Over the years, one of the many things I’ve given quite a bit of thought to is the relationship between recruiting and sourcing, and how these functions fit in with the bigger talent acquisition picture. At first glance (for those outside our industry), we all pretty much look the same.

You know what I’m talking about – the whole (not uncommon) “recruiters suck” sentiment that’s so persistent for so many hiring managers and job seekers alike.

But a closer look reveals infinitely more nuance. When you really take time to examine the details of sourcing and recruiting, there are a few disparate tasks and tactics, but there are also a ton of pieces that tend to overlap. This leads to an interesting question:

Why do so talent organizations treat these two similar roles as separate (and often unequal) functions?

Before I try to answer that question, let me take a minute to explain why I wanted to address this particular topic.

First and foremost, I firmly believe that the recruiting and sourcing functions should work together, not against each other, and strive for unity instead of enmity – if for nothing else than this job is a whole lot easier when everyone on your recruiting team gets along.

Now, I know that this tends to be a pretty controversial topic, and therefore know that some of you might not take some of these ideas all too well. In fact, I suspect some of you, particularly those on the sourcing side of the fence, will vehemently disagree with some (or most) of this post. I’m OK with all that; my aim here isn’t to determine whether recruiting is superior to sourcing, or vice versa. Nope.

I’m simply trying to start a conversation, encourage a dialogue, and actually address the whole sourcing vs. recruiting question head on. We need more proactive discussion and self-reflection in the recruiting and sourcing space, because if nothing else, if we open this kind of discourse, maybe we can open our minds, too – and finally move our profession forward.

It’s silos and silence that keep so many of us stuck in the status quo, so if you want to weigh in, well, let me know.

Beautiful Disaster: Why Recruiting and Sourcing Are Separated At Birth.

Between candidate communications, researching candidates online or simply spending copious amounts of time inside of an ATS, the paths of recruiters and sourcers cross fairly frequently. For sourcers, their focus lies in scouring the far ends of the interwebs for essential information like a candidate’s email address, contact information and personal profiles.

Some may be responsible for initiating the first round of candidate outreach and engagement, but still others focus exclusively on lead generation and research.

For many sourcers, the journey ends when the recruiting pipeline is sufficiently packed so that a successful placement can be made. Then, it’s onto the next search, the next list, the next deep dive into yet another search, forced to begin packing that pipeline again with another set of candidates with equally esoteric experience and expertise.

Then once they’ve sourced enough leads, it’s onto the next req, and the next, and the one after that, finding and profiling an infinite amount of candidates without ever actually making contact with them. This model is in fact fairly common, particularly when there are dedicated sourcing teams in place.

Recruiters, by contrast, receive the candidates sourced through the aforementioned efforts, screen them, submit them and shepherd them through the rest of the hiring process – optimally, that extends all the way through to an accepted offer.


Throughout the entire process, recruiters must remain in constant contact with candidates who are still being considered, because in this market, it takes “always be closing” to ever close a candidate. And until they’re out, it’s a recruiter’s job to make sure they’re still in.

In each of these two worlds, sourcing and recruiting seem to coexist, and business as usual usually means both functions function fine. It could be reasonably argued that having two separate people dedicated to the same search and working with laser focus towards the same result could be much more effective if they were to combine, rather than divide, their efforts.

In fact, I think that it’s fairly reasonable to suggest that given the large overlap between sourcing and recruiting, working as separate functions instead of as equal partners is not only duplicative, but deleterious to the ultimate goal of making a successful hire. That’s why it’s finally time to combine sourcing and recruiting for good.

Hear me out.

All Mixed Up: 5 Reasons Every Recruiter Should Work A Full Desk.

By requiring everyone on your recruiting team to manage a full desk instead of subdivide searches, every recruiter would have responsibility for fewer reqs, since they’d be better spread out. Having everyone take accountability for full cycle recruiting would not only create fewer positions per capita, but creates more time for each member of your talent team to focus on the stuff that matters. You know, take a (gulp…yes) much more “strategic” approach to recruiting and hiring. The result is quality here, folks.


Which is really what recruiting is all about. Too often in talent acquisition today, recruiters and sourcers find themselves stretched out pretty thin among the often overwhelming number of clients (internal and external) and candidates that both recruiters and sourcers must support through their respective responsibilities.

The end result of making the number of stakeholders for every req more manageable is that recruiting partners would actually have the time to be, you know, recruiting partners.

Forget the whole “serve up some fries with that req” approach – we’d finally have time to make every job order to order.

Combining these two functions would also give clients and candidates one consistent contact throughout the entirety of the hiring process. This end to end approach just makes sense, since we need to be building relationships, not bifurcating responsibilities.

If sourcing and recruiting were to finally stop being treated as separate parts of the process, the whole process would all work much more smoothly and efficiently.

The hiring process at every organization, optimally, should be as streamlined and straightforward as possible; too many cooks in the kitchen, however, can easily spoil this simple recipe for recruiting success. Full desk recruiters, on the other hand, have a head start over dedicated “sourcers” or “recruiters,” since managing every step of the process is the only real way to learn recruiting.

Here are five things every full desk recruiter must learn on the job to do their job:

  • Sourcing is art AND science. It takes time, persistence, a methodical approach, and a keen sense of creativity to dig deep for what you want to find.

  • In recruiting, candidates are almost always atrociously unpredictable. Even with all the preparation in the world, plans still backfire. Even slam dunk hires sometimes bounce off the rim.

  • Hiring managers have quirks and nuances. Finding fit is as much about understanding them as it is understanding people with the skills they want to hire.

  • LinkedIn is not the be all end all of sourcing. Not even close.

  • Being a nerd goes a long way in this business.

Recruiters need to know how to source, and sourcers, conversely, should be able to hold their own when it comes to recruiting. We all know that recruiter out there who, if not for that overpriced LinkedIn Recruiter account, unlimited job posting slots on big boards like Dice or Monster and other pricey tools, would have gotten let go a long time ago.

That so many recruiters still rely on this “post and pray” approach is the result of an almost endemic inability to roll up their sourcing sleeves and dig deep to uncover top talent. The best candidates out there aren’t looking. They have to be found, first.

On the other hand, sourcers need to be capable of carrying a candidate through the entire hiring process and convert those leads into actual hires, if called upon.

Consider the potential disservice that recruiters and sourcers alike can cause when they split into separate camps. These distinct factions often form during the formative years for a recruiter or sourcer, and so often, their options (and scope) become limited by having neither exposure nor experience to full desk recruiting. It seems far more advantageous to develop both recruiting and sourcing skills early, so that every member of the talent team develops deep expertise in both disciplines, creating more flexibility and allowing for better alignment as business needs shift and change.

They always do, too.

First Straw: Why Sourcing and Recruiting Shouldn’t Be Separated. 

Talent attraction and candidate experience are about more than just sexy Glassdoor pages or pithy tag lines, mission statements or employer value propositions. We can all agree on that, right? It’s been the absolute bane of our existence center of the talent acquisition universe these past few years

. Those of us in the industry remain constantly on the lookout for the next tool or technique to “get to the yes,” capture the attention of qualified candidates and ultimately, convert the best of them into actual hires. That’s really what all of this is really all about.

The truth is, though, that candidates often have a whole lot more cooking in their job search kitchen then they’re probably letting on. If they’re really good, they’re probably in the interview process with up to a half dozen companies, each of whom is doing their own distinct “Dog and Pony Show” in an attempt to hire the handful of A Players out there on the market.

Chances are these candidates are corresponding with or meeting a broad swath of people representing what’s often a fairly wide cross-section of each company. This means a lot of people to remember, follow up with or figure out who to reach out to for what (and when). This becomes particularly confusing when they’ve interacted with both a recruiter and a sourcer in the same process at the same company.

And if it’s difficult even for recruiters and sourcers to figure out where the dividing line between these two divergent disciplines actually lies, it’s probably all but impossible impossible to figure out when you’re a candidatee on the outside, looking in.

Giving them a candidate experience that has real value requires having one constant and consistent person to guide them from application to on boarding; effectively, candidate experience really rests on providing every one of your candidates one single contact who can act as their personal concierge – and champion – throughout every part of the process. Recruiting is a race, and you need someone who can lead candidates from the starting line to the final finish.

Having a person they know they can always call with a question or a concern (even if at times, it feels like maybe a little too much) is crucial.

Combining these roles reduces fiction throughout the process and means that candidates and shareholders alike don’t have to worry about any hiccups in the handoff between the two, or any balls getting dropped when the sourcer drops off.

Remember, the most essential part of any experience is consistency, and you’ve got to remember that candidates are the most critical piece of the hiring puzzle. It’s not called “recruiter experience,” which is why recruiters need to experience need to be in lock step with candidates during every step of the hiring process. Period.

As I referenced earlier, if the same recruiter is involved with the client from intake meeting to offer acceptance and on-boarding, then that generally leads to happier hiring managers, too. If we can simultaneously satisfy the needs of both clients and candidates alike, then we’re doing our jobs as talent acquisition professionals. Success isn’t just filling the right role with the right talent at the right time, but making sure everyone comes away feeling confident in their final decision.

And that, my friends, has smells a lot like success.

We always want to make the maximum impact on our business while ensuring we’re providing top notch service – and results – for our candidates and clients. When it comes to candidate experience and recruiting efficacy, that’s really the bottom line.

Count Me In: Taking Talent Acquisition From The Farm Team To The Major Leagues.

I hear a similar refrain from more than a handful of corporate recruiting leaders I’ve spoken with over time: “I never hire recruiters who don’t have agency experience.”

In fact, I actually share this same mindset. It’s not necessarily that because I’ve taken the path from agency to in-house that I feel everyone else has to, too. It’s just that I think there’s something for be said for knowing “how to fish,” to borrow a phrase. And if you really want to know how to hook ’em, in this business, you want to spend some time in staffing or search.

At most of these third party agencies, every recruiter runs some form of full desk recruiting. Recently, some of the bigger staffing and search firms have created dedicated sourcing functions, but that’s really the exception to the rule in an industry dominated by boutique firms and specialized agencies. In some cases, you not only have to do all of your own sourcing and recruiting, but develop and manage an entire book of business, too – although that’s pretty much just insane.

Recruiters who do run a full desk at an agency prior to coming in house, in my experience, tend to be a bit stronger at both sourcing and recruiting than those who only know one part of the process or another.

Agency and third party recruiters need to close reqs and make placements to actually earn commission, and chasing those fees leaves many with little choice but to hustle as hard as they can. Many of the more sophisticated staffing firms or blue chip agency brands, however, have the same recruiting resources you’d find at enterprise employers or big companies, meaning that often times they haven’t had to develop the same sorts of sourcing abilities as their counterparts at smaller, scrappier staffing firms.

Now, these profiles are not absolutes, either. There’s a plethora of good recruiters at both agencies and in-house, and just as many ones who are total crap, too. But on the corporate side, employers need to find recruiters who have both a strong operational background and a creative approach to talent acquisition. Just as importantly, though, they still have to know how to hustle.

This can be a tough mix, and a hard profile to find, because you just can’t teach how to hustle. Agency recruiters make the jump over to corporate for myriad reasons; in my case, it was simply how much I hated chasing commissions every month, the constant struggle to make quota and the overall volatility of the business. Many in-house teams I’ve worked with follow the model of recruiting recruiters primarily from agencies.

If you know how to source, recruit and convert candidates into placements well enough to pay the bills and buy groceries off of a recoverable draw and straight commission model, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got what it takes to make it when making the move to corporate recruiting.

Down: The Full Impact of Full Desk Recruiting.

Of course, with any hypothesis, this strategy is by no means an absolute; like most theses, there are probably a ton of logical holes or aphoristic anecdotes that undermine my central argument.

That’s cool; I’m well aware that one of the biggest dilemmas in hiring talent acquisition professionals for an in-house team is that there’s a pretty even divide in this profession between introverts and extroverts. These soft skills are a variable that makes recruiting recruiters infinitely more difficult, because personality and approach aren’t skills someone can switch on – or off – at will.

If you’re in a recruiting position that really doesn’t match up with who you really are, and requires you to react to situations differently than your hard wired intuition, then this misalignment of soft skills will probably prove too much to overcome for most practitioners. If you have the skills, but your style just isn’t a fit, then it’s going to have a profound (and deleterious) impact on overall job performance.

Finding the right fit is an obvious consideration when screening and selecting the right person for any full desk role requiring oversight of both the recruiting and sourcing sides of the spectrum.

Maybe the answer, then, lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps companies, in-house talent teams and external agencies alike, should have every recruiter start off responsible for full cycle recruiting, and based on their preference or predilection, develop specialties in either sourcing or recruiting after they’ve had the chance to try out both disciplines instead of being pigeonholed into a path from the beginning.

If you’ve tried this sort of training and development model at your organization, please let me know.

I don’t care whether you agree or disagree with my approach to recruiting recruiters. This profession can only be driven ahead through dialogue and discussion. This is one topic one our industry too often tends to neglect or overlook, but it remains one of the more critical conversations we can have to move our profession forward and properly prepare ourselves for what’s new – and what’s next – in the rapidly evolving world of work.

Of course, all of this may already be moot. I keep hearing how AI is going to take my job, so I guess there’s that. But in the meantime, though, we should probably figure out how to reprogram recruiting before the robots replace us.

Because at the end of the day, it takes the right people to find the right people, and there’s no machine learning in the world that will learn how to hustle. And that’s what makes or breaks recruiters, really.

unnamed-11-300x200About the Author: Pete Radloff has 15 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, exaqueo, National Public Radio and Living Social.

With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Pete also serves as lead consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consulting firm.

An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Pete is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PJRadloff or connect with him on LinkedIn, or at his blog, RecruitingIn3D.

By Pete Radloff

Pete Radloff is a veteran recruiter, sourcer and consultant, who has been in the industry since 2000, with experience in both agency and corporate settings. Pete’s passion stretches across several areas of talent acquisition, including recruitment and sourcing, social media, employment branding, recruitment operations and the training and mentoring of recruiters. Currently the Principal Technical Recruiter for comScore, and a Lead Consultant with exaqueo, Pete has previously worked for high-growth organizations such as NPR and LivingSocial. In addition to recruiting top talent both in the U.S. and abroad for these companies, Pete has developed successful recruitment and sourcing frameworks, recruitment processes and procedures, and enhancements to the candidate experience to enhance employer brand. Being part of the local recruiting community in Washington, D.C. has always been important to Pete. He was a member of Board of Directors for recruitDC since for six (6) years, and has also been a speaker at several recruitDC events. He's also a contributing writer at RecruitingDaily and SourceCon. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter, or at his site, RecruitingIn3D