Names Sourcing: What Is It?

“What is it you do, and how do you do it?”

I wish I had $25 for every time I have been asked those two questions. Yeah, $25. If I’m going to invest my time, you’ll quickly find out about me, and I want to get paid. But more about my per-piece sourcing rate in another article…

What is names sourcing anyway? And, more to the point, what is telephone names sourcing and how does it differ from Internet names sourcing?

Names sourcing is a little-understood activity. Simply put, it’s the finding of people who hold specific titles (usually) within (usually) specific organizations so that you, as a recruiter, may contact them and offer them your opportunity. It’s been said in here that almost all hiring managers and the majority of recruiters have never even heard of it. When I first read that assessment a couple years ago, I was shocked. I now believe this to be true.

“That sounds interesting; so how do you do it?”

You do it with guts, my friend. You do it always with guts. It also involves tenacity and knowledge, and it can be done with a combination of two out of those three, but one of the ingredients must always be guts. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

In a coming series, we’re going to talk about the nuts-and-bolts process of names sourcing that demonstrates the tenacity and knowledge part of names sourcing, detail by painful detail, to the point where you’re going to decide it’s just a whole lot easier to let someone else (who loves to do it!) do it for you.

“Guts?” the weak sisters remonstrate.

“Yes, guts. If you don’t have them, don’t waste my time.”

“It sounds so harsh. Aren’t you being a little, uh, rough…?”

“No, if this were easy everyone would be doing it. This is hard work. This takes tenacity, it takes courage, it takes long, long hours of determination. Most people just don’t have that kind of drive. I can’t afford to mince words; don’t waste my time.”

“Gee, she’s a hard-boiled egg,” you may be thinking. I guess you could say that. I will be 53 years old next month and have been in business all my life. I’ve had my lunch eaten and I’ve eaten some. I don’t apologize for what I do and I usually don’t say I’m sorry.

But when I do, I don’t offer any excuses and I don’t expect others to offer excuses to me for why they can’t do something.

“Act or get out of the way” is how I approach things in these late afternoon days of my life. I don’t have time. The day will soon be done.

Too Old Too Soon, Too Smart Too Late

There is a process to names sourcing, and this will be the introduction to a series about how it’s actually accomplished. It involves discipline, it involves rigor, and it involves organization.

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It all circles back, though, to GUTS. Perhaps you are thinking of GUTS as an acronym for the prayer “Give Us to Success”. If we give up our fears, if we give up our hesitations, if we give up our egos and judgments, success will be given over to us. It can’t help but happen.

“Oh, she’s the touchy-feely type,” you’re thinking as your attention to this subject begins to fade.

Hardly. I am the hard-boiled egg: I’ve heard the testimonies, I’ve witnessed the executions, I’ve survived the insurrections. I understand that this subject is filled with emotional cadences that are important to grasp if you’re going to be an effective telephone names sourcer.

How Internet Sourcing Differs From Telephone Sourcing

Telephone sourcing digs out that possible candidate who’s not listed anywhere on the Web. It finds the worker behind the bricks and mortar of a company’s aegis; it has the ability to ring the telephone sitting on that lonely worker’s desk.

That person, many times, has never been contacted before by anyone from the “outside” world offering them what you have to offer. That person, many times, is flattered you took the time to seek them out and many times will listen attentively to what you have to say. Nobody’s called them before! Can you believe it?

Internet sourcing finds those possible candidates who are listed on the Web. Depending on your skill levels at Internet searching, and there are some extraordinary skill levels among us, don’t get me wrong; the people you find usually have a greater-than-average likelihood of having been contacted by someone before yourself presenting an opportunity similar to yours. The funny thing is, the need is so great these days that many times Internet research can get the job done.

“But my opportunity’s different!” you say.

Of course it is, but to someone who is hounded with contact because of a posting on Monster or a connection through an alumni association or other group, he or she tends to take on that common hue of dull annoyance gray.

Regarding the numbers thing, a small percentage of the total workforce is represented on the Web but every single one of them is represented somewhere inside of companies. Why go fishing in a lake when the ocean is available? If you need worms, look under rocks.

Strengthening professional talent levels is one of the top recruitment issues identified by almost 80% of employers. Developing an effective talent sourcing strategy is the most critical recruitment initiative identified by the majority of those same employers. Fortifying your company’s sourcing skill-sets can be demonstrated to add directly to your company’s balance sheets. It’s a very easy sell to your CFOs once they see the magic in the numbers!

Watch for the coming series in here: “Names Sourcing: How Is It Accomplished?” It’s not as hard as you suspect but it’s also harder than some of you can imagine!

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


6 Comments on “Names Sourcing: What Is It?

  1. Maureen:

    An excellent and dynamic article in which you share a hi-level overview of what recruiters should be attempting for results. I find there is little time in my day to unearth the high potentials. Can you shed some light on search strings via Google search or other steps? I am currently conducting a search for two internal auditors and it is very tight in the market here in Dallas.



  2. Maureen,

    All hail the Queen !

    I look forward to being enlightened and stimulated by your forthcoming material.

    Attention to detail and requiring what you need to accomplish the task isn’t hard boiled…it is a component of what separates a pro from an amateur.

    The amateur doesn’t know the questions to ask or doesn’t have the guts to ask them.

    Best regards,

  3. I am a work out of a home office like many sourcers out there and recently my wife had a day off of work and was home (okay, she was really waiting for me to stop working so we could on a little vacation but that’s not the point). She was all excited because for the first time she really had a chance to see what it was that I really do to find candidates.

    Lets just say she is not any closer to understanding it now after listening and watching then she was before! At the end of the day she asked me to answer the question of what I do in the easiest way possible. My answer was ‘I pick up the phone and call a stranger.’ Her answer (among other things) ‘that’s the scariest thing to do’. I think ‘Guts’ is an understatement!!!

  4. If by sourcing we referr to the job boards then Maureen is right. Let say that collectively the ‘big resume boards’ have something in the vicinity of 20 million actively searchable resumes in their databases then that’s only a small percentage (slighty over 10%) of the total working population which approximates 180 million. Through hard work and guts (and combining both Internet and phone) sourcers can reach practically anyone in that larger ocean of 180 million. However, the ammount of time invovled in calling makes it prohibitive to use only the phone, hence both methods are clearly necessary.

    While it does take skill to find the really deep leads online, it is a skill that can be easily learned and applied when taught by good instructors. Typically the frustration with most Internet search instruction is that the methods demostrated are so impractical they take way too much time to apply, and recruiters are very busy people. Then again, phone sourcing is equally time consiming, and also equally easy to learn through good instruction, but at the end of the day sourcing becomes a question of time.

    In my experience designing and running teams that do both the online and the phone research, we consistantly find that on average 70% of prospective leads can be identified online, leaving 30% for the ‘phone only’ complement. This is true in many of professional fields like IT, Scientific and Engineering. Fields requiring licensure (CPA, Nurse, Medical Technologym, etc.) enjoy much greated online success, as do executive and non-profit. Some fields, on the contrary, like SOX and Internal Audit and have much lower percentages of prospects indentifiable via online methods.

    At the end of the day, both sourcing methods when applied correctly can make it easy to find leads, but recruiting is only going to happen when converting disinterested prospects into accepted offers and that’s where guts come in.

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