Don’t Be a Sourcing Snob

Are You a Sourcing Snob?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is a candidate identified on LinkedIn intrinsically “better” than a candidate sourced from Monster?
  • Is candidate sourced by cold calling inherently “better” than a candidate sourced from a job posting on Careerbuilder?
  • Does it really matter where a great candidate comes from?

I continue to see well-respected thought leaders in the staffing industry make claims that the quality of candidates on the job boards is low, and there seems to be no shortage of those in the recruiting and staffing industry who are happy to jump on that bandwagon. However, whenever I read or hear broad, sweeping statements claiming that an entire population of 50,000,000+ candidates is low quality just because they happen to be in an online resume database of a major job board — my response is a mix of shock and disappointment.  

Stereotyping is Poor Judgement

Broad statements such as ”the job boards have low quality candidates” reeks of stereotyping.  A stereotype is an oversimplified conception or opinion based on the assumption that there are attributes that members of the “other group” (in this case, job board candidates) have in common. Stereotypes are often formed by an Illusory correlation , a false perception of an association between two variables where in fact none exists.

You just can’t go around claiming all job board candidates are bad. That’s like saying everyone in New York is rude, or that everyone in California is a hippie. To stereotype all job board candidates as low quality is downright insulting to the many fantastic people who make the decision to post their resume to well known online resume databases. If they only knew that posting their resume to a job board was equivalent to moving to “the wrong side of the tracks.”

Sourcing Snobbery

Many sourcers and recruiters use the Internet to source and identify candidates all the time, yet there is never a mention of the intrinsic “quality” of candidates who happen to post their resume on their own websites. As if creating a website and posting your resume to it somehow makes you a better person than someone who either doesn’t know how do do that or simply doesn’t care to, instead opting to post their resume to a well known job board site.

And what about Social Media? The last time I checked, there is no “candidate quality filter” built in to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or any social network. ANYONE can decide to create a web page or a Social Media profile, from “A” players to “F” players.

So what’s with the stigma of being a “job board candidate?” I think it’s sourcing snobbery.

If you find a candidate by searching Facebook – that’s cool. Found your candidate by cold calling into a competitor? You’re awesome! If you found a candidate by searching Monster – you suck.

Employee referral?  Great candidate! Job board candidate? Ewww – gross!

As if  WHERE a candidate comes from actually matters! A great candidate is a great candidate. Employee referrals are wonderful, but I’ve got news for you – the best candidates do NOT always come from employee referrals. If they do in your organization, maybe your sourcers and recruiters aren’t very good at actually finding quality candidates on their own – referrals are “gimmes.” Think about it.

Statistical Facts

Job board resume databases — just like LinkedIn, Twitter, companies you directly source from, and every other source of candidates — are a large random sample of the entire candidate population. Large random samples adhere to the statistical inevitability of a normal distribution (bell curve). You’ll have a small percentage of horrible candidates, a large percentage of average candidates, and a small percentage of top-notch talent. For those interested in learning more about the statistics of large random samples, check out the Central Limit Theorem (CLT) and the Law of Large Numbers.

That’s right – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet are no different than the job board resume databases in that they all adhere to the laws of statistics. Statistically, it can easily be argued that any given person that can be found on the Internet or in a social network is no more likely to be an “A” player than any given person that can be found on a job board resume database.

Why Do People Post Their Resume on Job Boards?

If you think that the only reason people post their resumes to online job board resume databases is because they are “desperate” and unemployed, you’re wrong. Many people see the job boards as an online marketplace, not unlike eBay.

Let’s use an analogy to drive this point home. If you’ve cleaned out your garage, basement, or attic and you’re looking to sell some stuff – you could have a yard sale, but yard sales limit your potential buyers to your neighbordhood and nearby areas. Why not dramatically increase the pool of potential buyers by putting the items on eBay?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with candidates using job boards as one approach to helping them make the next step in their career. The idea that candidates should not leverage job boards in their efforts to find their next career opportunity is like thinking that you shouldn’t shop online, sell things on eBay, or use This is the 21st century – by all means everyone should leverage all available Internet options in all endeavors!

Looking vs. Being Found

If a candidate relies solely on searching job postings online, they are being proactive in seeking employment, but they are 100% dependent upon the reactive response of the firms they reply to. And let’s be honest here – most companies aren’t very good at responding to candidates who apply to their job postings. Too many candidates experience the “black hole” effect when they respond to job postings (auto-responders don’t count here – they’re no better than auto-DM’s on Twitter).

This lack of response leads many candidates to seek to take more control over the process by opting to post their resume into a resume database so they can be actively found and pursued by potential employers – kind of like posting something on eBay so that people looking for that thing can find it and attempt to acquire it. Many candidates pursue both paths, thinking they’ll cover both angles.

You have to be aware that some people have not had to switch jobs in the past 5-10 years, and that most candidates are not professional job seekers. When the time comes for these folks to move on in their career – many seek the job boards simply in response to the effective and ubiquitous advertisements of the major job boards. Instead of going to the employment section of the local newspaper – going online is perceived as the “new” way of finding a job as compared to the last time they may have had a career transition.

Why not let hundreds of recruiters try to find you the best opportunity for free? Aside from the experience they may have with poor recruiters, this is not a bad value proposition. Also – this is essentially the same value proposition of posting a resume on the Internet or updating a LinkedIn profile with a complete work history.

But What About Networking?

Networking to find a job can definitely work and I would never discourage or disparage it. However, there is no guarantee that any given person’s network can provide the ideal job opportunity at the right time.  What’s the proabability?

Limiting your job search efforts to only your “network” would be similar to looking to get married to someone, but only on the condition that it must be to someone that your friends know. As if your soulmate can’t be someone outside of your “network.”

Article Continues Below

All Sourcers/Recruiters are NOT Created Equal

Perhaps some of the stigma attached to job board candidates is based in the belief that candidates in job board resume databases are “easy” to find. As if the challenge and drugery associated with sifting through large volumes of garbage results while performing Internet searches somehow will produce a higher quality candidate.  Also, there’s nothing inherently “easy” about quickly finding the best possible candidate among 20,000,000 others. All sourcers/recruiters are NOT created equal.

I love to challenge those who assume that just because 100 recruiters may have access to the same source (say Monster, for example) that they can all find the same candidates, as well as all of the best candidates available in the system.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. That’s no different than thinking that if 100 people go fishing in the Pacific Ocean that they will all catch the same fish and all of the available fish to be caught. Ridiculous!

Unlike many who disparage the job boards, I have actually used them to source candidates, and I’ve recruited and placed many “A+” candidates from the job boards that my clients and competitors also had access to. By “A+” I mean candidates that were better than those produced through client/employee referrals. Blasphemy? No – just the facts.

How is it that no one else found the same people I did? Did I get lucky? Only if you can get “lucky” consistently. Just because many people have access to a given database, it is not safe to assume that everyone can find the same candidates, or find ALL of the qualified candidates, or find the BEST candidates in that database. Perhaps the people who are always claiming the job board resume databases have low quality candidates lack the proficiency to actually FIND the high quality candidates.

For a look into how one person can find great candidates that hundreds of other recruiters did not using the exact same job board database, read this post about a Google Network Performance Tester position that literally hundreds of agency and contract recruiters had been working for four months.


If part of the stigma of job board resumes is that everyone has access to them and thus they are “easy” to find – I am thoroughly confused. The last time I checked – literally EVERYONE has access to the Internet, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. There is no competitive advantage in using any of these sources to find candidates because everyone has access. The same goes for cold calling – everyone has access to a phone, right?

However, as I have hopefully shown you, having access to a resource and being able to find the right people are two completely different things.

If posting a resume on Monster is an act of a deserate job seeker, then so is posting a resume on the Internet, updating a LinkedIn profile, and using Twitter to advertise that you’re looking for a new position.

More of the candidates of today and certainly most of the candidates of tomorrow are likely to have a blog, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, use Twitter, AND post their resume to an online resume database (Monster, niche, or other such as VisualCV).

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter where you find a great candidate.

Don’t be a sourcing snob.

This article is part of the Boolean Black Belt archives here on SourceCon. You can view the original article here.

With more than 20 years of experience in recruiting, Glen Cathey is a globally recognized sourcing and recruiting leader, blogger ( and corporate/keynote speaker (9X LinkedIn, 9X SourceCon, 3X Talent42, 2X SOSUEU,, PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen, Enterprise Holdings, AstraZeneca…).

Glen currently serves as a Global Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation for Randstad, reporting into the Netherlands, focusing on data-driven recruitment, AI and automation.  Over the course of his career, Glen has been responsible for talent acquisition training, process, technology, analytics and innovation strategies for I.T. staffing and RPO firms with over 100,000 hires annually, and he's hired, trained, developed and led large local, national, global and centralized sourcing and recruiting teams, including National Recruiting Centers with over 300 associates.

He has earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park and is passionate about people, process (Lean) data and analytics, AI and automation, strategy and innovation, leadership and performance.



6 Comments on “Don’t Be a Sourcing Snob

  1. Glen, you’re right on the money. One thing that this post doesn’t cover is the problem of post-and-pray, which – for a company that spends a lot on job posts – is a bit different from the problem of effectively mining resume databases. When folks attack job boards, I believe they’re often attacking post-and-pray.

    There’s another dimension to sourcing/recruiting that may be beyond the scope of your initial post, but seems worth raising: The power of the recommendation web as an added informational dimension. Take a look at this post on the Referral Graph feel free to comment:

  2. Great topic, interesting post and the statistical element is certainly complelling – but I have two simple snob-friendly arguments here…

    1) Your most talented people are not in job board databases right now
    Everyone go to your or account and search for people in your own organization who have their resumes up. Are they your top performers? Quite simply, No

    2) Corporate politics and scare tactics
    People are down-right petrified to post their resume on a job-board because they are afraid their own HR departments, etc.. will see them. It is a common thread within a lot of companies that “Only stupid people put their resumes on job boards – they are going to get caught and fired.” Now yes, you can make it “confidential” – but because the confidentiality technology has sucked (See – YIKES) and people have a better understanding for how search works – they just won’t put their info up there. Most people understand that you don’t need to put your name on your resume for me to find you. It’s fairly easy to do a search based on certain organizational and industry keywords or systems, etc… then I just look at your education (we know where you went to college guy) – and boom, identified, reported. I’ve even seen other companies literary open up a requirement to backfill someone because they are on a job board – Terrible, unethical HR Practice – but I’ve heard some horror stories.

  3. Totally on point Glen. LinkedIn, major job boards, niche job boards, social sites like Twitter/Facebook, networking at events, partnership/sponsoring professional groups and associations in your niche, Boolean internet searches, and many more, are all tools in the arsenal of a good sourcer/recruiter.

    I use them all, and all have returned good results and bad results. You can’t limit yourself to one or two sourcing sites, and if you do, you’re either lazy or ignorant. Patience and tenacity are key traits of the good sourcer!

  4. If you are an external Recruiter who is being paid Big $$ to bring new talent to a company – why would you want to Duplicate the resources of your client? and Would you want to duplicate Your competitors also who have access to the Same Talent? Wouldn’t you want to stand out as being able differentiate yourself.

    MHO – there are reasons why some recruiters are One Hit Wonders with potential clients

  5. I totally second your opinion.

    Sourcers job is to go out in the market and fetch the right candidate for the open position. Filling position with the right candidate is very important. Quality and fitment of the candidate can be assessed only when you speak to the candidate and get his interview done by the hiring manager.
    The only difference between portal profile and profile through other sources like social media is that the former is active in the market (provided he has updated his profile within 6 six months) and later may or may not be seeking a job change. Now a day’s almost everyone is trying to cover all possible sources to get candidate. Thus a good candidate will be approached by several companies whether he is on linkedin, job board, blog etc.
    But the bottom line is that Candidate will join your company only when he will be convinced that you are offering the role he is looking for, the best compensation and benefits in the market and his/her preferred location. This implies to all the candidates irrespective of where you have sourced him/her from.
    Scenario:- Market is open and up. Candidate is not present on any portal. He is a passive candidate. You approach him through a social media channel say linkedin. He is a perfect fit for your requirement and gets offered by your company. What do you think now the candidate will do?
    Strong possibility – This passive candidate will turn into active and look for better offers in the market than the one he currently has. By the time his notice period will get over he will have more than one offer in hand and the negotiation process will begin again.
    In current market the main point is –
    Do you have the best to offer the best candidate?
    The source of the candidate.

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