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When I reflect on my career in Talent Acquisition, I am amazed by some of the transformations that I have seen take place. Regardless of your occupation, you have probably seen a number of changes in your world as well. Markets change, technology evolves, and individuals grow. One of the biggest adaptations that I’ve seen is the role of the sourcing specialist. During my days as a third-party agency recruiter, the sourcing specialist was a very entry level position. It was usually someone making about $10/hour who was focused on pipelining candidates for simple, non-technical skill sets.
When I moved from the agency world to the corporate world, I discovered that what I had always referred to as recruiting, corporate America referred to as “sourcing.” All of the skills that I had learned gave me the fundamental tools that I needed to find talent and create relationships with people that I didn’t know. Luckily, my new employer realized the value in those talents and my career in sourcing was off and running.
As I’ve traveled on this journey to where I am today, the role has continued to alter itself and has become what I now view as the modern day sourcer. So what is a modern day sourcer? Well, it’s someone that can have a significant impact on your business at many levels. Here are my ideas on what someone in this role should look like today.
There is no doubt that this is the foundation of sourcing and it’s what most people think of when they envision someone that works in a sourcing capacity. The key to this, of course, is the ability to utilize a variety of means to find data from a variety of sources. In order to be a true search expert, you cannot rely on any one tool or technique. You need to be well-versed in many. Curiosity, continuous education, and the willingness to explore new things are paramount. Many of us are familiar with some of the big name tools out there and how effective they can be. It’s important that these tools are mastered, but it’s also important that someone is not restricted to just those tools and have the ability to be creative in their pursuit of top-notch talent. The path to being a good sourcer does not stop there, however. It’s a multi-faceted job that requires other skills as well.
There is a phenomenon that I witness every now and again that always fascinates me. There is a type of person that I run into at various conferences. I call these people “SIS” and it stands for “Socially Inept Sourcer.” If you have been to a major TA conference, you probably know the people that I’m talking about. Your typical SIS is very adept at putting together giant Boolean strings, hacking the internet, and extracting information from the deep web. If you need someone to locate the lone left-handed bus driver in Berlin, this is your person. It gets interesting when you ask this person “so know that you’ve found them, what’s next?” It’s at this point that your typical SIS will give you a blank stare and start to break out in a sweat.
The reality is that finding the candidate is just the beginning of the adventure. The modern sourcer needs to be an effective communicator and an astute evaluator of talent. It’s one thing to find top-notch talent, but you must also engage and attract that talent. To do this, it’s important to understand the unique value propositions associated with the company that you’re representing and then have the ability to convey that vision with a certain enthusiasm and detail. As the skills gap increases and candidates have more choices, this particular talent becomes more and more valuable. A sourcer with effective communication skills can separate your organization from the pack.
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Thomas Edison once said “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
One of the most common mistakes that I see talent acquisition professionals make is that once they have gathered the requirements for an opening, they haphazardly start their search without taking the time to plan. A quick Boolean search, a glimpse on LinkedIn, and reckless posting seem to be the most common ways that people approach a new requisition. One of the things that a modern sourcer can do that will benefit his/her customers the most is to help them build a robust sourcing plan. Understanding what you’re looking for is important, but so is understanding the market, the tools at your disposal, and the most effective channels to utilize when trying to land top-notch talent.
A talented sourcing professional is in a prime position to help formulate strategies. They are typically on the front lines, talking to people every day and gaining a deeper understanding of the market that they operate in. Along the way, they are also exposed to a great deal of competitive intelligence. Companies that are laying off or going through an acquisition are a gold mine for a sourcing professional and so they are constantly on the lookout for this type of information. In addition, there are many tools available today that allow us to get a deeper look into labor markets and trends that affect our business. I think it’s imperative that everyone in a talent acquisition role has access to and can effectively use a tool like CareerBuilder’s Supply and Demand or Wanted Analytics. These tools give us a great deal of useful information. They bring validity to our opinions and let us act as true talent advisors. The modern day sourcer should be able to not only identify what a hiring manager is looking for but also how to best find this talent and create a structured, analytical approach.
When I was a little boy, I loved the G.I. Joe cartoon. At the end of each episode, there was an educational message followed by the tag line “knowing is half the battle.” I would argue that the other half is sharing what you know. It is one thing to have a subject matter expert on your team. It is quite another to have a subject matter expert that is able and willing to share their expertise. The value of these individuals reaches much farther than their day-to-day activities. Someone who is a competent teacher can increase the functional capability of your entire team.
Your modern day sourcer should be on the cutting edge of the five T’s – tools, tips, tricks, technology, and techniques. Sharing this knowledge increases their value. One of the things that I have found to be most beneficial is understanding that the impact of this doesn’t have to stop at the talent acquisition department. People throughout your organization can benefit from gaining insight into talent acquisition and the processes that drive it. I have seen workshops on understanding passive candidates, proper interviewing techniques, and becoming a talent ambassador all have a positive impact.
The modern sourcer can be a very valuable asset. These individuals can be difficult to find. In many cases, they need to be created or groomed. As our industry continues to change, the demands us as talent acquisition professionals will change and it’s critical that we’re constantly expanding our skill set.