SoulBook: The Social Network of One

By Danny Cahill, a popular keynote speaker and recruiter. He is the owner of Hobson Associates, one of America’s largest search firms.

I’ll admit it: Getting funding for my new startup, SoulBook, hasn’t been easy. No one can post on it, tag you or comment. There is only one user. You. And there is no need for photos or updates, because every image and thought is already indeliably etched in your brain. No groups. No reminding yourself what you just ate. Just the knowledge that your life is exactly where it is. And you put yourself there.Soulbook is based on two universal principles.

  • Companies want to hire the  very best people
  • The very best people are NOT looking

I am a member of The Pinnacle Society, the premier consortium of  the recruiting industry’s top people. As I write, Not ONE of our 75 members has posted their resume or profile online. In none of their Facebook “commentary” do they give hints of ennui or dissatisfaction. Why? Because they are the very best at what they do, and in all milieus, the best are busy “doing.”

Now that doesn’t mean they are sitting on top of Maslow’s pyramid all self-actualized and fulfilled. That doesn’t mean they don’t dream of change. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t respond! But only if someone knew how to cut to the quick, only if someone knew how, in a short voicemail or a trenchant e-mail, to get them to forget about where they are, and to instead ask themselves if they are “where they are meant to be.”

Let me help you find the top talent that isn’t looking. Let me help you Soul Search:

  1. Recruiters don’t just network, they make targets. We create two lists: The companies that candidates want to work for and won’t leave, and source companies that have a rep for being the kind of place candidates can’t wait to leave. Which are you? Your first step in finding top talent ought to be to protect the top talent you already have. Cause we’re coming to get them while you read this. Once that ‘s accomplished, make a target list and proactively approach the top talent you want.
  2. Be referral-centric, not match-centric. Your HR folks are downloading “fits,” but headhunters go indirect; they know success is about getting candidates to help the people they respect, who have equal or more talent than they do. Scientists call this the “strength of weak ties.” Average people know excellent people and love to talk about them and refer them to you.
  3. Be ruthless about demanding talent. Top talent is rare, and by definition, that means most people don’t qualify. And they know it. And when I tell them I can’t help them until they achieve more, they appreciate not being mollified or danced with. And then you know what they do? They refer you, cheerfully, to people they know who are top talent. More than 2/3 of the deals my firm closes every year are with candidates who were referred by friends, not found via a search function. The soul-searching key here is to separate yourself from your competition by being courageous enough to tell people what they DON’T want to hear.
  4. Understand that change is unnatural and the fear of change is pandemic. Most people, when you soul search with them, are not happy where they are,  (only 45 percent of American workers say they are satisfied with their jobs, the lowest percentage on record) but that doesn’t mean they will move. Most will complain, blame others, go home and kick the dog. And if you try and hire them, they will waste your time because they aren’t going anywhere.
  5. Learn to click. We all know what it feels like to “click” with someone. There is immediate intimacy, a magical bond that has nothing to do with the length of the relationship. This can ONLY be done with a phone call. While you are e-mailing and texting, recruiters are calling,  “clicking” all day long while you are double-clicking on the resumes of mediocre people. The secret? They don’t pitch a job to a prospective candidate. They ask VISCERAL questions right up front.

Facebook’s premise is that we value what our friends think about the world more than we do anything else. Soulbook’s premise is that until we know what we think of ourselves, until we are sure what our own beliefs, motivations and convictions are, the thoughts of others are distractions. And the more present social media gets (as in mobile apps), the more superficial it will become.

But top talent, by definition, has options. Their current companies want them and will fight to keep them. Your competition wants them. They get e-mail blasts and LinkedIn group alerts all day long. They are besieged with information, yet get practically no one asking them for the truth.

Ask any candidate why they work with their personal headhunter, rather than respond to postings. The answer, aside from avoiding the overwhelming “noise” of all the attempts to “network” with them, is that their headhunter took the time to understand them, to guide them, to break through and reach in and make them evaluate not their job, but their life.

My advice? Take the time to do more than “network” with the top talent you dearly and rightfully want … help them soul search.

DANNY CAHILL is the author of HARPER’S RULES:  A Recruiter’s Guide to Finding a Dream Job and the Right Relationship.”  He is also  the founder of, an online training and mentoring company dedicated to enhancing the skills and jumpstarting the spirits of recruiters worldwide.

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