Is Sourcing the New Recruiting?

Over time, our roles evolve and change to fit with the present needs of the companies for which we work. The saying goes, “If you’re not green and growing, then you’re red and rotting.” Keeping up with the constant changes that come with work functions is important to ensure your marketability. It’s important to understand what these roles really look like today, and figure out where your best fit is going to be. Especially if you’re calling yourself a Sourcer these days.

My sourcing evolution

Sourcing is no stranger to adaptation – and neither am I. Over the last eleven years, my own roles have evolved to keep up with the times. I started as an Internet Researcher – mining resume databases as well as my ATS to find prospects and candidates whose keywords and buzzwords matched up with what my companies’ clients needed. I tossed those resumes over to my recruiting counterparts, untouched, for them to make initial cold-calls and, basically, recruit them. After all, that’s what recruiters are supposed to do, right?

Eventually, I became a “Sourcing Strategist” in a corporate environment. Taking another step toward candidate engagement, I initiated first contact with prospects to see if they’d be interested in talking with one of my recruiting counterparts. Once I received a “Yes” or even a “Gimme more details” response, I made an introduction to one of my recruiting partners so that they could, again, recruit that prospect.

Currently, my role has taken on even more prospect and candidate engagement. Not only do I find people, I also initiate contact, determine interest (or get them interested, as the case may be), conduct a first-round screening call, present formal write-up submissions, and only at that point do I hand-off to my recruiting counterparts.

Hold the phone (pun intended) – since when did I become a recruiter?


What do recruiters do these days?

Let’s do a Google define:recruiter search and take a look at a few simple definitions of “recruiter:”

A recruiter is someone engaging in recruitment, or the solicitation of individuals to fill jobs or positions within a corporation, non-for-profit organization, sports team, etc. –Wikipedia

Individual employed by a company to locate and qualify candidates for job openings in the company. –

A recruiter is the person within a staffing firm that is responsible for identifying and screening/evaluating qualified candidates for an open position within a client business. –

A recruiter’s job includes reviewing candidate’s job experiences, negotiating salaries, and placing candidates in agreeable employment positions. – this one seems legit)

Overall, these definitions resemble what I, and a lot of other sourcing professionals, do today under the guise of sourcing!

Let’s have a look then at define:sourcing and get the scoop on today’s definition of “sourcing:”

Find out where (something) can be obtained. (this is more procurement sourcing, but sounds more like what I was doing as an Internet Researcher)

Article Continues Below

Candidate sourcing activity typically ends once the name, job title, job function and contact information for the potential candidate is determined by the candidate sourcer. To further develop a list of names that were sourced, some companies have a second person then reach out to the names on the list to initiate a dialogue with them with the intention of pre-screening the candidate against the job requirements and gauging the interest level in hearing about new job opportunities. This activity is called “candidate profiling” or “candidate pre-screening”. The term candidate sourcing should not be confused with candidate research. (the detailed description of personnel sourcing, from Wikipedia)

Seems like sourcing has become the new recruiting. So what does that make today’s recruiter?

Honestly, here’s how I see it: from a corporate recruiting perspective at least, “recruiting” has evolved more into client management and/or internal (or active) candidate movement management, and is less about proactive recruiting. That part of the job has, for the most part, been transferred to the sourcing professionals. Don’t get me wrong – this is no small task in and of itself, but it doesn’t resemble a traditional definition of recruiting much anymore. The only place where I think recruiting has remained more focused on actual recruiting activities is in the agency setting. Those folks still know how to smile-and-dial and vigorously pursue non-active prospects.

I’m okay, you’re okay

This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of corporate recruiters who know how to recruit in the traditional sense – I’ve personally worked with TONS of them. Or that this functional evolution is a good or a bad thing. It just is – it’s how things are today based on the ever-changing needs of businesses.

If you’re looking for a sourcing role, it’s best to know what you’re going to be up against. These days, sourcing involves more than just basic candidate name generation. And the same goes for a recruiting role – if you’re looking at both corporate and agency recruiting opportunities, know that you’re comparing a couple of very different functions. Again, it’s neither right nor wrong – it’s simply the way times have changed the focus of each of these functions.

Is this the right role for you?

Here’s the bottom-line reality:  you can’t paint these functions with one brushstroke. But truly, sourcing today is the new recruiting. And whether you’re looking to drive your sourcing or  recruiting career in a particular direction, or you’re looking to build your team with smart, knowledgeable professionals, you need to be willing to change, adapt, grow, and potentially explore new avenues.

If you want to:

  • Hire a great sourcer: look at agency recruiters – they not only know how to source, but also how to get people interested in jobs.
  • Be a great sourcer: get yourself a solid research foundation, but be willing to learn the candidate interaction piece; and you may need to take yourself ‘back to school’ in order to do this – that is, find yourself a traditional full-cycle recruiting role.
  • Hire an awesome corporate recruiter: find someone who can make clients happy, follow process, and get people on-board – maybe someone with more of an HR, organizational development, or project management background.
  • Be an awesome corporate recruiter: be willing and able to put up with cranky clients and prima donna candidates, all while sporting a big smile and remaining professional – and resign yourself to the fact that you may not get to do as much sourcing as you’d like, but partner happily with your dedicated sourcing teammates and don’t be ashamed to ask for help!

Happy Hunting!

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, and, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.


6 Comments on “Is Sourcing the New Recruiting?

  1. This was a interesting and informative article, redefining recruitment processes that applicants would not normally understand.

  2. Sourcing is obviously a huge and essential part of recruiting, but with the prevalence of LinkedIn, it is much less of a challenge than it used to be. (I’m old enough to remember creating phone directories by dialing every extension in a company.) When looking at how the Recruiter role has truly changed in the past ten years – and the biggest challenges we face – the first word that comes to mind is Marketing.

    Top talent is getting half a dozen recruiting Inmails each day. They know they’re in demand. They want more than just a pay increase, they want the whole package: a fun environment, doing work that truly excites them. Recruiters need to think beyond “how do I find them?” and get to “how to I attract them?”

    Recruiters need to become marketing experts. You need to understand branding and social media. You need to partner with the Marketing team and make sure they understand that they’re not just selling your company’s services or products, they’re selling the culture, the environment, the quality of your team, the vision of your leadership.

    Whatever defines your company as a great place to work, THAT needs to be ‘out there’. And that, along with sourcing and all the rest, is part of the new job description of a Recruiter.

    1. Thanks Matt, I agree with most of what you’ve shared here! Partnership with marketing is important – having a unified message from your company will help tie communication efforts together. I don’t necessarily think that it’s “social media” that recruiters need to understand as much as it is just basic communication skills. Social media is simply that – media through which to communicate with people. Social media is simply the tool through which we use the skill of communication to reach people.

  3. It really is interesting read especially if your enter the industry there so much high expectations and know one really tell you the nutty gritty part there so much pressure these days to become a one stop show but I firmly believe sourcing remain vital no matter how it evolves.

  4. This is a bit confusing. The article states that “Candidate sourcing activity typically ends once the name, job title, job function and contact information for the potential candidate is determined by the candidate sourcer.” As an engineer (now in the world of recruiting) that likes structure and a clear differentiation between words/concepts, it bothers me that the recruiting industry is no longer using that definition. Why is this appropriate to call sourcing to be the new recruiting? Sourcing is sourcing. Recruiting is recruiting. It is our job to make sure companies are using the correct terminology. We are the experts…aren’t we?

    1. I understand what you’re saying Sam – it does get confusing. I’ve worked as an Internet Researcher where I did name/profile generation and no contact, just passing information on to recruiters. I’ve been a Sourcer where I’ve done this activity plus initial outreach, after which I would pass a prospect on to recruiters. With the same title, I’ve also done all of these activities plus an initial screen followed by submission to both recruiters and hiring managers. Now I am a Recruiter, and I do all of the above along with closing and client management. It does get confusing and I think speaks to changes in the workplace today of work consolidation with no title (and often PAY) changes. Companies are trying to accomplish more with less. It would be easy if we could standardize the titles a little more, but I doubt that will ever happen.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *