Sourcing is Not an Entry Level Function or Role

I recently listened to an interview with DeeDee Doke of Recruiter.co.uk in which she related to Amybeth Hale that the perception in the U.K. is that sourcing is an entry level career in the recruiting industry.

Apparently, using information systems for talent discovery and identification is perceived by many as a junior role and skill across the pond.

I’m saddened by this, and what makes it worse is that this sentiment isn’t limited to the U.K. – there are plenty of people in the U.S. as well as the rest of the world who feel the same way.

This perception most likely comes primarily from the fact that many people don’t really yet understand, appreciate or know how to fully leverage the latent power of human capital data.

Yes, there is deep latent power hiding in data of all forms – all you need to do is take a look at business intelligence solutions and how much money companies spend on them (millions) to get a basic appreciation of the power of data.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that many companies value human capital data in the same manner that they value their sales, product and customer data. 

What is Human Capital Data?

I define human capital data as any information, typically text-based, that can be used as a basis for gaining insight into what kind of contribution a person could be capable of making to an organization.

Of course, the most familiar source of human capital data is the resume.

With resumes having been around for quite some time, there are those who feel resumes are dead (they’re not, nor will they ever die – they will just evolve). Regardless of how they change or what you may eventually call them in the future, there will always be a need for a searchable summary of a person’s experience and accomplishments.

Personally, I love resumes. They are deep sources of human capital data – information that can be analyzed to enable me to gain predictive insight into a person’s capabilities based on what they have been paid by others to do in the past.

In addition to resumes, social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can be excellent sources of human capital data, in addition to the Internet itself, with blogs, press releases and various treasures just waiting to be found.

Today, sourcers, recruiters and companies have more access to more human capital data than ever.

Could this very fact perpetuate the perception that sourcing is a junior role, simply because resumes, social networking profiles and Internet content is so easily accessible? I definitely think so, but it’s based on faulty logic.

Accessing human capital data is the easy part. Every search “works.” Anyone can type in a title and a couple of keywords into LinkedIn, Monster, their ATS or the Internet and get results.

Easy right?

In fact, it’s so easy you can outsource it for $5/hour. Heck – even a an intern with no experience can do it!

Finding Some vs. Finding the Best

Getting some results from searches has never been the challenge – it’s always been easy.

What most people fail to grasp is that finding some results is not the same as finding the best results. Sure, your query pulled up some people who have the right title and seem to have the right experience, but have you ever wondered if the ones you found are the best people available to be found in the source you’re searching?

That is what we’re trying to do, right – find and hire the best people that can be found?

Feeling good about searching for a title and some keywords and getting some results is like feeling good about hitting a golf ball. If you don’t care about precisely where the ball goes, simply making contact with the ball and making it go somewhere feels like an accomplishment.

However, some people are capable of not only hitting the ball, but making it go farther than most and exactly where they want to go. Holes-in-one are actually possible. Professional golfers know this and are constantly working on being able to get the ball in the cup with the least number of strokes possible – they are not happy just to hit the ball around. They also get paid quite a bit of money – because they get the best results.

What Does Your Target Look Like?

One of the challenges associated with understanding the latent potential of human capital data is that there is no known target to aim for. Golfers have the advantage of knowing where their target is – it already exists on the green.

The problem with sourcing is that the best candidates are not already identified, and each one can look completely different – there is no predefined target resume that is automatically indicative of top talent. Some of the best candidates have unimpressive resumes that leave you with little clue as to their true potential, let alone what they have already accomplished for other employers.

Except for the most complete and detailed LinkedIn profiles, social network data gives you a much less predictive sense of the true capabilities of the person the data represents.

On top of all of this, a good percentage of all of the available search results of each and every source of human capital data are never actually found, and most people are completely unaware of this.

What are You Trying to Accomplish?

If you’re looking for people who have the lowest golf scores – you should look for the highly paid professionals. They’re getting paid the most because they get the best results. However, if you’re not keeping score, you might be satisfied with any weekend duffer.

If you’re looking to identify and acquire top talent, you should look for professional knowledge workers who understand, appreciate and can fully leverage the latent power of human capital data – they get the best results. However, if you’re happy with just filling positions, you might be satisfied with the results produced by entry and junior level sourcers and recruiters.

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About Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey is a sourcing and recruiting thought leader with over 16 years of experience working in large staffing agency and global RPO environments (>1,000 recruiters and nearly 100,000 hires annually). Starting out his career as a top producing recruiter, he quickly advanced into senior management roles and now currently serves as the SVP of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Innovation for Kforce, working out of their renowned National Recruiting Center with over 300 recruiters. Often requested to speak on sourcing and recruiting best practices, trends and strategies, Glen has traveled internationally to present at many talent acquisition conferences (5X LinkedIn Talent Connect - U.S. '10, '11, '12, Toronto '12, London '12, 2X Australasian Talent Conference - Sydney & Melbourne '11, '12, 6X SourceCon, 2X TruLondon, 2X HCI) and is regularly requested to present to companies (e.g., PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup, etc.). This blog is his personal passion and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than himself.

  • http://magicsourcer.wordpress.com Sarang

    You echo my sentiments Glenn. This is exactly I thought when I read that interview. I’ve worked on-site in UK for 4 months and they have sourcers (junior recruiters) working for senior consultants.

    I think with entrance of internet, social media – there will be paradigm shift in how “sourcing” is viewed. It will go from tactical to strategic component. There is so much information now available on net – one can’t get away with post and pray approach.

    The real problem is – there is a basic difference between mindset of a good sourcer and good recruiter. Sometimes good sourcers are good recruiters but not always good recruiter is great in sourcing. Sourcer is a hunter and typical (inbox) recruiter is a farmer. With emergence of so many new tools/techniques and social media – it give all the food for hunter; while farmer still looks at his/her inbox.

    That’s why I strongly feel that “Sourcers” are different breed. I recently heard that we have a new kind of sourcer – Talent Scout; who goes in the field to make enrolls. Sourcing is head-on, on the floor, in the battle with front-facing to market. Then you have a great recruiters with strong candidate engagement, negotiation, coordination and closing. Saying this – probably candidate engagement is a sharing responsibility of both sourcers and recruiters. They work as partners.

    Entry level sourcing is nothing but a data mining. A real sourcer would search a human capital data and not just database data. Mindset is all that differs!!!

  • Dave Galley

    I think the conflation of “sourcer” with “recruiting assistant” occurs for a number of reasons. First, most recruiters source, to some degree. We may not call it that, we may not have a particularly well defined method for doing it, but before we start making calls we do have to find some names!

    In the staffing industry, recruiters source AND call AND sell AND close — all in the name of directly, single-handedly generating income for the company — someone who ONLY sources can be easily seen as doing less. Their activities may also be harder to tie to direct financial gain for their employers.

    Making the business case to pay someone more, to “do less”, while not generating income in an obvious way… that’s a hard sell! Clearly tying sourcing activity to money saved / money earned / value to the organization seems like the necessary first step in changing the way sourcing is viewed.

  • http://www.sourcecon.com Amybeth Hale

    Glen, the bottom line here is that people will dismiss that which they don’t understand. Education is the key, and the best way to do this is to communicate the sourcing role to people. The problem is that most sourcers don’t have well refined communication skills and resort to some version of “It’s just important – trust me!” when talking to their colleagues about their function. Communication skills are a baseline necessity to prove your value. Additionally, I don’t think many sourcers (or their managers) quite grasp the idea that sourcing is more than… well… sourcing! There are competitive intelligence components, marketing and PR elements, and many other facets of our job that make us incredibly valuable to our teams and therefore should de-classify us from “junior” status.

    My hope is that those who wish to know more about sourcing, and sourcers who wish to understand more about what they could potentially offer, will come to SourceCon in NYC to learn. The lineup is designed to address these very issues. We cannot change this perception without education – and we cannot effectively educate without good communication skills.

    Thanks for posting this; I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast with DeeDee as well!

    Shameless plug: http://www.sourcecon.com/2011nyc

  • Matt

    Really hit home with the point that “some” results are not the same as the “best” results. The value of the title sourcer might be determined by “X” company’s recruiting model. Is it about high activity or a thoughtful strategy dependent upon competitive intelligence and deeper industry insights?

    Organizations that have the capacity and practices to measure the value of account hours internally will value sourcing. Organizations that understand the value of cultivating skill sets will value sourcing. Others will take the blunt quantity over quality approach.

    This all said as long as basic activity is measured internally it’s not hard to place value on sourcing.

  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    @ Dave – as you pointed out, you can’t contact, recruit, and hire someone who you haven’t found in the first place. So one of my major points is what could be more important than talent discovery and identification when the rest of the recruiting life cycle is 100% dependent upon finding and identifying the people in the first place? When I’ve worked a desk, it has always been full life cycle, and I have always sourced my own candidates and frankly – I wouldn’t have it any other way because I am fully capable of finding exactly what I need when I need it.

    Being able to quickly find very good and well qualified and matched candidates is a competitive advantage – whether you do it yourself or you have someone else discovers and identifies the people for you to contact and recruit. I think the reason why some companies choose to split sourcing and recruiting into two roles is because many corporate recruiters are bogged down in administrivia and meetings they don’t really need to attend but are expected to. If more recruiters were given more time to perform their primary responsibility – recruit people – I think you would see less organizations going to the separate sourcing/recruiting model.

    @ Sarang – I find that not only is the sourcing role seen as junior or entry level, but sourcing as a task – even when performed by the recruiter who finds their own candidates to contact and recruit – is not viewed as a higher level skill or function or a recruiter. Most people feel that building relationships and candidate closing and control are the higher level/advanced functions and skills of a recruiter, but as I pointed out to Dave – what can be more critical as an advanced skill than finding and identifying top talent, when the entire recruiting life cycle is completely dependent upon finding the right and best people in the first place?

    Although I agree to some extent with the sentiment that there are “talkers” who are good at building relationships with candidates, consultatively selling to and closing candidates and there are “typers” who are good at leveraging technology to hunt and find top talent, there are people who are equally adept at both, and they are not as rare as unicorns. :-)

    @ Amybeth – I agree 100%. Most people don’t really “get” the sourcing function or role, and I think this is because most people think they actually do get it, but in reality they don’t. It’s easy for people to assume finding candidates is as easy as slinging some Boolean strings (or simply posting jobs – gasp!), and a big part of the problem is that it is that simple. All searches “work” and get some results. But the quality aspect is the missing link in most people’s understanding and appreciation of the sourcing function and role. Getting some results doesn’t give you a competitive advantage and many people/companies simply don’t have any real or defined talent discovery and identification strategy, leaving them unknowingly at a competitive disadvantage.

    @ Matt – I’m glad the some vs. best concept really hit home for you – I wish it did for more people and more companies! The ridiculously simple but tough questions any sourcer, recruiter or company needs to ask of themselves is are these the best candidates available, the best candidates you can find, the first candidates you found that were qualified and matched, or simply the only candidates you could find?

  • Medhavi

    Finding, cutting and polishing a diamond is more difficult than selling a diamond. Diamond is precious and anyone who knows it’s worth and can afford it , will buy it. World knows the value of those who have the ability to find diamond ore and extract diamond through a well defined process. Does the world know the value of sourcers?

  • http://sharronclemons.co.cc/ Sharron Clemons

    I think the conflation of “sourcer” with “recruiting assistant” occurs for a number of reasons. First, most recruiters source, to some degree. We may not call it that, we may not have a particularly well defined method for doing it, but before we start making calls we do have to find some names! In the staffing industry, recruiters source AND call AND sell AND close — all in the name of directly, single-handedly generating income for the company — someone who ONLY sources can be easily seen as doing less. Their activities may also be harder to tie to direct financial gain for their employers. Making the business case to pay someone more, to “do less”, while not generating income in an obvious way… that’s a hard sell! Clearly tying sourcing activity to money saved / money earned / value to the organization seems like the necessary first step in changing the way sourcing is viewed.

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