You Can’t Be an Effective Sourcer if You Don’t Do THIS First

You can be the best Boolean string-builder, Google X-Rayer, or use all of the latest social-aggregating, open-web, supercharged sourcing tools out there, but if you don’t first have a thorough, deep-dive intake meeting with your hiring manager to find out EXACTLY what your hiring team wants (and NEEDS… which are often two different things), then you’re digging in the wrong place! (Cue the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme song.) Seriously, though… How can you be your hiring team’s eyes and ears out on the web if you don’t know PRECISELY what you’re looking for? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen recruiters (agency and in-house) pick up a new req, slap up the job posting as-is on a bunch of job boards and then source willy-nilly (yes, that’s an official recruiting term), looking for anyone and everyone who even vaguely resembles the job description. The worst offenders will spam-blast anyone who has the keyword-du-jour *anywhere* on their profile and then start machine-gunning dozens of ill-fitting resumes at their hiring manager faster than they can possibly consume them. (I’m sure none of THAT applies to anyone reading this blog post, of course.) 😉

The better approach? Glen Cathey said it best when he quoted good ole Abe Lincoln in a sourcing webinar a while back, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I cannot agree more strongly with this approach. It’s always better to do your prep work and research ahead of time and THEN go after your prospects in a specific, targeted way. What hiring manager wouldn’t rather receive five spot-on resumes instead of 50 that are all over the place?

When a new req lands in my lap, there are several things that I do before jumping in and taking action. I’ll save some of those items for a future blog post, but one of the most important is a deep-dive intake meeting with my hiring manager. By the end of that meeting, there should be zero confusion about what you’re looking for. If there is, you need to go back and fill in those gaps. A 30-45 minute time investment on the front end will inevitably save hours of wasted time and effort on the back end.

I’m happy to share with you my own checklist that I’ve been using for years. Well, this one’s a checklist-slash-blog post. Save it, print it, favorite it.

Download: Intake Form

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There’s more to your pre-sourcing research (hiring manager’s management style, the culture / morale of the hiring team, etc.) but this should give you a good start. The main point is to do as much information gathering as possible – both direct and discreet – on the front end. Make sure you really understand the hiring manager, the hiring team and what makes them tick to help you draw up a profile of the type of person who will be successful in the role. Make sure you’re all on the same page 100% and only then should you head off to do your sourcing.

If I’m ever out there sourcing and unsure whether a resume is a good fit or not – hey, it happens! – then I know it’s time to do a little more refining and scoping. You should get to the point where you should know a great fit when you see it. Saves time, increases quality of submittals, facilitates candidate engagement, improves candidate experience and makes your hiring managers much, much happier with you.  J

Anything I forgot to mention? Any secret sauce you have to share that helps you fully understand your hiring team’s needs? Share it with the rest of us and we all will spend less time hitting up the wrong candidates and fill our positions that much faster!

image credit: bigstock

Stacy Donovan Zapar is an 18-year recruiting veteran for Fortune 500 tech companies and Founder of Tenfold, a boutique recruitment strategy, training and consulting firm advising top brand clients such as Zappos, TripAdvisor, and Greenhouse Software on talent acquisition strategies specific to employer branding, social recruiting, talent attraction, sourcing, candidate engagement, HR technologies, candidate experience, employee engagement, company culture and more.

Stacy is the Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn since 2008 with more than 40,000 1st-level connections, making her the #5 most connected person out of 380 million members worldwide. She was named 2015 Trendsetter of the Year for Talent Acquisition by SHRM’s HR Magazine for her leadership of the Zappos Insider initiative and has been featured in The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fortune, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Business Review Weekly and many other publications. Her own blog has more than one million views.

She is an advisory board member for multiple HR tech companies, served as Technical Editor for Wiley's LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day, is #6 on Huffington Post’s Top 100 Most Social HR Experts on Twitter and #5 on ERE’s 50 People Most Mentioned by Recruiters on Twitter. Feel free to connect with Stacy on LinkedIn and Twitter at @StacyZapar.


14 Comments on “You Can’t Be an Effective Sourcer if You Don’t Do THIS First

  1. Great article although depending on the search I like my sourcers to cast a fairly wide net on first pass. You never know what rock is covering that piece of gold.

    1. I respectfully disagree… I’d rather set the bar super high that first pass (going for every possible item on the wish list) and expand the search little by little after that. To go too broad early on, just leads to a lack of focus and a bunch of confusion from the start, in my experience. I do appreciate your two cents, though. I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule! 🙂

      1. Cheryl, no worries at all! When I start a search I want to include as many potentially qualified candidates as possible. So whether I am sourcing or someone is doing it for me I want them to look at the position description and any client notes and start identifying people who may be appropriate using very broad terms. This “casting a wide net” to catch as many possibles as I can. Then I can start making calls and sending emails in order to start the process. It is like a funnel, huge group at first and then a small group of finalists by the time we are done. There will be lots of people who get eliminated quickly but I will have re-established contact with people and you never know what will come of a call. Does that help?

  2. Great post Stacy! A couple of “intake prep” items I like to gather before an intake are:

    1. Find the Hiring Managers existing team in your ATS or LinkedIn. This should give you a good idea of what the team really does and give you a “snap shot” of what their resume looked like right before they joined the hiring managers team.

    2. Pull a time-to-fill report on similar roles for the last few years so you can give your hiring manager some historical data on time to fill. This helps set expectations and give you leverage on increasing pay band, sign-on bonuses, stock options, relocation assistance, etc.

    3. Check for similar job titles & skill sets so you can show the hiring manager what the market is using for titles.

    4. Silver Medalist – why not get a jump on your search and find all the candidates that made it to an onsite interview or offer stage the last few times this position was open. I like reading the managers notes on why we didn’t move forward.

    If you do all of this before the intake you have taken a step closer to becoming a true consultant to your hiring teams.

  3. One of my favorite Honest Abe quotes 🙂 I’ve really become a fan of intake meetings because it sets the stage of the rest of your search process, it solidifies your relationship with your hiring manager as well as any other partners involved in the process, and it provides a documentation of accountability for each person involved in the hiring process that can be referenced along the way if there are questions, discrepancies, or challenges. Thanks for sharing this, Stacy!

  4. Good devil’s advocate point, Tom. The wider-net strategy can work *if* your company works at a high enough volume level that your future pipeline will benefit from a range of talent with related skillsets that you can probably place eventually. However, if you only have the time or scale to be a sniper, and you understand those hiring manager specs well from the intake meeting, then you will utilize your sourcing time better. Even if you do have the scale, it doesn’t hurt to let your sourcers know what the HM really wants to keep them from unwieldy tangents, but also inform them that if the prospect has 80% of the must-haves and at least 20% of the nice-to-haves, that you want those submitted to you also.

    1. Hi Glenn, good points. I agree 100%. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big fan of pipelining future talent, but it perhaps doesn’t make sense to have it be part of the sourcing strategy for a specific req. Sure, you’ll happen across people who aren’t a fit for this opening so you agree to stay in touch for more relevant openings. Additionally, you can launch initiatives to attract and pipeline talent for that rainy day. But a targeted search is always the best approach when sourcing for a specific opening, in my experience. I expect you feel the same way. 🙂

  5. Great post – couldn’t agree more. It makes the whole sourcing and engagement process so much easier and more effective if you take a proper briefing from the start. Saves you time searching and saves the Hiring Manager from reviewing candidates who aren’t suitable. I loved the intake form too, some great ideas there for drawing extra information out of your Hiring Managers.

  6. in favor of widening the search-you can get referrals from people in your network with specific information on why the candidate is worth a look….but at the end of the day, do what works!

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