No Quick Fix: The Biggest Sourcing Mistake Recruiters Make.

There seems to be an overly obsessive focus on sourcing as a core component of the talent acquisition process, with an inordinate amount of time, resources, products and punditry dedicated to doing what’s become a mundane and relatively easy task: finding people on the internet.

That’s not to say that sourcing isn’t, by any measure, one of the most important parts of the talent acquisition process. After all, you can’t make a great hire without great candidates, and proactively finding top talent takes some modicum of time and work.

The problem with the state of sourcing today, however, is that there’s an unnecessary layer of complexity being added onto the front end of the hiring process, and it’s time to reevaluate exactly what role – and more importantly, which resources – sourcing occupies in a world where it doesn’t take a particularly high degree of skill to successfully research a slate of successful candidates.

The average high schooler would scoff at the notion that creeping people’s information on the internet is a specialized professional function. They probably can’t tell you what the hell a Boolean string is, but no doubt they could hang in there with the top sourcers in the talent acquisition business.

Keep It Simple, Stupid: Why There’s No Magic Formula For Sourcing.

This isn’t to say sourcing doesn’t require some degree of skill, particularly when it comes to building a strategy; it takes some business acumen to know both who you’re looking for and whether they’d be a fit. And, ultimately, the cliché holds true: finding people is easy. It’s getting them to respond that’s the real skill required for sourcing success.

But we don’t talk a whole lot about how to communicate, beyond some vague aphorisms on even vaguer tropes like “personalization,” “engagement,” and “authenticity.” Such a conversation, of course, is specious and spurious in the first place. The fact is that there’s no magic formula for this sort of stuff; being able to build enough trust and credibility with a candidate to get them to respond is often trial and error, highly subjective and extremely situational.

Sourcers, at least the self-aware and savvy ones, know that the real competitive advantage lies not in how to find candidates, but what you do once they’re found. These are, sadly, a seemingly small minority.

This is why the sourcing conversation, online and otherwise, has become fundamentally flawed – because the majority of recruiters remain focused almost exclusively on finding, not converting – and instead of the sweat equity required to build relationships and cultivate a closed network of converted candidates (the kind who actually get hired), most continue to seek out a non-existent silver bullet, an easy fix for a hard problem.


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Sourcing has nothing to do with the tools. Or the tech. Of course, the tendency of sourcers to fall victim to “shiny object syndrome,” of course, is well documented.

Most sourcing “experts” suffer from an Asperger’s like fixation on different plug-ins, extensions, widgets and websites which all pretty much serve the same functional purpose: finding personal information.

The Secret To Sourcing Is There Is No Secret To Sourcing.

A quick review of some of the more mainstream sourcing sites reveals articles within the last month such esoteric topics as building custom search engines, esoteric search engines (because obviously, Dogpile or DuckDuckGo are viable alternatives to Google in 2017), and, most nauseatingly of all, How To Source With SnapChat.

This is, of course, only the most recent iteration of an entire sub-genre of specious sourcing content – whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, VR, or whatever Mashable happens to be fixated on that week, recruiters, in turn, remain constantly fixated on where to go, not what to do.

This quest for the “next big thing” misses the obvious fact that the pervasive focus on what’s new and what’s next are diversions from the real requirement for sourcing success: creating scalable, sustainable strategies that actually render replicable and repeatable results when it comes to filling real reqs.

The rest of this is kind of BS, frankly – and recruiters need to stop talking about the tools and the tech, ignoring the “what ifs” inherent to emerging platforms and trendy tech and focusing on the “what works” instead.

It’s not about how elaborate your sourcing strings are, or what search engine you use, or how some app or social network could theoretically be used for filling some theoretical position. It’s not about how fancy your search string is, or how wild, unusual and elaborate your sourcing technique – in the end, sourcing comes down to results.

While some degree of experimentation is necessary to drive innovation, if you actually think that finding people on the internet is hard, or that there’s actually some platform out there that’s going to increase quality instead of potentially yield more quantity, then you are a recruiting tool.

Which is probably why no candidate ever calls you back, frankly. Because the thing is, the secret of sourcing is that there is no secret for sourcing – so ignore what everyone else is doing, or what you think you’re supposed to be doing, and focus, instead, on what you’re doing that’s working. Chances are, that’s got nothing to do with SnapChat, Search Engine Marketing or Social Media.

Unless, of course, you’re totally wasting your time. In which case, you might want to think about getting into employer branding, instead.

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor of Recruiting Daily. Follow him on Twitter @MattCharney or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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Matt Charney

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor for RecruitingDaily.



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Matt Charney is the Executive Editor for RecruitingDaily.

  • Best line!

    “if you actually think that finding people on the internet is hard, or that there’s actually some platform out there that’s going to increase quality instead of potentially yield more quantity, then you are a recruiting tool.”

  • Mike Wolford

    So much yes!!!!!

  • Al

    This is ALL rubish!! Finding people isn’t the only responsibility of a sourcer, a good sourcer must find key contact information and leverage (personal selling points) that will make candidates speak with them! People need to understand the role of a sourcer! And People need to stop calling themselves sourcers if they can not preform the duties above!


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