Breaking Down the Sourcing Function, Part 3: How Do You Interview a Sourcer?

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Dec 22, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been breaking down the sourcing function into some simple, digestible bites of information. Last week, we covered a few things to look for when you are ready to start interviewing sourcers — career and educational backgrounds, personality traits, and so forth. After reading last week’s article, a lot of you may be thinking, “Well this is all great stuff, but how do you find out in an interview if a candidate possesses these skills?” So this week, we want to provide a few suggestions for some good screening techniques.

Here are some of my own recommendations for interviewing potential sourcers:

  1. Put them to the test — nothing will help you figure out quicker whether or not a candidate will excel in a sourcing role than to actually have them… source! A couple of examples could include:
    1. Give them an article, maybe two pages in length, set a time limit in which it must be read, and then ask the candidate to summarize. The catch in this exercise would be to put a vital piece of information buried in the middle, and perhaps another at the very end, so that someone who could scan quickly yet pick up important details would see it.
    2. Give them a simple search req. Either ask them to verbally walk you through their course of action, or give it to them to complete while they are there, or as a ‘homework assignment.’ Provide them with access to one or two of your paid resources and see what they can come up with.
  2. Ask them about their use of social media. Find out if they merge personal and professional when it comes to their online presence. A good chunk of sourcing today is done in part using social networks; a good Internet sourcer (as stated in the previous article) will likely have an extensive online presence (unless they are doing undercover work for the government!). Discover how active they are within their chosen communities. This will also give you an idea of how much interaction they might be willing to have with potential candidates.
  3. Inquire about reading and educational habits. Ask for specific examples of information they stay current with – what interests them, what they enjoy reading (if they like to read, that is!), etc. Then ask what they think would be the most interesting aspect of conducting Internet research.
  4. Contests are always fun! Rob McIntosh and Jim Stroud each put out a challenge for sourcers to “find their dog,” and we here at SourceCon do love a good Challenge as well! I know that Rob used his puzzle back in 2005 to help identify potential sourcing candidates for his company — in fact, contests and challenges can be a great way to narrow down a large candidate pool.

Additionally, some folks from the sourcing community shared some interviewing tips:

We recently hired two sourcers in our team. While interviewing candidates, the most effective approach seemed to be case based. We gave them a sample job description in brief and tried to understand their thought process :

  1. Which key words they felt are MUST have’s and which are supplementary/complementary?
  2. Different combinations/approaches for building search strings?
  3. Different channels/forums they feel would be best for finding the relevant talent?
  4. What kind of background research they would do to gather interesting facts about the prospects for rapport building?

Rashmi Paul — Manager – Client Relations & Recruitment, EOK Technologies Inc.


As everyone knows, it’s all about behavioral-based interviewing, so dig in and get specific examples. Here are some sample questions I ask:

  1. What is the most creative / out of box sourcing or research success story you can share?
  2. Sometimes we can work on a project or problem for a while and get “stuck.” Tell me about a project where you had this happen. What did you do?

Additionally, I have given my top candidates an example role and have them create a sourcing strategy with sample candidates. Great way to judge their search strings and research capabilities. If you have WebEx or another tool you can also do a live session with them and have them conduct a live search.

Paula Dorn — Sourcing Director, Decision Toolbox

In the next article of this series, we will walk you through a typical day of a typical sourcer (if one were to exist!). We will tackle the job description aspect of sourcing to the best of our ability – after all, we sourcers don’t just stare at our computer screens all day like a lot of people think. Honest!

What other interviewing techniques do you use when interviewing sourcing candidates? Share some in the comments below!

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