Tips to Consider When Directly Sourcing for Candidates

When direct sourcing or networking for candidate leads, it’s best to keep an old saying in mind: “It’s better to give than to receive.” Let me explain how.

We all know that what separates the good “application processors” from the good “recruiters” is the ability to design and implement effective direct sourcing and networking initiatives (DSNI) that will penetrate the hidden candidate markets and uncover talent.

In fact, as the market continues to get more and more competitive, the ability to direct source and network for candidates may be the only way to find skill sets.

A successful initiative depends on two basic steps:

  • Building a good list of names to call.
  • Being effective at processing the list.

Let’s assume you’ve built a really good DSNI list to process or call on. Keep in mind, it’s no easy task to build a good list, and the quality of the DSNI list can either lead you to hidden talent or waste your precious time. But once a quality list is created, it’s up to the recruiter to make something out of it.

The best way to do that is to make sure that each and every person you interact with is offered something before you ask for something. Too often, recruiters make DSNI calls with one thing in mind; how can the person on the list help me? They contact a total stranger and before they even get to know them, they’re asking for help.

That approach goes something like,”Hello, my name is Harry Swanson, a recruiter with ABC Company. I’m networking for a software engineer for one of my clients and thought maybe you could help me.”

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While that approach is straightforward and evokes a person’s natural instinct to help, it’s also intrusive, disruptive, and can easily turn off the lead before you truly get to solicit their help. This is especially true if the person gets many calls from recruiters. They may be tired of being everyone’s helper and may wonder what’s in it for them.

Watch how they respond when offered something first. “Hello, my name is Harry Swanson, a recruiter with ABC Company. I’m currently representing a fast-growing, highly successful software firm looking to add new talent to its team. It’s a really good position, and the company has many benefits for its employees. It offers three weeks of yearly training, has an excellent employee value proposition, and is currently designing the next generation of software for the XYZ industry. Do you have any friends, family, or colleagues who might benefit from knowing about this great opportunity?”

Can you see the difference? This person might be so intrigued with your “pitch” that they’ll want to hear more about it and become your next candidate. If they’re not interested, they may be more willing to share this information with a friend or colleague they feel would be happy to receive it.

The first approach is like going around with your hand out, looking for someone to fill it with something. The second is like reaching out to people with your hand full of something good that you want to share with them. The first is more about receiving and the second is about giving. The people you call on will feel that and respond accordingly.

Tips for Preparing DSNI

  • To get traction, create a meaningful call list of at least 50 names. To build this list, begin using research tools, such as Hoovers, to find information about an industry’s leading companies. Search within those companies for hidden talent. Research candidates employed by your client’s competition or in professional associations, collegiate alumni organizations, and diversity affinity organizations.
  • Study your client’s employee value proposition. You have 10 to 15 seconds to capture a passive candidate’s attention. Begin by describing your client’s employee benefits or its exciting new product launch to engage the potential candidate. Think about what you can say to entice them to want to hear more about the company you’re recruiting for.
  • Prepare your rebuttal to objections in advance. Expect nine out of 10 people to say, “No thanks, I have a job.” If you’re expecting this response, it will be easier to reply sincerely. Try this rebuttal, “Ok, thank you for your time. I respect that decision and don’t expect you to leave your job at the drop of a hat. If you ever want to explore your options, please give me a call.” Some common objections include, “I’m happy where I’m at,” “I’m not looking right now,” and “How did you get my name?”
  • Clear a two-hour block of time on your calendar. Schedule as much time as you need to go through the entire list. Focus and don’t let yourself get interrupted or sidetracked. It’s important to keep a continuous pace, because after the first two calls you will be in a zone.
  • Prepare to do a lot of note-taking; good calls often lead to more names and numbers!
  • Begin your campaign with enthusiasm and confidence.
  • Engage each person with something to offer.
  • Follow up with gratitude if someone helps you.

Direct sourcing for candidates takes hard work and persistence to see results. Be prepared for rejection, but never give up. Passive candidates are worth the pursuit. It may take time to see success, but be disciplined in your commitment and fearless attitude.

Scott Beardsley ( is co-founder and vice president of recruitment services at Q4B, a recruitment solutions and consulting firm specializing in recruitment process outsourcing. He developed the processes behind Q4B's recruitment solutions. He has 16 years of experience and is an author, speaker, and consultant.


10 Comments on “Tips to Consider When Directly Sourcing for Candidates

  1. This is really helpful. I get a lot of rejections everytime I call people about our vacant position. Least I know that I am doing it the wrong way! Thanx for the advice.

  2. Scott,

    Yes,I believe one should offer something instead

    of asking as you have said and also agree that

    one must first find out max info from the net

    etc but I have my reservations about the

    following although it is common practise.

    1.The person who has been ‘cold called’ could

    well lose his/her job for talking about

    employment oppurtunities.

    2.Even otherwise the ‘para of the pitch’that you

    have given is too long.

    3.It is better to find out more about the person

    and make a ‘warm call or email’but not at the

    place of work.

    4.DSNI-another new one for me,at least.


  3. Thanks, Scott, for an informative, no-nonsense article that actually lives up to it’s title! Clear, concise, good advice for turning those cold calls into warm ones!

  4. When I cold call candidates I tend to sell my firm, our expertise, as well as my own experience in recruiting first and then try to find out if the individual is open to hearing about new opportunities. I have found candidates that are getting called from recruiters often appreciate the recruiter that takes a personal interest in them and tries to identify what they like in their job and what would motivate them to make a change vs.going into a sales pitch before you know who you are calling. Once I have gathered some personal information I would then go into the pitch about the opportunity and first see if it is something that individual is seeking vs. asking them for referrals. Many times they say that the particular situation isn’t a fit but I might want to talk with their friend. A slightly different approach to consider.

  5. 9 out of 10 means you are cold calling 10 people to get to one who will give you the time of day. With propper communication techniques training you would not be running into 90% rejections. Many of the recruiters I’ve trained engage 70% and a few have mastered these skills to the point where they engage 90% of the people with whom they communicate. The ‘pitch’ approach is frequently one of the reasons people get turned off. Instead, attempt to gain their interest, establish rapport, and get them to sell you on their strenghts, and you will have success far more than 10% of the time.

    I wish Mark Jennings and David Sadler were to comment on this post…


  6. Thanks for the Post. My experience has proven that in the pop psychology of recruiting ‘the more the candidate talks the better’. Not without the understanding they need to be directed on exactly where and what I want them to do and to stay focused on the objectives and not have a zillion friends.

    My success rates in the past have been similar to the 70-90% that Shally pointed out; and the problem I have encountered is more interested then qualified candidates, which necessitate the importance of listening to them talk before I pitch the opportunity too hard, and ask very pointed well prepared questions to subtlety discover their qualifications and motivators before I put on the ?full court press?.

    I have always viewed myself if nothing else a ?One man Marketing Machine? that maybe the only representative of the company they ever speak with, and this has helped ?get in the zone?.

  7. If you are getting a lot of rejections then you need to reconsider your approach.

    Let me ask a couple of questions? Another thread on here mentioned that they get a lot of rejections, right? What are they rejecting? Most likely it is your approach. Not many people don’t want to hear about opportunities that might enhance their careers, pay them more money, make life better.

    It might be time to realize you have some holes in your recruiting skills and ask for help. Maybe go to a person in your office that you respect as a cold caller and ask them to coach you. If you don’t you will keep doing what you have always done and keep getting what you have always got…rejected.

    The key to cold calling is to add value, if you add value then they will be happy to get your call. You will no longer be percieved as a recuiter, but seen as a resource.Otherwise you become just another churn and burn recruitier that calls when they need something, never to be heard from again.

  8. Thanks for the great comments Scott. To me, everyone needs to set the stage and get organized to perform at their best.

  9. Recruiting is much an ART as it is a science. The reality is in the new war for talent, potential candidates are smarter and more informed than ever before and by simply changing some words a recruiter can make double digit gains on cold calls.

    By engaging a potential candidate in conversation you get them talking but after all is said and done, you need to come out of each dial with more information than you started. Simply by adding the words ‘your name came up in conversation recently it made me think of you’ or ‘who have you seen excel at what they do, not necessarily looking for a job but is someone you respect? These words will get them talking and coin gold for the recruiter who now has a warm referral call.

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