What Sourcing Is and What It Isn’t

Sourcing is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the field of recruiting.

The “boards” are always trying to sell their “sourcing systems” by appealing to the

“You will never have to source again if you use our system”. Because many recruiters secretly don’t want to source, they readily buy into the too-good-to-be-true, no-sourcing-required philosophy.  It’s an excuse filled existence in the recruiting business.  Buying into the myth of these sourcing-free systems, failing to learn sound sourcing approaches and abandoning the need to continually develop new skills, is the sure-fire route to endangering your recruiting livelihood.

Sourcing may be defined as “seeking a potential candidate, with a vision of success.”

“Seeking” is an action word.  “Action words” are high-impact words; they avoid the passive sense of being.  “Wishing” and “waiting” and “hoping” for something to come of the candidates procured “off the boards” are activities used by those who employ passive vocabularies and minds sets.

Sourcing = Seeking

Sourcing involves finding people who can fill your open positions.  It requires an active tool set.  It also requires that you have, as our definition spells out, “a vision of success”.

Sourcing requires positive expectations.  This is aligned exactly with a positive mindset requirement – mostly to overcome all the nay-saying recruiters who don’t source, who don’t value it and are always on-hand to denigrate it, you and your vision.

As a new Sourcer in 1996, I knew very little about the arcane subject except what I brought to it from my years and years of experience in the real estate industry.  I knew then that in order to “sell” something I had to have it on the shelf.  In the real estate business, having something “on the shelf” means you have good listings.  I always concentrated my efforts in obtaining a lot of good listings and success always followed those numbers.

As recently as only a couple years (3-4) back, there wasn’t much talk on the boards about “sourcing”.  Sure, once in a while it was mentioned, but there wasn’t much “buzz” around it and for the most part it seemed to be treated like a red-headed stepchild. Furious trumpet debate would sound when the subject would come up; fingers would point and wagging tongues would trash talk the subject.  I remember being appalled by how the subject was received (and perceived) in the community.  At about the same time, it seems, several of us made a decision and a commitment to talk about the subject, realizing (on my part, for selfish reasons) that if the subject was not illuminated it would continue to occupy the same shadowy corner post it had been relegated to.  My commitment hasn’t changed and is only bolstered by the commitment and fine contributions made by the thought leaders in this newly recognized Industry.
What Sourcing Is:

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Process Organization
Calling into companies to find potential candidates that might fill your open positions
Calling people in your own influence sphere who might connect you to others who might fill your open positions
Learning, always learning, new ways
Speaking up and out in your community on the subject – you can do this in a variety of ways

Utilizing imaginative and innovative Internet search techniques that take you deeper, and more fully, in contact with potential candidates than anyone else

Hard work
Long hours
Concentration
Tenacity
Bull-doggedness
Mostly “lone” wolf work
The pathway to recruiting success

What Sourcing Isn’t:

A 9 to 5 activity
A lot of yakkity-yak
Pulling candidates off the boards
These days, pulling potential candidates off the “first layers” of the Internet
Pushing paperwork around your desk (or your computer) so you “look” busy
Setting up a website and expecting it to do the hard work for you
Paying to get placed into search engines so you can be “found” – once they find you, what’re you going to do then if you don’t know how to do it?
Cutesy mimicking marketing
Gang warfare
Joining organizations just to be “listed” as a Sourcer
Relying on e-mail to contact potential candidates – this goes along with:

Relying on leaving VoiceMails and then “waiting” for call backs from the potential candidates
The pathway to recruiting mediocrity
In the recruiting business, you can’t make a placement if you don’t have those listings “on the shelf”.  “Listings”, in the recruiting business, are candidates.  Go getchya’ some.

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

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6 Comments on “What Sourcing Is and What It Isn’t

  1. Maureen,
    Your views are spot on. It has also been my opinion over the years that search firms place more value on “rainmakers” than “sourcers”. That was then, this is now. In this day and age, candidates trump connections. Of course, you need connections to generate candidates but, while that may be true, most rainmakers don’t ever focus on developing candidate relationships in the first place. They sell work, and then foist the fulfillment of same off on their “research assistants”, and then often scapegoat them to their clients for inability to produce candidates. Along these lines, most of the top producers I have ever met, i.e. those with consistent billings over $400k, don’t rely on anyone other than themselves for order fulfillment. That doesn’t meant that some people aren’t able to build good bus dev/sourcing structures that yield a million+ in billings, but in those cases the research assistant function does little more than provide refined phone call data to the producer, handles IV requests, etc., but certainly isn’t responsible for maintaining and, or, increasing the value of the relationship.
    As the principal sourcer for a 500 million plus engineering organization, I rarely take calls from the business development contingent of a search firm. They tend to understand the industry only on a superficial level, e.g. Toyota is in Japan and Ford in the US, but they are completely unaware of what companies are designing, and where they are doing it. It often sounds simply like an appeal for a couple “low hanging fruit” placements. The sourcers, on the other hand, often get airtime because I am more accurately able to judge their actual competence in the market. Sadly, on both levels, more often than not it simply sounds like they read one of our job descriptions and decided to promote themselves as experts in “insert specialty here”.
    As for your column, Maureen, I plan on reaching out to you in the next couple months because I have never seen anyone put so fine a point on the seemingly misunderstood value of the sourcing specialist.

    Sabio

  2. Hi Maureen,

    This is my passion…… you have hit the right chord to filter out the over-utlized term “Sourcing”. It’s effective sourcing VS hazy sourcing…..

    Sourcing is the foremost, vital and defined stage in the recruitment process. If you get your sourcing right – everything else followed. I think this term will bring revolution in the recruitment industry and the way recruitment dept / function works….

    I want to be part of the same….

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