You Say Phone Sourcer – I Say Phone Screener

If you have what you think are phone sourcers working for you, chances are you don’t. What you probably have are individuals who have come into the recruiting industry sometime in the last five to ten years when the term “sourcer” became radicalized to the point where anyone who knew how to make their way onto the worldwide web and point their browsers to the place they heard was the mother lode of all sourcing mother lodes, LinkedIn, and called themselves a “sourcer.”

Or a sourcerer

Or a sorceress

Or a ninja

Or a black belt

Or an assassin

Or a bejeweled, encrusted, embellished, metal-clad, hard-shelled something or another …

You get the picture.

Whatever it is they called themselves when you hired them, instead of hiring recruiters because recruiters cost more, and you thought sourcers would do what your recruiters were doing, only for less money, things didn’t turn out like you thought they would.

You’ve managed to dislodge most of the ones who wouldn’t come out from behind their ‘puter screens and you have (many) a bevy of beauties afoot who will get on the phone and these you’re calling your phone sourcers.

Probably still wrong.

Unless they’re calling into companies and ferreting information from gatekeepers (a gatekeeper can be anyone inside a company, from the janitor to the CEO!) they’re probably not phone sourcers. They’re probably phone screeners.

And that’s okay.

You need phone screeners.

Thank goodness you have phone screeners.

Phone Screeners call people and ask them if they’d be interested in a specific opportunity with your company. They’re basically cold callers and they’re important to your operation. In fact, they’re very important. They’re doing the job that many of your recruiters don’t want to do, or don’t have the time to do. My guess is they don’t want to do it because it’s a job filled with rejection, and who wants that?

In this article, I’m going to talk about the job of your phone screeners, not your phone sourcers. That I’ll talk about in another article.

Before I go on, both your phone screeners and your phone sourcers have something in common, neither are afraid of the phone and that’s a rare commodity to find in an employee today. Both have shot through their DNA some indescribable, non-stoppable streak of determination that causes them to pick up an instrument and dial some number of numbers and utter some string of words that captures the attention and imagination of another human being that makes them stop what they’re doing, turn and pay attention to your message.

All for some sum of dollars that, for the sum of their total is practically priceless.

All for any amount of money, you cannot get most people, or any organization, to do.

Both phone sourcers and phone screeners are in a position to bring new business into your company.  Because they’re on the front firing lines of calling out into the world as representatives of your companythey hear things first.  Phone sourcers talk to everyone inside companies – as I said before, from CEO’s down through the guy who sweeps the floor in the lonely night – and some of the things they hear would make your toes curl.  Phone screeners hear (mostly from potential candidates) about who’s hiring, who’s firing – exacting information about competitors that should be going immediately into your competitive information files – and all sorts of information that studied glances at candidate call sheets reveal.  Moving beyond all that for now, let’s talk about what your phone screeners can do to make the phone screen an effective first stage interview hiring process to find the right employees for your company.

If you’re using phone screeners you already know that phone screening:

  • Shortens hiring cycles because it acts as a part of the sourcing system to actively engage potential candidates found on the Internet

Phone screening can also:

  • Eliminate lengthy face-to-face interviewing
  • Flush totally unsuitable candidates from the system
    Pick up suitable candidates through referrals
  • Place valuable resources in slots where time is best allocated

Not only can it do all that but candidates like it because it respects and saves their time.

Following are some tips how best your phone screeners who you have on staff anyway calling people up they find (mostly online) can conduct an effective phone screen and add additional value beyond the great value they’re already bringing to your organization.

POTENTIAL CANDIDATE: After identifying a potential candidate, contact that candidate and express your interest in speaking with them about your company’s opportunity. How you may do that belongs in another article (there are lots of articles written on this subject!) but this initial outreach depends on your own personal style and preference; mine is to call the person directly and say outright:

Hi.  My name is Maureen Sharib and you don’t know me.  My company has asked me to ask you if you’d be interested in talking with us regarding XYZ opportunity.

Something in that vein – a surprise attack that usually takes a couple different tacks from there but usually ends pleasantly. Great candidates usually respond favorably to opportunities to grow professionally. Before it ends I’m usually afforded the opportunity to very briefly explain the job requirements and include key information about why I think the job is worthwhile and challenging.

This conversation usually lasts no more than five to ten, maybe 15 minutes but in it, I quickly assess the potential candidate’s suitability for the job. I collect a brief work history, where they went to school, job title verification, anything I can on the inner workings of the team they work in and the work they do, additional contact information, their interest in having a “next” conversation with another company representative and anything else that may be of special interest/request of my customer on this call. I ask if the potential candidate would like to receive a follow-up call from a company representative; if the potential candidate says “yes” I then set a date and time and then I hand the potential candidate off to the company representative at which point the “potential candidate” becomes a “prospective candidate.”

PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATE: Once the prospective candidate has expressed an interest in moving forward in exploring an opportunity a follow-up “screen” call is placed in which the process is thoroughly explained. Give them the time, the expected length of the call, with whom it will be (if it will be with someone other than yourself!) and the person’s position in the organization.  Tell them what the next steps will be after the call and what they can expect as far as an in-person interview and final offer in the event the exchange should go that far. This helps to avoid confusion and frustration and may keep the prospective candidate from being driven into the arms of others. Remember, this is the first step in the candidate’s brand experience with your brand so make it a great one! Also, remember, many times you’re the one placing this candidate in play – getting this candidate thinking about the job market.

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Keep notes of their answers when you’re conducting your phone screens. Follow a predefined structure (have a form you use!) so your candidate notes are consistent and you get to know your form and your ease of use increases and anyone reading your notes can easily interpret what you’ve written. Re-read what you’ve written so it makes sense. We can get carried away typing or scribbling notes and not realize what makes sense to us at night may not make sense to us in the morning!

If you have an ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) use it. Input this stuff directly as obtained and find one that is robust enough to handle notes from the sourcing get-go and can straddle and insert the competitive intelligence gained out and into other departments. The more detailed and better the data is, the better the data will be that comes out.

Stay on topic. Keep the phone screen to the time you told the potential candidate it would be and ask the same questions. Make one for the specific position you’re hiring for each and every time because thinking of new questions for each candidate is exhausting. This allows you to collect information, not focus on what to ask next.


Your form might look like this:

Company Phone           Extension           Direct Dial           Cell           Home
Prefers to be contacted

How long at company
Previous company
Previous Title
Current work



At this point in your form, it may take on the specific question about the nature of the position; questions about specific skills they might have or tools they might use, sales quotas they are responsible for or have achieved, etc.

You may ask them to rate their skills on a one to five scale, for instance.

  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • What are your goals?
  • What is it you really enjoy doing?
  • What is it you don’t want to do?
  • Salary?
    • How you word this matters. I ask what their expectations are and I get a good response rate.


The recruiter that will be calling is ________  .  Her number is _______ and her email is __________.



Before hanging up with the potential candidate ask if they have any questions. This is your opportunity to “sell” your organization to the candidate without bludgeoning them to death with the website, social media and job description jargon. Just have a heart-to-heart conversation with another human being in an effort to make the best first impression you can to attract top candidates.


When your phone screens are a complete look at the total and decide who are the best candidates to move forward to the next step in your company’s hiring process. That next step may be a Phone Interview with one of your company’s recruiters or if your company is moving candidates from phone screens directly to In-Person Interviews, who fits those slots.

The goal here is to find the right candidates with the right fit based on personality, skills, history and attitude. Following these ready-made and economic phone screening steps will help your organization coordinate and streamline its hiring process and save your company lots of time and money in the process!

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!


3 Comments on “You Say Phone Sourcer – I Say Phone Screener

  1. Another well-written piece (no surprise), Maureen. I’m sure most recruiting managers have no idea what the difference between a phone screener and sourcer is, so once you do the next post on the latter, I think many sourcing managers are going to share those 2 with their senior management and revise some job descriptions to clarify, at a minimum! Only 2 small things I would’ve added to this post: 1) asking about work eligibility should be among those initial questions (right after, if not before, your relocation question). Unfortunately, way too many companies do not have the flexibility to sponsor new hires — or at least will impose some kind of threshhold to make it worth their while (e.g., candidate still has at least 3 years left on their OPT or H1B visa so there’s time to get their green card and you’re going to get back your investment in training, legal fees, etc., on that hire even if it doesn’t work out).; 2) the collect and “insert the competitive intelligence” point deserves more attention — most companies don’t have this figured out at all, but it can be so valuable. (In fact, not 1 but 2 sessions at last month’s SourceCon conference focused on the sourcing – CI connection.)

    1. Glenn! Thank you for commenting – I’m always so excited and flattered to see you take notice of my stuff. I saw your CI presentation – well, I didn’t SEE it but I saw you were giving one and I was VERY interested to know more and you’re right – it IS a big component of what phone screeners offer to companies (as well as phone sourcers) as that first touch “ferret” representative that really they are in the world and what a valuable piece this is and so undervalued in most organizations and it’s really a shame. If it weren’t so undervalued – and so marginalized – and this is a really interesting discussion – why is it marginalized? There are reasons for this that aren’t politically correct to discuss and in my opinion really aren’t correctly discussed at all – it stems from a basic misunderstanding in the industry (IMO) about the nature of competition in a capitalist society and the place marketing intelligence plays in that. BIG SIGH We could go on and on talking about this but yes I have another post coming soon that talks about how phone sourcing can become one of the boosters to all that data intelligence companies hold within their coffers and can make the artificiality of it less artificial.

      On the relo question – work eligibility – I’m unclear as to the legality of this. Can you advise? You make a good point.

      Once again, thanks for your comment!

  2. Excellent article, Maureen, and thank you for sharing. I would add that digital “natives”, individuals born after 1980, simply never learned professional phone outreach utilizing NLP techniques that allow for comfortable, competent phone contact, without “rusing”. And many sourcers don’t conduct the necessary outreach required to reel in the most qualified talent vs. the most easily findable or reachable. We assess sourcing excellence per best practice metrics to increase candidate quality, time-to-fill and reputation as Deliverer of Results. It’s AMAZING what competitive intelligence can be obtained when a sourcer/screener has the tools to develop real-time, proprietary data that can impress hiring managers and affect overall talent acquisition strategies.

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