Don’t Be A Sourcing Snob

Are You a Sourcing Snob?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is a candidate identified on LinkedIn intrinsically “better” than a candidate sourced from Monster?
  • Is candidate sourced by cold calling inherently “better” than a candidate sourced from a job posting on Careerbuilder?
  • Does it really matter where a great candidate comes from?

I continue to see well respected thought leaders in the staffing industry make claims that the quality of candidates on the job boards is low, and there seems to be no shortage of those in the recruiting and staffing industry who are happy to jump on that bandwagon. However, whenever I read or hear broad, sweeping statements claiming that an entire population of 50,000,000+ candidates is low quality just because they happen to be in an online resume database of a major job board – my response is a mix of shock and disappointment. 

Stereotyping is Poor Judgement

Broad statements such as “the job boards have low quality candidates” reeks of stereotyping.  A stereotype is an oversimplified conception or opinion based on the assumption that there are attributes that members of the “other group” (in this case, job board candidates) have in common. Stereotypes are often formed by an Illusory correlation , a false perception of an association between two variables where in fact none exists.

You just can’t go around claiming all job board candidates are bad. That’s like saying everyone in New York is rude, or that everyone in California is a hippie. To stereotype all job board candidates as low quality is downright insulting to the many fantastic people who make the decision to post their resume to well known online resume databases. If they only knew that posting their resume to a job board was equivalent to moving to “the wrong side of the tracks.”

Sourcing Snobbery

Many sourcers and recruiters use the Internet to source and identify candidates all the time, yet there is never a mention of the intrinsic “quality” of candidates who happen to post their resume on their own websites. As if creating a website and posting your resume to it somehow makes you a better person than someone who either doesn’t know how do do that or simply doesn’t care to, instead opting to post their resume to a well known job board site.

And what about Social Media? The last time I checked – there is no “candidate quality filter” built in to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or any social network. ANYONE can decide to create a web page or a Social Media profile, from “A” players to “F” players.

So what’s with the stigma of being a “job board candidate?” I think it’s sourcing snobbery.

If you find a candidate by searching Facebook – that’s cool. Found your candidate by cold calling into a competitor? You’re awesome! If you found a candidate by searching Monster – you suck.

Employee referral?  Great candidate! Job board candidate? Ewww – gross!

As if  WHERE a candidate comes from actually matters! A great candidate is a great candidate. Employee referrals are wonderful, but I’ve got news for you – the best candidates do NOT always come from employee referrals. If they do in your organization, maybe your sourcers and recruiters aren’t very good at actually finding quality candidates on their own – referrals are “gimmes.” Think about it.

Statistical Facts

Job board resume databases – just like LinkedIn, Twitter, companies you directly source from, and every other source of candidates – are a large random sample  of the entire candidate population. Large random samples adhere to the statistical inevitability of a normal distribution (bell curve). You’ll have a small percentage of horrible candidates, a large percentage of average candidates, and a small percentage of top-notch talent. For those interested in learning more about the statistics of large random samples, check out the Central Limit Theorem (CLT) and the Law of Large Numbers.

That’s right – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet are no different than the job board resume databases in that they all adhere to the laws of statistics. Statistically, it can easily be argued that any given person that can be found on the Internet or in a social network is no more likely to be an “A” player than any given person that can be found on a job board resume database.

Why Do People Post Their Resume on Job Boards?

If you think that the only reason people post their resumes to online job board resume databases is because they are “desperate” and unemployed, you’re wrong. Many people see the job boards as an online marketplace, not unlike eBay.

Let’s use an analogy to drive this point home. If you’ve cleaned out your garage, basement, or attic and you’re looking to sell some stuff – you could have a yard sale, but yard sales limit your potential buyers to your neighbordhood and nearby areas. Why not dramatically increase the pool of potential buyers by putting the items on eBay?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with candidates using job boards as one approach to helping them make the next step in their career. The idea that candidates should not leverage job boards in their efforts to find their next career opportunity is like thinking that you shouldn’t shop online, sell things on eBay, or use This is the 21st century – by all means everyone should leverage all available Internet options in all endeavors!

Looking vs. Being Found

If a candidate relies solely on searching job postings online, they are being proactive in seeking employment, but they are 100% dependent upon the reactive response of the firms they reply to. And let’s be honest here – most companies aren’t very good at responding to candidates who apply to their job postings. Too many candidates experience the “black hole” effect when they respond to job postings (auto-responders don’t count here – they’re no better than auto-DM’s on Twitter).

This lack of response leads many candidates to seek to take more control over the process by opting to post their resume into a resume database so they can be actively found and pursued by potential employers – kind of like posting something on eBay so that people looking for that thing can find it and attempt to acquire it. Many candidates pursue both paths, thinking they’ll cover both angles.

You have to be aware that some people have not had to switch jobs in the past 5-10 years, and that most candidates are not professional job seekers. When the time comes for these folks to move on in their career – many seek the job boards simply in response to the effective and ubiquitous advertisements of the major job boards. Instead of going to the employment section of the local newspaper – going online is perceived as the “new” way of finding a job as compared to the last time they may have had a career transition.

Why not let 100’s of recruiters try and find you the best opportunity for free? Aside from the experience they may have with poor recruiters, this is not a bad value proposition. Also – this is essentially the same value proposition of posting a resume on the Internet or updating a LinkedIn profile with a complete work history.

But What About Networking?

Networking to find a job can definitely work and I would never discourage or disparage it. However, there is no guarantee that any given person’s network can provide the ideal job opportunity at the right time.  What’s the proabability? 

Limiting your job search efforts to only your “network” would be similar to looking to get married to someone, but only on the condition that it must be to someone that your friends know. As if your soulmate can’t be someone outside of your “network.” 

All Sourcers/Recruiters are NOT Created Equal

Perhaps some of the stigma attached to job board candidates is based in the belief that candidates in job board resume databases are “easy” to find. As if the challenge and drugery associated with sifting through large volumes of garbage results while performing Internet searches somehow will produce a higher quality candidate.  Also, there’s nothing inherently “easy” about quickly finding the best possible candidate among 20,000,000 others. All sourcers/recruiters are NOT created equal.

I love to challenge those who assume that just because 100 recruiters may have access to the same source (say Monster, for example) that they can all find the same candidates, as well as all of the best candidates available in the system.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. That’s no different than thinking that if 100 people go fishing in the Pacific Ocean that they will all catch the same fish and all of the available fish to be caught. Ridiculous!

Unlike many who disparage the job boards, I have actually used them to source candidates, and I’ve recruited and placed many “A+” candidates from the job boards that my clients and competitors also had access to. By “A+” I mean candidates that were better than those produced through client/employee referrals. Blasphemy? No – just the facts.

How is it that no one else found the same people I did? Did I get lucky? Only if you can get “lucky” consistenly. Just because many people have access to a given database, it is not safe to assume that everyone can find the same candidates, or find ALL of the qualified candidates, or find the BEST candidates in that database. Perhaps the people who are always claiming the job board resume databases have low quality candidates lack the proficiency to actually FIND the high quality candidates.

For a look into how 1 person can find great candidates that 100’s of other recruiters did not using the exact same job board database, read this post about a Google Network Performance Tester position that literally hundreds of agency and contract recruiters had been working for 4 months.


If part of the stigma of job board resumes is that everyone has access to them and thus they are “easy” to find – I am thoroughly confused. The last time I checked – literally EVERYONE has access to the Internet, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. There is no competitive advantage in using any of these sources to find candidates because everyone has access. The same goes for cold calling – everyone has access to a phone, right?

However, as I have hopefully shown you, having access to a resource and being able to find the right people are two completely different things.

If posting a resume on Monster is an act of a deserate job seeker, then so is posting a resume on the Internet, updating a LinkedIn profile, and using Twitter to advertise that you’re looking for a new position.

More of the candidates of today and certainly most of the candidates of tomorrow are likely to have a blog, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, use Twitter, AND post their resume to an online resume database (Monster, niche, or other such as VisualCV). 

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter where you find a great candidate.

Don’t be a sourcing snob.

  • Joseph Krengel

    I don’t dismiss job board candidates out of hand, but we recently ran some metrics and found that our retention rate for job board candidates were substantially lower than that of our other hires.

  • David Young

    This is one of the most juvenile posts by a so called “professional” recruiter who wants to justify his reliance on the job board with analogies which are not relevant and by framing the argument with a straw man.

    The facts are: Any competent headhunter (someone who has entered the field and thrived for more than 2 years) knows how to query search on the job boards. So it is safe to assume that when you contact one of these unhappy or unemployed people who put their resume on the job board, they have been contacted by other headhunters (as is the case 90% of the time) and most likely has had his/her resume sent to other companies (which means any chance of candidate exclusivity you might have hoped to get is out the window off the bat). So when you send this persons CV to your client you should realize there is a damn good chance your client will be competing with other headhunters clients and offers.

    On the other hand when you cold call you have complete candidate control, and more than likely you are the ONLY headhunter talking to this person so your chances to get candidate control is high to likely and the chance of losing the deal to competition is low and unlikely.

    To take his fishing analogy in a different direction, why would you want to fish where 90% of the other fishermen have their lines?

    Now can you find decent candidates on the job boards and place them? Sure, I had ONE last year (out of close to 500k billed) for around 8k. And that candidate I did place had 2 other offers from competing firms and I had to spend way too much time closing her on my client/offer and still damn near lost it at the end.

    I’ll take the happy worker bee who is going to work every day, doing a great job and not thinking of changing until that day I call their direct line (through my research and sourcing) over some unhappy or unemployed candidate who is posting his CV all over Linked In, Monster dying to find that greener grass ANY day of the week.

  • Thank you for a great post. I must admit, when I look in the mirror, I see a bit of a sourcing snob.

    However, I do think that there is an angle you’ve forgotten to take into account. COST.

    If you are truely adept in using social networks and such you’ll spend little or no money. The money you do spend is spent on candidates you’ve already identified as being great. Monster and others hold on to their archaic pricing schemes in which you pay for a black box of CVs, 99% of which you’ll never use.

    So no, jobboard candidates aren’t tainted, but very expensive.

  • Boolean Black Belt

    Thank you to everyone who has commented. I knew this post would strike a nerve with some folks – especially executive search.

    I’d like to point out that the main reason why I write most of my articles is to share knowledge (in the how-to posts) and to get people to think and challenge their own assumptions (as in the post on sourcing snobbery). All I ask is that you take a moment to think about the concepts – I’m certainly not asking for or trying to get everyone to agree.

    I’ll stand by my statement that a great candidate is a great candidate, whether they were sourced via a referral, a cold call, LinkedIn, an ATS, or Monster. No one in the sourcing and recruiting community is obligated to use every available method of candidate sourcing – and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions and favored methods/sites. To each their own.

    However, prejudice based on stereotyping is ignorance. Not everyone on the job boards is unhappy, unemployed or even actively looking for a job. Personally, when I have used the job boards to find candidates, I often would purposefully search for candidates with resumes older than 90 days so that I would by design speak to “passive” candidates. In the end, everyone is a candidate. :-)

    When people refer to the job boards as “active channel,” I just laugh. Maybe the job postings, but certainly not the resume databases. My studies have found that 75-80% of all resumes in the major job board resume databases are over 30 days old – and it’s been that way for as long as I checked (so not just in today’s higher unemployment environment). Some of the job board resume databases have resumes up to and over 3 years old – so in fact (a true, statistical fact), the vast majority of candidates who have a resume on a job board are “passive” candidates – not desperate, unemployed, or “active” job seekers.

    I agree that the Monsters and Careerbuilders of the world have gotten perhaps a bit too comfortble in their pricing – look for that to change over time. I am sure LinkedIn is putting a nice dent into the big boards’ resume database revenues. I’d love to create a free resume database – I just don’t have the technical know-how. Imagine a LinkedIn on steroids, with just about every professional in the world with a profile that they could turn “on” when actively looking and turn “off” when not, and even turn “passive” and be 100% confidential if they’re doing okay but would like to be exposed to better opportunities.

    If anyone can get the VC and the tech folks to make this happen – contact me – I’ll be the functional/design expert! Then we can all say goodbye to paying for resumes!

  • Very nice piece – and addresses many things I have heard HMs say as well as “high level” recruiters. But Ii disagree with the normal distribution example – these sites are not a normally distributed because they are not random. There are barriers to entry – some of which are psychological (I could never figure out how to do it OR I wouldn’t be caught dead on a job board), some technical (still using a PC from 1998), some just ignorant of what is out there ( worked in the same place for 25 years). These are just some barriers I can think of which limit the population as a whole. OK – that said the main question is – am I a sourcing snob. I think that when a person is green they will tend to think that databases are created unequal in their usefulness. As they mature in sourcing and Internet researching they ewill tend to realize what goldmines they are for many things besides direct name generation. Yes, I think I was a snob because that crutch of “knowing” about a resource on the surface is good to say to a recruiter. But YOU know that information taht is intelligently displayed is always more than what it seems.

  • Anonymous

    Job board candidates tend to be a resource for low hanging fruit.

  • Truly great article Glen, and definitely a contentious topic. This is one of my favorite debates.

    Let me get this out of the way: searching a board for a candidate for a ‘now’ position if you are in competition for some sort of contingent placement doesn’t make much sense. Others have probably already done it, including perhaps your client. While it is possible to place someone that way, by being better at positioning the opportunity, faster, more honest and true to your word, a better evaluator of ‘fit’, better on the phone, etc, it’s more likely that you’ll just waste time.

    With that said – and I think this may shock some readers – Monster was LinkedIn before LinkedIn. They’re both repositories of names and peoples’ employment information. They’re both sources of referrals and they’re both sources of future hires. One can use either site to introduce oneself to a person and start a relationship. Does anyone really believe that the Java developer who posted on LinkedIn in 2005 was really looking to ‘network’? Come on. It was and to some extent remains a way for many people to put their very resume-like profiles online without generating too much concern from their employer. And yet so many in our profession felt they had earned genius status by recruiting on the site.

    By the way, I am not talking about using Monster to post fake jobs in an effort to ‘pipeline’. That’s a whole ‘nother debate. I’m talking about reaching out to solid-looking potential candidates to relationship build. I’m talking about finding people who have listed references on their Monster resumes. I’m talking about using Monster as a source of market information, like salary ranges or ‘hmmm… a lot of people from X Corp lately – must be something going on there.’ And then calling the people to figure out what’s going on. Could be a great source company.

    Granted – I’m aware the parallel is not perfect. I am not arguing that the functionality of boards and LinkedIn is the same. I won’t even go into the many differences here, but please don’t attack me on that front. I get it.

    Most people don’t think creatively when they use the job boards. Oddly enough, their mistake is in thinking of them as job boards. If all you do on the board is search for hires for active positions and post jobs for active positions, then I’m a sourcing snob. If, on the other hand, you use them for what they are, information repositories with insights into roles, organizations, the market and a source of relationships, referrals, and future hires, then put me on the other side of the fence.

    – Scott Hajer

  • John

    Well written with some sound research principles thrown in for good measure.

  • Boolean Black Belt

    Dorothy and Scott,
    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments!

    Scott – wow! Nice to hear from others who see things for what they are. I agree that too many people make the mistake of viewing the job boards as “job boards” – as you say; classifying them and perhaps even limiting them from leveraging the job boards for their full potential. In reality – the job boards are simply repositories of human capital data – much can be gleaned from the information in the resumes stored on them, and and every single person you can find on a job board knows and works with other people. I firmly believe that the job boards can be leveraged just like LinkedIn, and vice versa.

    Part of the issue is functional fixedness.It’s all a matter of perspective – and unfortunately, many people can’t escape their subjective opinions (often based on feelings rather than facts or even experience) to begin to see and understand the objective reality.

    Whoa – went a little deep on that one. :-)

    I am looking forward to more comments and thoughts – but a word to those who might leave a reply…please, keep it professional. I know this is a highly polarizing topic, but be respectful, and think before you write.


  • Boolean Black Belt

    In response to the comment that “Job board candidates tend to be a resource for low hanging fruit,” – I’ve heard this perspective and analogy many times over the years, and I would like to share my thoughts.

    To leverage the same analogy – is there a tree that only has low hanging fruit?

    In reality, while some candidates on the job boards may in fact be “low hanging fruit” (easy to find and aquire), there are many candidates that are what I would refer to as “high hanging fruit” – not to so easy to find and acquire.

    On any given fruit tree, there is a mix of easily accessible (low hanging)and hard to get (top of the tree) fruit.

    Those who are especially talented at searching information systems can, unlike many others, essentailly break out a ladder and head straight to the top of the tree to find and acquire that which others can’t – either due to inability or to the fact that they don’t even “see” them up there at the top – instead content to fill their basket with the low hanging fruit which requires little effort and skill to collect.

    Lastly, Internet resumes and LinkedIn profiles are just as prone to be “low hanging fruit,” as they are free and everyone as access to them.

    Just some food (fruit) for thought. :-)

  • regina

    tremendous job…something that all recruiters/sourcers need to consider…

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