Some Thoughts on Sourcing Skills vs. Tools

I talk to a lot of sourcers –I ask them about their work and which tools they use. You might say as a marketer, blogger, and speaker within the industry, I’m a keen observer of sourcers and recruiters.

One of my favorite questions to ask is this: What sourcing tools do you use?

A popular answer is LinkedIn Recruiter. Now, I am not a sourcer myself — but as a sourcer, does that make you upset? Does it make you worried?

It probably should. LinkedIn Recruiter is an effective (albeit expensive) tool that, for all intents and purposes allows people to call themselves sourcers. No research background necessary, no Boolean strings, no X-Raying Google or Bing, no geolocation tricks. And certainly, no need for telephone sourcing.

Is this how sourcers are trained now?

Have sourcers become so dependent on the tools that the skills have fallen by the wayside? Some would argue that with new and sophisticated algorithms, a sourcer’s primary job has been replaced. Others stand fast in the knowledge that despite all the shiny new tools, having a skilled and competent sourcer can give a recruiting team the solid boost it needs to stay competitive.

Let’s go back to another question that I frequently ask when I speak on building talent communities. Who here has a talent community that they use for sourcing and recruiting?

Inevitably one or two people will raise their hands and say, “We have Jobs2Web; the talent community came with it.” Face palm. I don’t blame busy sourcers or overwhelmed HR practitioners. I don’t blame the vendors that are trying to create profitable and easy-to-use software. I blame the pervasive attitude that platforms do the work!

At the end of every “cool tools” session, during the course of every case study, within the text of every article someone is touting some tool or platform and if you listen closely at least 85% of those same people will say “But it’s not a silver bullet…” but I’m not sure that we’re getting that message. And it’s quietly affecting the practitioners and newcomers to our industry.

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Many of the sourcers that I am meeting and speaking with on a regular basis know nothing of the building blocks or solid training that I heard about when I came into the industry a mere five years ago. They are being trained, but not to sleuth and “find the purple squirrel” – instead, they are being trained to push buttons and pull levers. It’s easier for sure. Corporations and organizations need people to push buttons and pull levers. But anyone who starts their career with that as their most marketable skill will eventually find their career automated. Which is a darn shame, because sourcers, true sourcers, may be the most well-equipped to handle the fire hose of social that continues to pummel the HR Industry.

You see, with all this over-dependence on the platforms, we forget that sourcing experts are the conduits into the organization. And there are many more attraction channels than there were ten, five, or even two years ago. With a new social recruiting (or just plain social) tool appearing on the horizon every week or two, what better than the research function of talent acquisition to find out how to use it to increase the talent pool, pipeline, database or, yeah I’ll say it, community?

A true sourcer is proud of the top-notch talent they unearth and bring to their recruiting team and are not likely to let a prime candidate languish in a sea of under-qualified, mismatched resumes. Their engagement skills as they watch the streams of data get ever larger and the candidates needed even more niche, will be the ones primed to connect the dots and engage with quality candidates in a proactive and real way.

The good news is that with a proliferation of free tools and platforms comes a great deal of solid and innovative training. And education in virtually any vertical can be had online from nearly anywhere, but sourcing and social lend themselves phenomenally well to online learning. Sourcing experts like Ryan Leary, Kelly Dingee, and Amitai Givertz and more will give you great information for practically nothing on the Internet. There are quick and easy tutorials for generalists who want to stick their pinky toe in the seemingly “for smarties only” world of sourcing. And there is something to be said for professional certifications and trainers.

Learning to use more than the latest and greatest platforms will not only make your skill set more valuable but will also allow sourcers to truly shape the social recruiting revolution. Tools and platforms are powerful engines, but sourcers should be the ones driving the car.

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, a consultancy offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, she has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the recruitment and talent space. Find her at or on Twitter -- @marenhogan.


2 Comments on “Some Thoughts on Sourcing Skills vs. Tools

  1. This is one of the most cogent pieces of information I’ve seen published about sourcing today, Maren.

    I’m not surprised it’s not been commented on.
    Many “sourcers” today don’t want to hear your message.
    They have their heads stuck in the sand.

    It’s far easier to talk to a keyboard than it is to a candidate.
    Few have effective “engagement skills” and fewer still want to develop any!

    I don’t know why you said “certainly, no need for telephone sourcing.”
    I’m busier than I’ve ever been!

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer
    513 899 9628

  2. I actually disagree with Maureen to some degree.  It all depends on what types of roles and who you are sourcing.  For me, software engineers are savvy.  Many companies are smart now.  People don’t have desk phones anymore, or they sit in open cubes and thus do not have phones or do not answer their phones.  Sales guys love to talk all day, and you can reach them, not engineers.  Internet sourcing and networking is key.  You have to go where the coders live, whether that is tech groups, associations, etc.  I have read many articles that say cold calling is dead, and I agree to some degree.  I have been recruiting for 14 years, and have never been afraid to get on the phone, but times have changed.

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