The Law of the 9 – A Sourcing Philosophy

Sourcers rely on hired applicants to prove their worth and measure their return on investment. It is a cornerstone metric to take a unique candidate from prospect status to new hire status. Despite your position in talent acquisition, a hire is an event to celebrate. Performance standards also measure against this hire metric.

But what if leaders took a step back to invest in the prospects who neglect our attempts to connect? Far too many talent professionals ignore the candidates who aren’t hired or note they are uninterested in an organization. I call this tracking of no-thank-you leads and uninterested candidates the “Law of the 9”.

The old view of talent acquisition says that if you send out ten connection attempts to ten separate leads, and one responds and gets hired, you are successful. The Law of the 9 says that if you send out ten connection attempts to ten separate individuals and focus on the nine who ignored you or told you “no”, that this is a better definition of success.

This focus on the nine who are either uninterested, unavailable because they are on contract, unable to relocate, or just plain happy in their job is what we call pipelining. These nine now become our focus to pursue. These nine are now as important as a hire.

If there is only focus on those who say “yes” to your passive candidate inquiries, you are essentially ignoring a hefty part of the labor pool.  Does that sound like a good tactic in this market?


Engage those passive candidates

There are Sourcers who took their current jobs without much experience or training. To some, the role of sourcing means you search candidates off LinkedIn and Indeed and send off emails with reckless abandon.  By this, I mean some Sourcers will perform a search, and without discretion, send a contact email to all candidates that show up in the search.

It is akin to a throwing a dart, with your eyes closed. This style of sourcing focuses only on the candidates who respond favorably to additional interest. This technique is easy, fast, and has previously yielded great results.  Now that every industry is feeling the unemployment squeeze, response rates are back to below ten percent, and multiple connection paths are required before a lead will respond to a passive email.

When we consider the Law of the 9, we must think about how those nine passive candidates can be engaged over time, no longer does a candidate no truly mean no.

There is time now to reflect on how we treat our nine. Do you log their rejections? Do you stay in touch with engaging content and genuine interest in their career? Or do you end the process when a candidate fails to respond? Successful Sourcers know that every candidate now matters.  An under-qualified new graduate needs only to be followed for a year or two before they become the perfect experienced hire.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the average employee, across any occupation, stays in their job only 4.1 years. You never know where a candidate is in that tenure journey.  Sourcers who understand the Law of the 9 known to log all candidates and understand that silence or rejection is only temporary.


Tips to put the Law of the 9 into practice:

1. Understand Your Candidate Rejections

A candidate who tells you that they are happy in their job and uninterested in your role are to be celebrated! The celebration is due to the fact that the candidate responded and told you their needs.  You now have a competitive advantage. Leverage that information and offer to just stay in touch with the candidate from time to time.


2. Have a way to Manage Candidates

If it takes seven or eight connection paths before a lead responds to your passive campaigns, how are you going to log and keep track of all those attempts?  Avoid potentially looking silly and use a spreadsheet, CRM, or recruitment marketing platform to manage and remember your attempts. The candidate wants to be special, not knowing who they are when they finally call with kill any effort you have put into the relationship.


3. Have a way to Manage Correspondence

Create a cadence calendar.  Perhaps today you email a candidate, three days later you leave a voicemail and text, and then six days later leave another email.  Whatever cadence you create is probably fine, the point is to know when to reach out next. Create tasks in your CRM or email invites to remind you to follow the cadence so no one falls through the cracks.

Remember the Law of the 9 in that every candidate is now a valuable part of the pipelining process.  Happy hunting!

Christine Hampton

Christine is a Doctor of Business Administration candidate researching talent sourcing strategies in healthcare. This is Christine's 29th year in Talent Acquisition, with the last 9 years focusing on sourcing and recruitment marketing.