Sourcing and the Great Assumption

First to admit that I am not a sourcing guru. For one reason or another, that is assumed by people I meet, and at first I was not sure why that followed me around. Don’t get me wrong, on the daily grind of recruiting I was able to cold call and hunt down the folks, but no better than many recruiters – I just made tons of phone calls 🙂 I will admit, dropping about 150 voice mails before 9am each morning always helped.

As the world becomes socially smaller though, I really admire all the sourcing folks out there that really spend time and effort understanding the methodology of cutting through all the networks, groups, media sites, and of course those who gate crash and get the names. I have not honed this skill over the years, primarily because I have to focus on other competencies to hone, and have advised many to outsource this work to experts who hone those competencies daily.

I still stand firm on my belief that for positions where you need to recruit, as in you really need to sell it, you need to PLAN on having at least 50 conversations in the bag before you make the hire, give or take a few. These include the interviews and back and forth with the managers/candidates, so assume that about 15 of them are already off the table for sourcing.  You need to have 35 strong, detailed conversations about the job, people in the marketplace, their qualifications / interest / motivations / experience, and then some secondary validation in order to feel really good about the 3 to 5 people you are putting in mix. If you can’t count the 35, I think you are making some really big assumptions when stating “this is the best talent”.

Of course you may want to double count previous conversations you have had in the space, but I just call that knowledge. Maybe you can cut out a few, but don’t you think that you should at least have 25 good conversations with either people you trust will know the right people OR the actual prospects themselves in order to find a slate of 4 or 5? If not, what are you using as your decision engine…the resume or LinkedIn profile that they produced themselves?

So back to the Great Assumption – Managers think recruiters / sourcers are actually doing this work (or more) to find the talent that is needed AND we also think that in order to be successful, we need to have this amount of effort.


Sourcing is not about math. Sourcing is about results. We know the matching can just happen. This is not a manufacturing process. There are people who just gel with the recruiters, leaders, and managers. Chaos happens, and we break through the math all the time. Maybe “great” recruiters are lucky, or the brand works, or maybe they are just highly skilled and tuned to the managers, so their research is solid.

Besides – I can prove that sourcing at this level is unlikely to happen all the time anyway:

  • 2100 hours in a year for a person to work
  • assume 20% for non-recruiting meetings, training, water cooler time (1680 hours left)
  • assume all meaningful convos + notes captured are 30 minutes (3360 sessions)
  • 50 sessions per hire (67 positions filled a year)
  • Meanwhile – you forgot scheduling, research, document prep, offer letters, admin, and a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe your team does less – maybe they do more. But even IF they are doing less or more, you can’t deny the numbers…so what are you giving up? I appreciate if you team is really good at finding 2 people and selling it hard to the managers who buy it when you tell them “this is the best talent” and a great hire happens. Be honest – did you REALLY source to 35 to 50 conversations or just get people who match.

And it is AWESOME to get people who match. That is the goal. Just don’t tell the managers you busted 100 hours of sourcing and hard selling when you made three phone calls and got three great candidates.

We need to be cautious about the Great Assumption – that we sourced “all the talent”. 1 – it is difficult to prove, 2 – it is difficult to have it happen consistently, and most importantly – 3 – it does not really matter if you have a great hire and the person is productive.

Take Action and Translate to Everyday:
Let your managers in on the secret. Let them know that you will plan to have 35 to 50 conversations with the likely suspects after research and knowledge is gathered, meaning it could take X amount of time. You may be able to shortcut and get results early by finding people in the first 10 conversations, rather than the last 10. But if that happens, you will not talk to the other 40 on the list.

It’s now on them to close the deal, and you will assist as needed. Remember – results are not a measure of effort, and you have other managers looking for results. 



John Smith, VP of Social Geekness

I am not sure that title will stick, but its true that social media in talent/recruiting is here to stay. If you do hundreds of hires a year, its likely you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others to find candidates and break into the elusive passive candidate marketplace. If you are doing dozens of hires, you are likely considering using these tools, and if you are doing thousands of hires, this is probably a hot topic between you and your corporate communications group.

Over the past few years, and we just celebrated our fifth year, we have taken an unusual position on social media – i.e. we really don’t have one. We don’t endorse any particular theory, system, community or whatever mainly because we hold firm to our original concept that each organization has a unique mix and makeup of tools and resources that will work effectively for them. Not to mention that we are not in the business of selling short term strategies or technologies. Social media is going to be around for a while, but the players and features and leverage points change faster than the seasons.

Back to John…social geek. You will need him (or her) someday. You will need to control your brand on these mediums, and use them to attract, source, and even retain talent. So let’s forget about what John should be doing each day, and lets talk about what competencies John will need. Here are just three:

1 – John can interpret current and new features of social mediums to your brand easily and demonstrate value quickly. John is not simply a LinkedIn LION network holder. Or has 3000 facebook friends. Or has a YouTube channel. Please don’t measure the value of a social media expert on the size of their network. You don’t know its relevance, how well those people are in contact, or why they are in contact with John to begin with.

2 – John knows how to translate the processes of social media to lamen, and educate executives effectively and efficiently. My mom could probably run my facebook page if I taught her, but it doesn’t mean that she can explain why, how, and instruct the value to executives. John is a poised speaker, and can answer questions diplomatically and with ease. Realize that some social media experts are so because they are introverted and lack the ability to deliver ideas in person, thus they stay in front of a screen all day.

3 – John can design strategies and processes, and teach to others well. He is not especially fond of maintaining or executing the actual social media plan. Are you really going to hire someone to place status updates on FB all day? Or are you going to hire someone who can show you how FB, YT, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used to drive 30% more passive candidates towards your staff up in sales through a campaign they have designed and can be automated?

These are just a few – but hopefully I got you thinking. When you find your “social geek”, make sure you are designing that job to be strategic and customer facing on purpose. John’s expertise is in managing change quickly and effectively – not posting on your Wall.