Thursday, February 15, 2007

Using BLS to Source for Passive Candidates

Whether you're a believer in passive candidates or not, there's no denying that they're a source of talent to be considered.

The challenge, as with all qualified applicants, is finding and attracting them.

Attracting candidates is up to you--you need to figure out how to take advantage of your brand, understand your jobs, have great "salespeople", and make sure your attractive job postings reach the right people.

Finding passive candidates, however...there's something I may be able to help with. You are no doubt familiar with various sneaky or not-so-sneaky ways to identify passives, such as social networking websites or identifying locations where qualified candidates likely hang out.

But what about just answering this question: Where ARE the passive candidates? Turns out that information is relatively easy to get (at least in U.S.). How? By looking at numbers collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Show me the numbers

The BLS conducts a semi-annual mail survey to produce estimates of employment and wages for specific occupations through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. Luckily for us, it's relatively easy to extract nuggets of information from this data.

How? Let's do an example. Let's say I have an urgent need for Registered Nurses. I want to know where they exist in the largest numbers so I know where to target my recruiting, and I'm willing to consider a national recruitment.

1. First, we need to find the link that allows us to create a customized table. Right now the starting point for doing that is here.

2. Next, we select "One occupation for multiple geographic areas."

3. This brings up a big table that allows us to select the particular occupation we're interested in. We know we want Registered Nurses, so we scroll down and select that category (about 3/8ths down the list).

4. Next, we get to select what geographic level of analysis we want. I want the micro level of detail, so I select "Metropolitan area."

5. Next up, we can select what area we're interested in. I want them all, so I leave the default selection of "All MSA in this list" and continue.

6. The next screen has two important choices for us to make. First, we need to decide what specific data we want. I just want to know straight numbers on where folks are employed, so I select "Employment" from the first menu. We then get to choose how we want this data. Because I need to sort the data, I choose to receive it in MS Excel format and continue. This should bring up a download pop-up depending on your browser. I choose to save the file.

7. Now I bring up the file that I saved. I want to sort the employment numbers but some of the cells have been merged. So the first thing I do is select all of the cells, go to "Format Cells", then to the Alignment tab, and de-select "Merge cells."

8. Now I'm ready for the final result. I select Data -> Sort -> Sort by Column B -> Descending. And what do I see? Once we look past the odd repetition of data, we find the top 5 metropolitan areas for Registered Nurses:

- New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island
- Chicago/Naperville/Joliet
- Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale
- Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington
- Boston/Cambridge/Quincy

So if I'm looking at advertising my vacancy, I'll want to seriously consider these markets--whether that's a newspaper ad, local professional magazine, job board, or whatever.

This is just a basic example. I'm sure you can see how useful this would be given the vast number of occupations BLS tracks, as well as the ability to drill down to various geographic areas. Give it a spin!

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