Sourcing vs. Recruiting – What’s the Difference?

 

While you may not  know that Balazs Paroczay recently posted a rebuttal of my proposed definition of sourcing, I strongly suggest you read his argument, as I appreciate his perspective as well as the fact that he disagrees with me on the definition of sourcing and I’d like to hear your opinion.

I believe disagreement is important and valuable, because it fuels critical thinking and forward progress.

Before I get to Balazs’s post, I’d like to get your take on a recent disagreement I had with Recruiting Animal.

Recruiters Can Source, But Sourcers Can’t Recruit?

@Animal and I recently went a few rounds on the issue of whether or not sourcers can recruit – if you didn’t catch it, you missed on on some lively dialogue that managed to attract the attention of @socialtalent@sdazzo@shally@kamoswin@imJeremyR@TheRobMcIntosh@MikeChuidian and others.

@Animal claims that while recruiters can source, sourcers can’t recruit, or else they are recruiters.

Twitter Disagreement Over Sourcing and Recruiting with @Animal

I argue that just as recruiters can source, sourcers can also recruit.

There are a handful of others who still have an issue with the converse argument, although I am baffled as to why.

What do you think?

In my opinion, “sourcer” is simply a title, and no one should ever expect a title to fully define what someone’s responsibilities are/should be.

I define “sourcing” as the finding and initial engagement of non-applicants, with the end goal of turning at least some of them into applicants. :) If someone wants to call a “sourcer” a recruiter, that’s fine by me – but if they are primarily responsible for recruiting non-applicants, then they’re “sourcing” most of the time IMO.

I don’t care about the title – the specific responsibilities and focus are what matter.

Where and How I Disagree with Balazs Paroczay on the Definition of Sourcing

Balazs recognizes that “sourcing nowadays indeed seems to be the science and art of ‘passive candidate’ generation.”

I don’t, however, use the term “passive” anymore when speaking about sourcing – I’ve defined sourcing as a proactive focus on non-applicants, which can include people who are and are not looking to make a change from their current employer.

Non-applicants also includes referrals, by the way.

Balazs raises a very good question in his article:

I am probably not the only one who is often stretched with the question: why does direct sourcing take only a little portion of the total hiring? Why do we need experienced and expensive sourcers if all the other recruiting channels provide much more, the majority of the hires?

What are your thoughts in response to that brilliant question?

Balazs defines sourcing as “nothing else, from a customer perspective, than generating a slate of qualified, interested and available high-potential candidates,” and that sourcing essentially owns the whole funnel, including posting jobs and processing applicants.

I believe one of the main values of sourcing is to ensure a company does not rely solely on hiring the best of those people who happen to have found the company’s job posting and apply.

We know that active job seekers are the minority of the employed population of any country, and smaller still is the percentage of active job seekers who, through whatever means, manage to find and decide to apply to any given position posted online somewhere. Even smaller than that is the percentage of qualified applicants. In reality, the probability that any given applicant is fully qualified for the position they apply to is low.

Admittedly, some companies don’t *really* have to source – they get plenty of qualified applicants and can meet all of their hiring needs simply from processing applicants, especially for certain roles (e.g. non-I.T., non-knowledge worker, non-executive, etc.).

However, for a company to rely solely on that small fraction of the total available talent pool (active job seekers who will apply to jobs) says something about their talent acquisition strategy. Whether they like it or not, these companies (and their recruiters!) are effectively saying, “We’re fine fishing in the shallow end of the talent pool, and we don’t care about taking any proactive efforts to find the best talent – we’re happy to simply react to applicants and solely work with people who come to us.”

Would you be comfortable saying that? Is your company’s talent acquisition function essentially saying that through their actions?

For many roles, the best people are actually working for someone else and even if they would change employers for a better opportunity, they are not motivated to take any action to do so. However, a sourcer (or recruiter who sources) can find and engage these folks and turn them into applicants.

Let’s look at companies like GE, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. – they are deluged with applicants, yet they still have teams of sourcers who are responsible for finding and engaging non-applicants.

Why do they do this? Simply because they know that their applicants only expose them to a small minority of the total talent pool and if they are truly committed to finding and attracting the best talent, they have to also hunt in the deep end of the talent pool – non-applicants. A balanced and holistic talent acquisition strategy must include efforts to recruit applicants and non-applicants.

Another value of sourcing, as per my definition, is speed. If a company relies solely on applicants, many positions can go unfilled for longer than acceptable periods of time while talent acquisition teams simply wait for the right person to apply. Proactive sourcing of non-applicants can significantly speed up time to find and hire the right people.

From a lean perspective, sourcing has the least amount of waste associated with it from a talent acquisition perspective. This is because the sourcer (or recruiter who is sourcing) can search for and find people who only meet and exceed minimum “specs” (BQ’s + PQ’s). On the other hand, job posting has the highest amount of waste, as I previously explained – volumes of unqualified applicants with ZERO control over applicant qualifications.

One of my main issues with Balazs’ definition of sourcing as:

Nothing else…from a customer perspective, than generating a slate of qualified, interested and available high-potential candidates

…is there no differentiation in focus and strategy between recruiters who only process applicants and recruiters who only find and engage people who haven’t already applied?

What are your thoughts?

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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.

  • Liz

    As the sole sourcer at my company and coming from an RPO with 30 dedicated sourcers and having worked for 7 or so Fortune 1,000 clients, sourcing is different for every company and process.

    Process wise, I think sourcing works best when the sourcer finds the talent and generates the interest.. I’ve worked with a process where all the sourcers were doing were finding cold resumes and passing them to recruiters (read: wasting recruiter’s time). I’ve worked in a process where sourcers found the candidates, generated interested, and did a 15 minute pre-screen before presenting them (read: wasting sourcer’s time).

    I currently am the only sourcer for my company. I find passive candidates and generate interest, like a typical sourcer, but I also manage all of the applicants and disposition them. All my recruiters see are qualified and interested candidates. That works well for us.

    Skills wise, I don’t think recruiters can source and I don’t think sourcers can recruit. Recruiters CAN NOT mine the web and manipulate search engines as well as sourcers can. They can not craft messages to cold candidates like sourcers can. They do not have the time. Sourcers CAN NOT manage an offer or schedule a candidate for 2 rounds of in-persons with 4 different people each (a recruiter shouldn’t have to either, that should be an RC’s job but often times isn’t).

  • @chrisbrecruits

    @Liz – “Skills wise, I don’t think recruiters can source and I don’t think sourcers can recruit. Recruiters CAN NOT mine the web and manipulate search engines as well as sourcers can. They can not craft messages to cold candidates like sourcers can. They do not have the time.”
    I’m completely confused and don’t agree with this statement. Is it a skills issue or time prioritization issue. I personally know recruiters who do it all and have amazing skills at sourcing. However, they may not always have the time.

    In my role, I source daily (name gen, cold call, research, scour the web, etc.) and still run full life cycle searches.

    Sourcers who provide cold resumes are focused too narrow and don’t add as much value to the business as sourcers who do reach out as well.

    Sourcers in a lot of cases lack the ability to tell a story and extend a relationship which are keys to attraction for the top talent.

    You can teach sourcing but it takes innate abilities to be a good storyteller and understand how to build and extend relationships.

    @chrisbrecruits

  • Guest

    Hi Chris, I don’t think it’s a skills issue for good recruiters… like I said, they simply do not have the time… and I want to emphasis for GOOD recruiters. I know recruiters who do full life-cycle and do it well… However, I do know recruiters who are used to having a sourer provide them with all of their candidates and could not even source an ATS or LinkedIn.

    I would also argue that “Sourcers in a lot of cases lack the ability to tell a story and extend a relationship which are keys to attraction for the top talent” is an inaccurate statement. If a sourcer is generating interest from cold candidates (and is successful at it), wouldn’t that mean that they are good at story telling and attracting top talent?

    GOOD sourcers and GOOD recruiters probably don’t have the problems either of us mentioned.

  • Liz

    Hi Chris,

    I wasn’t trying to point fingers at all. I think that for GOOD recruiters, it is a time issue. I know good recruiters that manage candidates all day and then go home at night and source. Props to them and they are good.

    I think that that’s a thing of the past though, and we’re going to see more and more agencies and corporate TA departments separate sourcing from recruiting, which is where the skills gap comes into play.

    When separated, it becomes unnecessary for a recruiter to know how to and be good at “sourcing” and vice-versa.

    I would also argue your point (“Sourcers in a lot of cases lack the ability to tell a story and extend a relationship which are keys to attraction for the top talent) that if a sourcers job is to find cold candidates and generate interest, they HAVE to be good at this.

  • http://www.researchgoddess.com/ ResearchGoddess

    “We’re fine fishing in the shallow end of the talent pool, and we don’t
    care about taking any proactive efforts to find the best talent – we’re
    happy to simply react to applicants and solely work with people who come
    to us.”

    I think you could also phrase this, “We’re fine allowing our recruiting team to carry a number of requisitions that doesn’t allow them time to proactively source, because we feel we have enough okay applicants to fill our openings.”

    Whether you believe phrases #1 and #2 or not, proactive sourcing will allow you to show to your hiring managers the caliber of talent that is OUT THERE that matches what they’ve indicated they want. This will in turn allow you to have intelligent consultative conversations around realistic or unrealistic expectations (i.e., are they asking for too much experience for the $$ budgeted; is the talent pool local or will they need to consider relo; is there even any one in existence who can do what they’re asking).

    I’d love to see someone do a case study on the ‘sweet spot’ for req loads – when are you carrying too many reqs to be able to conduct proactive sourcing? Of course there will be many factors like industry, req level, recruiter experience, etc., but it would be quite interesting, and if I had the time, I would do it myself (carrying 39 technical reqs myself right now!)

    You should always make time for sourcing. And if you can’t, you’re either spending too much time in other activities, or you’ve got too many reqs and your company should hire some more recruiters :)

  • http://www.researchgoddess.com/ ResearchGoddess

    Hi Liz, I’m a recruiter. You can ask anyone who knows me – they’ll tell you that I totally CAN source. It’s more a timing issue… when you’ve got a recruiter carrying a crazy number of reqs, the ability to spend time sourcing and not have to take work home with you every evening diminishes. Perhaps instead of saying “cannot,” a better way to put it would be that recruiters often don’t have time to source.

  • Liz

    I recant my statement because I didn’t mean to phrase it in that way. By saying “I don’t think recruiters can source and I don’t think sourcers can recruit. Recruiters CAN NOT mine the web and manipulate search engines as well as sourcers can. They can not craft messages to cold candidates like sourcers can. They do not have the time.”

    What I should have said is that there are recruiters that have those skills but do not have the time.

    Also, I think that the more we see TA separate the functions, the less we’ll see recruiters who can source and sourcers who can recruit. I may have a different perspective on this because I started as a sourcer and have only worked in processes where the function is separate. In these environments I have seen it hold true; recruiters do not know how to source and sourcers don’t know how to recruit.

    I’m not trying to say one is better than the other; I will tell you first-hand I could not manage an offer or negotiate salary, etc. and I know plenty of sourcers that have never been on the phone with a candidate. But I can also tell you that I know recruiters who don’t know boolean at all.

  • Jenna Johnson

    “Sourcers in a lot of cases lack the ability to tell a story and extend a relationship which are keys to attraction for the top talent.

    You can teach sourcing but it takes innate abilities to be a good storyteller and understand how to build and extend relationships.”

    Well put!

    In my experience, top companies (startups and large) find success in recruiters who can perform cradle-to-grave hiring. I started my career in a full-cycle environment and still find it a bit strange that some agencies separate hiring functions into “sourcer” and “sales/recruiter”. When you source, contact, and recruit a candidate, you know that applicant’s “story.” In essence, you should be able to sell that candidate the best. That’s maximum value added with less overhead (sometimes).

    While Glenn focuses heavily on sourcing strategies, I have always seen him as a champion for maximum information gathering for maximum storytelling.

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  • シ Josef Kadlec

    It depends on the definition of your hiring process. E.g. our sourcers cannot recruit (they are not in touch with companies). On the other side, recruiters are not that good at sourcing techniques because they simply do not do it.

    If your sourcers/recruiters do the full recruitment cycle than it’s a different situation. You can call them “sourcters”: )

    Cao.

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  • Guest

    Sourcing is the act of finding people.

    Talk to someone who recruited 20 years ago, and yes, they’ll say they had only a Rolodex, a stack of resumes and a telephone. They sourced the limited data they had..

    With the emergence of the internet, and later, social media platforms this data has moved on-line and expanded!!!! Fortunately we can leverage search analytic techniques (i.e. Boolean, Custom Search Engines) to expedite and improve the talent sourcing process. It takes a certain combination of skills — research ability, relentlessly thorough process, creativity — to be good at modern “sourcing.” The field has created a new function that some recruiters have added to their toolkit and are really good at it. Others recognize the asset creative sourcing brings to their pipelines and have hired 1, 2, or a whole team of sourcers to aid talent acquisition strategies.

    To ignore the value of sourcing as a recruiter (or account manager, salesperson, whomever!) would be a major opportunity lost. To rely on it as your ONLY source of talent, and forget old avenues for solid talent like personal networks and referrals, would also be a mistake.

  • http://www.sourcingmachine.com Joe Noonan

    Hi Glen,

    The perception of sourcing has definitely changed over the years. Especially the term direct sourcing which to many people means to actively poach potential candidates from a competitor, at least that’s how it used to be
    viewed.

    But now with the technological revolution in play sourcing is not limited to just one actual pool of potential candidates from one specific place. The single thread that sets a sourcer apart from other functions is that
    they “target, locate and attract” candidates that would not otherwise have known about a particular open position nor would they have been identified. Sourcing whether referred to as direct or not is an “outreach or research based function” when done properly. Conversely all other candidate traffic is incoming whether
    it be agency generated, referrals or job applicants via posts – so these are not generally included in the mix of the sourcing function itself.

    I do think that a recruiter can source effectively and a sourcer can do full life cycle recruiting with one caveat. Most corporate side recruiters are better at managing the actual process of hiring from start to finish which takes up a huge amount of their time and resources. On the other hand most hard core sourcers have laser like focus on research based projects, which I believe takes a uniquely different type of animal to be successful in the long run.

    Best regards, Joe Noonan
    joe@sourcingmachine.com

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  • valentino14

    Sourcing, searching and identifying, is not enough. Growing and nurturing your own pipeline is the future of quality recruitment inclusive of better diversity outcomes.