The End of Sourcing Is Near … the Remaining Recruiting Challenge Is Selling

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 11.59.04 AMWith the growth of the Internet, social media, and employee referral programs, finding talent is becoming amazingly easy. In recruiting, we call finding talent “sourcing,” and for nearly three decades sourcing has been the most important but difficult aspect of recruiting. After all, if you can’t find great talent, you certainly can’t interview and hire them.

But finding top talent among professionals is now becoming painless to the point where almost any firm can do it successfully. The time is rapidly approaching were nearly every professional and working individual in the developed world can be found by a recruiting function.

Finding Talent Is Easy Because Everyone Is Now “Visible”

Finding talent for recruiting purposes is now quite easy because almost everyone can be found through their “footprint” on some combination of electronic sites. You can be found if you have:

  • A LinkedIn profile
  • A Facebook, Google+ or a similar friends page where you “like” or follow a firm
  • A Twitter account
  • An email address
  • A phone number that appears in a directory or on a profile
  • A blog or personal website
  • Comments on chat rooms or online forums
  • Photos on a photo page
  • A membership in a professional association
  • A professional license or government registration
  • A subscription to a news, RSS feed, or a magazine
  • A signed in visit to knowledge, news, and information websites
  • Won an award or have been recognized publicly for your work
  • A credit card or have a mortgage
  • Examples of your writing and work visible online
  • Your resume or bio has been visible online or on a job board

Look at this list and see how many of the 17 items apply to you. Most professionals meet a majority of the items, so if a corporate recruiter wanted to find you and they had the time … would it really be very difficult?

The Loss of Privacy Is an Indicator That Nearly Everyone Is Easy to Find

It’s hard to read the news without finding a story complaining about “the loss of personal privacy.” Unlike most writers and citizens, recruiters can view this broad loss of privacy is a positive thing for them. There is a direct inverse relationship between the level of privacy and the ease of finding information about someone. In fact, the opposite of privacy is “public,” which means visible. As the level of privacy is reduced, more of your information is exposed, so recruiters can easily find not only can your name but also critical information that tells them about your skills, interests, and experience. Sometimes all that is required to find a professional these days is a simple Google search on their name and a scan through LinkedIn.

As more people around the world gain Internet and mobile platform access, finding people and information about them will become proportionally easier. In short, if a company finds you desirable as a potential recruit, there is no way to hide from them. And if you happen to want to be recruited, you will make the finding process even easier by purposely making yourself and your resume highly visible.

What Is Left of Sourcing Will Not Be Done By Recruiters

A majority of applicants at most firms are active candidates, so they find you and thus they require no “finding effort” beyond job posting and branding. The remaining recruiting effort is direct sourcing by recruiters or employees. Finding top talent will always be important, but eventually it will become so easy that except in specialized cases, there will be no reason to have it done by highly paid recruiters. This is partially because as the electronic presence of almost everyone in the world increases, the volume of information will become too large to sort through by highly paid professional direct sorcerers. So instead, eventually recruiting will employee Internet web crawlers that will electronically search 24/7 for individuals who fit the desired candidate profile.

Most of the remaining “finding” will be done by your employees through the employee referral program. Employees will continue to find talent (and also assess it for skills and fit) during their interactions with colleagues while they are online, on their mobile phone, and when they physically meet prospects at professional meetings and social events. Some advanced referral programs are already reaching 50% of all hires. Not only are the employees finding these individuals, they are also making a contribution towards selling them on the firm before they convert them into it a formal referral.

Nobody Likes Reading About Their Upcoming Doom

Because there are so many individuals, consultants, and vendors currently involved in sourcing, they will of course negatively react to this forecast with some degree of passion. But remember this was the same reaction and series of denials that also occurred among those who worked on photographic film, who designed newspaper want ads, that occurred among recruiters who crafted Boolean searches, and that is currently occurring among those that make a living operating monster job boards (have you seen the drop in their stock price?). Even some executive search firms are suffering because social media and referrals are becoming quite capable of identifying future executives (by law most executives need to be listed in financial reports). The best executive search firms will still survive, however, because they almost always excel at the remaining important role of selling candidates.

The Emphasis in Recruiting Needs to Shift to Selling

The process for recruiting individuals is relatively simple. It has four basic steps:

Step 1 — Finding/direct sourcing — sourcing, finding, or seeking out top quality individual prospects.

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Step 2 — Selling them on applying — selling or convincing the identified prospects to apply at the firm.

Step 3 — Candidate assessment — the process of determining which of the applicants to make an offer to.

Step 4 — Selling them on the offer — convincing the final candidate to accept your offer.

Of the basic steps, half are focused on some aspect of selling a prospect or a candidate. Recruiting leaders should begin focusing on these selling aspects because, as previously stated, “finding” is becoming so easy, and there is little push for change in candidate assessment because most recruiters and hiring managers are comfortable with the existing process of assessing candidates through interviews.

Once you realize that the selling aspect of recruiting is almost universally under researched, underfunded, and it is almost always executed in an unscripted manner, you’ll see that it’s ripe for significant improvement and change. If you review the recruiting literature you will find very little written about the science of selling and the importance of using data-driven selling approaches within the recruiting function. The pressure is increasing on recruiting leaders to make a decision to shift resources away from sourcing by recruiters and toward the remaining big challenge: selling.

10 Unique Actions to Improve the Selling Component of Recruiting

Unfortunately, despite the obvious importance of selling, many employees, recruiters and most hiring managers are not very good at it. In addition, generally few effective data-driven selling tools are provided to those who have the responsibility for selling prospects and candidates. If you want to improve your selling capability in recruiting, here are some powerful “outside the box” actions to consider.

  1. Provide a selling tool kit — provide employees, recruiters, and hiring managers with a “selling toolkit” of simple but proven approaches which they can use to successfully sell prospects and candidates. Also provide recruiters and managers with a compact but effective online sales education site, wikis, and forums, where they can find corporate stories, learn, ask questions, and share recruiting sales best practices and problems. (Whirlpool has a benchmark model to follow).
  2. Sell during the interview — encourage hiring managers and interviewers to spend at least half of the time during the interview selling the candidate. Also periodically ask the candidate during the interview process “are we close?” Or “do you see any roadblocks at this point?”
  3. Identify their job acceptance criteria — somewhere early in the recruiting process there should be a formal step for asking the candidate to list their specific “job acceptance criteria,” Once it is provided to recruiters and managers, they can use those criteria to personalize their selling approach. A list of “deal breakers” can also help everyone to avoid driving top talent away.
  4. A side-by-side “company sell sheet” — many managers do a poor job selling the company to potential recruits simply because they don’t have time to keep up with the competitive job market. So an alternative is to provide hiring managers with a side-by-side comparison sheet (like in Consumer Reports). This simple sheet makes it easy for them to highlight the advantages and the compelling features of working at your firm (versus top competitors) when they are talking to a candidate. You can also attach a version of this “company sell sheet” to your hard copy application form and show it on your application website immediately before the application process begins.
  5. Educate everyone about offer trends — many candidates are lost because of insulting lowball offers that are initially provided. As a result, I recommend that you put together a team to gather data and to educate recruiters, compensation specialists, and managers about the most recent offer “trends,” candidate expectations, and specifically why recent offers at your firm were accepted or rejected.
  6. Offer them a salary re-opener after six months — as previously noted, low salary offers are a major cause for losing candidates who have multiple choices. I have found that you can overcome a situation where the applicant thinks that their value is higher than the company’s offer by formally or informally offering the candidate a salary “re-opener” three or six months after they start. The reason that this works is that neither the hiring manager nor the candidate can really know how good they are until they actually start work. So if after they start working, they turn out to be as good as they believe they are, you can then justify giving them more money. This approach can be a win for both sides.
  7. CEO calls — having your CEO or senior executive call the finalist directly and encourage them to accept is a powerful tool for hard-to-convince key individuals.
  8. Influence the influencers — remember that job decisions are not made alone. Wherever possible, influence those who will influence the finalist’s acceptance decision (colleagues, mentors, coworkers, and especially references and family members). You can improve your chances of getting support from these individuals by talking to them directly, sending them information about the company, or even giving them a sample of the company’s products. Focusing on talking to references, the spouse, and mentors about the positive aspects of the company and the job are especially high impact steps for improving your acceptance rates.
  9. Targeted sales approaches — the process of selling innovators, top performers, technologists, and executives generally has an extremely high failure rate when customized sales approaches are not used. As a result, the recruiting function needs to develop separate protocols or processes for assessing and selling each of these important types of recruiting targets.
  10. A post-recruiting survey on what worked — you need to know the root causes of your successes and failures. As a result, survey all new hires during onboarding and a sample of unsuccessful applicants and candidates three months later to determine which aspects of the sales pitch worked and didn’t work. Also ask them what could be added to make the overall sales pitch more convincing. Use this information to improve your sourcing, marketing materials, interviews, and the offer process.

Final Thoughts

Over the last decade, employer branding and direct sourcing have received a great deal of attention and budget support. But the same is not true for the selling components of recruiting. As an illustration, there are several prominent sourcing conventions (i.e. SourceCon) held each year but there is not a single convention focused exclusively on selling as a component of recruiting. I forecast that the time will come when sourcing will be added to the ever-growing list of the many things that social media and the Internet are making obsolete. I urge strategic recruiting leaders to begin shifting resources toward this underfunded but strategically important area of recruiting … selling applicants and candidates.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



64 Comments on “The End of Sourcing Is Near … the Remaining Recruiting Challenge Is Selling

  1. While I hear you regarding everyone being visible, it is still hard to determine who exactly is actively looking for new opportunities. There is a lot of work involved in developing your followers and contacts across social media sites, and careful, thoughtful postings that are of value to your followers and contacts must be maintained regularly in order to keep those contacts. That can be a time sink in and of itself for many sourcers, especially those inexperienced with social media.

    As technology evolves, regular training needs to be implemented with your recruiting staff so that your sourcing becomes inbound rather than outbound.

    Your ten tips are pure genius. 🙂 I’m sharing this with my own internal recruiters! Thanks for posting.

  2. Ha! You must’ve noticed me saying “Sourcing is Dead” these last couple weeks.


    Seriously though, some of what you say is true – as long as something CAN be automated it WILL be automated.

    The “some” that is not true has to do with the fact, and I’ve been saying this for a long time, that though a person may “be” online they’re NOT online in a capacity that identifies WHAT it is they do and WHO it is they do it for or WHEN it was they did it or WHY it was done or…

    Well, you must get it by now.

    In other words, as it was identified to me not long ago, a person’s “exhaust” isn’t hefty enough to locate them on the Internet.

    You’re not doing anybody (including industry!) any favor, Dr. Sullivan by lending your voice to the “Everyone is online” hype which is seriously, if not dangerously, kneeling before Caesar.

    In fact, let me predict it here – and I’ve said this now for quite a while – PRIVACY will become the new luxury. It won’t be long before some application is available that will REMOVE someone’s “stain(s) from the Internet and when that ability to “opt-out” becomes available millions and millions and millions will do so.

    Maybe it is already available – anybody know?

    I do agree with you when you say the new hot-in-demand skill is the ability to sell. The beauty of it is so few know how to do it and it’s NOT something that can be (really) “taught” nor is it something those in the Recruitersphere (really) want to know about/do let alone hear.

    You see, “sales” is the dark-haired stepsister to her redhead sibling, PHONE sourcing. The idea of either/or is just way too discomfortable for most who populate our industry. Long has the argument gone back-and-forth: “Recruiting is sales – no, it’s not – Recruiting is sales – Don’t say that! – Recruiting is sales – Oh! You’re killin’ me here!”

    Recruiting IS sales and sourcing WILL morph across that line to accommodate it.

    Vive la sourcing.
    It ain’t over – it’s just changing (and it’s about time!)

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone / AcquiSourcer
    513 899 9628

  3. I 100% agree with this projection. This is refreshing to read. We have been bombarded by the same insights on employer branding for years now. It is great to have a great brand but employer branding does not and never will close deals. Though it will always have some important impact. LinkedIn is just a sourcing tool that dovetails well with employer branding but once you have the candidate in sights, what more can it offer to your hiring process?

    Staffing firms better start thinking about holding tight to their best people because internal recruiters who cannot sell will be quickly replaced by those who can.

  4. Dr. Sulivan puts in words what many recruiters sense .

    On the flip side, however, how do you sell when the Customer aka Candidate is as linked in to his market as anyone else ? When the Candidate is getting multiple inputs – and the ones he is relying most upon are NOT from the Recruiters / Company but those he ” knows” inside the Company / Competitors via his own ” network ” ?

    Change being anyways an unnerving process, there is a very high possibility that the positive spins the Recruiters give out will be easily overruled by the negative signs the “inside” contacts of the Candidate are giving out, perhaps for motives of their own ! Or those contacts could also be overselling due the referral rewards promised them !

    Just my thoughts…

  5. Dr. Sullivan, thanks for an insightful and – as always – forward looking article. I completely agree with your assessment and in fact, our firm has begun to change the way in which we compensate our team, as a result of the changing skills. There does continue to be some highly specialized positions that require skilled sourcers – e.g. candidates in the in-home health field who are not social-media or internet savvy – but to your point, the value of a good search firm is in the true recruiting – i.e. selling. Each year we analyze our candidate and placement source, and while we continue to secure more than 75% from referrals and networking events, the % from LinkedIn and our website continues to grow. It will be interesting to see how the “close ratio” changes within each of these categories as well, another testament to the quality of our “selling”.
    Ken Schmitt
    President/Founder, TurningPoint Executive Search

  6. Great article, I presented at ERE a few years back and was vilified for the same prediction.

    Jeanne: We don’t have to find people actively looking. In fact, cold calling people NOT looking, you’re better off in my opinion.

    Hardeep: That’s what sales is all about. High impact talent usually know their value. There has to be something in the move for them. We had a candidate take an 80% cut in pay, but the sell for us was mission, vision & values. Referrals will always be a top source of hire.

    For recruiters who have an ability to sell, the great news is that as the years tick on, the shortage is only increasing. Now more than ever make it a sales role.

    IN DEFENSE OF SOURCING: To be clear, sourcing is more than name generation. Great sourcers present candidates who are qualified, interested and available. They pass the baton on people they’ve had to generate to recruiters. I’ve never had a sourcer before, would be nice.

    Anyway, great article!

  7. Dr. Sullivan, some of the points you make are valid and you can find almost anyone by utilizing any or all of the sources you mentioned in your article. I also agree that you can fill the position that only require low hanging fruit very easily by incorporating these sources into your daily recruiting strategy. In addition, a large number of companies are making 25-50% of their hires through their referral programs.

    However, there were almost 4 million unfilled positions in the US in 2012 and the main reason was because they required hard to find skill sets. I’m responsible for sourcing some very difficult, complex requirements and have to pull every available trick out of my bag to find available talent.

    Sourcing is not just resume generation is about pipelining talent for current and future needs and gathering Intel on the completive market. It is also about building long-term relationships with candidates in anticipation of future needs and branding the company you represent in their respective market as an employer of choice. Sourcing is a skill that has to be taught and incorporates networking, pirating, turning conversations in to names and names into candidates.

    Sourcing has changed because it has become more complex and for those who don’t do it every day it remains a dark misunderstood part of the recruiting process. You can’t make a sell if you don’t have someone to sell to because you couldn’t locate talent the hiring manager was willing to interview.

    The companies that employ a sourcing strategy are the most successful at filling current and future hard to fill skill sets. Remember the purple squirrel with a Harvard MBA and 15 years experience can still be difficult to locate even with the vast amount of information that is out there on the internet.

    I received a great compliment from a colleague recently who stated that they were supper impressed with my ability to sell. I know I would never have the opportunity to sell if I didn’t posses an amazing ability to source.


    Lou B.

  8. love this article.

    but i wonder… does it have to be an either/or proposition? why not both?

    given the mounds and mounds of data that’s out there or that we even already have about our applicants and candidates in house, it seems like there’s going to be a huge need for sourcer types to still stick around to make sense of all the data.

    could be an interesting hybrid/shift that doesn’t eliminate sourcing types altogether.

  9. Thanks Dr. Sullivan. I agree with much of what you say (though not the way you’ve said it), as I’ve been saying much of the same thing for quite awhile.

    1)I think that an increasing majority of people will be easier and easier to locate, identify, and obtain the contact information on them. (I define this as “sourcing”.) As John Sumser has said: “‘Pretty good sourcing’ is getting better and better.” I believe that the overwhelming majority of candidates can be found through employee referrals, board scraping or internet sourcing for ~$1.00/resume, LinkedIn Profile retrieval and contact information for ~$2.00/profile, org. chart build-out for ~$20/group, and basic phone sourcing for $6-$12/hr. However, for the people who CAN’T be found through these methods: this is when you need to skills of world-class sourcers like Maureen and Irina.

    2) I think the problem lies even deeper than being able to find and then sell candidates. Here’s an analogy:
    Let’s say you are a single, available,(wo)man looking to date, and on an overall evaluation scale, you’re an 8/10. You and 300,000 other single, available (wo)men have complete backgrounds and direct contact information on a all the *supermodels in the world. You’re an 8/10, but what do you think the chances are that ANY of the supermodels would:
    1) **EVER talk with you
    2) **EVER go out with you, if they did talk to you?
    no matter how quickly, frequently, carefully, thoughtfully, or pleasantly you contacted them?

    There’s another way around this, but it isn’t pleasant and probably won’t be done:
    Instead of going after the people you want who won’t work for you because really: YOU, YOUR COMPANY, AND YOUR JOBS JUST AREN’T SPECIAL ENOUGH TO GET THE “SUPERMODELS,” you **figure out who you reasonably CAN get and go after them, because they’ll do well enough to get the job done.If your company needs to be filled with “supermodel” employees to succeed, you’re in a pretty precarious situation- maybe you should try another type of business…

    IMHO, the REAL problem is establishing realistic expectations with the hiring managers for recruiters to go after who will be willing to talk to you about what you have to offer.

    @ Lou B: What you’ve described isn’t what I defined as sourcing, what you’ve described is more like”candidate development”. Many companies talk about the benefits of pipelining (I think it’s a very good idea) but I’ve found very few that have the resources or bandwidth that will let them do it. I have recently learned of a company that can quite affordably create, implement, and manage the pipelining (and employee referral) process.

    @ Jessica: very sensible. I think the people would be mnore data analysts than sourcers, though.



    * Or the hundreds of recently sourced Ruby-on-Rails resumes with contact information my friend has for sale.

    ** This addresses one of Maureen’s points- ISTM the harder someone actively makes him/herself to find, the less likely it is that they’d want to talk with you (or anyone like you) if/when you do get hold of them. I don’t think many folks play the “If You Find Me, I’m Yours! Game”.

    *** I’ve come up with a clear and sensible way to do just that….

  10. An insightful article on adapting with technology. However, there are some points that I would have like to see backed with some facts.

    Some clarifications:

    1.) We hear about branding and being more visible as a company yet, recent studies globally have shown only a 1.5% (yes, one point five percent) success rate with social media. I would say that a follow up to that study said it best – Social media and recruiting is like walking into a restaurant and approaching every table and asking someone if they want a job. They are not there to be recruited, but enjoy time with friends and an enjoyable dinner. Social media is the same thing – becoming a catch all for everything – and therefore it is in danger of becoming nothing.

    2.) You mention lack of privacy. This is incorrect. While certain information can be found on almost everyone – the useful information is still more hidden than anything. As a small example, LinkedIn claims 180 million members, of which less than 40% are truly active, yet there are 2.1 billion working age people in the world and 700 million professionals. It seems that more people are private than public. Secondly, you are missing on another trend as well – that of employers requiring someone to delete their online CV profiles. Companies view someone posting their CV while employed as a negative aspect (i.e., we are paying you but you are looking for a job). Lastly, there is a quickly growing trend of people using tools to hide online presence, using more anonymous addresses (this is why TechCrunch finally abandoned Facebook commenting as people were too cautious about using their real names). Frankly, social networks want everyone to believe that no one cares about privacy anymore, when it fact that vast majority of people due in fact care about privacy and are becoming much more guarded and aware of what they are doing online.

    While I do agree the internet offers an array of tools for finding candidates,I strongly disagree about everyone being easy to find (as the numbers say otherwise_ and in fact feel that many very good candidates are being overlooked today as a result.

  11. I once thought like you. However, I would have to disagree for this reason: every change in the recruiting environment elicits a reaction in human behavior. People adapt to the situation. People inherently dislike automation when there should be a personal touch (when we receive robocalls, we tend to react negatively – even if they originate from a source which we like).

    The more automation that hits the sourcing environment, the more I find that I can distinguish myself with a thoughtful and personal approach. Lately, I find that approach being much more compelling to candidates. I would have to say that is precisely because too few sourcing recruiters do the work themselves; too many rely upon automation.

    For my part, I’m not giving up on the personal approach and I have zero concern of being replaced by automation.

  12. @ Chris: I find your statistics quite plausible? What is your source. I feel that Social Network Recruiting is a massive sail of snake-oil, best designed to get the peddlers richer, as opposed to actually putting “butts in chairs”. I very much like your analogy- the fact that everybody you may want to talk to may be the a t the restaurant doesn’t mean they want to talk with you about a job….

    It is both easier to find people who want to be found, and harder to hide if you don’t want to be found (and as I said, how many deep-hiders want to talk to any recruiter at all).
    It doesn’t surprise me that companies would wish to limit their on-line profiles/resumes. (I just wish LI required people to opt in if they were open to jobs, instead of opt out if they weren’t.) Any way, large companies could hire what I call an “External Employee Engagement Specialist or EEES” aka, “Snoop” to monitor employees’ external SN activity and perhaps use some of those new tools which indicate by their activity on FB, LI, Github, StackOverflow. etc. that someone may be thinking of leaving. In the event that some activity were noticed, appropriate actions could be taken to help diffuse the situation (if the person were valuable) or start the search for a new one ahead of time- either way much value is gained and money saved.If you prefer, you could offer your valued employees “multi-year, guaranteed-raise/bonus, no-termination-without-cause employment contracts”, and that’ll make sure the sane ones stay. I’d prefer to see companies employ the latter, and would expect them to see the former….This also ignores the fact that the vast majority of all hires don’t require extraordinary efforts, and for the few that do- you pay your 30% 3PR fee.

    @ Ian. I think your premise is correct- “that every change in the recruiting environment elicits a reaction in human behavior.” However, to rephrase John Sumser: “Pretty good automation gets better and better”. I know a company that will very effectively take over the candidate care function combining both regular electronic and human contact and at a small fraction of the cost of a 3PR. However, your element comes in when you get people who wouldn’t consider talking to your client to talk to them and accepting (with your help) an offer they’d otherwise never consider. THAT won’t be automated.


  13. Is this how 2013 starts, where 2012 left off … with the “death bell” of 3PR’s continuing to be rung by those working within in-house / HR recruiting positions?

    I head up a professional network of over 200 SME UK recruiting firms. Our agencies predominantly service SME companies – most of which are too small to justify employing a recruiting team or HR even. However, between them, SME companies they make up 99% of all companies in the UK!

    Nearly all of the talk about recruitment agencies becoming obsolete is coming from in-house / HR professionals. What the majority of them fail to appreciate is why CANDIDATES will prefer to work with agency recruiters, rather than going direct to countless employers.

    Ask many candidates why they prefer to work with agency recruiters… and they’ll say:

    “because recruiters make sure your resume gets seen, while submitting to a company or a job board via the Internet is like sending your resume into oblivion.”

    On top of that, the better agency recruiters also ensure candidates go into an interview fully prepared; knowing what to expect, and having rehearsed with them what they will come up against several times. That kind of “hand-holding” will never be seen by in-house or hr recruiters.

    In the past – in-house / HR would love to tell agency recruiters (3PR’s) the same old story: “Sorry, we have a Preferred Supplier List, you’ll have to get in line…”

    Well, what are you going to do when you start hearing this from the candidates you try approaching directly…

    “Sorry, you need to speak to my agent if you’re interested in approaching me for a position at your company. They look after my best interests, ensuring that I only deal with companies that can meet my career and financial aspirations. Here’s their details, and if they believe I should be speaking to you, then you can expect to receive a copy of my resume very shortly”.

    3PR’s have been remarkable at adapting to changing climates. If you think you can shut us out that easily, you’ve got it wrong my friends. In fact, you’ll no doubt be very surprised when your Directors decide to start investigating the cost to their company of your team making the wrong hires over the past few years… meaning that it will be your jobs at risk… not ours!

  14. @ Everybody: How did this slide over from “the death of sourcing” to “the death of 3 PRs”?

    Perhaps I can resolve BOTH: ISTM-
    1) The vast majority of all sourcing can be done very well and very inexpensively via: automation and/or outsourcing. However, not everything can be found this way, and *some work will still require world-class sourcers. Thus, unless you’re you’re:
    A) a world-class sourcer worth at least $50/hr,
    B) your time isn’t worth more than $10/hr, or
    c) you have no other choice- YOU SHOULDN’T DO THE SOURCING.

    2) The vast majority of all hires and candidates do not require the services of a 3PR, who should be used **primarily in emergencies and very difficult assignments to get people who’d never talk with the client to talk to them and to get candidates to accept offers they’d never otherwise accept. The recruiters should be paid 30% or more for these services (a bargain at that price), and USING THEM FOR OTHER TYPES OF ASSIGNMENTS IS A WASTE OF MONEY.

    Now, can we talk about something NEW and INTERESTING?



    * See my sourcing challenge on my SourceCon post…

    ** There may be other things worth 30% fee 3PRs, and I’d be glad to hear what they may be…

  15. Outstanding discussion both from perspective of original piece by Dr Sullivan and from the distinguished and well founded arguments by commentators.

    Dr Sullivan, anyone in the wider world of recruitment matters not following and reading what you say and write is missing out big time and will not be able to carry out any latest best practice discussion, I salute you and thank you for contributions now, in the past and for the future.

    A few quick ones before coming to main reason for commenting.
    @Robert Dromgoole, loved the last paragraph of your comments, – spot on

    @Chris LaFontaine, please share more about the stats you have on social media, this is really important that if most of it ‘smoke and mirrors’ and snakeoil that we understand what the hard facts and data are so that we can truly know what is what in world of social media

    @Sean O’Donohuge, As UK resident myself if you an agent that can claim what you say (candidates rather having you represent them than go to the company in-house folks) then Sean you are a true rarity. I will dare say that this uniqueness apply to maybe 1-2% of agency recruiters, the rest are a very doubtful bunch that do not understand much of what they are dealing with and have little care, or work in agencies where there is no interest in forming true long term relationships and in depth client business understanding. As for in-housers perhaps true for some, but in those companies where true talent (see more about this below) a necessity for sustainability and survival there are some highly capable and engaged and knowledgeable people.

    Coming back to main topic and Dr. Sullivan’s article. Recruitment has and will always be about selling and for those that truly understand what good overall talent acquisition (and here referring to subject in broadest and most holistic sense) it has always been an integrated part of the entire process. The old and from time to time taken up discussion about whether talent acquisition should sit under/refer to HR or to marketing is fundamentally what this is about. Given the substantial increase in the last 2-3 years of ability to reach out and target potential candidates (whether they are active or passive) mean that anyone wanting to sell their goods (open roles) can do so. In this respect it is and will be ‘survival of the fittest’ meaning those that have a full understanding from A to Z and holistically as to how best to promote themselves, the role and the entire EVP. I for one as an in-house recruiter have always considered the ‘selling’ aspect as absolutely essential and for the companies I have worked it has been an integrated part of the process, be it the initial job posting or the face to face interviews with line, management and HR. That much can and should be done better and more in this respect is without doubt, and only those understanding this will be the ones with the highest chances of ‘winning the candidate’

    However and being what I am missing in this debate in the wider aspect of death of sourcing and the role of good sourcers and recruiters.
    Using the situation of Europe as a continent that is facing its biggest challenge since 1930 or ever. This continent and its inhabitants are under severe threat of losing its position in commerce and business unless very very substantial changes made.

    Dr. Sullivan mention as step 3 in process, candidate assessment, and pass this over rather quickly.

    This is where everything from skills, abilities and culture fit through to any other aspects are measured, gaged and assessed and where a decision is made whether a go, or a no go.
    Having worked in high demand, high tech companies I know that only those displaying not only fit in respect to skills and and abilities but equally and sometimes even m o r e whether possessing the right/required/desired amount of passion and engagement would be those selected.
    The world is full of examples of this, barely one single high tech or entrepreneurial set up is not dominated by these traits, it is the way they grow, develop and sustain themselves. My point here is this the most important aspect of a sourcing campaign to find those not only being a fit with a role, but those that through their level of passion and engagement can and will take a company/organisation to the next level. It is what is the foundation of many great companies and successes in the US ( I dare say it is the foundation of The American Dream), what is driving much of the successful companies in India, China and South America, why Germany is still after 2 world wars Europe;s strongest and most successful country, and what is the ingredient required for any business, high tech, low tech, product or service to have a future.
    Most of Europe (except Germany where they work longer, harder and not least smarter than anywhere else on the European continent) has to a large degree forgotten about this, be it through legislation and/or systemic failures or simply losing the focus on these matters.
    Apart from reduction of debt programmes, re-evaluation of the so called welfare state and much else, one of the most important aspects of competitiveness is to re-invent and re-energise passion and engagement, It is the bearer of invention and reason why some restaurants have more visitors than others, dentists patients, schools applicants etc etc.

    For that reason and as this the true differentiator this what any good recruiter/sourcer (agency or in-house) should focus on as much as the skills and abilities and selling, and why much may become automated and outsourced or other, but this something that only a fellow human being with a deep insight and understanding, ability to analyse, interpret and feel able to make a judgement on and able to do.

  16. Call me a cynic, but what I would like to see disappear are the consultants like Sullivan who make their living by telling others what to do. These so-called experts really fry me with their predictions and studies that they peddle. And no, my opinion is not sour grapes, but a lot of experience working with consultants most of whom didn’t earn their fees. How some ‘expert’ can postulate that finding a name and general work history of a person, or what their music preference is, are going to all of a sudden turn them into a candidate are beyond my comprehension. Company directories, mailing lists, trade organization membership lists, etc, have been around for eons. He further goes on to, in my opinion, falsely assume that the stock price of some of the legacy job boards is proof positive that he is on target. The reality is that pressure from other job boards including new entries such as Linkedin and continued slow/no growth in Europe have exacerbated the decline. The reality is that every industry,including recruitment has and will continue to see pressure from competition, but at the end of the day, it will still take a well trained professional recruiter to engage the potential candidate and sell them on the opportunity.

  17. Yes the landscape in how we find candidates has changed but a “good” recruiter has to do SO much more than just “find” or source people. It’s about ALL the functions involved that makes someone a good solid Recruiter. I personally love to find talent along with all the other tasks of my position.
    1. First and very important is the deep dive discovery stage. You have to know what you’re looking for before you go out and source. What a hiring mangers “says” they’re looking for is not necessarily the final candidate profile. Building a relationship and knowing what questions to ask is very important in the discovery stage.
    2. Once the profile has been identified you need to develop a sourcing strategy that is effective in finding those individuals that truly match the profile. Where will you find these types of people, what companies should you target, associations, networks, social media, etc… ??
    3. Now is where the selling comes into play. Once you have identified possible places to find your profile candidate you will need to be prepared to sell them on the position and company you’re recruiting for. This is not an easy task and may take extra time in coming up with a compelling reason why this person should be open to looking at your opportunity. You will need to uncover the unique qualities of the organization and gain insight into what stands them apart, what’s great about their culture, future growth plans, etc.
    4. Once you’ve gained excitement and have sold the candidate on the opportunity you now need to “sell” the candidate to the hiring manager. Obviously you don’t want to over sell and mislead the candidate’s qualifications, but being able to communicate and articulate why a candidate is a good fit can be a tricky task.
    5. You can be stuck in step 3 and 4 for some time before you have narrowed down the final candidates. Once finalist have been identified now comes the part where you peel back the onion to continue assessing candidates skills and qualities to make sure they’re a good fit.
    6. Don’t take off your selling hat quite yet because once the final candidate has been selected you’ll be presenting (selling) the employment offer. This step can take a lot of negotiate and “selling” until the final offer is accepted.

    Let’s not forget candidate relationship as a key component throughout the whole process. Keeping the candidates informed, engaged, and excited is huge not to mention keeping their excitement level up throughout the employment onboarding.
    I’m probably singing to the choir to most of you Recruiters out there… but it upsets me when I see our profession being isolated into just one function of what we do. Yes social media, the internet and automated tools have changed how we find talent but there is SOOOO much more to being a “good” Recruiter and I personally don’t see giving up the “sourcing” responsibility of my job. For me, each part/stage is important and all tie into each other.

  18. @ Lou: I think you’re being too hard on Dr. Sullivan. He operates in a rarefied world, far removed from the day-to-day concerns of real-world recruiters like you and me (I’ll assume you’re a real-world recruiter, too.) He’s made (I also assume) quite a good living over the years speaking and consulting to very high-level staffing heads, also likely to be far removed from the actualities of regular recruiters. (If these high-level staffing heads weren’t so removed from their their own people, they’d know to first talk to those of us actually working in the more-or-less dysfunctional environment they run/helped create, and would solicit our input and not a highly-paid outsider to help fix things.) This is a win-win situation: Dr. Sullivan’s clients get to pretend that they’ve actually been working to improve things (and occasionally some of Dr. Sullivan’s ideas and points [like the one here] bear fruit), and Dr. Sullivan makes money and maybe some publicity. Everybody wins, except those of us stuck in the same dysfunctional environments as before, except now maybe having to deal with the “new wisdom imparted from on high,” and WE DON’T COUNT. I wish I had his job!

    So I say “Hear, hear!” to Dr. Sullivan- may he continue to write interesting columns which we can disagree with, and lots of high- and quick-paying clients who we’ll know not to work for!



  19. I have declared my admiration and gratitude to Dr. Sullivan so it is clear where I stand.
    As per Lou’s comments indeed many consultants telling us how to do things and providing advice and input.
    @Keith H. I have to disagree with you, what said here in this discussion initially makes absolutely perfect sense, why to declare Dr. Sullivan as ‘living in rarefied world far removed’ is utter nonsense. What said and spoken about are real world perspectives.
    I know you regard much as ‘snake-oil and non reality stuff’ but in respect to advocacy of selling that can hardly be disputed (and isn’t by the looks of it judging by comments made)

    Not wanting to be drawn into what Dr. Sullivan is or is not, this my perspective.

    For all those that provide input and comments on the subjects brought up and in the case of this discussion. These are thoughts, ideas, inspiration and food for thought of which anyone can then take onboard what is of use, makes sense and or inspires and/or leave them altogether.
    Having been in a round-table talk last week with 25 in-house folks it became clear to me how very diverse the world of maturity, stages, needs and perspectives are of the daily life of talent acquisition (to use a wide all encompassing term) folk
    For some they are working in 1st stage needs of people (recruitment) for others they are 10 years into a complex global and sophisticated talent attraction/acquisition strategy with multiple stakeholders ingredients and facets.
    So each their own needs and stage of maturity and interest.
    Whether what Dr. Sullivan resonating with where each of us what we see as important or not, whether we take it as ramblings or making sense, what I take away from discussion and topics brought up here (and whether from original posts or from those commentating) is a wider perspective.
    If I take another talent acquisition thought leader that I follow closely Matthew Jeffery author and brain behind trilogy Recruitment 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 What Matthew talking about may be ‘futuristic and ‘pie in the sky’ but to me what he is saying as well as Dr. Sullivan, Lou Adler, Kevin Wheeler or even Jim Stroud are inspirational and aspirational pieces that I feel inspired by and which I read, bring into my wider TA repository of knowledge and then either aspire to and aim for implementing and doing or I take from it what I can see making sense (if that being the case) and make use of in my world, according to my needs and where I am in my wider talent acquisition journey.
    Personally I think we as TA people and people in general need to have someone who can crystalise, analyze and make comments on important subjects, someone who drive the agenda, provoke and stir debate and who whether we agree or not the ones that makes us all stop and think, question and perhaps become inspired by to make big or small changes or simply confirm us in what we are already doing is the right thing. Look at history and what said and advocated by anything from the old Greek philosophers through to TED speakers, we need this and the likes of forums like ere and those that keep the conversations alive, fresh and relevant.

    Long live the contributors making us all evolve, think, debate and exchange views.

  20. Best article on the shifting landscape of our profession I’ve read in a long time. Maybe ever.
    Well played Dr. Sullivan!

  21. What this point of view fails to anticipate is the capacity of the users of social media to adapt and use these systems to create a straw image of themselves. The same thing will happen to Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites that happened to Monster and Careerbuilder – people quickly figured out how to “game” the system and the systems became as useless as the newspaper advertisements they replaced.

    There is and never will be a substitute for what I bring to the table as a headhunter: CREDIBILITY and intelligent, motivated, experienced analytical skills. Social media sites might be useful to hunt down people with no experience or talent but when a company must find serious people to solve serious problems, they will call me or my peers.

    Incidentally, the best two years in our history were the last two years. Our business is up 30%…thanks to Linked-In, Facebook, Monster, and myriad other sites that flood the market with a sea of “average”. Bring ’em on…they have done us nothing but good.

  22. @ Jacob. You are a kind and generous man and operate at a more spiritual level than I will ever- you get inspired by what I would regard (even at its best) as useful knowledge…

    I am suspicious of those with titles like “Thought Leader” or “Visionary,” whoever bestows them.
    1) It is my perception that many (*though not all) of these “TLs” ARE in fact very far removed the the workaday environments of ordinary corporate recruiters, sourcers, scheduler/coordinators etc. Why do I say this? It’s because many of the “instructions” some of these TLs make would require conditions which my colleagues and I haven’t ever seen in real-world, requiring unrealistic expenditures of time, money, and other resources or expectations of how people will react to something. (ISTM that many [*but not all] of these TLs are a long way from having to carry out the additional things that they would require us to do). Also, I’ve read repeated praises for the recruiting practices of a company where it’s an open secret that **the staffing department is a dysfunctional, highly-political snake pit- this alone is enough to make me dubious of the usefulness of the TLs’ advice.

    2) Often these TLs seem to state opinion as fact, or state things as certainty when they should be stated conditionally. They frequently do not cite proven, peer-reviewed or other validated, objective data for their prescriptions/injunctions; it’s uncertain where they came up with them. What is clear is that there is no link between the clarity, articulation, or forcefulness of a statement and its accuracy. (See Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”). Just because something may have worked for you and/or many of your customers, doesn’t mean it’s a sure-thing- “the plural of ‘anecdote” is not ‘data'”.(See Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan”.)

    “Personally I think we as TA people and people in general need to have someone who can crystalise, analyze and make comments on important subjects, someone who drive the agenda, provoke and stir debate and who whether we agree or not the ones that makes us all stop and think, question and perhaps become inspired by to make big or small changes or simply confirm us in what we are already doing is the right thing.”
    Guess what? We do have someone, and his/her name is Jacob Madsen, and Jessica Lee, and Lou Volpe and Brian Kevin Johnston, and a lot of other people, too. The thing about many (*but not all) TLs is that they are talking to very high-level staffing folks, and they should continue to talk to them. However they’ve been away from our day-to-day environment of dealing with scoundrels, fools, snakes, and occasionally some very nice, competent, and thoughtful people in a more-or-less dysfunctional environment (set up or at least run by these same high-level folks) where most of the time our choices are to “put up or shut up”.

    An analogy: an adviser (maybe formerly in the military, maybe not) who spends all his/her time talking to the General Staff may/or may not have a lot to say about how things should be improved for these same generals, but not much (if anything) relevant to say to the typical enlisted service(wo)man. If these same advisers did try to advise the typical enlisted service(wo)man, the service (wo)man shouldn’t really consider that advice very valuable or relevant…
    So (many but *not all) TLs: show us your healing battle scars, convince us that you look at and remember how you got them every day, or GET THE HELL OUT OF THE BATTLEFIELD!


    Keith “Not a Vet” Halperin

    *You know who you are…

    ** If you don’t believe me, ask many of the other very large numbers of staffing folks who’ve worked there at one time or another. You might guess who this company is, but I couldn’t possibly comment…

  23. @Keith, if meant as a compliment of sorts, then I thank you and accept, however spiritual I am not, I am as practical and as ‘it gotta work’ as they come.
    That said although it may sound like ‘taking it all in raw’ in my applause for Dr. Sullivan’s articles and musings, I can assure you that this is not the case.
    There are subjects on which I do not agree, where it does not make sense and to which I cannot give my support. When I however do find something that I agree with, it is because it resonates with my own world, what I have seen, experienced and believe in. I am no good as a TA/recruiter person if what I do does not pay off. Forget all the various channels, the social media the content the community stuff, if it does not provide me with quality of hire, at a reduced price and in the time I need it, then it is no good to me. What I have read from the original piece of this discussion IS something which I happen to agree with, something that resonates with my daily life and what I regard as important. Whether Dr. Sullivan then describe things from a ‘removed from reality perspective’ or if coming straight from the trenches is irrelevant, if I think it makes sense and I can make use of it in my role, then I will use it. For me this and other discussions I am not concerned about background and reason for them, and I do not necessarily only listen or become inspired by those that have ‘been there done that’ for me it is about ‘does it agree with my perspectives and beliefs or not.
    So Keith I think you in this discussion and elsewhere where we have debated is a tough judge and that you are quick to dismiss what these input are and what they say. As argued earlier, we are all different and we are all at various stages of our professional life, and we all have different needs and perspectives. As for the dysfunctional and badly managed and all the daily grind issues that make life of TA a challenge and far removed from the ideal world, I know about them and I myself battle with them on a daily basis. What articles like this and other ere input give me is if you will a destination and an ideal that I can strive towards making what I do more efficient and beneficial for my employer and thereby ultimately myself, whether I shall ever get to ‘TA land of eternal happiness and bliss’ is another matter.

  24. I think Dr. Sullivan has a lot of merits in his commentary. I have seen the value of sourcing decrease the past 5 years. More and more people have entered the sourcing ring. I have done this for 25 years, and I can see what I do regarding sourcing has lost value to corporations. I run up against corporate staffing and sourcing groups, everyone with an AIRS certificate presenting themselves as sourcers, and finally sourcing coming from India and Argentina. What I have seen is the poor quality of sourcing. But, the HR people think it is gold dust and rocket science. I leave the geniuses, the trainers, the conference managers to their universe. All these people will soon go back into another career. Their business cards will say…. sourcer/limo driver. When sourced names become a commodity their value falls. Now, as Dr. Sullivan says, companies are using Linked In, ATS, job boards as filler for metrics in which their staffing/sourcing group is evaluated. I have started to become a straight recruiter. I specialize in sourced passive names, team up with partners, and help companies do what they have difficulty in doing – closing candidates. The value of talent has gone from how many people you hire to how many people you can ID.

  25. @ Jacob: It is meant as a compliment.. I’ll be happy to substitute the word “resonate” for “inspire,” if you like. Recruiting information (however good) doesn’t “resonate ” with me, and I’m glad that it does for you. What DOES “resonate” for me are the acts of individual recruiters, sourcers, schedulers/coordinators, and yes, even some staffing heads who display exacts of loyalty, compassion, and kindness toward the people they work with and for, and also those who are able to make real, meaningful, positive changes in spite of the system (and not get fired in the process).

    While I commend you taking useful information from any source, I have to disagree with your assertion that the source of that information is irrelevant, as long as it it resonates. ISTM that if a source is not in continuous contact with his/her area of advice, then that advice is less likely to be valid. Here’s an analogy:
    Let’s say you need a coronary by-pass operation. Would you prefer to have an operation from someone who has been continually performing bypass ops for decades, is keeping up on the literature, and attends cardiac surgery conferences and meetings throughout the years, or would you prefer to have it performed by someone who advises hospitals on how to run cardiac surgery departments, and speaks primarily to high-level hospital administrators and chiefs of surgery?

    I also aspire to recruiting ideals. However, I try to base them on experience-driven facts and best-practices, rather than expert-driven claims. That’s why I look forward to working with like-minded
    recruiting professionals to develop what I call “Generally Accepted Recruiting Practices”(GARPs), so we can know what to do, or at least what not to do (at this point in time- things can change over time).

    I agree that we are all at different stages of our careers. At the same time, I strongly believe that virtually any basically competent recruiter, sourcer, or scheduler/coordinator after a few months doing there current job knows more what makes their job more effective and efficient than any “TL” who hasn’t done it for years and perhaps ever. I think our disagreement comes down to this, Jacob:
    I trust direct and current experience-based facts more than I trust the opinions of so-called experts, and I trust those who actually do the job know more about the ins and outs of it than I trust the experts (who haven’t done the work for a long time, if ever) themselves.. It seems you’re more open to “expert” opinion than I am.



  26. @Keith Compliment accepted.
    BUT Keith and other readers of this post, IS Dr. Sullivan off the mark and only someone sitting remotely giving advice? I do not think so and honestly if that was the case then I wouldn’t for a second offer it my compliments.
    The analogy used Keith I do not buy, – you simply cannot make comparisons like that, and you are comparing apples with steaks.
    I am all for GARP and will support that all the way, but I have to say that I find that the TL’s have away of expressing themselves that I find inspiring and of use. We all roll differently, and I just happen to be able to see this article by Dr Sullivan as of use.
    All my best

  27. @ Jacob: You’re very welcome.

    I’m not prepared to address the validity of any particular person who does not wish to respond. However, I will make a general critique of many TLs. I think they are “*off the mark” when:
    1) They state something as fact without citing a source.
    2) They state an opinion as a certainty instead of stating “in my experience…,” or “in my clients’ experience…,” or “I think..,” or I believe…”.
    3) Praise a given company’s actions without stating why they believe the praise is warranted and if they have any past, present, or future business or personal relationship with the company.

    Also, I think the medical and military analogies are quite appropriate and apt; I’m sorry you don’t agree.

    I’m all for clarity and meaning in expression (I hope to occasionally achieve that myself), but as **previously mentioned, you shouldn’t equate good expression with valid expression.

    Finally if you go to my original comment, you’ll see that I also agree with Dr. Sullivan and have been saying similar things for quite awhile, at least as far back as 3:06 PM Jan 30, 2013 (*** So Jacob: does this make ME a “Thought Leader,” too?

    Happy Weekend,


    * diminishes the validity of what they are trying to say.
    ** Nate Silver’s book.
    *** Thanks, Ryan. “What to Use When Sourcing This Year?”

    #1 $9.00/hr virtual phone, internet, board scrapers and org chart developers, and $1.50/name LinkedIn profile contact-info providers.

    #2 World-class sourcers like Maureen and Irina for anything #1 can’t find.

    IMHO: the problem ain’t finding ‘em, it’s getting ‘em to talk to you when you find ‘em.



  28. Claiming that Sourcing is dead and Recruiters are no longer needed is like claiming a company no longer needs sales people because they have a website with all the information they need.

    Workopolis and other job boards got popular…my recruitment numbers went up. Linkedin came into some maturity, oddly my recruitment numbers still increased…Now what? I’m still in business and doing quite well even through a major recession. This is a relationship based business and always will be and I’m not dead yet.

  29. @ Gabe: Well-said. As long as their are clients who:
    1) need high-quality, high-touch, high-value add services (as you seem to provide) like developing long-term, knowledgeable relationships with both very selective passive candidates and very selective hiring managers or

    2) are ignorant of the highly-effective, low cost alternatives and are willing to use agencies filled by newbies running ads, looking up resumes on job boards, and using the lower-cost alternatives themselves,

    then there will be a continued need for 3PR recruiters.



  30. Dr. Sullivan’s article lays out the dynamic nature of “recruiting”. As “Personnel” has become “Human Resources” and the role evolved into what we recognize today, so to “Recruiting” has become “Talent Acquisition”. The function of candidate mining has moved from cold-calling into the switchboard to data-mining with the advanced tools we currently have at our disposal. The sales aspect of recruiting has remained the same as we begin our conversations with potential candidates. As I read the article, it seems only the competition is more visible to the candidate and therefore we must be more aware of our employer-branding in the marketplace. Sourcing will not disappear because not every person we want to target will be hung out for our perusal, not matter what online presence some people may perceive. We, as professional recruiters, still have to recognize potentially good, targeted candidates, We just need to be aware that they will (should) be checking us out as well. Our employees will continue to refer people for positions if they are happy with the company, but that will never supply “top talent”. Many people are good at the jobs they are paid to do, but that doesn’t make them able to identify the best fit to advance a company to the next level. Only a skilled, dedicated recruiter can do that.

  31. Cheers Keith.

    It seems every few months one of these short sighted articles is written, typically I ignore it and go about the business of Sourcing, but now I’d like to see some hard facts & figures from social media sites and job boards versus those of 3PR Recruiters. THAT would actually have some bloody merit, not this here-say and OPINION = FACTS style of writing. I ask the good Doctor to site his research for this article.

  32. @Tim Corrigan. I have asked Todd ( for a’like button’ and since no such available I have no other option than writing it here, – thoroughly liked what you said and how it was said.

  33. @ Tim C: While I agree that not every person we want to target will be hung out for our perusal ,more and more of then will continue to be in ways which make them available to us,and fewer and fewer of them will be able to avoid being found. However, as I have said, finding them isn’t the problem- it’s connecting, opening, and closing them. I also disagree that our employees can’t supply us with the very best people (I think “talent” is a pretentious term)- they can, but clearly not all of it. For the vast majority of remaining people, relative routine, highly-cost effective methods are all that are needed. However, there has been, is, and will continue to be a need for elite, highly skilled 3PRs (paid at least 30% fees) *who should be used for:
    1) Getting candidates who’d never talk to us to talk to us, and who’d never accept our offers to accept them, and
    2) Emergency FT hires which are needed not soon but NOW…

    @ Gareth: I agree that when authors and commenters cite statistics and other facts, they should cite their sources, and hardly any of us do…



    * I’m curious about how often a typical SMB needs this.

  34. Interesting article John – evolution of technology is definitely having an impact on the balance of power over candidate identification.

    My thoughts on the concept of “selling” and recruitment – The “selling” component of recruitment has always been critical. It should really be defined as “influencing”. Good recruiters understand the need to promote and market an organisation as well as the actual opportunity. However, the ability to “align” a candidates needs and aspirations with the vacancy is critical to ensuring a successful placement – if these fundamental needs are not met, no amount of “selling” will get a candidate over the line.

  35. Okay, so it took me about 2 weeks to finally get around to writing a response to this post, and it morphed into a complete sourcing manifesto.

    While I agree with some of the points that Dr. Sullivan raises, I disagree with others as I believe he has an oversimplified view of sourcing.

    I argue that some basic and common sourcing functions and tactics will be coming to an end soon, and in fact, they have already ended in companies that are on the leading edge of sourcing.

    However, as with many corporate functions, there will never be an end to sourcing itself – there will only be an evolution.

    If you’ve got some time on your hands, you can read my thoughts on:
    Read further to explore:
    1)Why sourcing exists in the first place
    2)The underlying flaws of the “everyone is easy to find” argument
    3)The limits of matching technology
    4)Why big data requires people to make sense of it
    5)My definition of sourcing
    6)Strategic vs. tactical sourcing
    7)The true value of sourcing
    8)What can (and should!) be automated in sourcing
    9)Sourcing 1.0 vs. 2.0

    You should be advised that this is a lengthy article – if you’re looking for a quick read, you won’t find it here.

  36. @Glenn, what a piece, what an answer, what an insight, and perhaps 2 weeks in the making, but WOW worth the wait in my opinion.
    A pity it comes as comment in response to Dr. Sullivan’s article, it deserves a much more prominent place as a stand alone piece (hint to Todd), as it contains so much valuable information and insight. I have made comments on your original blog about this why I shall not do so here.
    But this IS something for every single recruiter, sourcer, TA, staffing, you name it to read, to behold and to take insight and inspiration from.
    Thank you from a grateful reader for sharing, it will go into my personal treasure chest of ‘great and well written wisdom’

  37. An absolutely spot-on assessment. These are all tactics we’ve been utilizing here at Deloitte for several years now and the results we’ve seen speak for themselves….in fact, we’re moving to “Sourcing 2.5” (no time to think of anything more clever) where your Sales Strategy/Value Proposition/Pitch or whatever is a fluid and circular process driven by:

    1) Market Intelligence
    2) Competitive Intelligence
    3) Talent Mapping
    4) Analytics

    And also agree that Glenn’s response is well worth the read…



  38. Agree with Jacob and Jim – Glen Cathey’s article has a wealth of knowledge on the back of Dr Sullivan’s article – very thought provoking and truly insightful.

  39. Quite frankly I was horrified by Dr. John’s article. He just cavalierly threw sourcing under the bus! Is he getting consulting bucks from a technology company? Maybe he was on some mind-altering drugs?
    I would expect more from him…. .

  40. More a less a week ago Glen Cathey wrote the most extraordinary reply to the original article written by Dr. Sullivan. It was in its own right a masterpiece and should have its own prominent place, rather than as a commentary/answer. That said I am quite puzzled why it has received so little response or replies, it is a pity as truly one of the most prominent profound, well argued and insightful pieces written on sourcing and a range of talent acquisition written for a long time.
    Meanwhile I and probably others are waiting for some kind of response or comments from Dr. Sullivan, it would be befitting.

  41. I agree Jacob. I think Glen should talk to ERE or TLNT and see if they would be interested in having him give a 1/2 day workshop pre-conference. There is so much information here that presenting a one-hour webinar or one-hour presentation at a conference just doesn’t work well. There may be other opportunities as well to do a workshop.

    I don’t know Glen but I think someone who knows him should talk to him about these options. What do you think?

  42. @Jacob, @Jim, @Jacque, @Loren – Glen Cathey is well-known on the sourcing side of the recruiting industry and has presented at ERE’s SourceCon conference multiple times. Like his live presentations, his blogposts at are consistently very strong (the one you reference being no exception) and have been closely followed for a few years. I agree he would make a great presenter on a bridge topic like this at regular recruiting conferences as well. Let’s hope ERE and others take these comments to heart and make the next move.

  43. Interesting discussion, especially after reading the discussion in the comments.
    First of all I agree that selling is a crucial recruitment competency, also for sourcers! Sourcers need to be able to “sell” there output to there internal customers. If pre-screening is part of there role, than selling is an important part of their work as well.
    Dr Sullivan says “finding talent is easy because everyone is now visible”. We experience that especially in IT more and more the real top talents are changing their online presence to an “undercover status”, becoming less and less visable. They get irritated by all the companies trying to contact them. So that makes it more difficult to source the best or may it is better to say the candidates with the right fit who can help you to make the difference.
    Time will learn if “Internet web crawlers that will electronically search 24/7 for individuals who fit the desired candidate profile” will become a solution. Like Jacob mentioned, there is something like a cultural fit requirement.
    Referral is and is likely to remain a very important source. However this requires moving from getting referrals for vacancies to getting referrals for talent that “empower” the talent pipeline. Asking referrals for vacancies frustrates. If there is 1 vacancy and there are 10 referred candidates. Likely 9 employees get a no. Getting a no for several times will result in receiving no more referrals. Welcoming referrals for your talent pipeline will result in building a talent community and I believe that has a lot to offer. More about this referral approach on the website.

  44. Anyone who actually found this article to be enlightening should find another occupation. Dr. Sullivan writes: “The Emphasis in Recruiting Needs to Shift to Selling.” Since when is this a NEW thing?? Recruiting has ALWAYS been a sales job.

    I have trained countless of internal corporate recruiters and the #1 thing I always remind them is that RECRUITING IS A SALES JOB! Anyone who thinks recruiting is something other than a sales job will never be a great recruiter and should not be in Recruiting.

    I even mention it in my Linkedin profile:

    As for Sourcers, they fall in two different camps: 1) RESEARCHERS and 2)CANDIDATE DEVELOPMENT. Researchers gather all the candidate leads, names, etc. The skill set for these types of sourcers would be someone who is more analytical and data driven. Sourcers who focus on Candidate Development have to be able to sell. I would assume those who specialize in Candidate Development sourcing realize this already or else they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs.

    As with any other Sales role, a Recruiter must have strong “Product Knowledge”. This means the Recruiter should know their business very well – this includes knowledge of the industry, the company and the role. They need to be able to have meaningful business conversations with BOTH candidates as well as the hiring manager.

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