It’s that time of year again.  Where we stop and take a measure of our lives and plan our path forward.  As I think about my #LifeAsaSourcer I wanted to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned from both the experience and mistakes I’ve made.  I’ve also taken the time to understand what sourcing is and what value we ultimately add.

Lesson #1

Learning to say no in an appropriate way.  I think sourcers can feel pressure to say yes because they are rarely measured on hires but on qualified submittals.  However, there is rarely a case where the sourcer is told exactly how many submittals are required in order to justify your paycheck.  The other pressure comes from some in the market that think of sourcing as an entry into full life cycle recruiting.

Again it can be but my career progressed in exactly the opposite direction.  A skilled Sourcer or Recruiter who is good at sourcing is the most valuable asset to a TA team.   Although we do a lot of work there are only a few actions in TA that are truly value add.  One of the major value adds is finding, qualifying and submitting candidates into the pipeline that would not have otherwise applied on their own.  In fact, with 7 million open jobs posted in the US alone, it is clear that TA would fall on its face and fail entirely without at least some sourcing.

Everything else a Recruiter or Sourcer does could technically be done by anyone in HR.  After all, it doesn’t take a skilled and trained Recruiter to schedule an appointment,  meet with a hiring manager and give them an update (your system is up to date with all of your activity so anyone could understand it right?) or update an ATS.  The two value ads of TA are actively identifying talent that would not have applied and then closing that talent.  Nearly everything in between is administrative.

What I’ve learned from this is that my value as a sourcer is determined almost solely by the number and quality of candidates I submit.  One thing nearly every recruiter needs right now is sourcing support and because of the aforementioned dynamic if a Recruiter asks for sourcing support it is nearly impossible for the Sourcer to say no, even when we should.

This leads me to my second lesson learned.  The way to say no, in a professionally appropriate way, is to share the data.  It may seem like your sourcer has a low req load when they have 5 roles assigned and the average Recruiter has 25 but the truth is sourcing candidate directly takes more time.  What I’ve had to learn to do is to document my capacity and share the amount of time I’m going to dedicate to sourcing on a particular role.   I have thought of several possible solutions but they all have one thing in common.  That leads me to the next thing I’ve learned.

Lesson #2

It’s all about the data This was a lesson I learned early on in my career. However, as I progress I understand how critical the data is not just for reporting purposes but for strategy purposes.   I’m not just talking about the business strategy I’m talking about TA’s. I’m sure you’ve all been in a meeting where it was announced that a number of jobs are going to be opened and you are expected to fill them in an unreasonable amount of time for a salary that is below the market.   You aren’t asked what it will take to accomplish the task, what resources you will need or how much time it will take you are simply given a deadline.  I can think of no other function in a business that operates this way.

There are a lot of reasons we find ourselves at the short end of that particular stick in TA. Frequently and it is caused by a systemic lack of understanding about the data. If you aren’t being consulted about large staffing projects have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?  I believe one of the major contributing factors to this conundrum is that TA has no pertinent data to add to the conversation, only opinions.  Operations people do not discount opinion but they are going to choose theirs over yours every time.

The first place to start to get that seat at the table is to bring and share relevant data.  Some of this you should have on your own however in The Educating of a Hiring Manager I outlined some of the sources of external data that I have used to gain credibility with my hiring managers.  In a recent intake, I presented the same 3 slides I share in my article with a hiring manager.  His response was, “oh my God I had no idea, what are we doing about this?”

The very first part of moving from a transactional vendor to a trusted partner is to provide accurate, up to date information about your area of expertise.  This simple step taken with multiple hiring managers over time will help you get that seat at the table.  You will know you are making progress when your hiring managers start to consult with you before they open a role or start a project.  When the business starts to solicit your input beforehand you are on the right path.

Lesson #3

Not everything is about my day to day work.  It can be easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees in this job but not everything and every day is about wash rinse repeat.  It is important to volunteer for projects that lay outside of the scope of your day to day work.  Volunteering has allowed me to gain the experience of sitting on corporate committees that are not directly related to recruiting, it allowed me the opportunity to build a successful college recruiting program, to speak publicly, to lead a global vendor evaluation and implementation program and to write and share my pain and promise with the community I’m a part of.  I have often referred to the 90/10 rule for a career.  90% of your time and effort should rightly be focused on your day to day work but if you ever want to truly rise in your filed and be seen as more than just an order taker you have to lift your head up from your reqs once in a while and take a look around and report on what you see.

Lesson #4

Never stop learning I feel this is one that could apply to almost any profession but in sourcing, I feel it is especially true.  There are a large number of things to learn in this profession in order to just be competent much less good.  Reading books on sales, marketing, psychology are actually great ways to learn more about sourcing.

As a Sourcer you are expected to learn and understand the nuanced and niche roles you are sent to fill. If you want to do that well you are going to have to talk to people and learn what they do.  We are expected to know how to get hard to find talent to speak with us, we are expected to know advanced Boolean searches and have exotic ways of sourcing candidate information that a typical recruiter does not have.

Finally, the technology in and around sourcing is constantly evolving and we are expected to keep pace with the advances.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had an email from a hiring manager or my boss or a recruiter asking me if I’ve heard of XYZ.  The only way to keep up with this demand is to constantly read, attend conferences and speak with others in the field as well as develop relationships with vendors.  Keep learning, keep asking questions.  None of us knows it all and there are always areas we can improve on.

Lesson #5

Sourcing is sales If you have come from an agency background this one is a no brainer for you.  However, it is something I’ve had to remind myself of constantly.  Do you know one thing every company on earth does?  Spoiler alert, it sells!  All business sells something.  Good salespeople are the most valuable human capital that a company has. Without sales, there is no company. If you don’t believe me talk to the CEO of a start-up and ask them how much of their time they spend selling.

Sourcers are the full-time sales professionals of the Talent Acquisition world.  Likewise, I believe that sourcing is the most valuable part of Talent Acquisition.  Without sourcing, you aren’t going to be able to hire the salespeople, operations people, and leaders you are going to need in order to succeed.

What I’ve had to learn to do is to find out what makes the job I’m working on interesting, different or unique and then use that as my sell to the benefit of that sell to my prospect. Sounds like sales 101 doesn’t it?  An important lesson I’ve learned from many a sales book is that selling isn’t about me, it’s about YOU.  I’ve learned to customize my message to what my audience thinks is interesting not what I might think is interesting.  After all, I’m not going to be the one doing this job.  That means this isn’t about me, it’s about….

Lesson #6

Learning to listen to understand, not respond.  Personally, this one has been very difficult for me.  Maybe it is because I started in a sales agency environment but it is my instinct to want to try to respond in a way that gets the candidate closer to saying yes.  However, this can be counterproductive.  One of the best ways to learn to listen to understand and not respond is to repeat the information you just heard.  It only takes a few seconds to say, what I think you are trying to say is…. Is that correct?

That simple question has made the difference of a candidate moving forward or not countless times in my career.  When I first started asking the question I was shocked by how often I didn’t truly understand what the other person was saying.  If you want to look at it another way, it is hard to sell a solution when you don’t truly understand the problem.  I know it is hard to do and it goes against your instincts but training yourself to ask that question early in a conversation with a candidate or a hiring manager leads to a more efficient and pleasant experience for everyone.

These are some of the things you experience living the life of a sourcer.  Hopefully, it’s a good life that with practice, education and effort gets even better!


Mike Wolford

As the Talent Intelligence Titan with over 15 years of progressive experience, I've dedicated my career to revolutionizing the talent acquisition landscape. My journey, marked by leadership roles at esteemed organizations like Claro Analytics and Twitter, has equipped me with a deep understanding of recruiting, sourcing, and analytics. I've seamlessly integrated advanced AI technologies into talent acquisition, positioning myself at the vanguard of recruitment innovation.