Use the Phone and Ask the Right Questions to Source More Candidates

headhunter on the phoneNowadays, as technology does a lot of the sourcing (and, to some extent, the recruiting) in a lot of companies, people are no longer on the phones much talking to people, exchanging information, bumping into and up against those kernels and nuggets of information that, so often in the past, were turned into wheat fields and mines of trade.

You know how this happens (or maybe you don’t).

In the old days:

You’d receive a job order.

You’d study it and talked to the customer to understand it.

You’d begin to look for candidates in a number of places but in the way-back days the real old “headhunters” started calling into companies to see who had the skills the job called for.

The really old-fashioned headhunter would talk with the gatekeeper and learn that Joe was the guy who was sent out to customer sites to fix the furnaces that made the buildings shake when he lit the boiler so it was Joe the old-fashioned headhunter set his cap to talk with.

 Not so much anymore.

LinkedIn delivers stuff like that right to your desktop – right?

In the case of Joe, the furnace-fixer – probably not so much.

Joe’s making six figures, is on the road covering several states most days of the week and doesn’t have a whole lot of time for LinkedIn  – or social media in general beyond what his family’s social life consists of.

When he’s home, he has to fix his own furnace, the kitchen sink, mow the grass, and feed the dog. If you know what I mean.

It still takes someone to call into the companies Joe works for to find the Joes of the world and there’s a subset of sourcer (phone) and old-fashioned headhunter, still doing that.

You just don’t hear much about it because all the excitement and press pretty much goes to the hot, sexy internet stuff and the tools and techniques that make recruiters (and sourcers) lives easy. That’s okay. I’m not complaining, phone sourcer that I am.

What I’m here to tell you about is what you’re missing out on because you’ve chosen the low (or the high, depending on how you see things) road in sourcing/recruiting.

When you’re not calling into companies, and talking to people on that early first blush of a job you’re not learning things.

You’re not discerning things. You’re not hearing the Gatekeeper unthinkingly blurt, gripped in her grief, “We lost him unexpectantly last month and he hasn’t been replaced.  They’re looking for a replacement but so far that seat’s empty.  It’s been hard.” 

I recently heard this on a Director of Operations job I was working on for a Midwest industrial manufacturer.

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You don’t get a chance, when you speak with one of the engineers in a manufacturing environment, to learn that the company hires just about anyone with CNC experience they can find who lives within twenty-five miles.

You miss out learning that a company is opening a new branch in another city and the Plant Manager has been away all month struggling to hire in that city and is sorely missed.

Information like that is invaluable and it doesn’t come perusing resumes on a job board or looking at profiles on LinkedIn.

It comes when you’re calling into companies and talking to real, live flesh-and-blood people who give you fresh, interesting information that impacts their working lives and that you can turn into jobs.

Calling into companies gives you insider information.

This is what I call job sourcing and it’s one of the sister activities to telephone sourcing and both activities are fueled probing for answers by asking the right questions of flesh-and-blood human beings and actively listening to those answers.

A lot of people shrink from asking questions like there’s something wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with it. This crazy paranoia about privacy on one hand and the obscene obsessiveness to know everything online about others speaks to a neurotic (maybe psychotic) split in the public’s consciousness somewhere along the line that makes absolutely no sense and has no basis in any semblance of wholesomeness.

When we ask questions of one another we show interest in one another’s lives. There are boundaries to questions and the art of asking questions is to know where those boundaries are.

In the future I’ll be writing more about boundaries, the art (and science) of telephone sourcing today and how telephone sourcing is one of the best job generators in recruiting.

It’ll be fun. Join me. Won’t 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!


2 Comments on “Use the Phone and Ask the Right Questions to Source More Candidates

  1. Remember the “old days” of calling into companies to get email addresses of contacts. Despite all the great advances in technology, email permutators, verifiers, social media etc this is still probably the fastest way to obtain information (when it works).

  2. Well Written Maureen!
    Tools and techniques sure makes recruiters (and sourcers) lives easy.
    One such latest tool is eMail Prospector , which is an automatic e-mail finding tool. It gets you valid business e-mail address based on the names and company.

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