Why Is It So Difficult To Find Good Sourcers?

I’ve covered this in various forms over the last few years, but I’m going to be explicit right now. From my viewpoint as a current hybrid of Sourcer and Full Lifecycle Recruiter, there are five main reasons.

  1. You, the employer, have unrealistic expectations of what a Sourcer can produce
  2. Misunderstanding of what the role of a Sourcer does
  3. Not emphasizing the partnerships between Sourcing and Account Management
  4. Lack of respect and viewing Sourcing as a senior function
  5. Underpaying Sourcers

First of all, before you can hire someone to fill this elusive role, you need to understand what we do and what we DON’T do.

There are two basic types of sourcing: transactional and strategic. Be clear on what you are looking for. If you are looking for someone to quickly fill up a profile pipeline, that is a transactional role. If you are looking to build talent communities and conduct in-depth competitive intelligence, that is strategic sourcing. Different recruiters have different skills and interests. Looking for someone to just go online and conduct Boolean searches for low hanging fruit such as job boards and LinkedIn profiles means you are looking for an Internet Recruiter. This is certainly a great first step in teaching someone the basics of the Sourcing function, but it is by no means the way to evaluate senior talent that is going to help build your employment brand. You have to understand the process, and create deliverable metrics that are realistic and attainable.

A truly senior professional can help you identify not just individuals but business and early market trends. They also understand who the leaders and visionaries that are blazing those trails are. They are hooked into all social media channels, are early adopters of new tools and techniques, they think outside the box when it comes to ways of connecting with candidates, and most importantly you trust them to *pick up the phone* and form personal relationships with potential candidates. These are the recruiters that keep a personal CRM or LinkedIn list that follows them throughout their careers and benefits their employers with referrals and calls when a rock star first thinks of making a career change.

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I’ve worked on many teams comprised of Account Management and Sourcing Recruiters. And notice that I consider both of them to be the same profession: recruiters. Unless a Sourcer is employed in a centralized team, if they are working with Account Managers, they need to be involved in the recruiting lifecycle from the outset when a requisition is opened. The most successful roles I have filled were equal partnerships, with a clearly delineated “hand off” process (usually at the point after I had conducted a phone screen). I had access to the hiring manager for questions and had a thorough understanding of the position, team and product/service and was involved from the first requisition review in strategizing. The most ineffective sourcing roles involved Account Managers that just expected me to hand them a bunch of resumes every week.

In an interview I had as a candidate, I spoke to a Global Director of Recruiting. One of the topics we discussed was the perception that Sourcing was somehow less complex or demanding an aspect of recruiting than account management and closing candidates. I’ve seen this time and again. Local Seattle companies cannot hire enough contract Sourcers, but they only allocate a very small percentage of their actual full time headcount for Sourcing. Those companies that DO hire full time Sourcers level them lower and pay them less money. When I see announcements for Sourcers with ranges that pay less for a Sourcer than for a full lifecycle professional, I will often call them out on it. It’s an insult, quite frankly. If you don’t value the person that is building that first all-important employment impression with a candidate, how can you believe they will evangelize your company or organization to the best of their abilities?

Kristen Fife is a senior technical recruiter in the greater Seattle area. She has been in recruiting since 2004, starting as contract Researcher for the Microsoft Strategic Recruiting Group before moving into full lifecycle agency recruiting for Volt Technical Services. Her move into corporate recruiting started with both sourcing and full lifecycle contract roles at Microsoft (including MSFT Research, Legal, and various product groups). In addition to Microsoft, Kristen worked for 3 years for RealNetworks/GameHouse as the Senior Technical Recruiter and Sourcing Specialist; at the University of Washington/Harborview Medical Centers as a Sourcer, as well as smaller companies such as Varolii (now part of Nuance Communications), Covestic, and bSquare. Currently she is an RPO Senior Technical Recruiter, she sits on the Leadership Team for Sourcing7, and is a regular presenter, trainer, panelist, and speaker in the Seattle area for recruiting forums and job seekers. She has been a regular contributor to the Seattle Times, including an employment topic column, regular blog, and the NWJobs Hire Wire newsletter for the local recruiting industry. Her blog for job seekers receives several thousand hits a week. She has been quoted in several publications including ABCNews, AOL, the Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal.


11 Comments on “Why Is It So Difficult To Find Good Sourcers?

  1. Definitely some great points, but the bottom-line is that you have a lot of people leading recruitment efforts that have no clue and others that are HR Generalists AND NOT RECRUITERS OR SOURCERS!

    1. Unfortunately true. If someone is going to be functioning in a recruiting capacity, they need to understand the basic skill set needed to do the job, and that includes sourcing.

  2. “Lack of respect and viewing Sourcing as a senior function” – This particular issue is common in India, as the mindset has not yet changed. Companies need to value this function and encourage sourcers.

  3. Great article, even with all the sourcing and data available, you can get to the end of the cycle with someone and they still turn the job down. Recruiting is a difficult business period. The internet in general has crated an avalanche of recruiters, this too will pass.
    Thanks again.

  4. Kristen; I have been bemoaning this facet of sourcing for years!

    It’s not a lack of need – sourcers are badly needed!

    It’s not a lack of want – everyone wants to be one!

    It’s more a lack of understanding about what it is you want a sourcer to do – as you correctly point out. I raised this issue a few days ago in my “Can sourcers recruit?” and vice versa. I think the intrinsic characteristics of a sourcer’s personality are being ignored in the hiring process and few sourcers ever stop to think about this. You cannot be all things to all people.

    1. I seem to be the rare bird that likes both parts of recruiting. My current role is a hybrid. I love the search for great candidates, researching up and coming trends and business directions (and what companies are leading the way and who the “thought leaders are”) as well as the account management portion. But I’ll never forget a former manager of mine that told me I was “wasted” as a Sourcer, because, by God, I’m a damn fine recruiter….which to me was a bit of an insult.

  5. Very good article covering a topic that I face almost daily- having come up thru the ranks from assistant buyer to product development manager handling multi million dollar projects I see and understand the nuance of the various roles however the communication of these to others can be extremely challenging. The key is an organizational (and at high level), understanding of the type of sourcing that the company is and needs to be engaged in is understood, the annoyance and sadness is that many at the top levels “assume” they know there are a plethora of ways of doing this in which if engaged would save time effort and lead to success.

  6. Hire good Sourcers? Nah, I make my own. I look for individuals who are young, very smart, and have the ability to “Think around corners” In the past year I’ve hired 4 such individuals, and within 3 months they were all extremely productive and receiving rave reviews from our Recruiters and Hiring community. My key criteria are: Good university degree, strong sense of curiosity, and a probing personality. I can train Boolean, LinkedIn, Approach, Pipeline, brief-taking, etc. but I cannot train curiosity and personality.

  7. You brought up a very valid dynamic. Strategic Sourcer -vs- a Transactional Sourcer.

    The two are not the same.

    We have some companies that still view Sourcers as Administrative Assistants.
    Shuffling papers and resumes for the hiring manager to “review”.

    The Account Manager is often the Senior Recruiter, and still to this day the Sourcer is kept back in the closet, behind the scenes like the “Magical Wizard” that makes good talent… Just appear – with the wave of their wand.

    Sourcing great talent is a profession.

    Waving a magic wand and making resumes appear is for “review” is a joke”

    In order to recruit great people, you must first and foremost find them

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