Sourcing Today – So How Did What Happened Happen?

Editor’s Note: Should sourcers be engaging candidates? Maureen Sharib weighs in on the debate. Do you agree with her? Let us know in the comments section below.

79% of all sourcers surveyed in 2013 were required to do that first touch piece of recruiting today as part and parcel to their jobs.

In other words – sourcers are required (by their employers) to find the person and THEN call the person to see if they’d be interested in the employer’s job.

This isn’t what sourcing started out as.

Sourcing was meant to be the FIND piece and then the FIND was meant to be developed by the recruiter.

Tell the truth – did you become a sourcer so you could talk to people about jobs???

Sourcers, you’ve been sucked in to doing something you never wanted to do in the first place – how did that happen?

Here’s how it happened.

You were content to do something that became valued less and less because it became automated more and more and offshored more and more until it came to the point where your employers needed someone with a U.S. voice to reach out to talk with the U.S. candidate that all the automated lists and all the off-shored teams were creating at a few dollars a day, to engage the U.S. candidate in the process because the RoboVoice can’t do it and the teams offshore can’t do it effectively.

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Get it?

They need YOU and there you sit bearing up under this blunt-force trauma with the unhappy nomer “Sourcing Recruiter” which really equates to “Frustrated Sourcer” or “Junior Recruiter” which is what they wanted all along and sure, there are a handful of you who are going to make the crossover and do well as recruiters and God bless you and Godspeed on your journey but there’s a boatload of people who don’t want it, don’t like it and want to be doing it another way!

I understand many of you reading this are working for companies and won’t be able to comment on this other than to refute what I’m saying here (and that’s okay – I know your jobs are hard to come by) but consider what I’m saying and go talk amongst yourselves.

All of this is contributing to the “Recruiting is broken” cry that’s gaining momentum today and the smart money is going to start paying attention.

Will it be you?

image credit: bigstock

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


17 Comments on “Sourcing Today – So How Did What Happened Happen?

  1. Great topic Maureen! I find some of the best models out there include the Researcher, Sourcer, Recruiter connection. Should Sourcers be the 1st touch with a candidate? Maybe if that is the model, do I agree with it? Maybe…LOL I just think it heavily depends the size, scope, and intentions of the sourcing model/function to make an actual opinion. I personally prefer the “research” part and yes that is why I go into Sourcing but I can see how the 3-step model or having a Sourcer make a warm intro helps to make that candidate a stronger fit once they get to the Recruiter. Just my two cents! I would be curious to hear from others in the industry.

    1. Jennifer, see my response to Van. Yes…MAYBE! As you remark, it depends. I’m curious to hear from others too. I appreciate your participation in this string. Maureen

  2. I think, that much of this stems from ignorance of a true sourcers value. A good sourcer like you Maureen, can crush any automated process hands down. The problem as usual comes down to training. Getting sourcers to the level where they are an improvement over automation and offshore models, well that requires training and time. You also run into the typical ROI justification issues too with training.

    Sourcers to me are for name generation and intensive research – full stop. I’ll handle the “high touch” stuff. I happen to enjoy it too. To borrow a phrase from my time in the USMC – Sourcers are a “force multiplier” for any recruiting operation.

    Just looking at a sourcer as a JR recruiter is foolhardy and shortsighted IMO, instead I would move new joins down a branching path – sourcers can either turn into Sr (or Advanced if you like) Sourcers or go into a Recruiting path.

    1. What you say makes perfect sense to me. Gerry Crispin elsewhere in this string seems to say I’m in danger of pigeonholing sourcers in my article. Far from it. I understand a source’s mentality and I hear from them constantly on the back channel what they like/do not like about what they’re being asked to do. Exploratory talks with candidates is definitely NOT what most of them enjoy doing and sourcing is suffering at the moment because many of them are being pigeonholed into THAT and smart as they are many of them have figured out the answer: e/InMail a potential candidate to death – back and forth – ad nauseum – and do this in great numbers so they’re using a spray methodology for the most part – until you get the small sample back that answers everything correctly and affirmatively. This is what is called “engagement and screening” and represents the “engagement” part of sourcing today – it’s all driving me crazy – this reluctance to TALK to anybody on the phone that people have. I wrote a piece on it recently – here.

      I wonder how many department managers understand what’s really happening in their sourcing processes today?

  3. Maureen – I greatly respect you, your work, and your training, but your question “Tell the truth – did you become a sourcer so you could talk to people about jobs???” can be answered “yes” by some of us. I’m a rather senior recruiter/sourcer, and I enjoy the sourcing piece very much, but it wouldn’t be as much fun if I didn’t get to qualify the sourced candidate. Maybe it’s an evolution of the role, maybe it’s just me. But to me sourcing and recruiting are best done when building relationships. I see the need for the work you and others do as well, but working as an in-house sourcing specialist, I see my job as making the jobs of the recruiters I support easier. Giving them a target to shoot at is one thing. Giving them a target that’s easier to hit is quite another. Thanks!

    1. I’m not saying, Van that every single sourcer out there isn’t enjoying the roles they’re placed in today. Obviously you are. Some aren’t. However, you raise a very important piece that some sourcers (and recruiters) don’t get.

      There’s an intuitive piece about sourcing that carries over into recruiting that helps a recruiter greatly when they’ve done their own sourcing and that a sourcer loses out on UNLESS they can express the unique information about a candidate they gleaned when sourcing the candidate – as you obviously can. You see very little written about this phenomenon and if there’s an argument for a sourcer doing the FIRST TOUCH piece it’s this.

  4. Good topic and this post will likely get a lot of comments. My opinion..Sourcing = Research + Prospect Engagement. Research without engagement is only half of the full sourcing process. Sometimes the biggest challenge is not just finding the person, but getting the right person to engage with you. There is a tremendous difference between presenting a group of non-engaged targets versus a group of engaged prospects. This is a good topic discussion and I look forward to the other comments.

    1. If the research is top notch (the research consists ONLY of the right persons) isn’t it a recruiter’s job to engage them? Sourcing was taken out of the recruiter’s day-to-day responsibility BECAUSE of the time costliness of the process and adding the engagement part ON TO the sourcer’s job seems to me to be piling on a tad (not just a tad – the beginning part of the recruiter’s job!) too much. I’m thinking part of this problem begins with the quality of the research and that quality issue probably falls with the over-reliance and gusto that companies have for believing that “everything is on the Internet” when it’s just not. When the contact sport is with only low hanging fruit much of it is going to be rotten – consuming more of your recruiters’ time and energy than necessary. NO WONDER they want to push it back to where it came from. UP your research requirements and you’ll lessen your recruiter resistance.

  5. This discussion reminds me of the discussing amongst (web)
    designers whether or not coding is part of their job . Some designers state
    that their key skill is drawing (pretty) interfaces, and not the coding that
    translates those drawings into actual user interfaces. Others say that a
    designer that can also code is way more effective.

    To answers your main question Maureen; I got into sourcing
    to be effective. So engaging with candidates is something I love to do myself,
    because I know it increases the effectiveness of my work.

  6. In my opinion I agree with you Maureen. Truthfully, prior to my current position as a sourcer, I didn’t even like agency recruiters (perm placement) as I thought they weren’t working fast enough to help me find the next step in my career, but now being in the industry I understand the ins and outs, thus allowing me to have a better appreciation for the industry.

    I fell into sourcing after my company could not decide who to hire for the Exec Admin job, thus a role was “created” for me as a sourcer (they never had one in 15 years of business). Why? I like projects, researching – finding those things that people cannot find and the challenges that go along with it. I like to be left alone, quite frankly, I am very social but do not like talking to customers/clients, my phone call conversations in my 20 year career have been short and to the point, thus, talking to candidates/clients is not a favorite of mine, however, I can and occasionally do call a candidate (upon request from my supervisor, the recruiter).

    Can I engage a candidate? If I can keep an electrical engineer engaged from NASA for a 20 minute conversation about Mars and the Hubble Telescope while discussing hardware and IC’s along with getting 6 referrals, I would say yes. Phone calling can be fun and very informative once the candidate is engaged.

    As the sole sourcer I support 6 recruiters and 2 account managers in 4 different industries (for sourcing candidates and companies) along with database management duties, reporting projects for COO/CEO and other duties. At the agency I work for I report to the senior recruiter and my work entails searching and resume assignments, as well being the “go to gal” for many areas (since recruiters are recruiters and not always computer/database savy).

    I am sure there are many others like myself. If I had to be on the phone along with the sourcing, I would need more wine and a clone. I will leave the phone calling/engagement to the experts, recruiters/account managers, after all, they have the relationship with our client (the company and its hiring mangers/CEOs and VPs).

    I wonder if there are others out in the industry like myself?

    1. Something tells me you’re a wiz at finding anything – including phone numbers! I’m thinking one of the problems the sourcer-recruiter handoff is suffering is the quality and veracity of the information handed off. If my customers can’t sit down at their desk and CALL the name and title I give them ON THE PHONE and get them to either answer or get a VoiceMail they’re not very happy and I don’t expect them to pay me for crap like that.
      How many sourcers feel like this? I expect to hear from only the ones who do in this string but stating so publicly at least sets the standard.

  7. Although the market may be a bit unenlightened to the true value of the sourcer AND SEPARATE recruiter model, telling the market what it can and can’t want/have is a damn tough sell!

    Especially when there are so many sourcers that CAN DO and have done a great job in this new amalgamation of not only finding the fish but also setting the hook.

    1. If I came across as telling the market what it can and can’t do – I didn’t mean to and apologize for sounding like that. There are a lot of great sourcers out there but if you’ll read my remarks to some of the other comments in this string, Michael I think you’ll understand my “concerns” a little more fully. Again, I’m sorry if I offended you, or anyone reading my caustic remarks. Maureen

  8. Talking about how round or square the hole should be requires us to stereotype all sourcers and all recruiters as born (or trained) to happily fit one standard mold. As a cog mechanically grinding out leads into prospects into candidates into bodies-in-seats as efficiently and productively as possible is the inevitable result of trying to fit people into a job description. Its the same argument made more than100 years ago when IE’s designed manufacturing assemblies into discrete jobs and then the jobs into tasks and finally units of motion (therbligs). Great theory until someone discovered the ‘line’ of workers could outperform their ‘description’ if you let them work as a team. Every recruiting ‘team’ formed for every opening from hiring manager to admin support, sourcer, recruiter, HR, etc. is more proficient if they have the flexibility to develop beyond applying their specific expertise (i.e. approve, find, engage, schedule, etc.) AND let the interface where they handoff (initial engagement) and much more reside within the team. Experienced leaders fight for their teams to the have the tactics, tools and training and then get out of the way when it comes to decisions the teams should make. World-class leaders develop strategies to measure, and feedback what their best teams do to scale the results they achieve. Nowhere in this scenario would/should a sourcer be required, forced or prevented from engaging candidates out of context of the company culture, team’s composition and expected results. That said, the results should drive the next set of choices each team makes.

    1. Truer words not spoken: “Nowhere in this scenario would/should a sourcer be required, forced or prevented from engaging candidates out of context of the company culture, team’s composition and expected results.”
      I’m asking that they not be required or forced.
      Many today are.

  9. I would say I have to agree with Van. His words really could be my words. I greatly respect the true research piece of sourcing and certainly feel it is the critical key part of sourcing, and without it, sourcing would not be, well, sourcing. However, I like that my role as a sourcer has evolved into an expansion on this skill. I do like to talk to candidates about jobs. Do I want to be a full fledged recruiter? Nope! But I do like finding people through different ways and means and selling them on a great opportunity they knew nothing about. Sourcing did start out as just the finding piece, but I think it has expanded greatly. Now it seems that sourcers can pick and choose on whether to specialize in just one area, i.e. phone sourcing, like yourself, — or they can use a larger toolkit to do a number of other helpful things for their recruiters. I like the versatility. I did phone sourcing for years…just phone sourcing, assisted by internet and directory research – and to be honest, I got a bit burnt out. I am glad I have been able to add more to this skill set. It has helped me grow and expand professionally and has opened up more job opportunities for me.

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