Sourcing: Separate Role or Integrated Function?

Candidate Sourcing - integrated function of a full life cycle recruiter, or separate role?Whatever your thoughts may be regarding the sourcing role, companies and their HR/staffing organizations have at least 2 ways of handling the talent discovery/identification function: 1) Simply allow full life cycle recruiters to handle the sourcing role as an integrated function, or 2) Separate out the sourcing function and assign the work to people who are solely responsible for talent identification.

So which is the superior model?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here, as I do not believe that either way of handling the sourcing function is intrinsically “better” than the other. However, as someone who has always personally performed his own sourcing and as someone who trains dedicated sourcers whose sole purpose is to identify potential candidates, I can share my insights with you.

One Mind, One Understanding

Having 1 person being responsible for the entire recruiting life cycle, including the talent identification stage, has an obvious benefit of not suffering from any communication/”lost in translation” issues when it comes to understanding a particular position and the kinds of people the hiring manager is ideally looking for.

Who is to say that the sourcer walks away with the same understanding of a specific position’s requirements as the recruiter, and that the sourcer would employ the same search strategies and tactics to identify potential candidates as the recruiter would?


While teams can enjoy certain benefits over lone wolves, there is something to be said for a single point of accountability. A full life cycle recruiter who performs their own sourcing cannot point the finger at or blame anyone else for their lack of results with something like, “my sourcer isn’t getting me enough of the right people.” Moreover, a sourcer can’t claim that the recruiter is failing to successfully contact and engage the prospective candidates they have identified, or that the recruiter simply isn’t calling the people they’re finding because the recruiter doesn’t care for the resumes. Sound familair?

Feedback Loop

A full life cycle recruiter who is responsible for sourcing their own candidates has the advantage of an instantaneous real-time feedback look from sourcing efforts – there is no dependency upon or need to wait to hear back from the sourcer as to what they are or are not finding. I’ve always sourced by own candidates, and I benefit from and enjoy adaptively learning from my research and sourcing efforts to modify, improve and evolve my searches to more quickly find more of the right people to engage.


Whether a corporate or agency environment, it’s typically less expensive to employ 1 person to perform the entire recruiting life cycle than it is to employ 2 people with mutually exclusive responsibilities within the recruiting life cycle, even if the sourcer is offshore.

Due to the cost factor of employing 2 people to perform the entire recruiting life cycle, many staffing organizations “skimp” on the sourcing role, viewing the candidate sourcing role as a junior function, and correspondingly pay the sourcer less than the recruiter.

My only guess as to why this is the case is because a great many people and the organizations they work for don’t yet understand the true value of the sourcing function. Sourcers are undeniably true knowledge workers – and their function cannot be commoditized any more than business intelligence and financial analytics can, regardless of the excessive desire to.

The cliche of “you get what you pay for” applies no less to sourcing than it does anything else.


Depending on the kind of roles being recruited for, finding the right people to engage and recruit can be very time consuming. I know many recruiters who lament their lack of time to really dig into their sourcing function based on their requirement/job opening load – they’re spending so much time reaching out to, engaging, evaluating and processing referrals and active candidates that have responded to job postings that they don’t have much time to go out and actually look for those elusive and prized “passive” candidates.

It can easily be argued that having one person handle the entire recruiting life cycle is inefficient – like having 1 person build your house. Even though there are individuals who are entirely capable of designing a home as well as performing all carpentry, drywall, flooring, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work – it’s not an efficient way to build a home.  

One person that is solely responsible for sourcing candidates can undeniably source a higher volume of candidates per hour, day, and week than a person who has to juggle all of the other steps of the recruiting life cycle. And without having to worry about finding candidates to contact, a recruiter can engage and assess more candidates per hour, day and week than a recruiter who has to source their own candidates.

Typers vs. Talkers

Some people believe that recruiting/HR professionals can be lumped into two main types: typers and talkers. I’ll grant that to some extent this is accurate. I’ve certainly experienced it myself when I have hired and trained full life cycle recruiters – both experienced and inexperienced. Some people are simply better with the people engagement aspect (aka the human element) of recruiting than the investigative hunt of talent discovery and vice versa.

It is a fallacy to assume that just because someone has an uncanny way with potential candidates when it comes to messaging, engagement, screening and closing and control that they will have an equally uncanny ability to leverage the phone and/or technology (databases, ATS/CRM systems, the Internet, etc.) to actually FIND potential candidates, and vice versa.

Specialization of Function

There is definitely an advantage to specialization of function. Asking one person to do (too) many different things can prevent them from being highly productive, and it can also prevent them from developing advanced skills and ability in any one aspect of their job – the concept of the generalist vs. the specialist.

Perhaps it is best to let the typers type and the talkers talk. Two specialists who are able to divide and conquer the recruiting life cycle by leveraging their respective skills and ability can likely outperform a single generalist responsible for the entire recruiting process. However, as previously stated, 2 people – especially specialists – are typically more expensive than 1 generalist, or even a single “super recruiter” who can do it all.

My Thoughts

Technology Enables

Now more than ever, recruiting technology and the unprecedented access to and ever increasing volume of human capital data should actually enable a single person responsible for the entire recruiting life cycle to be highly productive.

If anything, a separate sourcing function was never more necessary than 15+ years ago. Today – not so much, in my opinion.

As I have written before, today – a properly trained and capable person leveraging available technologies can identify 20 or so well qualified and local candidates in under an hour (sometimes in as little as 30 minutes) – not counting ad responses. 15 years ago – without LinkedIn, a well stocked Internet, highly searchable resume databases (free, premium, and private ATS/CRM solutions) and social media, you’d be lucky to identify 20 well qualified local candidates in a week.

And by “well qualified” I don’t mean names – I mean people who match on all variables – specific years of and type of experience, industry, environment, degree, compensation, precise location, etc., and have a high probability of being the right match and ultimately being hired. 

As I am fond of saying – finding people (sourcing names) has never been particularly difficult, but finding the right people (with specific skills, experience, and qualifications)quickly has always been a challenge, although less so today for those with the right skills, experience, and capability.

Hire Right

Yes, it’s true that there are typers and there are talkers. However, I would not suggest designing a sourcing/recruiting model around this phenomenon.

Solid talent management principles would state that you should leverage people for their strengths and not rely on them for their weaknesses – why have high expectations of someone performing a specific function for which they don’t appear to have any innate ability/propensity?

If you need a true full life cycle recruiter who can source their own candidates, make sure you’re hiring the right people who are equally good at typing and talking. Trust me – they exist.  There are many people who can type and talk with equal skill and ability, and they can also be developed from scratch.  Been there, done that. :-)

Value and Invest in Sourcing

There is no doubt that splitting the recruiting life cycle up between typers and talkers can be effective and highly productive. Specialization of function has many benefits.

I believe that for staffing teams employing dedicated sourcers, specialized sourcing training should be available, there should be a clear career path offering advancement for the sourcing role, and compensation for the sourcers should be commensurate with ability and the value provided. There are a few companies I am aware of that pay their senior sourcers more than their senior recruiters who do not source – kudos for “getting it!”

If you examine the entire recruiting life cycle for value, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that any step provides more value than finding the right person in the first place. You simply cannot engage, recruit and hire someone you haven’t found. Unfortunately, many staffing organizations pay their sourcers in an inverse proportion to the value their role can provide their company.

Your Thoughts?

So what do you think? What has been your experience with candidate sourcing as an integrated function of a full life cycle recruiter or as a separate role?