What it Takes to Become a World Class Sourcer or Recruiter by @GlenCathey

Would you like to know what it takes to become a world class sourcer or recruiter?

If so, you’re in luck, because I will explain precisely how to become one in this post.

The good news is that all it takes is practice, and it doesn’t take anywhere close to the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell suggests in Outliers.

No one is born with a sourcing or recruiting gene, so no one is predispositioned for sourcing/recruiting greatness – it’s pretty much a level playing field without any significant barriers to entry.

The bad news (for some) is that it takes “deliberate practice,” which by design isn’t fun, is hard work, is mentally challenging, and improves performance by design.

Read on if you are intrepid enough to unlock the secrets of the 8-factor deliberate practice formula for becoming a world class sourcer or recruiter (or anything else for that matter).

There is No Such Thing as Talent

First things first –

there is no such thing as having a “talent” for sourcing or recruitingClick To Tweet.

I’ve worked with and trained many recruiters over the span of my career, and I’ve often had people “explain away” my sourcing and recruiting ability with the excuse that I have a “talent” for it.

In my first few years in recruiting, it was nice to get the compliment, and I accepted that at face value.

I never really wondered where my ability came from – I assumed I actually did have a “talent” for sourcing and recruiting. Over time, however, it started to bother me because it was obvious that some people felt they might not be able to do the things that I have been able to do because they didn’t have the “talent” for it like I have.

I’m happy to tell the world I don’t have a “talent” for sourcing or recruiting.

If I have any talents, they would be a solid work ethic and an insatiable desire to figure things out. These are not unique aptitudes, nor are they sourcing/recruiting specific.

So, if people who are great sourcers and recruiters don’t have a talent for it, how did they become so good?

Could it be training?

Training is Great, but not the Key to GreatnessClick To Tweet

When I train people or present at conferences, I often get asked, “How did you learn all this stuff?”

I honestly think most people are looking for some source of information or training that they can take to learn all of the things I have learned to do.

Most people are clearly disappointed to hear that I am self-taught.

That’s right – I learned pretty much everything I know now through trial and error, which is layman’s terminology for the scientific method.

I know – some of you have to be thinking it’s odd for me to bring the scientific method into how I’ve learned what I have about sourcing and recruiting. Trust me, it’s not odd at all. Structured, disciplined trial and error is one of the most effective methods of learning, and it is also a solid foundation for discovery and innovation.

The fact that I am self-taught often leads people circularly back to the talent excuse: if I am self-taught, I must have some kind of talent for sourcing and recruiting, and other people can’t hope to learn what I know and do what I can do because they can’t go through the same training I did or read the same information I have, because it simply doesn’t exist.

This is similar to asking someone where they bought an object in the hopes of being able to buy it, only to learn the person custom made it and doesn’t sell them, and thus no one else can acquire the same object.

However, I think the proper perspective is that people should be encouraged that you can gain significant expertise without having to take a single training class!

Perhaps one of the most significant takeaways from this article is the very fact that formal sourcing and recruiting training – at least the kind that is available from most people and companies today – isn’t a prerequisite for mastery.

Committing to self-study is critical because I’d argue strongly that it is more likely to produce discovery and innovation in any field or profession.

Have you heard about the 17 year old who recently received Intel’s Young Scientist Award for his work on micro search (think Twitter and Facebook status updates)? He won the award for his research into the field of computer science known as information retrieval, by identifying statistical relationships between words to get better search results from tweets and Facebook status updates.

When a Wall Street Journal reporter asked him what was it that helped him crack the code of getting better search results, he responded by saying he leveraged a Markov chain in developing his algorithm.

Then the reporter asked him, “How does a 17 year old know about Markov chains?” The boy responded with, “Uh, I did a lot of self-study,” and “…mostly just a lot of reading.”

Yeah.

On his own.

Where does “Talent” Come From?

So, I hope I have made it abundantly clear that no one has an innate “talent” for sourcing and recruiting, although that certainly won’t stop people from using the term to describe why people are good at what they do.

What I have in lieu of “talent,” and I am sure this is true for many others, is 2 factors that I believe have contributed significantly to developing my skills and ability.

#1 A combination of personality traits: I’m competitive (I hate to lose), analytical, solution oriented, tenacious, and I really enjoy figuring things out. Nothing really special there – certainly not a rare combination of traits, and I’m sure many people share them.

#2 Lots of “deliberate practice.” This is something anyone can consciously choose to do, and it’s what really separates world-class performers of all kinds from everyone else.

You may be wondering what “deliberate practice” is, and how it’s different from plain old regular practice.

Well, let me tell you.

Practice isn’t “Just Practice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d29VsG35DQM&feature=youtu.be

Back in October 2008, I read an article in Fortune magazine titled “Why Talent is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin. It completely changed my understanding of my own so-called “talents” and how I came to achieve them.

If you haven’t read the article or the book that Geoff wrote  – I strongly urge you to do so. They are fascinating reads that will give you significant insight as to exactly why some people are so much better than others at what they do.

In both the article and the book, Geoff Colvin articulates the concept of “deliberate practice” very well – it is a unique kind of activity, characterized by several elements that when combined, form a powerful whole greater than the sum of their parts.

As I read Geoff’s content, I realized that I owe a great deal of my sourcing and recruiting skills and ability to “deliberate practice” and I firmly believe anyone for the most part can replicate the conditions under which I learned the art and science of sourcing and recruiting.

I will only briefly summarize the 8 critical elements that define and differentiate “deliberate practice” from what most people think of when it comes to practice, because Colvin does such a fantastic job of going into significant detail when explaining the concept.

Trust me – at least read the article, if not the book.

#1 Deliberate Practice Improves Performance by Design

Do you practice your sourcing and recruiting techniques, strategies and methodologies daily at work?

While most people wouldn’t characterize what they do each day as “practice,” everyone should, or at least those who are committed to excellence and being the best they can be.

However, Deliberate Practice is specifically designed to improve performance by continually stretching you just beyond your current ability.

Unfortunately, when most people “practice” at work, they are just doing what they’ve always done – which does nothing to improve performance.

Unlike many professional athletes, most business professionals (including sourcers and recruiters) do not go to work every day specifically trying to get better at what they do.

It’s something many people may talk about, but very few people actually do.

Geoff Colvin cuts to the root of the matter, pointing out that “Most fundamentally, what we generally do at work is directly opposed to the first principle: It isn’t designed by anyone to make us better at anything. Usually it isn’t designed at all: We are just given an objective that’s necessary to meeting the employer’s goals and then expected to get on with it.”

If you are looking to master sourcing and recruiting, you must specifically design your approach at work to improve your performance – not simply meet goals and objectives, or worse yet, simply get your job done so you can go home every day and do what you really want to do.

You will need to specifically practice what you are not currently good at, always seeking that which is just beyond your ability. In athletics, this is similar to the idea of playing people or teams who are slightly better than you.

Do you passionately attack positions that you’ve never worked before, that you don’t have a pipeline for, that are difficult for you to understand, or that require a rare combination of skills that is difficult to find? Or do you post the job, hope for the right people to respond, and move on to something you’re more comfortable with?

Even as early as my first 6 months as a recruiter, I specifically sought out the toughest positions my company had and I quickly became the “go to” recruiter for any opening that no one else could fill. When I would tackle each one of those “purple squirrel” positions, I unknowingly accelerated my learning and I am certain I increased by abilities far beyond what they would have been had I “played it safe” and focused only on the easy to fill positions.

When you finally do find a candidate, are you relieved at your success and achievement, or do you ask yourself whether or not this is the BEST candidate you could find?

I can recall many times when I would find 2-3 very well matched candidates for a particular position, and I would ask my account manager if they were pleased with the current slate of candidates, and if they would like to see if I could find an even better match, or perhaps someone more closed, or someone who was just as qualified as all of the previous candidates but happy to accept 5-10K less in compensation. Sometimes I would do this without asking – just to see if I could.

After every message you leave for a potential candidate, do you ask yourself what you could have done better? Or do you send pretty much the same messages to and leave the same voice mails for everyone? Do you strive for a perfect 100% response rate (yes, even from people who aren’t looking for jobs), or are you happy with a 50% response rate?

Do you even know what your response rate is?

You might find it interesting to know that in my first year in recruiting, I challenged myself to never leave the same voicemail or send the same email/message twice.

Why do you think I did that to myself?

#2 Deliberate Practice Requires High Repetition

Properly conducted, deliberate practice involves a high amount of repetition, and it is critical to choose an activity that is just beyond your current ability.

When it comes to deliberate practice, Colvin points out that volume matters, explaining that “Top performers repeat their practice activities to stultifying extent.”

If you seek to become a world class sourcer or recruiter, you will need to deliberately practice each and every step of the sourcing and recruiting life cycle A LOT, with a specific intent on improving your performance at every step.

For sourcing, this would include the entire process of analyzing and interpreting job requirements, translating the requirements into queries that are highly likely to find the right/best people, analyzing the results for relevance, and incrementally and iteratively refining the search strings based on the observed relevance, intel gained, and patterns recognized from the results of each successive search.

When it comes to deliberate practice, volume of repetition is key.

Aside from candidate search, one obvious area where you have significant control over the volume of repetition is the amount of calls you make daily to new candidates.

For example, some recruiters make 20 or fewer calls to new potential candidates each day. Some double, triple, and even quadruple that volume.

“So what?,” you ask?

Well, with all things being equal, a person making twice as many calls to new candidates every day can learn and improve twice as fast.

That’s what.

“Big deal. What can you learn from making more phone calls?,” you say?

How about learning and discovering more effective methods of:

  • Starting conversations with passive candidates
  • Handling objections (e.g., “I’m not looking,” “What’s it pay?,” etc.)
  • Eliciting referrals
  • Closing and controlling active candidates
  • Candidate evaluation
  • Selling your opportunity
  • Matching
  • Gaining competitive and organizational intel

That’s just to name a few – do any of them ring a bell?

Yeah – a good portion of the “meat” of what’s important in recruiting.

#3 Deliberate Practice Involves Continuous Feedback

When performing deliberate practice, feedback on results is ideally continuously available.

Without continuous feedback, you don’t have any real way of knowing how well you’re actually doing.

When applying this concept to sourcing, the continuous feedback should be painfully obvious – with every search you run, you are either finding a large volume of highly relevant results (well matched/qualified candidates), or not (lots of results, but many false positives, and few highly relevant results).

As Colvin points out, the aspect of continuous feedback may seem obvious, but not necessarily so when results require interpretation. In many cases, continuous feedback from a coach, teacher, or mentor is a critical factor in providing feedback.

The problem with sourcing is that all searches “work.” However, just because you get results doesn’t mean you’re finding all of the best people to be found.

You may be pleased with the quantity and quality of your results and potential candidates, but until a highly proficient mentor reviews and assesses your results and candidates objectively, you may actually be in a dangerous state of ignorant bliss.

Without feedback from a knowledgeable peer, coach, or mentor, you literally don’t know what you don’t know, and you may not be able to get a sense of what your Boolean queries are excluding and incapable of returning, or the quality of candidates you could actually be recruiting.

For other ideas regarding continuous feedback – when it comes to recruiting and submitting candidates to your manager or client, do you proactively ask for feedback and for what you could do better on the next candidate submittal?

When interacting with the people you’re trying to recruit – have you ever bothered to ask how well you’re doing compared to all of the other recruiters they’ve worked with?

Does your recruiting organization offer candidate experience surveys, even to people that you weren’t able to recruit and submit for an opportunity?

Interesting idea, yes?

#4 Deliberate Practice is Mentally Challenging!

Article Continues Below

This one might seem a bit obvious, but Colvin claims that deliberate practice requires a high degree of mental focus and concentration, differentiating it from simple and mindless repetition.

When you’re sourcing, your brain should definitely be “on,” and you should not just be quickly coming up with a single search and reviewing your results for people to contact.

You should be specifically focusing on the analysis of the relevance of your search results, seeking to identify patterns of false positives and seeking ways to safely eliminate them, discovering additional related and relevant terms that you did not originally search for, questioning whether or not you in fact found all of the best candidates that a particular source has to offer, and continually seeking ways to not only improve the relevance of the results, but also to increase the quantity of high quality results requires significant focus and concentration.

World class sourcing is 95% thought process and strategy, 5% Boolean operators and syntax!

When you’re recruiting, are you challenging yourself to continually find new and more effective ways of getting passive and highly discriminating talent to respond to you? Do you constantly seek to turn those, “No thanks, I’m not looking” people into candidates and applicants? Are you pushing yourself to figure out how you can effectively elicit referrals from everyone you speak to?

If you’re not constantly challenging yourself, you’re not growing and improving.

#5 Deliberate Practice is Hard Work

As Colvin so aptly points out, “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”

Deliberate practice requires you to specifically target what you’re not good at, which can be an uncomfortable and perhaps painful, if not enlightening, process – which explains why most people actually shy away from deliberate practice.

If it were easy and fun to become truly great at something, everyone would be great – that explains why there are so few true top performers/masters in every endeavor.

It’s pretty easy to post a job, wait for people to apply, contact and screen the applicants.

How about calling and recruiting passive candidates as well as people who aren’t looking to make a change?

Yeah – not so easy.

Which is exactly why you should purposefully target and reach out to passive and non-job seekers daily, because in order to get better at recruiting, you can’t always stick to the easy stuff. Plus, with every outreach effort to and connection with a passive or non-job seeker, you will learn from the experience.

Think of passive and non-job seeker recruiting as the backhand to your forehand, which would be recruiting active candidates.

When it comes to sourcing – most sourcers and recruiters can run Boolean search strings to find candidates in their ATS/CRM applications, on the Internet, social media sites, and job board resume databases – so it seems easy.

But just because you can do something, it doesn’t actually mean you’re actually any good at it. Anyone can type in some keywords and hit the “search” button, but not everyone can find all of the best potential candidates every source has to offer.

This goes back to point #3 – many people are not capable of objectively judging the quantity and quality of their search results and also rarely have access to a basis of comparison. If you are not even aware that you could be getting more and better results more quickly, talent mining seems simple and the idea that you need perform hard work to practice to improve your skills and abilities may seem preposterous.

Beware if you are ever finding yourself getting satisfied with your current level of ability, because it may be a sure sign that either:

  1. You’re actually not as good as you think you are, or
  2. You don’t prioritize or commit to improving your skills – or perhaps both!

If you ever find your daily work to be getting too easy – it’s time to purposefully find something to challenge yourself with, because if you’re comfortable, you’re most assuredly not growing and mastering your craft.

#6 Deliberate Practice Focuses on the Process, Not the End Result

To become a top performer, you need to set goals that specifically focus on improving your skills and ability.

Colvin explains that “…the poorest performers don’t set goals at all; they just slog through their work. Mediocre performers set goals that are general and are often focused on simply achieving a good outcome – win the order; get the new project proposal done. The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome.”

When I read that, especially that last sentence, I literally had an epiphany because it explains so much about my performance and achievements.

Looking back at my career in recruiting, I was never really focused making hires, which is of course the obvious goal of recruiting.

I also never set a goal for any specific number of hires or even interviews per month (other than having the most on the team of course).

Instead, I was always specifically focused on finding the highest quantity of the best possible candidates for the positions I focused in the least amount of time.

By focusing on having the highest number of well-matched and closed candidates on my team every day, I typically had the highest number of monthly candidate submittals as well.

At any given submittal to interview and submittal to hire ratio, with quality a constant – more submittals will equal more interviews and hires.

Funny how that works.

I was able to achieve record hiring volumes, not by setting a goal of a specific number or hires, but instead by focusing on the “top of the funnel” sourcing and recruiting activities.

It is a deceptively simple difference – focusing on the process of achieving the outcome rather than achieving the outcome itself – but it is a significant difference that separates top performers from everyone else.

#7 Deliberate Practice Requires Metacognition

Research has shown that top performers monitor what is happening in their own minds and ask questions of themselves. This process is known as metacognition.

John H. Flavell, an American developmental psychologist, explains that metacognition “refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data.”

Colvin points out that top performers perform metacognition “much more systematically than others do; it’s an established part of their routine.”

In the effort to become a world class sourcer or recruiter, metacognition plays a critical role in every step of the life cycle.

In sourcing, metacognition plays a critical role in the process of analyzing and interpreting job requirements and determining what terms to include in your Boolean search string as well as which ones to specifically exclude.

This involves challenging your assumptions as well as the information in the job description and requirements, and pausing to reflect and observe your own thought processes:

  • Do I really understand this position?
  • How many different titles could candidates performing this role have?
  • How many different ways can this type of experience be described in a resume, and how can I effectively search for all of them?
  • Would ALL candidates with this type of experience ALWAYS explicitly mention the required technology and/or skills in their resume?
  • What can I learn from this search result?
  • How do I know this is the best candidate I can find?

I recall constantly being aware of what was happening in my own mind and asking questions of myself as I was refining my candidate search strategies, leaving voice mails for potential candidates, having conversations with people who just wanted to get me off the phone, eliciting referrals, and practically every activity I performed and every interaction I had with people each day.

If you’re not constantly monitoring what you’re doing and asking yourself how you could be doing it better, you might be in danger of just “going through the motions.”

I firmly believe that metacognition is a key differentiator between mindless repetition or “going through the motions” and true deliberate practice.

#8 Deliberate Practice Involves Continuous Improvement

Feedback on your sourcing and recruiting efforts can come in many forms – from your phone screen and/or interview with the candidates you found through your searches (were they well qualified and interested in potential opportunities?), to the client’s/manager’s/team’s interview with the candidates you’ve sourced and screened (did both the candidate AND the hiring authorities feel it was a great match?), all the way to a successful hire that “sticks” (the ultimate feedback loop).

According to Colvin, the final key to deliberate practice is how you respond after you’ve completed your work and evaluated the result.

Average performers shy away from asking themselves the difficult questions.

If some of the candidates you’ve sourced end up not being interested in your opportunity (regardless of whether or not they were actually available) – you should try and figure out how you can be more accurate with your searches the next time around.

Yes, really.

Don’t assume that it’s “normal” for some candidates to not be interested in your opportunity – if they’re not, your searches weren’t accurate and you’re calling the wrong people, or you’re not doing a good enough job of framing your opportunity.

Even if your sourcing efforts have resulted in a hire – instead of congratulating yourself on a job well done, ask if you could have found an even better candidate more quickly.

Top performers strive to figure out how to perform better the next time, regardless of the result, as they judge themselves differently than most people do – to a higher standard.

Final Thoughts

I have never received any formal (or informal, for that matter) training in sourcing or recruiting, nor do I spend a lot of time in any sourcing/recruiting groups or blogs.

To those of you with great blogs, I’m sorry – unless someone else recommends a particular post, I’m already subscribed, or I catch it on Facebook or Twitter streams, I just don’t have the time, and the time I do have I like to spend hacking and figuring things out on my own.

While training, content and materials can certainly help get you going in the right direction, if you want to be world-class at sourcing and recruiting, quite simply, and more importantly, it takes a lot of “deliberate practice.”

You must realize that you can’t pick and choose from the list of the core principles of deliberate practice detailed above – it requires all of them combined to realize the maximum benefit.

Many people say they want to be the best at what they do and to achieve great results, but most aren’t willing to commit to the time, effort, and deliberate practice it requires.

Being world-class at anything is not only hard work, it also takes the specific disciplined approach I detailed above.

There is no substitute, and there is no “easy button.”

easy

And that’s precisely why there are so few top performers in every field.

With more than 20 years of experience in recruiting, Glen Cathey is a globally recognized sourcing and recruiting leader, blogger (booleanblackbelt.com) and corporate/keynote speaker (9X LinkedIn, 9X SourceCon, 3X Talent42, 2X SOSUEU, Booking.com, PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen, Enterprise Holdings, AstraZeneca…).

Glen currently serves as a Global Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation for Randstad, reporting into the Netherlands, focusing on data-driven recruitment, AI and automation.  Over the course of his career, Glen has been responsible for talent acquisition training, process, technology, analytics and innovation strategies for I.T. staffing and RPO firms with over 100,000 hires annually, and he's hired, trained, developed and led large local, national, global and centralized sourcing and recruiting teams, including National Recruiting Centers with over 300 associates.

He has earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park and is passionate about people, process (Lean) data and analytics, AI and automation, strategy and innovation, leadership and performance.

 

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24 Comments on “What it Takes to Become a World Class Sourcer or Recruiter by @GlenCathey

  1. Quite possibly the best thing you’ve written to date, Glen. And that’s saying a lot 🙂 I think repetition is what strikes most people. I have a hiring manager who has a particular interest in interviewing people who’ve achieved certain levels of musical mastery, and he says it’s because practice and repetition of the basics (like scales) are the way to achieve greatness as a musician, and he likes that characteristic in his development team members.

  2. Done it again Glen and BRAVO to you for this piece, it ought to be obligatory reading for anyone that come anywhere near the profession. Tons of insight and learning here and as always with you it is comprehensive and very well thought through stuff. Best to date, no because that would be replacing this with so much else you have written and contributed over the years, and that would be unfair.

  3. With your permission… Respectfully…I will disagree with what you say :-))

    Like you, I am also self taught, an auto-didactic – as an information professional and then as a sourcer. I
    was and still am and will die being an information kind-o-person.
    The pursuit for this information – is in my blood. I believe there is such a thing as a “search gene”.

    You write –
    “The good news is that all it takes is practice”
    “It’s pretty much a level playing field without any significant barriers to entry.”
    “There is no such thing as having a talent for sourcing or recruiting”

    I TOTALLY DISAGREE. You need one thing that without it you will be just a sourcer by profession. Never
    a WORLD CLASS sourcer.
    You need to have a PASSION for search and information, Glen. And you have that trait..being competitive as you say, makes you that.

    You cannot teach PASSION.
    PASSION in search drives you daily to learn what’s new out there that can make you better at search.

    Training? A world class sourcer it does not make…you can train people till you are blue in the face – if they are not creative – the search will always be AD HOC.

    “You can gain significant expertise” – as you say, but you cannot gain the PASSION for it. It will forever be a job you like, never who you ARE.

    I sat next to you on #SOSUEU and I mentioned to you and the crowd that I believed Information Professionals can be great sourcers. The good ones have a passion for search.

    So MY basic assumption is that anyone indeed can be a sourcer if they practice and train and learn but if you want to be REALLY GOOD at what you do, you need to have a PASSION FOR SEARCH AND INFORMATION, regardless the discipline you come from.

    1. I tend to agree with you, Karen. As a recruiter who learned research skills at the top-rated Academic Department at the World’s top-rated University (at the time), I think a passion for discovery and research is vital to the craft. I think there is a “search” gene, too. I might be a little biased, but I am related to a Nobel geneticist and have a strong hobby interest in genetics and genealogy.

      The bottom line is: If you don’t love the research process and find it a totally absorbing fascinating thing, you probably won’t be as successful as someone else who does. This is why it is so vital to recruit in fields that are truly exciting and challenging, where your daily work provides you with ample amounts of intellectual stimulation…

      1. See my long response to Karen above. Essentially, I believe and serve as evidence that you do not have to be passionate about a specific thing to master it – you only need to be passionate about mastering that thing. It is important to identify the real “love,” which may not lie on the surface.

          1. My interest is always to master whatever I do – I am not happy doing an average job. In my opinion, it is a waste of your life to not strive to be the best you can be at whatever you do.

            I don’t like or agree with your “paint by numbers” analogy (please don’t make assumptions about me) but being able to break an “art” down to a repeatable and consistent science is valuable and rewarding. It also enables you to pay it forward and transfer the knowledge, skill and ability on to others. You can’t transfer or teach an “art.”

            I never found any role that I have ever recruited for to be boring. Every position is it’s own unique challenge and I always relished in making the best match possible. Being able to have a positive impact on a person’s life, and often their entire family, as well as a hiring manager and the company having the right resource on their team to accomplish what they need to accomplish is extremely satisfying, rewarding and truly a noble pursuit in my opinion.

          2. Please don’t make assumptions about me, either, or whether other recruiters have “talent” for recruiting. It sounds disingenous of you (to me) that you write about how you want to positively impact people’s lives by advocating being “talentless” but hard-working. I notice that you refer to recruiting as “noble”, but you also seem to indicate it takes no ability or passion. I simply find your statements false and inconsistent, regardless of your superficial logic.

            The mere fact that you “relished” making the best match possible clearly shows that you a passion for your work, which all truly successful recruiters necessarily must have. QED.

          3. We are obviously on two different wavelengths.

            I am honestly not certain how you could interpret anything that I’ve written to suggest that being good at sourcing a recruiting doesn’t require any ability or passion. It quite literally makes no sense to me whatsoever. You are entitled to your opinion, but I am the only person qualified to speak about my own position on the matter.

            I am actually laughing at you finding my statements are false and inconsistent and my logic superficial. I can only guess why you would feel it necessary to make such inflammatory and derisive claims.

            I think it would be great to have a real conversation on this topic, rather than trying to do so through blog post comments, but only if you actually cared to understand me and how I really feel about “talent,” deliberate practice and passion. Otherwise, I’m happy for you to interpret my words any way you wish and believe whatever you want to believe about me, based in reality or not. It’s a free world.

            In any event, thank you for caring enough to share your opinions with me.

            You can have the last word in this thread if it pleases you – I have no interest in continuing what disappointingly appears to be a downward spiral of negativity and unnecessary insults.

          4. Rather than being petulant, you might want to reconsider that you made the following statements (below), all of which you have just contradicted in your last response about a “downward spiral” of “insults”. I’m going to give you the last word just to demonstrate how self-contradictory your statements are. Otherwise, it is a very well-written piece, and I agree with many parts of it, but to categorize recruiters as talentless or passionless is absurd.

            “I believe and serve as evidence that you do not have to be passionate about a specific thing to master it”

            ‘I’m happy to tell the world I don’t have a “talent” for sourcing or recruiting.’

            ‘There is no such thing as having a “talent” for sourcing or recruiting’

          5. I wouldn’t be shocked at petulance if I claimed someone was false, inconsistent and using superficial logic. 🙂 Take a look in the mirror to see petulance.

            Here are those so-called inconsistent statements:

            “I believe and serve as evidence that you do not have to be passionate about a specific thing to master it”

            – I was never and am still not passionate about smiling and dialing and emailing all day, but I got very good at cold intro calls and crafting voicemails and emails to earn very high response rates. To use a non-recruiting example, the balance beam can be the least favorite and perhaps even dreaded apparatus for a gymnast, yet they can still master it, if not only out of necessity, but passion to be an excellent gymnast, all the while never being passionate about the balance beam.

            ‘I’m happy to tell the world I don’t have a “talent” for sourcing or recruiting.”

            – I do not have a “talent” for recruiting. What I have is a skill honed from quite a bit of deliberate practice with the specific intent of continual improvement. To say I have a “talent” for recruiting is disrespectful in the face of all of my focused hard work. “Talent” is the excuse other people use to explain why someone is good and they are not.

            ‘There is no such thing as having a “talent” for sourcing or recruiting.’

            – No one is naturally endowed with a sourcing or recruiting “talent,” just as no one is born with a cooking, golf, etc., gene.

            Please provide me with quotes in which I classified recruiters as passionless and/or talentless.

            Again, no one is born with a “talent” for recruiting any more than they are born with a “talent” for golf, cooking, law, etc. To say someone who is good at something has a “talent” for it is the true insult – an insult which marginalizes all of the dedicated hard work they’ve obviously logged to achieve a high level of proficiency.

            Have you read Talent is Overrated or the Talent Code?

          6. At this point, I think it is obvious that we should agree to disagree. You clearly write very well, but you are also clearly incorrect, and it is clearly pointless to explain why.

          7. At this point, I think it is obvious that we should agree to disagree. You clearly write very well, but you are also clearly incorrect, and it is clearly pointless to explain why.

    2. I respectfully disagree with you in turn. 🙂

      My true passion lies in achievement, “a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill.”

      True, I’ve developed a passion for search, data/analytics, recruiting, leadership and a great many other things, but the root cause for the existence of those passions lies in my obsession with achievement, with the satisfaction that comes from doing something well, the rush of figuring things out finding solutions and ultimately being successful at anything.

      I would agree that someone may have a difficult time mastering something if they simply don’t want to – if they don’t have an innate pride in performance that is an undercurrent for everything they do. You have to *want* to be good at what you do – whatever you do – to master anything you are physically capable of mastering.

      So you are right in that you cannot teach passion, or pride in performance, or work ethic, or obsession, etc, but you do not have to be passionate about a specific thing to master it – you only need to be passionate about mastering that thing. I honestly really only figured out what I did with regard to sourcing and recruiting out of necessity to excel in my job and within my company. My real passion was to be the #1 recruiter in the firm, so I figured out how to do that…quite simply, if you can find and engage more and better people than most people, you will outperform them. Hires come from interviews which come from submitted candidates which come from sourcing. Mastering sourcing (I didn’t even know “sourcing” was a thing until about 8 years after starting in recruiting) controls the funnel and ultimately the output – hires. My goal was to have the highest # of candidate submittals on the whiteboard we used to track everyone’s performance every month, and because I was also obsessed with having the best candidates, quantity X quality essentially equaled results and I outperformed everyone.

      Again, it’s very simple when you look at it this way – there will always be a sub:start/hire ratio. Whatever that ratio is, the more candidate submittals you make, the more hires you will achieve. Getting really good at quickly finding and engaging the right people helps you submit more candidates…

      When I train other recruiters who often have goals for compensation (in an agency environment) or hires, I always tell them that focusing on the end result is not the ideal way to look at achieving the goals, which is something that really resonated with me when reading Talent Is Overrated about 10 years into my career as a recruiter. When I read that “The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome,” it essentially articulated my success and validated my approach to succeeding.

      For what it’s worth, before stumbling into recruiting, there’s nothing in my experiential background that had anything to do with search and information. I didn’t even own a computer when I started as a recruiter in January of 1997, and I was far from a research oriented person.

      1. The most obvious counter-example (disproof by negation) to this contention is simply that there are many, many people with passion for, and deep fondness of, certain games, sports, skills, etc., (like myself), who have invested enormous amounts of time and money and practice trying to improve and master their skills at things they love, and are still not “world-class” competitors in those fields. True excellence is more than mere practice — it also requires talent, and fortunate circumstances.

        In my case, I’ve spent dozens of thousands of hours studying and playing chess, and I am quite good, but I don’t consider myself “world class” at the game. And, I have taken fencing lessons for 27 years, but I am not competing at “world level” anymore, though I have tried, in the past. At mountaineering, I have met and remain friends with some of the most accomplished climbers in the world, and I’ve had success on multiple instances, after enduring many, many hours of diligent practice, but I do not feel that my climbing is at “world-class”.

        However, knowing that my true Passion is for research, invention and discovery, it makes sense to me that I would excel as a Sourcer in Executive Search. My favorite game as a child was “Hide and Seek”. I remarked on this fact to my teacher Saul Kripke, currently considered to be the world’s greatest living Philosopher, in correspondence around 1982/3. I think these predispositions and inclinations have led me to the path of Recruiting and sourcing, to the extent that I excel in this pursuit above all others. Search/sourcing/recruiting is the field for which I have the most talent, passion, and practice.

        One of my favorite songs as a jungling was “The Seeker” by the Who. So, I suspect Destiny plays a major role in finding the best Sourcers for this Industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAbzlj3nf4E

  4. Reading what others have written is not learning on your own but rather standing on the shoulders of giants. Someone else wrote what you are reading. You may not think so but you ARE learning from others, and they may not think so but they ARE teaching.

    1. I’m in with Karen, Shally and Nicholas on this.

      You can teach the basics but there is a sixth sense, a spidey sense that raises the hair on your arms, makes you sit up and turn your head at that subtle intake of a Gatekeeper’s breath when you ask a question or when an unexpected and seemingly unrelated memory shifts forward from a dream when awakening that answers a research dilemma that only the best sourcers – the greatest sourcers – ever experience and few get to this performance level driven by the rote wheel of practice – practice – practice WITHOUT some natural bent – some fire in the belly burning – driving it all forward.

    2. Plenty of people have learned solely through doing without ever reading a single word on a subject, including me. What I learned from reading Talent is Overrated is the “why” for how I developed the skills I did, and I stand behind the concepts of deliberate practice as a way to master nearly anything.

  5. “Hard work beats talent when talent works hard” Great Article. I don’t know if there’s a world class sourcer or recruiter but just curious or passionate ones who are interested in their profession looking to learn from mistakes and do better everyday.

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