I Need More Bricks

If you ran a construction company and had a world-class bricklayer, would you make him carry bricks? More than likely, if you have a world-class bricklayer, you would probably have one person carrying bricks to him and another mixing mortar.

By doing so, the world-class bricklayer can ply his trade more efficiently and make a beautiful building, wall, etc. This would also save your construction company a great deal of money, as the bricklayer is paid three to five times more money than the laborers carrying bricks and mixing mortar.

In corporate recruiting departments, are we applying the same logic? I have asked many in corporate America what makes a “good” recruiter. The overwhelming response is that a “good” recruiter is someone who handles candidates well and develops strong relationships with the hiring managers. It is a rare response that even includes anything related to sourcing or screening.

From a behavioral perspective, working well with people (candidates or hiring managers) falls into the people-skills category. Putting a finer point on it, the best recruiters are generally speaking, good salespeople. In other words, their genius is closing deals: selling the right candidates on the company and the hiring managers on the right candidates. Persuading, influencing, and convincing people to do something are the basic attributes of a salesperson.

Finding the right candidates in today’s world is long on process/procedure and short on persuasion/influence. Sourcing is highly process-driven, mundane, and repetitive work. Even with the best tools in the world, this job is about 90% sitting in one place reviewing resumes to select the best few candidates who match the job description or profile. Up to this point, there is virtually no people-interaction involved at all.

The next step in the process is to reach out to the best few candidates and attempt to screen them over the phone. The screening process is also very repetitive and mundane, where you have to ask all the candidates the same questions and document the answers consistently so that the appropriate candidates are moved through the process. Of course, there is also the need for OFCCP compliance and other legal issues.

Once you find the appropriately skilled and screened candidate you must then get them into the ATS; either by having the candidate apply or by entering them into the ATS directly. This too, is a very administrative, process-oriented activity. So, sourcing is more of an administrative or process-driven job, where the ability to stay in one place and work for hours without interaction with people is required.

Separating and Defining the Roles

Over the years, I have found the separation of these two major functions in recruiting to yield far better results at both ends than asking one person to do both. Sourcing, to be effective, has to be closely watched, measured, and tuned to produce the most effective results.

It is far more difficult to apply clearly defined, accurate metrics in recruiting. We all try to measure the source of hire, time-to-hire, submittals-to-interview ratio, interview-to-offer ratio, cost-per-hire, and myriad other measures of recruiting metrics. Asking a salesperson to keep track of these is difficult at best, impossible at worst. Asking administrative people to track these items makes them feel comfortable.

Another major benefit of separation is the ability to scale the sourcing function. At times of highly active hiring, the sourcing team needs to be able to step up and produce large volumes of candidates. When hiring slows or stops, this group will have to reduce the team size, and maybe even eliminate the group altogether depending on the conditions your organization faces.

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After that, determining what to track, how to track it, and who is responsible for monitoring and correcting problems is also important. Is sourcing centralized or decentralized? There are arguments for both. Where at all possible, centralizing is the most cost-effective because you can more easily track the metrics and performance of your team as well as shift work load around more easily. Company size and complexity may require more than one sourcing group.

Another benefit to this structure is to handle the specialized, highly difficult sourcing projects. Generally, these are passive in nature and require a very sharp, first call in order to have a chance at convincing the target to consider a job change. With this structure, you can either have the senior sourcing team manager do this work or even better; put your top-notch recruiters on these types of direct-sourcing projects to add spice to their life and put the best person on the phone with the passive candidates. These types of searches happen but are rare. Therefore, they are best handled as the exception rather than the rule.

What about the very important candidate referral program? Again, this is a very critical program long on administrative process that fits well in the sourcing team purview.

Getting the referred candidates into the system and added to appropriate requisitions or other referral-specific processes is vital if this program is to be successful. Many of these programs operate below acceptable levels because the referred candidates are never talked to or given the top priority they deserve. Further, there is little or no communication to them letting them know where they are in the process.

Administratively oriented people will follow the process and make sure this function works to maximum advantage when the process exists to do so.

In the world of corporate recruiting, are we asking our bricklayers to carry bricks? Recognizing that the two major activities in the full life-cycle of recruiting are two totally different job types is a first step in building a more effective recruiting organization. The next step is determining what ratio of the two types of skills your organization requires.

The volume of hiring, availability of talent, complexity of the jobs, among many other factors, will determine the ratios. Once you have established these, you can then scale much more easily with the administrative talent, plug new people in more quickly, and greatly enhance the efficiency of the entire recruiting group.

Byron West is the president and founder of Hire Velocity. He is a sales leader, entrepreneur, and recruiter who loves to start up or turn around businesses, especially in the services sector. He started Hire Velocity to change the way companies view RPO such that they see it as Recruiter Performance Optimization rather than see Hire Velocity as a threat to their livelihood.

By focusing on process, metrics, and project management techniques, he is able to drive top performance from his employees and deliver better, faster and lower cost services to his clients.


10 Comments on “I Need More Bricks

  1. A good article that makes a case for splitting the sourcing and recruiting functions because recruiting is more about selling and persuasion and searching is more of an administrative process.

    I don’t care for the main analogy of ‘if you had a world class brick layer, would you have them fetch their own bricks?’

    I could turn it around just as easily:

    Would you expect a world class oil painter to select and blend their own paint?

    Did you know that many world class marksmen (military and sporting) will create their own ammunition by hand?

    What about a world class chef? How involved in selecting and preparing the food would he be?

    The brick layer example seems very assembly line oriented to me. If someone is laying thousands of bricks, then this seems to make sense – but what if the brick layer is only laying 10 bricks and they need to be placed with a high level of precision? Perhaps the person laying those 10 bricks might want to select them based on how they fit together?

    My TPR bias is showing now – it’s a good article and worth the read.

  2. I agree completely with Mr. West that separating the sourcing and recruiting functions is a great way to organize the recruiting function. It’s rare to find a great sourcer and a great recruiter in one person as they are very different skills. I work at a company that implemented a model that incorporates sourcers and recruiters a year ago and it works very well.

    I disagree with some of the details in Mr. West’s article. A great sourcer would not describe what they do as mundane and administrative. Great sourcing and screening requires more than following a repetitive process step by step. The best sourcers have a talent for finding and identifying great people from a profile, resume, or short phone call. That’s a rare talent and one to be prized.

    Why is it more difficult to ‘apply clearly defined metrics’ to recruiting than sourcing? If recruiters will update their ATS, metrics are easy to compile. It’s a challenge to get recruiters to update any system but it can and should be done. Both recruiters and sourcers should have useful metrics to determine their effectiveness.

    Also, why should the sourcing team be reduced in size when hiring slows? If hiring slows or stops, that’s the time for the sourcing team to build pipelines of great candidates and stock their database with people. Recruiters wouldn’t be needed as there are no deals to close between candidates and companies.

    Mr. West has the right idea. Separating the recruiting function into sourcing, screening, and recruiting works very well. But his evaluation of the value of sourcing and its difficulty is off. Sourcing is just as much a talent as recruiting. They’re just different.

  3. As a sales sourcer I have to giggle at being called a unskilled brick carrier. Most of my time is spent thinking of creative ways to find passive sales talent for niche roles and putting those plans into action.
    Cold calling the competition is rarely mundane. Walking the fine line between convincing the candidate to move forward in the process and qualifying them for the role is not exactly what I would call administrative.
    Sourcing is ultimately uncovering passive talent. It is not sorting through mounds of resumes and choosing the best few to screen.
    Yes, recruiting functions vary widely but many sourcers are talented hunters who chose to hone their craft by focusing on hunting activities rather then splitting their time between hunting and farming.

  4. Well put, Byron. I have been maintaining for a number of years that the future of good recruiting lies in maximizing the high-touch, high-value add functions while automating or outsourcing the rest- if you have a multi-person recruiting staff, why have $80k/yr. internal corporate recruiters (or $80/hr contract recruiters) scheduling/coordinating interviews (when you can have it done from the Philippines for $7.5k/yr.) or ‘scraping’ job boards (when it can be done in a variety of places for $18-$20k/yr.)?

  5. Hi Byron,

    Very Interesting article!

    Although I have worked for a couple of companies that had recruiting functions which separated sourcing from recruiting, my experience has been that it was a low level or entry level recruiter who sat in the sourcing chair. I believe that the ability to truly ‘source’ a passive candidate is invaluable.

    I’m quite surprised that no one you asked included sourcing in their description of the best recruiters. I’ve always felt that in order to be a fantastic recruiter, one has to work the candidate from start to finish. In fact, the path one uses to uncover a passive candidate is often the starting point of the conversation! If I had an entry level recruiting dedicated to only finding resumes, I would be very concerned that subtle opportunities would be missed.

    I would further say that if you are going to separate the roles, the most logical approach would be to hire a very talented sourcer, some who is in the $60/hour+ range. Unfortunately I have seen just the opposite. Rather, most companies see the ‘sourcing’ function as administrative and they pay a sourcer 40K per year. I don?t think that is money well spent.

    On the other hand, if you have a recruiter who has mastered both sourcing and selling, their ability to uncover candidates, call them, and work them quickly through the process is considerably more valuable than only having them call candidates uncovered by the sourcer.

    While I think there may be some merit in having a sourcing function in a high volume recruiting environment such as a call center or customer support center, I don’t think it makes the most sense in an engineering environment. I’ve always believed that having a recruiter who can find that one impossible to find engineer (among everything else they recruit), call them, build a relationship, match them to the job, work the hiring manager and close the deal to be the most efficient and cost effective way to recruit for an engineering organization.

    Just my two cents.

    Your article got my mind spinning though!


    Jason Dupree

  6. Byron….LOVE this article! I’ve tried this approach with a Corporate Recruiting team and it WORKS! We experienced all of the benefits you mentioned above as well as creating a very motiving and satisfying environment for the recruiting team as everyone had more time to do do what they are best at. It also provided room for growth for the administrative team member…who was able to expand her contribution outside of the traditional tasks. By focusing on strengths instead of forcing recruiters to ‘improve’ in areas that are not their core discipline everyone wins. Our customers were the big winners….significant reduction in time to fill and cost savings.

  7. Good point.

    I certainly don’t find sourcing mundane as it challenges my ability to persuade perfectly passive potential prospects to pursue our open positions. It does require time as it would in any business relationship to build trust and rapport with ‘passives’ who are not necessarily looking yet whose interests have piqued by our efforts.

    It takes skill and a lot of influence as opposed to sifting through mounds of resumes that are delivered to a posted requisition and selling them on the idea that really may be greener our our side of the fence.

    Our sourcing model/sector is fairly new and we have a unique mix of recruiters and sourcers (I am one of two within our entire firm) and it is very challenging. However we have already begun to see results of its benefits so it is working for us.

  8. I do sourcing & selling & prefer to work with passive cands. . . to make them active. Its really fun & adventurous, as I learn a lot in this process and the motivation on achieving result is terrific.

  9. This is more an article of Marketing vs. Sales than Recruiting vs. Sourcing. The same debate occurs in the Mktg/Sales world, and even they don’t often see eye to eye. In fact, that’s an understatement.

    [Note: For Mktg minds: Yes, I know that today’s version of Sourcing 1.0 is not synonymous to Marketing, and is more synonymous to Mkt Research, but I’d ask to keep the basic analogy in mind.]

    Although I see the logic in the article, and I do agree with the majority of the content, I don’t think we ‘need more bricks.’ In fact, I think we can make a case for optimizing both Sales and Marketing (i.e. Recruiting and Sourcing) without adding process steps and further ‘inputs’ & resources into a process chain that is moderately effective at best. It’s the results & OUTCOMES we want to drive . . . and there are ways outside of current processes (this is as true in Sales & Mktg as it is in Recruiting & Sourcing).

    We’re missing the boat here – the goal shouldn’t be adding more inputs, steps, and resources . . . before long, this is what things will look like if this school of elementary thought continues to gain word of mouth:

    Sourcer/Researcher > Pre-Screener > Candidate Developer > Recruiter > Appointment Setter > Hiring Manager (an iterative loop focusing so much on activity ownership that the candidate experience falls to the wayside).

    Yes, we do need a delineation between Marketing and Sales . . . or Recruiting and Sourcing. But let’s not so easily fall in love with the idea that separating further and further will drive any better results.

    In fact, there is a point of diminishing returns. Let’s gleam from the great minds in business, past & present: Sometimes the best ways to improve outcomes don’t involve adding steps to and/or improving a current set of processes. Sometimes, just sometimes, there are ways to innovate and drive outcomes that are completely independent of our current process chain(s).

  10. I really appreciate the comments and insights offered.

    I will respond to each person individually, however, I wanted to clarify my primary point about Sourcing being more ‘mundane and administrative…’. It seems I have touched a nerve with the Sourcing Gurus out there who are very talented and make a significant difference in a recruiting department, especially when the best candidates are ‘Passive’ in nature and need to be scrounged for.

    In the 5th paragraph of ‘Separating and Defining the Roles’, I mention highly specialized sourcing. This was a passing comment toward very difficult-to-find, passive candidates which require near guru level sourcing talent. This is for the Sourcing Specialists (think Shally Steckerl!) and are people who are highly skilled at finding passive talent who are not resident on the Job Boards. When you find one of these gurus, pay them well and hang on to them! They are tough to find and harder to keep.

    The ‘Sourcing’ I am referring to is the every day, lower to mid-level individual contributor (IC) who your companies hire in high volume. I wasn’t clear enough in my article in making this disinction. Further, when a company hires this volume on a continuing basis, ‘Pipelining’ is very important. In other words, the company needs to be continually attracting talent via all means available, even if there is no hiring going on right now…soon it will start up again. Therefore, sourcing needs to be a continuous process.

    In other situations, when hiring slows or stops, using my model, you can downsize the sourcing/screening team and keep the high-value recruiters longer.

    I hope that helps clarify my point.

    Thanks again for the interaction.

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