are some things you can do.  

Make sure that you have a proper intake meeting for each requirement

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a talent acquisition professional is to work on a requisition without a proper intake meeting.  By doing so, you lay the foundation for the belief that you are simply an order taker and nothing more.  What makes up a good intake session is an important thing to understand and we can delve into that at a future time.  For now, it’s important to understand that there are numerous benefits associated with a well planned and well run meeting with your hiring manager.  According to a recent Bersin report “developing strong relationships with hiring managers is the top driver of talent acquisition performance.”  This all begins with the initial meeting.  The same report states that 80% of recruiters believe they have a good understanding of the jobs they’re recruiting for, but 61% of hiring managers disagree.  Therefore, these meetings are crucial to you having recruiting success.  In addition, they give you the ability to ask targeted questions, set expectations with your hiring manager, and share your strategy and outlook.  This will help you establish your role as a true subject matter expert as well as a trusted advisor.  That is the goal.  

Help the hiring manager understand their role in the process

This is closely related to the intake session.  If you’ve read any of my posts before, you probably know that I firmly believe that recruiting is the ultimate team sport.  It always reminds me of the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Well, in this case it takes a village to land a top candidate.   Too often I see organizations whose hiring managers simply shoot off a job description and wait for the resumes to come pouring in.  Not only is this ineffective but again, it promotes the idea that recruiters are simply order takers.  What’s even worse is that recruiters let it happen.  The intake session is the first step, but shortly after that it’s important to let your hiring manager know that they play an important role in the process and their part is not limited to giving you the information that you need to search and screen effectively.  Hiring managers are in a unique position to promote their open jobs as well as your employment brand.  They are going to have a more robust network in their field than you do.  I have also found that messaging that is delivered by a hiring manager can be more impactful than anything that you or I could deliver.  Getting information straight from the source can resonate with potential candidates.  According to Beamery, 52% of content shared by employees is trusted by candidates.  Of course the role of the hiring manager doesn’t stop there.  Obviously they play a critical role in landing or closing candidates.  Spend some time informing your hiring teams about the market today, what a passive candidate is, and how they should alter their approach to attract candidates today.  

Leverage data

Here is another point that I seem to touch on quite a bit.  There are so many tools today that allow you to access labor market data.  I won’t tell you which is best suited for you, but I will tell you that the information that you can access through these tools is invaluable.  Not only can it help with the formulation of your strategy, but these reports can make a lasting impression on your hiring manager.  Presenting this data and being able to speak to it shows a couple of things.  It shows that you are prepared and thinking strategically.  It also shows that the advice and insight that you are sharing does not simply come from your own opinions.  It brings validity to the points that you are trying to get across.  It will instill confidence in your hiring managers and set you apart.  When we think in terms of creating the idea that we are partners it is essential that we leverage data.  

Be transparent

magnifying-glass-1020142_960_720.jpgThere are many things that happen behind the scenes when working on a requisition.  Resumes are reviewed, outreach initiatives occur, candidates are screened and vetted, etc.  The list goes on and on.  One of the mistakes that people make is assuming that the hiring manager understands all of the day-to-day activities that take place in order to locate the right fit for an opening.  If possible, have a weekly update meeting with your hiring teams and share the efforts that have been made.  At the very least, make sure that you send a weekly update email that summarizes your activity and gives the hiring manager a snapshot of what the current candidate pipeline looks like.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it strengthens your relationship with your hiring manager.  There is little doubt that hiring managers appreciate being kept up to date and knowing that you are still keeping their opening top of mind.  Secondly, it gives you the opportunity to educate the hiring manager, giving them a glimpse “behind the curtain”.  There is a lot of work that goes into bringing that perfect candidate to the forefront and you can highlight this work.  People don’t know what they don’t know.  If you give them a look into all of the effort that you’re putting in, you gain credibility.  

To summarize, it’s important that as a talent acquisition professional you strive to be a valuable resource and business partner to your hiring managers.  There are many ways to do this but it starts with establishing yourself as an expert, increasing communication, showing your value, and being a teacher or advisor to those that you work with.  

Will is an average guy who is currently living his dream in talent acquisition.  When not rambling on the internet he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, listening to records, and tacos.  The opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of his employer.  He is offering a virtual high five to anyone who subscribes to his blog at  You can also check him out at the spring ERE event in San Diego.