A Sourcing Checkup From the Neck Up: Assessing Your Sourcing Team

Lately I’ve been getting lots of questions around assessing a sourcing team. Most leaders see this as quite a difficult task, yet its absence can compromise the team’s ability to survive corporate changes.

There’s clearly evidence that sourcing does reduce cost per hire, but it is incredibly difficult to hold sourcers accountable to a “number of hires” raw metric like you would with recruiters who are responsible for both internal and external hires, and have inbound candidates from established sources such as employee referrals, the company career site, and major advertisement. Every sourcing organization I know that has tried to measure sourcers with the same ruler as recruiters has struggled in one way or another to provide evidence of the value of sourcing. Why? Simple…

Sourcing’s true value is often hidden from the process. Recruiters get credit for hires that “come in” via the corporate website, apply through job boards, come in as employee referrals, get converted from contract to full time, and in many cases even internal moves or promotions. As a result, a significant portion of recruiters’ hires just happen naturally through the course of business, as a result of established pipelines and other channels that require no proactive recruitment effort. Most corporate recruiters don’t “head hunt” each and every hire.

In contrast, most requisitions that sourcers are assigned will require them to go out and beat leads out of the darkness. This is much more labor intensive and time consuming, and so a sourcer can’t possibly match a recruiter in sheer number of hires — but this does not mean they lack value.

What do I measure to prove value then?

There are a couple of things you can measure, but first a word about the part of assessment that has nothing to do with metrics. A big part of assessing your team comes from understanding what they do. You don’t have to be a sourcing guru to know what sourcers do. If you understand what they do you can then more clearly understand where they have been, what they have accomplished and where they need to go next. If you think sourcers are “brain surgeons” or “rocket scientists” and do “things you don’t understand at all” then before you can evaluate, assess, or measure them, you need to get to know what they do.

In turn your sourcers should be able to track their activity in such a was as to be able to provide you clear bottom-line data on what methods they utilize, which ones are most successful, which need to be improved, where you should spend more (and of course less) of your budget, and where some of the inefficiencies are in the candidate flow. A simple Excel spreadsheet can help you track many of these things.

Back to the point of “not everything is metrics” — there are two more things you can use to assess your sourcing team before we get into the numbers. Those two things are Customer Feedback and Performance Against an SLA (Service Level Agreement).

How does the team interact with their customer?

You should deal with each customer group they way they want to be dealt with. Don’t assume that every customer group is going to want the same thing. Take “passive candidates,” for example. Some may want help with high-volume low-level roles, others may prefer to get help with mid-management or leadership roles, and yet others may want help with research only, or competitive intelligence. This is why an SLA is key. In your SLA you can clearly, concisely, and very simply state what two or three services your sourcing team is best equipped to offer.

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And regarding the SLA… KEEP IT SIMPLE! Besides just simply stating your services, the SLA should get into concisely describing exactly what you need from your customer in order to effectively help them, what you absolutely guarantee you will deliver if you get exactly what is needed, and a promise that “if sourcing delivers that, then this is what you promise to do for us in return.”

Now lets go back to the metrics again.

Each organization is going to be different. Not just environmentally, but also in their need for multi-incumbent hires, high-volume hires, specialized or “difficult to find” hires, and so on. I write that to explain that the numbers I’m about to share with you are going to vary quite a bit from place to place, but this is good general guideline:

  • At least 50% of new leads generated should be worthy of a call
  • At least 25% of them should connect with a recruiter
  • Of those connects 40% or better should turn out to be interested
  • Of the ones interested at least half should be qualified
  • Aim for one hire for every 10 submits
  • Or in other words from 100-200 leads per hire

If you do better than 100 leads per hire then you are in great shape, or if you do worse than 200 leads per hire then your team needs support, training, or re-engineering. But… before you go fire anyone…

Your sourcing team may not be the problem if…

  1. There’s expectation that the sourcing team will deliver a short-term solution to what is a long-term problem. Say, for example, there’s a very high offer decline, or interview drop off rate, due to issues with the interview process, compensation imbalances, etc.
  2. There’s lack of buy-in from upper management. After a leadership change, restructuring, re-org, merger, sourcing teams often find themselves ducking for cover as the new leadership “redefines” what is or what is not sourcing.
  3. Another version of the above can also be, “Oops, we have to cut the budget! Oh, I know, let’s start by cutting this sourcing team because we don’t really understand what value they add.”
  4. Your recruiters AND/OR your hiring managers are afraid to pick up the phone and follow through with leads that have been sourced.
  5. Your hiring managers have no clue how to treat a candidate who didn’t just apply online and still needs a bit more attention, persuading, etc.
  6. Recruiters think of sourcers as junior (i.e., sourcers are entry level people who want to grow up someday to be “real” recruiters).
  7. You suffer from inadequate contact management technology, both in the CRM system as well as the applicant tracking system.
  8. Your recruiters suffer from over-reliance on email as the initial outreach.
  9. Your lack of follow up with future-interest candidates. If they said, “Call me in 6 months,” and you don’t call them, but your competitor does, you just lost a hire to your competitor.
  10. Your organization fails to invest in the development and training of the sourcing team (yes, even we sourcers can learn a few things!).

Want to get into some more detail? Drop me a line at shally (at) 4sct (dot) com and we can discuss this further.

Shally is a globally recognized leader in Sourcing, Recruitment Research and Recruitment Marketing. He is a professional Speaker (NSA Professional member) often requested to speak about sourcing strategy and recruitment marketing. He is the founder of JobMachine, Inc. now EVP of Arbita, Inc. the premier provider of Sourcing Consulting Services and Research Training. Shally has built and/or advised sourcing organizations at over 200 companies like Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, Cisco and Motorola. He is Instrumental in modeling centralized recruitment organizations and has a reputation as an authority in Internet search, pioneer in recruitment research. Shally is frequently a contributor to top industry forums and often headline at leading conferences.

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2 Comments on “A Sourcing Checkup From the Neck Up: Assessing Your Sourcing Team

  1. I am fully in agreement with the points above.  I have experienced many definitions of ‘sourcing’, expectations and (yes…) understanding of the value-add of sourcing and individual capabilities.  Among your many points, however, is that a perception that sourcing is ‘a/the problem’ in many instances … is not the case.  Thank you for the article!

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