Sourcing is Like Treasure Hunting

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In anticipation of a large recruiting conference in Paris coming up in October 2016 – #rmsconf – the organizers sent me a list of questions, some of them quite challenging – such as “What is Sourcing?” and “Who is the best Sourcer?” This morning they published the interview, along with a translation into French, on the conference site. Check out other interviews on the site; Google translate does a pretty good job for those of us who don’t speak French (I don’t).

I thought I’d share the interview with my English-speaking blog readers. Note, the questions, in the square brackets [], have been translated from French.

[ Who are you ? How can you describe yourself ? ]

I try to be (among other things) a Master Sourcer, Brain Gain Recruiter, Boolean Strings Creator, LinkedIn Data Miner, Internet Researcher; I am Sourcing Certifications Founder (disclosure: I have quoted the 160-character bio on my Twitter profile @braingain).

[ What is your definition of Sourcing ? ]

Funny you should ask. The challenge answering this question is that, as soon as you define what Sourcing is, you will find many fellow Sourcers who question your definition. To avoid disagreements, we can give a nice short definition of Sourcing as “it’s what we do”.

At a closer look, definition disagreements are usually about the extent to which a Sourcer “should” engage with a potential candidate. Everyone agrees that searching online for professional information is what Sourcers do. In many cases, Sourcers can uncover professional information by combining online research with calling on the phone and using mobile apps; it’s all one process. But then, there’s the next, interactive, part of our jobs where we are trying to reach the promising professional, get more information by email (ideally, a CV), and get on the phone to pre-qualify him or her further. The challenge is that now it’s a mix between the research function (well done by researchers, “nerds”) and the sales function, where we start promoting the opportunity to the potential candidate (well done by extraverted, people-oriented recruiters). Some of it is “sourcing” and some of it is “sales” – often combined in one phone conversation.

[ How do you get this passion/expertise ? ]

Sourcing is fun and creative, it’s like treasure hunting. If I am working on a sourcing project, I usually procrastinate and leave other things behind, because I enjoy it so much. Every new search can bring in the results that can potentially convert into new careers for other people – as well as the discovery of research methods, tips, or tools for yourself and your colleagues. Most of the Sourcing methods I use (and teach) “show up” in hands-on research projects or answering our students’ questions. I have learned quite a few things from David Galley – I am lucky to be working with him!

Is Sourcing an art ? If yes, why ? ]

I think, Sourcing is part art and part science. The “art” part is gradually becoming more important because of the complexity and volume of information to dive into and because of increasingly smart – but not smart enough – tools. Say, tools can look for synonyms or even “understand” words in the context – but no tools can replace a Sourcer who is looking for matching candidates for a job opening. Creativity and intuition play a big part in Sourcing.

[ You have to find a Java J2EE Specialist. How do you do it ? ]

Here are some things I might do, after I have searched for active candidates on job boards and in our ATS. Look at relevant skills and note other tops skills (keywords), companies, and schools. Search for the skill on LinkedIn in the alumni search dialog, then, narrow down using other facets. Search on Indeed. Explore Google-Plus. Look at Meetup members. Search on Google – perhaps, for resume Images. Look for people who attended conferences. I could look for Java Developers on github; those would need to be researched further since not all Java people do J2EE. There are other terms closely related to J2EE that I could also search for. There are a few other things one could do…

[ Social professional networks, Talent pool, Google … what are your favorite tools ? Why ? ]

I have a list of some tools on my blog. The best approach is to combine various tools vs. using only Google or only LinkedIn, etc.

[ What is your secret tool ? ]

The mouse and keyboard.

[ What is for you the difference between a good and a bad Sourcing specialist ? ]

A good Sourcing Specialist thinks.

[ Who is the best Sourcing specialist for you ? ]

I have met many strong, talented Sourcers on Social Networks and at conferences (sometimes, in that order); I can’t name just one person. To name several excellent Sourcers, here are the winners of our latest Sourcing Contest.

[ How do you imagine the Sourcing evolution in 5 or 10 years ? ]

It’s hard to predict; however, I am pretty sure that humans will continue to play a big part in Sourcing – it won’t be automated any time soon.

[ Which advise can you give to someone who want to become a sourcing expert ? ]

A couple of things: 1) Look for the concepts behind tools and examples. 2) Always practice.

Thank you!

Irina