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The Sourcing Function

How to Sound Like A Sourcer


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If you really want to tell how good at sourcing someone really is, the first task to assign them should be to find a recent, relevant and comprehensive guide to sourcing-related terms and terminology.

That’s because, well, even in a discipline driven by esoteric buzzwords and omnipresent acronyms, there’s little understanding, or even consensus, as to what, exactly, the sourcing function even entails – and, consequently, how to define what’s often seen as the dark art of talent acquisition.

And that goes for the thought leaders and innovators who are at the cutting edge of this nebulous, but emerging, area of talent acquisition expertise.  So if they can’t seem to come to a consensus on what, exactly, sourcing itself means, then the baseline (and barriers for entry) for this critical recruitment function are almost always lost in translation for the rest of us.

One of the coolest parts about the upcoming SourceCon event in Seattle is that it’s not designed with just the research geeks, Boolean black belts, and social branding gurus standing on the bleeding edge of the business.

It’s also a great opportunity for everyone else to get a better understanding of the fundamental skills and baseline best practices necessary to help build the bench strength employers need to succeed today – and tomorrow.  Because ultimately, every new hire starts out with some form of sourcing.

And, if human capital is, as surveys and clichés both suggest, truly the biggest competitive advantage organizations have, then there’s no more important function in business. Which, no matter how you define it, is pretty cool.

Semantic Search: How To Sound Like A Sourcer

Although the terminology related to sourcing seems more complex than building a 28-modifer Boolean String (see?), the good news is that, as every sourcer already inherently knows, finding the right match almost always comes down to keywords.

And while your average sourcing specialist probably can’t diagnose a disease, write a code, or balance the books at month end, they’ve got to at least know the lingua franca of every search to ensure they’re targeting the right talent – no matter what industry, function or segment they’re looking for.

Sourcing is no exception – and for those who are just starting out in sourcing, or looking to build out their recruiting capabilities, playing the part means sounding somewhat convincing when speaking with customers, clients, and colleagues. For those sourcers who are either neophytes or, more commonly, Luddites, the good news is, there’s hope when it comes to learning the ropes.

Here, then, is a handy cheat sheet (or hack) for sounding like a rock star sourcing guru (tip one: the more buzzwords, the better) – or at least, being able to fit in with the SourceCon crowd.

15 Common Sourcing Terms, Defined:

1. Boolean Search (n): Usage: “A well constructed Boolean search is key to relevant results.” Definition: The usage of unnecessary modifiers on Google to validate the fact that, indeed, the average recruiting professional is smarter than the world’s most complex algorithim.

2. Passive Candidate (n): Usage: “Anyone can post and pray – it’s all about finding passive talent.” Definition: A potentially viable candidate for whom employers do not have a current resume on file.

3. Active Candidate (n): Usage: “Start with active candidates – they’re low hanging fruit.” Definition: A candidate who, because they’re actually interested in your opportunity, must have something wrong with them, rendering them unfit to advance in the hiring process.

4. Social Recruiting (v): Usage: “Social recruiting is a great way to engage with top talent.” Definition: Using various platforms like Twitter and Facebook to blast automated job openings; using LinkedIn’s profile database to try to obtain resumes by sending InMails.

5. Phone Screen (n): Usage: “I’d like to set up a brief, exploratory phone screen.” Definition: The conversation by which sourcers ascertain whether or not they can afford the candidate in question or provide sponsorship.

6. Post and Pray (v): Usage: “Post and pray just doesn’t work when it comes to effectively finding the candidates companies need for today – and tomorrow.” Definition: A process generally associated with paid job boards that has been generally been replaced with the exact same saturation of recruitment advertising on unpaid sites and social networks (see: social recruiting).

7. Purple Squirrels (n): Usage: “The most effective sourcers know how to find, attract, and engage purple squirrels.” Definition: Candidates whose background and experience most closely conform to the stated minimum requirements for an advertised position whose job skills and requirements are, in fact, impossible to find on the market, despite the objections of a hiring manager/client.

8. Pipeline (n): Usage: “Sourcing isn’t just about just-in-time hiring today – it’s about building a pipeline of talent for future openings.” Definition: The funneling of resumes into an applicant tracking system where they shall sit untouched for perpetuity.

9. Talent Network (n): Usage: “A talent network is the best way to keep candidates informed and engaged about opportunities for which they might be a good fit.” Definition: A list of e-mail addresses used to blast open jobs after a candidate accidentally opts in during the registration process.

10. Talent Community (n): Usage: “Building a talent community is a great way to show candidates about what it’s really like to work at a company by going beyond a job description and creating engagement around an employer brand.” Definition: A branded social network page or account populated primarily with press releases and job descriptions which functions primarily as a way to make it seem like you’re actually using social media for sourcing.

11. Federated Search (n): Usage: “With federated search, you can review and rank candidates from across all networks and databases simultaneously.” Definition: A paid point solution which scrapes profiles that are already publically available, negating the need to actually learn how to build search strings.

12. Candidate Experience (n): Usage: “There’s nothing more important when establishing yourself as an employer of choice than creating a positive candidate experience.”  Definition: A process in which unqualified applicants and non-viable candidates are separated from potential hires to ensure that recruiter’s time is being properly allocated to only those candidates who actually stand a chance at getting hired.

13. Diverse (n): Usage: “Building a diverse slate of candidates is essential for ensuring inclusion, and innovation, within an organization.” Definition: Finding candidates to ensure compliance with hiring laws and preempt law-suits and/or audits as a way of explaining why so many white dudes work at an organization.

14. Source of Hire (n): Usage: “Knowing source of hire is key in determining the efficacy and return on your sourcing investment.” Definition: Ensuring candidates self-select any source other than job boards, or entering resumes found on job board databases as “direct sourced” to prove that sourcers are actually doing something other than just posting jobs and reviewing resumes.

15. Next Steps (n): Usage: “I’ll review your resume and background with my hiring manager and be in touch with next steps.” Definition:  The way sourcers convey to candidates the fact that they, in fact, have almost no say on whom advances in the process, and that anyone selected for an actual interview will be referred to someone who is actually entrusted to make hiring decisions.

Most of these definitions can be manipulated and messaged as necessary in order to build the buzzwords necessary to hide the fact that, at the end of the day, sourcing is basically online research, and is, in fact, a viable and specialized function.  And the truth of the matter is, done properly, sourcing is not only the foundation of recruiting, but as the first step in the process, arguably the most important.

But since it’s hard to convince many of the intrinsic value of a holistic, and effective, sourcing strategy, make sure to judiciously use these terms so that you can at least sound like you know what the heck it is you’re actually talking about. Because in the new world of search, it’s all about semantics.

Of course, if you really want to not only sound like a sourcer, but actually want to build the skills and best practices required to find the candidates companies need to succeed today – and tomorrow – make sure to register for SourceCon.

Because one of the coolest thing about sourcing is that it’s constantly evolving – as is the terminology used to describe this vital talent acquisition function.  So if you’re looking to go beyond these buzzwords and start adding value – and innovation – to sourcing, then we’ll see you in Seattle.

Image from bigstockphoto.com

As a veteran of the HR and recruiting industries, Matt Charney has served in marketing leadership roles for companies such as Monster, Cornerstone OnDemand, and Talemetry, overseeing online, social media, content marketing, and press/analyst relations. He developed expertise in recruitment advertising and strategy, online employer branding, social recruiting, and direct sourcing while an in-house recruiter for companies including the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment Group, and Amgen. A highly sought after writer and speaker on recruiting, marketing and technology, you can follow him on Twitter @MattCharney or connect on LinkedIn.
  • derdiver

    #awesome

  • Maureen Sharib

    Thanks for this! I have a Phone Sourcing GLOSSARY as well and I hope you’ll peruse it before hearing me speak next week at Sourcecon. Here’s the link:
    http://tinyurl.com/btx4x4v

  • Marvin Smith

    It looks I need to prep for this event.

  • Pedro

    Basic

  • John J Everyman

    I love recruiters. I want to be one when I grow up.

  • Karen Azulai

    A sourcer is not a recruiter!!

  • Glenn Gutmacher

    You left out what I’d call a key sourcing term, “Web Scraping”, but don’t worry — I’ll define it and show it in context during my SourceCon session next week!

  • Shally Steckerl

    Very funny! But for those who need translation here is how you can communicate these to your HR Generalists:

    1. Boolean Search = AND, OR and NOT. Yup. That’s it. Not sure how someone can be a “black belt” in AND, or OR, but I sure am NOT :)

    2. Passive Candidate = Candidates who didn’t find YOU

    3. Active Candidate = Candidates who DID find you

    4. Social Recruiting = LinkedIn

    5. Phone Screen = LinkedIn

    6. Post and Pray = LinkedIn

    7. Purple Squirrels = A candidate only sourcers can find

    8. Pipeline = Your email inbox

    9. Talent Network = Your mailing list

    10. Talent Community = Someone else’s mailing list

    11. Federated Search = One size fits all search.

    12. Candidate Experience = A fairy tale we tell ourselves.

    13. Diverse = Rejecting all white male candidates.

    14. Source of Hire = Undefined variable.

    15. Next Steps = Enjoy the silence.

  • Pat Davis

    This is phenomenal… way to paraphrase haha.

  • Maureen Sharib

    This is very funny, Shally. I could add some but let me start with this one:

    The only way to “sound” like a sourcer is to be a “phone” sourcer.

  • Maureen Sharib

    You don’t want to grow up.

  • John Racicot

    Shally, funny stuff – been doing this for over 25 years – all the same, just location of finding candidates are called something else.

  • http://www.thesourcinginstitute.com/ The Sourcing Institute

    Hm… I “hear” what you are saying :) But I sound like a sourcer even when I’m not on the phone :P

  • Maureen Sharib

    Shally – I’m always willing to make “exceptions” for the “exceptions.”