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Sep 26, 2011

Whether you are a brand new sourcer, a seasoned veteran, or leading a team of sourcers, one of the most important things to do when you or your team start working with a new recruiter or business unit is to lay out the ‘ground rules,’ the ‘rules of engagement,’ and set expectations for your future working relationship. However you want to label it, as a sourcer you MUST let recruiters know some key points about working with you effectively:

  • Let them know a little about your sourcing background (if you have prior experience)
  • Describe the concept of “Sourcing” to them
  • Go over some of your search resources
  • Set realistic expectations of your procedures and expected results (also known as an SLA)
  • Let them know YOUR preferred method of communication

Following these easy steps will help you develop an open line of communication and a good relationship with your recruiters, and it will also give them some insight as to what you, as a sourcer, will provide to them as a benefit. Otherwise, you may be viewed as nothing more than a ‘junior recruiter’ or a ‘data entry’ individual.

  1. Describe your sourcing background. If you have prior experience as a sourcer, I highly recommend bragging about yourself a little to your new recruiter. This way, they will understand that you know what you’re doing and most likely have some respect for your function in the office. Include here some of the industries in which you have conducted research as well so your recruiter knows where your expertise may lay and can start thinking about the best places where you can immediately add value to their work.
  2. Define ‘Sourcing’ for your recruiter. This is SO important, especially for recruiters who have not worked with a sourcer in the past. I recommend breaking sourcing down into two large categories: telephone sourcing and Internet sourcing. You can also break it down into further sub-categories: proactive and reactive. Make sure you describe the difference between the two to your recruiter. A lot of recruiters think that sourcers exist only to scour job boards and harvest resumes. While these are certainly tools that need to be taken advantage of (after all – the company pays for them!) it’s important for recruiters to know the added value of using a sourcer to conduct proactive research and build relationships with individuals or communities of individuals who work or ‘play’ in targeted industries or job functions.  
  3. Share some of your search resources. Give some examples of the resources you use to your recruiter. This in turn will open up the door for you to share some of your sourcing techniques and help your recruiter to further understand your role while giving them some basic tools to source themselves. For example: I look at press releases, listservs, industry associations and trade publications, professional and social networking sites, company websites, discussion groups, etc. I usually add here that the movers and shakers are the ones being talked about in press releases and are actively participating in their industry associations. They are usually not the ones spamming recruiters with their resume.
  4. Set realistic expectations of your work (establish an SLA). I live by this rule: under-promise and over-deliver. The worst thing you can do is promise something that you cannot provide. Your recruiters will lose trust and confidence in you if you make promises that you cannot keep. There are a couple of important things to mention when setting expectations: establish a time line for project completion, and establish some expectations of your search results. If you are not dedicated to one person or team, it is important to iterate that you are supporting several other recruiters or groups and let them know how you work your projects. If you strictly do lead generation, you must let them know that you may not always have a resume for a contact but that you will always provide contact information for outreach. I think it is also important to mention here that your role is to add to their recruiting efforts, and not replace their need to make phone calls. Don’t let your recruiter abuse you by making you do their job. Your job as a sourcer is to initiate the recruiting process  — not to do the whole thing. (Note: here is a great place to establish your hand-off points.)
  5. Go over YOUR preferred method of receiving search requests. I believe in following one process, and with that I believe in establishing a preferred method of communication. Otherwise, you will receive your search requests by any number of methods. I’ve gotten Post-It notes, phone calls, emails, formal search request forms, and what I refer to as “drive-by” requests (recruiter walks past your desk, mentioning in passing, ‘Hey, by the way I need X-Y-Z.’). Let your recruiter know how you manage your projects, and kindly let them know how you want them to pass along their projects for your assistance. If you do not establish a preferred method of communication upfront, you will kick yourself in the butt for as long as you work together. If they begin sending you requests using other methods, gently guide them back to your preferred method. You can do this tactfully or not-so-tactfully, and I recommend using tact whenever possible — this will keep your relationship a happy one! (Note: my preferred method is a formal written search request form that is created with both sourcer and recruiter input – and I believe that if a search request isn’t important enough to write down, then it isn’t important enough for me to work on!)

The purpose in having this conversation is to help your recruiter understand the value you add to their function as well as to open up your lines of communication. Once you have had this conversation, your recruiter will respect you more and be more likely to adhere to the things you have outlined. You will find that it is more difficult to set expectations with recruiters with whom you have never had this conversation. The ones you educate upfront on how sourcing works will be better at communicating with you and will understand and appreciate what you do more. People don’t know what they don’t know, and if you take the time to explain these items to them, they will be ever so grateful for your efforts!

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