Planning your strategy is essential, and one of the best ways to do this is mind mapping. This could be done using paper and pen, but if you have a digital solution you are able to better store, replicate and update for future roles. I prefer online (cloud) solutions, but there are a couple that you can download where you have the option to share online, such as Mindjet Mindmanager bundled with their Catalyst product. If this is out of your price range, or if you simply don’t need the advanced features, then I recommend something based fully in the cloud such as MindMeister or Mind42. These products are far simpler than MindManager and offer collaborative editing at no extra cost so you can get your team involved or even share mindmaps easily with clients.
I believe a CRM (Candidate Relationship management) system is absolutely essential to sourcing and recruitment teams, but if you are just building your team, or are an independent/freelance researcher working on your own, there are other options. Excel is probably the first that springs to mind, but Google Docs is also a great product. Google Docs, like the mind mapping products above, is a cloud product and has collaborative features. You can share documents, see changes made by collaborators in real time and also in the history, and documents have an embedded chat feature so you can discuss the document while editing. Another option here, and one I have successfully set up and used in the past is a Wiki. If you take a look at wikipedia.org you can see the scope of information stored there and the format they use. Not all wikis look like this but you can generally set up a format similar to a database with little cost and without needing too much technical knowledge. There are a number of online wikis that you could choose from. Zoho Wiki and Confluence both offer reasonably low cost hosted options.
If you are using excel documents (or Open Office, a free open source alternative) and you need to share them with your team or client Dropbox can be a great option if you don’t have a common drive already set up. I have to admit to being a bit slow on the uptake with this one, and have only recently started using it but it’s a great option, especially since I can use it on a Mac, PC and my iPhone, so it’s useful for being able to access documents outside of the office also.
So those are the basics, as I see them at least. The next step I would take is to start looking at something to automate some of the basic searches and profile gathering, such as Broadlook’s Diver or an eGrabber product, but with products like that expenses climb quite quickly. That said, both of those products are worth looking into if you want to automate part of your search process, and there are cheaper options, such as this, suggested by Irina Shamaeva.
What would you add to the list?