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The evolution of recruiting has changed significantly over the last few decades. What started out as the responsibility of office managers to place job advertisements in newspapers or help wanted signs to attract potential employees has now grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, where the identification of talent requires internal corporate recruitment departments or employment agencies solely focused on this transaction through both proactive and new reactive recruiting techniques.
Today the actual act of identifying candidates has even been split into dedicated roles and job functions, whereas historically sourcing was the sole and inclusive responsibility of the recruiter along with other job responsibilities (examples):
- Screen and interview candidates against the position requirements
- Work closely with the hiring manager on hiring activities
- Help with the "offer letter" and interview
A third-party recruitment agency or corporate recruiting department may be made up of individuals dedicated to just the sourcing of candidates while recruiters can either focus on more account management responsibilities or leverage sourcing experts to supplement an additional volume of potential candidates. An increasing number of agencies and corporate recruiting departments outsource this work to a Recruitment Process Outsourcing vendor.
The actual act of sourcing for candidates is performed by either a recruiter (be it an internal corporate recruiter or agency recruiter) or a dedicated recruiter just focused on the sourcing function. The definition of sourcing needs to be clearly defined by what it is, as much as what it is not. Candidate sourcing activity typically ends once the name, job title, job function and contact information for the potential candidate is determined by the candidate sourcer. To further develop a list of names that were sourced some companies have a second person then reach out to the names on the list to initiate a dialogue with them with the intention of pre-screening the candidate against the job requirements and gauging the interest level in hearing about new job opportunitites. This activity is called "candidate profiling" or "candidate pre-screening". The term candidate sourcing should not be confused with candidate research.
In some situations a person that "sources" candidates can and will perform both 'primary' and 'secondary' sourcing techniques to identify candidates as well as the candidate profiling to further pre-screen candidates but there is a growing market for experts solely focused on "telephone sourcing", "internet sourcing/researching" and candidate profiling. The actual act to source candidates can usually be split out into two clearly defined techniques: primary sourcing and secondary sourcing.
Primary sourcing/phone sourcing
In recruiting and sourcing, this means the leveraging of techniques (primarily the phone) to identify candidates with limited to no presence of these individuals in any easily accessible public forum (the Internet, published list, etc.). It requires the uncovering of candidate information via a primary means of calling directly into organizations to uncover data on people, their role, title and responsibilities.
The term "phone sourcers" or "phone name generator" or "telephone names sourcer" generally applies to the utilization of primary sourcing techniques.
Secondary sourcing (internet sourcing)
In recruiting and sourcing, this means using of techniques (primarily Internet research and utilizing advanced Boolean operators) to identify candidates. Individuals in the recruiting industry that have deep expertise in uncovering talent in the harder to reach places on the internet (forums, blogs, alumni groups, conference attendee lists, personal home pages, social networks etc.). With the boom of social networks and the more people sharing information about themselves on the internet the amount of data has become unmanageable. Many time sourcers turn to application to help them data mine this information. There are application for every majors social site that allow you screen scrape information, or they turn to sites like http://www.namegeneration.net, http://www.data.com, http://www.repleaf.com for social data points.
Examples of sourcing techniques
Sourcing for candidates refers to proactively identifying people who are either a) not actively looking for job opportunities (passive candidates) or b) candidates who are actively searching for job opportunities (active candidates), though the industry also recognizes the existence of 'active candidate sourcing' using candidate databases, job boards and the like.
Though there has been much debate within the staffing community as to how to accurately define an "active candidate" versus a "passive candidate," typically either term is irrelevant to a candidate sourcer as the status of any particular candidate can change from moment to moment or with a simple phone call from a recruiter that happens to present a job opportunity. The status of being an "active" or "passive" candidate is fluid and changes depending on the circumstances, including the position being offered.
Activities related to sourcing in recruiting can also be categorized into "push activities" and "pull activities." Push activities are activities undertaken to reach out to the target audience. This generally includes headhunting, HTML mailers, referral follow-ups, etc.
Pull activities are activities that result in applicants coming to know of an opportunity on their own. Pull activities may include the following: advertising on a microsite with a registration process (this makes search engines index the ad), advertising (in newspapers, on cable TV, through flyers/leaflets, etc.), posting a job in job portals, etc.
In summary, a push activity is akin to a direct marketing activity, whereas pull activities are more indirect marketing of the same concept. Both ideally result in applicants becoming interested and the interest triggering a response (applying, referring, calling, sending an SMS, etc.). These action triggers are also sometimes referred to as Call To Action (CTA) steps.
- Using Boolean operators on major search engine sites (Google, Live.com, Yahoo!, etc.) to identify potential candidates who might meet the criteria of the position to be filled based on targeted keywords. Example string in Google: "SAP consultant" (resume | CV | "curriculum vitae").
- Searching for candidates in job board resume databases using keywords related to the position requirements.
- Looking in own recruitment database.
- Networking with individuals to uncover candidates. This includes the use of social networking tools and sites such as LinkedIn.
- "Phone sourcing" or cold calling into companies that might contain individuals that match the key requirements of the position that needs to be filled.
Examples of what sourcing is not
By nature of the position, recruiters do not have the time to conduct primary research and initial candidate development. A typical recruiter is bombarded with calls all day from vendors, busy processing candidates, meeting with hiring managers, and talking with employees. Those distractions can throw off an otherwise excellent Internet search or telephone sourcer. Sourcers must remain focused on the search and development of leads just as recruiters must remain focused on maintaining communication with candidates in process, enforcing HR policies, attending meetings, negotiating, and handling the hiring from initial offer to onboarding.
Specialization: internet researching
Internet research is a highly specialized field that takes time to master. Many of the best sourcers started out as recruiters who found they enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” more than the rest of the process and became successful because of their heightened research skills and abilities. Another common origin for strong sourcers is from professions where research or investigative skills are an imperative (journalists, librarians, fact-checkers, academic researchers, etc.), which is a common skillset within the field of competitive intelligence.
Several recruiters can rely on the same sourcer to generate leads and fill their pipelines with pre-screened or pre-qualified candidates. Sourcers are often the initial point of contact with a candidate, qualifying whether they are a real job seeker or just a job shopper. As a result, sourcers are uniquely positioned to sell or “pre-close” candidates before the candidates enter the rest of the recruitment process.
Specialization: Telephone Sourcing
Phone sourcing is using the telephone to gain information about a topic or person. In personnel sourcing, the telephone is used to locate persons with specific titles or job functions inside specific organizations. It is considered "primary" research and as such is not to be confused with the practice of finding information elsewhere (on the Internet) and then using the telephone to "check" it for verification (is the person "still there"; has the person's title changed?). True phone sourcing is practiced by a minority in the personnel sourcing community and requires a mastery of verbal communication techniques.
Telephone sourcing brings forth the majority of the existing workforce that are not locatable on the Internet. "Not locatable" means that a potential candidate cannot be located (tracked) on the Internet because that potential candidate has not left a footprint large enough to include information that would link them to a specific (boolean) inquiry.
It is a recognized fact that some industries/professions are better represented than others on the Internet; Information Technology (IT) and Recruiting being some of the most well represented.
Specialization: diversity sourcing
Corporate recruiters specializing in the sourcing of candidates for inclusion in a diverse candidate pool. Methods include searching for specific keywords  found on resumes, sourcing from affinity groups and researching other communities.
Acqui-sourcing (adjective) meaning (acquisition + sourcing) translates to sourcing for acquisition; is a newly coined term, word or phrase, that is in the process of entering common use. Acquisourcing is a solution for companies that are interested in acquihiring. There is a school of thought that as demand increases for talent (especially technical talent) it becomes harder and harder to recruit (acquire) that talent. Some companies are turning to a technique called acquihiring wherein they acquire whole workforces by purchasing a company just to acquire that company's workforce. Many times product lines and market verticals are discarded in this process - the (only) objective being to acquire a talented workforce. acqui-hiring (acquisition + hiring) translates to hiring by acquisition. Acquisourcing is the function of searching out (sourcing) those companies to be purchased (specifically for their workforces) by identifying and speaking with their owners about their willingness to be acquired by another company. It is new terminology in the recruiting, market development, competitive intelligence and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) space. One feature that is driving acquihiring and the need for acquisourcing is the desire to acquire whole teams inside companies because there is recognition emerging that development efforts are many times enhanced by a team that already works well together. Acquisourcing is a process that identifies a potential acquisition candidate followed by a live approach to the owner(s) with an inquiry as to their interest in being acquired by (or partnering with) another company.