Sourcing Evolution: What’s Next?

Every year, someone comes along and declares that ‘sourcing is dying.’ It’s usually someone who is a recruiter, or someone who doesn’t really understand what sourcing is all about. But occasionally it is one of our own. The truth is, the only people who are worried about sourcing ‘dying out’ are those who are unable or unwilling to adapt their skills to meet changing demands. Sourcing isn’t dying, it’s changing. It’s morphing. It’s evolving. And if you aren’t busy honing your skills and adapting to the changing needs of the marketplace, then yes — you are a dying breed.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You are in charge of your own career. You call the shots in your own life… right? If not — you have some things to think about.

I heard a story once about some telephone line technicians who were warned with several months’ notice that their jobs would be eliminated, due to decreasing demand of landlines. In that same breath, they were offered an opportunity to be re-trained in wireless technology so they could attempt to find work in the same industry with a slightly different focus. They were not guaranteed jobs; they would have to re-apply, but they had experience and tenure on their side. Some chose to pursue the training, and many were reabsorbed into the company working on wireless technologies. Others chose to pout and complain that their profession was ‘dying’ and how it was unfair that they had to look for work again. They did not take the re-training and thus were made redundant.

How many of you have had some version of this happen in your professional career? Guaranteed it will happen at some point, if it hasn’t already. Life is not stagnant; it is constantly changing to meet societal demands. If you are not green and growing, then you are red and rotting. Technology has changed and will continue to change the way we live and work. Stopping the development and acceptance of technology is like trying to stop the world from revolving – it is an exercise in futility.

Here are some of my own thoughts on the idea of the changing role of sourcing:

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  • Information is more easily accessible today; this simply means a greater need for more sophisticated data interpretation and application. Just because you have access to information doesn’t mean you know what to do with it.
  • The amount of data available today is staggering. We are searching for a needle in ten haystacks as opposed to just one. Finding people is no longer the challenge – finding the right people is.
  • Search automation tools have become integral parts of our recruiting organizations — but there still needs to be a human ‘driver’ managing these tools. And the more sophisticated these tools become, the greater the need for a highly intelligent, trained individual to ensure quality results from these tools. Automation tools do NOT replace humans.
  • Sourcing and marketing have become synonymous. Marketing consists heavily of market research, from which strategies are developed to reach target audiences and promote products and/or services. Sound familiar? Sourcers would do well attaching themselves to their company’s marketing department, learning about what they do, and figuring out how to apply some of those skills to their own sourcing activities.
  • Messaging is so important today. In line with some of the above thoughts, finding people has become easier. Finding the right people, not quite as easy. Communicating a compelling message to the right people — that’s the challenge. Sourcers need to improve their communication skills — both with candidates and within their own organizations — in order to grab the attention of their desired audience. We are competing with so many other distractions for people’s attention; creating a compelling and convincing message is of the utmost importance in the role of sourcing today.

You may not agree with some, or all, of the above thoughts. But I encourage you to at least think about them, and then think about why you disagree. And to those who would say that sourcing is dying, I challenge you to think in a different direction:

  • What has changed in our profession that is causing you to think this way?
  • What are some things that people can do to avoid becoming redundant?
  • What are companies and clients asking of sourcers today that they weren’t asking of us two or three years ago?
  • How can we continue to uplift the sourcing community and support each others’ desires to continue being valued members of our recruiting organizations?
  • Most importantly, what are some ways we can demonstrate to our managers, clients, and organizations that our value is vitally important to the success of our recruiting practices?

I look forward to your comments and thoughts. Happy Sourcing!

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.


10 Comments on “Sourcing Evolution: What’s Next?

  1. Sourcing people has existed in one form or the other since the beginning of civilization. It is not going to die.
    What is changing and will forever is how you source. Old ticks die and new tricks are born.
    My company, eGrabber, is at the leading edge of developing tools to improve productivity of sourcers.

  2. Well said Amy; particularly the comment on Marketing and Messaging. The lines between Marketing, Sourcing, Branding, Recruiting and Competitive Intelligence are becoming more blurry. Or least the should be.

    Jim Rose

  3. Well said Amy; particularly the comment on Marketing and Messaging. The lines between Marketing, Sourcing, Branding, Recruiting and Competitive Intelligence are becoming more blurry. Or least the should be.

  4. “the more sophisticated these tools become, the greater the need for a highly intelligent, trained individual to ensure quality results from these tools” – That is a big YES, or disregard and have low ROI.

    What’s next – vertical hard skills, sourcers as leaders and I see a few more on the horizon.

  5. You are spot on Amybeth.

    Yesterday we have had a group meeting where we introduced “Recruitment Marketing” function in recruitment. Creating employment brand, communities, engagement, social media – all in line with sourcing. With information outburst, one need sophisticated tools and techniques to use them with competitive advantage. LinkedIn 4 years before had the advantage – not much of now.

    At the heart, you have to be good with search strings, boolean, communications, candidate engagement, selling, internet research etc. However, with changing times you need to be updated about new tools, techniques to manage these processes with human touch. It’s no more whether you can JUST source… but it’s more important that you source RIGHT candidates faster than your competitors even if you do passive / social media searching.

    Great overview…. You should write more often… 🙂

  6. Recruitment for me now is becoming Marketing and Positioning. The people are there, every where, more accessible than ever and declaring what they have to offer in many social media forms. So the key is to position yourself in front of where they are active in the online world.

    Once in front of them if you can segment your niche (i.e. identify the right people) then you build and interact with your targetted followings.

    There is so much out there, it is just a question of startegy and interaction to collate it in to the relevant groups and niches for your specialisms.

    Craig Milbourne
    Director & Co Founder – Comms Point Recruitment solutions
    Management Consulting and Social Media for Recruitment Specialist

  7. Thanks for all of these thoughtful comments everyone. I think it is important for all of us sourcers to consider progress in our careers. The world is constantly changing, as are our companies, and we need to make sure we’re staying current. Sometimes (and I would even say often) this means taking some big lessons from other parts of our companies and opening our minds to external influence. I’m glad to see that there appears to be some interest in doing this!

    1. 1) I agree that a sourcer should stay current
      2) I agree that sourcing will live in (and under) other forms and will not die but:
      If you are a middle man, or a broker type sourcer yes, you will die! Today there’s no room for such people or companies. Manufacturers market their products by themselves, and “big” buyers use their own employees (hired sourcing agents) to find the manufacturers. If you think you can source, buy and sell something that you don’t produce/manufacture you should either find a very new item which is not yet listed on the web but has a great potential to be a “hot-hit”, or you should find a stupid who is ready to pay you an extra 10-15% instead of buying it directly from the manufacturer. In that sense, the sourcing is quite easy, sales and marketing is the problem. You can find anything, any time, at any quality, and at any price but you cannot sell it. Then what is the value of a sourcer?

      1. By the way, candidate sourcing is quite different than product sourcing. I do agree that it will not die.

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