These People Might Make Good Sourcers

hiring sourcersHiring a good sourcer is difficult. Identifying new sourcers who do not have experience in the recruiting function is even more difficult. If you’re trying to build a team of sourcers, consider targeting these professional backgrounds:

Skiptracers — Skiptracers are experts at finding people. They usually work for debt collectors or bail-bonds companies who are trying to track down individuals who owe money. Per Wikipedia, skiptracing “is performed by collecting as much information as possible about the subject. The information is then analyzed, reduced, and verified. Sometimes the subjects’ current whereabouts are in the data, but are obfuscated by the sheer amount of information or disinformation. Often, the job becomes more than mere research since one must often employ methods of social engineering, which involves calling or visiting former neighbors, or other known contacts, to ask about the subject …”

Librarians — Library and information scientists are trained to manage databases. A recent graduate from a library science program knows how Internet databases are structured and has a deep understanding of how to find and organize information. In fact, one of the goals of the masters of library and information science program at the University of North Texas is to educate students about “the design and implementation of conceptual and technological systems and services to facilitate the discovery, identification, selection, acquisition, organization and description, storage and retrieval, preservation, dissemination, management, and use of recordable information and knowledge in any format for effective access.” That sounds like a great sourcer to me :).

Coders — Coders understand how the Internet works. They are able to look at a website and determine how it is structured. They can typically create tools to take advantage of a website’s vulnerabilities (legally of course) and can use APIs to access new information. For an example of how a sourcer with coding skills can access more information on the web than other sourcers, read how Matt Ferree can find almost any Gituhub users email address, and how Jan Bernhart figured out how to see third-degree profiles on LinkedIn for free (shortly after we made that video, LinkedIn fixed this vulnerability). As an added bonus for those of you recruiting technology candidates, coders come with “street cred” because they have a deeper understanding of technology.

In your experience, what other career fields make for an easy transition into a sourcing role?

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Jeremy Roberts, SPHR, is VP, Customer Experience at HiringSolved. He is the previous Editor of SourceCon. Prior to joining the ERE Media team, he spent over a decade working as a recruiter, sourcer, and sourcing manager. This time was spent in diverse environments, including third party agency settings (retained and contingent), recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) providers, and internal corporate HR departments. His previous employers include the MHA Group, Ajilon Finance, Korn Ferry Futurestep, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, and Randstad Sourceright, US. He resides in Corinth, TX with his wife and 3 children.


12 Comments on “These People Might Make Good Sourcers

  1. Mr. Roberts,

    First, we need to consider an excerpt from Wikipedia:

    “Social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information…”

    If we are in agreement on this as a working definition,

    …and can also agree that ‘Sourcers’ utilize ‘social engineering’ to gain useful information…

    Then I would suggest that Librarians do not strike me as likely candidates for this kind of work.

    I might have more to say about this interesting topic later but for now, my first thought, reading your article, is that it has been my experience that a typical Librarian, by the nature of their personality, are not at all likely to be people comfortable with fibbing to acquire names, phone numbers, extensions, etc.

    Were I to add to the mix, I’d say Private Detectives would make viable candidates for this job but Librarians, I think not.

    All the Librarians I’ve ever met are pretty straight arrow.

    Collection Agency staffers would most likely make good candidates for this type of work.

    My perspective on Sourcers has less to do with Boolean search strings and clever manipulation of URL’s so much as the necessity of having the capacity to speak ‘creatively’ with gatekeepers, for example, in order to acquire data that yields the names of HA’s, potential candidates to be recruited, telephone numbers and extensions.

    In other words, being able to tell mini whoppers is just as much part of one’s Sourcer tool kit as is the ability to utilize Boolean search strings.

    We could take this a step further and suggest any software engineer who is comfortable with being ‘creative’ in their conversations would make good Sourcers.

    Is there a distinction that separates Sourcers who rely solely on technology manipulation and those Sourcers who also incorporate social engineering into their processes?

    And, of course, suggesting that Headhunters would make, uh, do make excellent Sourcers would be stating the obvious, LOL!

    Sorry, Jeremy, I just had to put in a plug for the Good Guys!

  2. Thanks for your feedback Paul. I actually agree with most of your statements. This post was sparked because I have a lot of people (including agency owners) ask me about how to find a good sourcer for their team. This was never considered an exhaustive list of people who could source.

    The one statement I’d have to disagree with you on is that librarians would not be good sourcers. All sourcing teams are different. With larger teams working for big brands with a lot of data to manage, I’ve seen librarians function as a crucial part of the team. I’ve also seen librarians do well with the large retained executive search firms. They are excellent with research and finding people online. Surprisingly, some of them were really good at working the phones and could walk in the “grey area” when needed :). To say all librarians are ‘straight arrow” and couldn’t succeed in recruiting seems to be a huge generalization. Even if a librarian is a total introvert, they may fit a large team. Many organizations divide their sourcing teams into groups that only do internet research and others who engage with candidates on the phone. You’re right, the typical librarian would probably fit on the side of the house who doesn’t get on the phone. However, if you’ve got a firm or a recruiting department full of people who are good on the phone, why not add a strong research engine behind them?

    I like your opinions. Would you be interested in blogging? 🙂

  3. Jeremy,

    Hello and thank you for your kind comments.

    I did not mean to say Librarians are not a good choice so much as I was working off my own impressions of what most Librarians I’ve met seem to be like.

    Sure, technically, as ‘researchers’ they would be a fine addition to anyone’s staff.

    My problem is two-fold:

    I have only a slight understanding of what a ‘Sourcer’ does and in each case it had been explained to me, it seemed that social engineering seemed to be a prerequisite skill.

    That is why I had asked if there are Sourcers who ‘work the Internet’ and those who [also] are experts in using social engineering to obtain names, telephone numbers, etc.

    I am an old school recruiter- give me a phone and paper/pencil and I can do what LI and ZI does for most people- and social engineering was emphasized in my training as a necessary evil in order to do my work.

    Even today, with LI, ZI and other Internet sources I still have only social engineering to source certain recruits who do not show up at LI or ZI, for example.

    Also, I’m under the [mistaken?] impression the need for Sourcers is based either on the lack of training some recruiters suffer with or they lack the willingness to utilize social engineering to get the job done.

    So, in actuality, this is not a topic with which I am familiar except as it applies to my own training.

    I am less a Boolean search string guy than someone who can pick up the phone and get the names of an entire department with some artful dodging.

    (Although I will say that I love ZI; it does in seconds what takes me minutes and hours.)

    Yes, blogging has been suggested to me recently and so I have been spending time recently looking over the blogosphere, as I guess you all call it.

    I have two reactions to my comments, generally-

    Those who are peeved with my direct observations and those who come to me at LI, wanting to be part of my network because I ‘tell it like it is’.

    So I am still studying this. Any suggestions you put forth will be well-received, I promise.

    Thank you again, Jeremy.

  4. Thanks Jeremy. It’s been my experience that unless a client needs the top-of-the-line, Platinum-card type of sourcing demonstrated by many Sourcecon attendees, the vast majority of sourcing can be done very successfully for less than the cost of US minimum wage by offshore resources, such as those I frequently use. Furthermore, as John Sumser has said: “Pretty good sourcing gets better and better.”


  5. Without repeating what I’ve said before about how to identify (not so much where to find but I address that in my next paragraph) a good PHONE sourcer here’s something I wrote on the topic last year that some of you might like:

    Now if you want to know where to FIND phone sourcers look around yourself at anyone you know who has the capacity to engage a silent audience. Here’s what I mean:

    It’s the story of Pam The Phone Sourcer (one of mine) who began her professional life as a disc jockey. Read her story and how she links her early radio experiences to her phone sourcing skills. It’s fascinating.

    Anyway, if that prospect of picking up the phone and calling someone and asking for information is too daunting for anyone in your organization or – you just need someone to talk to all the data that’s piling up these days around your ears – call us.

    We’ll do it for you!
    (Besides, there aren’t that many of us out here to “find.” Nobody wants to do what we do, no matter we tell them they don’t have to “fib” to do what we do. That’s right Paul – you don’t have to “fib” to socially engineer.)


    Maureen Sharib
    Telephone Ensorceler
    513 899 9628
    513 646 7306
    maureen at

  6. Maureen,

    You know I respect your opinion and I am glad to learn from you…

    I can’t visualize, though, someone just telling me the names of all the people in their department by virtue of having asked.

    That’s a bit of a stretch…until I am shown differently.

    Inasmuch as certain of my target recruits are not to be found at LI nor by using ZI, it falls on me to use traditional methods of ‘creatively’ having conversations so as to be sure I have every last person’s name from a department.

    St. Peter won’t stop me at the gate- what I do gets people better jobs/promoted and although it may cause certain employers a little heartburn from time to time, even what happens on their end turns out for the better.

    Maybe sometime you might show me how I can inventory a department without telling even one small tiny fib.

    Best Regards,


  7. Paul,
    I have plenty of students who have seen/heard me do this.
    Maybe one of them will chime in.
    I’m not going to ask them though.
    I’ll leave it to them.
    I invite you, though Paul to call me sometime and I’ll let you listen in to a half hour of my calling – I’ll conference you in. You’ll have to remain silent – you have to keep your mouth buttoned up while I’m calling – can you do that?



  8. Weighing in briefly about librarians as sourcers…. All librarians are not introverts. Front line librarians meet people all day long, providing information and instruction. Many answers to reference questions are not found in dusty volumes in the stacks, but require deep searching in databases, broad internet searches and yes, phone interactions. Librarians take reference questions over the phone from people who often find it difficult to articulate their information needs. It takes a listening mind to winkle out the real need. Librarians talk to government agencies, businesses, non-profits, people, to get the information for their clients.

    It’s a mistake to relegate all librarians to some dark corner in the universe. Today’s librarians (and most of yesterday’s) are in the profession to serve people. Today’s libraries are hopping!

    Catherine Buck Morgan, MLIS
    DP Professionals – IT Staffing & Recruiting

  9. Catherine,

    To make myself clear-

    I did not say Librarians are incompetent in the domain of research.

    The business of Executive Search requires me to get to know as many people in my target candidate pool as possible.

    This requires me to know who they are at any given company.

    If I recruit Pension Actuaries, for example, I would need to know the names of all the Pension Actuaries at each insurance company around the country.

    So, for example, I would call Home Life and ask for their Pension Actuarial department.

    Now, what would happen if I told the department secretary I am a Headhunter and need the names of all the Pension Actuaries so I can contact them over time and offer them new jobs?

    The secretary would hang up on me.

    The simplest solution would be to portray myself as someone having a legitimate need to know who they all are.

    Having done this, the secretary would then give me their names and during this call I would endeavor to ask additional questions about each or some of them:

    How long has that person been there?

    What is his/her title?

    Where had that person worked prior to coming to Home Life?

    From this I would know which of them to call about client opportunities.

    Naturally, the need to tell a few fibs might be bothersome to some people.

    It has been my personal experience that Librarians -the ones I’ve met- seem to be very ‘proper’ and it has been my assessment they would not easily take to the idea of representing themselves falsely in order to ‘get names’.

    This was the basis for my comment about Librarians’ suitability for the job of being a Sourcer.

    It requires a certain amount of flexibility to be willing to tell a small fib (of no real consequence) in order to source names.

    This has nothing to do with Boolean search nor any other kind of search process that would normally be part of a librarian’s job.

    Ms. Sharib asserts it is not necessary to ‘tell fibs’ to source and in that case, there would be, in my mind, no reason why a librarian could not be a person who sources.

    My process -that works for me 99% of the time- suits me and I had simply suggested that under similar conditions, there may be librarians would not want to operate in the manner in which I am comfortable.


  10. Maureen,

    You betch’a!

    I’ll even bring adhesive tape.

    Thanks for the invitation- I’ll call you forthwith.


  11. Catherine…

    It occurred to me you might wonder why my emphasis on fibs vs. Boolean search strings, etc.

    I am old school- I started in this business well before the Internet came along.

    So we had no ‘search strings’, no LI, no ZI, etc. when I started.

    ZI has its merits as do other Internet based techniques however, certain of my candidate pools do not show up in its entirety at ZI, LI, etc.

    It is necessary to know each and every person in my candidate pool so depending solely on what is available using Boolean search and/or LI, ZI, etc. would leave me in the dark as to who all the possible candidates are in my pool.

    Thus, the tried and true method of being sure I have every name possible in any one company by picking up the phone.

  12. Maureen,

    Thanks for letting me listen in on your calls today!

    You were totally professional and as I saw, it is not necessary to ruse/fib to source and harvest the information we need for our clients.

    Your calls today went smoothly and everyone on the other end was cooperative.

    Thanks again for sharing!


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