Sourcing and the Great Assumption #TBT

Inspired by the social media phenomenon “throw back Thursdays”, we’re introducing our own throwback where we will pick a blog that we wrote at least three years ago, and re-post it with commentary(bolded and italicized below). Not only do industry and businesses evolve quickly, but so do people, so we’re cautiously excited to see what kind of stuff we were writing about so many years ago.

A little over five years ago we wrote…

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.

I still standby this. I think the difference is that our ability to record conversations, assessments, and insight on candidates has changed. We can use video, assessment tools, CRM tools, navigation search, word vectors and more to drive the “conversations”. I think in general, we need INSIGHT from 50 places that tell us that these 3 to 5 candidates are the right candidates.

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”.

INSIGHTS, not only conversations.

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?

Numbers still work as far as I am concerned. You need to be able to show proof that you have an understanding of the market, the company culture, and so on as you make recommendations. Where this goes away is if the hiring manager is now in control of pairing down the candidates to a select few (many organizations do this).

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.


STILL BOGUS. Especially with all of the algorithms, automated matching tools and so on. The amount of work that we need to do is dramatically less. However, the amount of insight is about the same. You need the education and data to back up the claim that you have presented a good representation of what the market can bear, that its as good or better than candidates previously, and potentially same or better than current employees. The journey and the sights seen along the way are pretty much the same. Imagine driving from Connecticut to Philadelphia. The journey used to take days, now it takes a few hours. If we travel at 55 mph or 90 mph along the highway, we pretty much see the same things, experience the same, but obviously get there faster at 90mph. The issue is do we drive slow or fast based on how much time and input it will take to make the manager ready to arrive at the destination.

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.

Yes – all about results. Hell, rather than driving to Philadelphia, maybe I can take a helicopter and be there in 60 minutes, if that is in the budget and needed.

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 your 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?

Even 5 years later, we aren’t doing the conversations…but we ARE getting more insight. In fact, we might have hundreds of insights vs just 50 conversations.

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.

Just reveal the data you used to make the decision. If you are using analytics and tech, it won’t take as long.

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.

This one I am going to shift a bit.

1 – Yes, its difficult to prove that you considered all the talent.

2 – No, we can pretty much prove now that we don’t do it consistently.

3 – it DOES matter – because engagement and value of work is important to the recruiter. Feeling empowered and helpful increases retention. Sure we need a great hire and a productive one, but the recruiter needs to feel they did their job and contributed (and have others agree). Look for that alignment. Of course we can be more focused on quality now with all this data we have. We can now measure their ABILITY to be great and productive much earlier on, and that directly links back to how the recruiter is measured and perceived.


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