My parents have been visiting for the holidays, we've baked cookies, seen the kids Christmas performances, eaten many, many meals together and talked about everything under the sun. During one of these conversations I learned that my parents discovered a letter about a year ago from my great aunt providing some interesting clues into my paternal genealogy. Over the last couple of months my Dad has been taken this search much further through the interwebs.
I realized as he was outlining to me who was connected to who, the paths he'd taken, the searches he used, the keywords he had to combine and uncombined the data he'd been able to verify and his inherent goal to achieve all this data without paying for membership at a single “ancestry” like site…. that my Dad….would be a really great sourcer for me to hire.
This epiphany kind of scared me. I've been a proponent of “anyone can source” with a little bit of training. And that may be true. But who can source well?
Someone that lives for search. Like a dog with a bone, they have got to find the “person”.
Try, try again. The first phrase you type into Google might not reveal the information you need, rephrase, think of like words, different options and take another run at it.
Track your progress..and fails. Dad is organized, he knows what works and what doesn't, he can show me how the wrong search string took him down a path to someone he thought was part of the family, but then verifies they're not. And he really tracks all this data.
Thinks strategically. Because Dad is tracking his progress and fails he's able to create a strategy. It also helps that he knows the project well, and clearly understands the requirements (that there's an inherent difference between the Roberts of Alabama and the Roberts of New Mexico and that one of the two might not be tied to the Roberts of Philadelphia). He's able to look at additional projects and come up with
an instant plan of action.
No rules. Do whatever you want, use whatever sites you want, dig in where you can. Sometimes Google provides a name or lead. Sometimes Google isn't the answer and going to other search engines or chat sites, surfing old forum and online log systems can provide new and useful information.
Self-teaching is gold. No one has sat down and shown my Dad proper boolean technique or how to use Google or any of that kind of thing. No one has explained the ins and outs of genealogy and how to map ancestry. This is all self-taught. He hits a bump in the road now and again but defers to 'Try, try again' and is back off and running. I am going to introduce him to one of my favorite things from 2012, Power Searching with Google, just to see if it helps him a bit more.
No typical office constraints. As a retiree, Dad can work whenever. And wherever. Hand him an iPad and he'll find whatever he needs. Kind of humbles me with my big multi-screen desktop.
Conscious of the $$$. Dad refuses to pay for what he knows he can find for free. I like that.
Passion. He loves what he's doing, it's the thrill of the hunt. He's working on it whenever he can and wakes up thinking of new tactics to try.
So often in sourcing, we hire someone junior and teach them boolean and set them lose with a req and a prayer and say “find 'em….find 'em all!” We expect them to not only think tactically with search but strategically, to be conscientious of the dollar, and passionate for the cause. And really, what I've learned from my Dad is the “fit” is king. That ability to think outside of the box, and turn over the internet like it's a Rubik's cube until all the pieces fall into place is not teachable, it's inherent…and what my next sourcing hire will have.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.