How Sourcing is Related to South Africa’s Big Five

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Feb 16, 2018

One of South Africa’s many tourism drawcards has to be that the “Big Five” reside within our borders. I spend a lot of time in the bush, and we are sometimes even lucky enough to see the Big Five in one day! This is an incredible treat, and as South Africans, we still get a buzz when we are privileged to spend time with these majestic beasts in their natural habitat. While I was in the bush recently, I started to realize that these animals have very similar characteristics to us sourcers and recruiters.

The origins of the naming of the Big Five lie in the highly debated ‘leisure pursuit’ of hunting. The lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo were reputed to be the most difficult, and dangerous, animals to hunt on foot in the 19th Century. So, in a nutshell, these animals all fought back. The name has stuck, but now the only shooting that we encourage in South Africa is done through hugely expensive camera lenses (trust me, I know). That’s how I like to think of us sourcers; we are fighters. We all also have other characteristics in common with these beautiful mammals which makes us ideally suited to working in the sourcing role.


The leopard is often referred to as The Silent Hunter. These animals are the most elusive of the Big Five as they are predominantly solitary animals and are nocturnal. I am sure there are several sourcers reading this article who have also worked through the night in their relentless pursuit to find the best candidates! Sourcing is not a nine to five job. Sourcers are continually networking and chatting with people as you never know who knows who.

Leopards are known to protect their territories with unbridled ferociousness against other leopards. This is similar to us as sourcers. We are in constant competition with each other for the best ‘hunting grounds’ for finding the best candidates. We have to stay on top of new developments in the tech space to make sure that our sourcing tools, and techniques, are more effective that our competitors. Hopefully, then we can claim a greater market share of today’s scarce talent.

Once a leopard locks onto its prey, it can reach speeds of 58km/hour to make sure they catch it.  Sourcers need to move with speed to find the best candidates in the shortest amount of time as in recruitment ‘every minute matters.’ When a new order comes in, we need to act with speed and energy to start finding the most suitable candidates as quickly as possible.


Buffalos are social animals and move around in large herds, up to a couple of hundred. This is what sourcers need to aspire to be like when it comes to growing their niche communities. Sourcers tend to source candidates from one industry, like IT for example. We need to make sure that our networks, or communities, are strong and that we are constantly staying agile and in contact with the other members of the herd. The weakest members of the buffalo herd are often picked off by predators which does help to keep numbers in check. Like this survival of the fittest, we must constantly be monitoring our networks and staying in touch with the stronger, most helpful, members.

(I guess that none of the readers would have guessed that the seemingly docile and moody buffalo is considered to be the most dangerous of the Big Five, especially if you are on foot.)


The majesty of the African Elephant, the largest and heaviest land animal, is something that can only be appreciated when you see it up close. Elephants are highly social and their herds, which can reach hundreds of animals, usually comprise of deep family bonds. These bonds are based on trust and authentic interactions. A sourcer often has one phone call to build trust and to create a great first impression with a candidate. More often than not, these candidates are not ‘on the market,’ so the sourcer has to entice the candidate in the best, most concise, manner possible. Like an elephant, we need to be powerful from the first interaction.

An elephant herd is led by a matriarch, who will have the vast cultural knowledge to keep the herd under control, choose their direction and pace. Does this highlight that females are maybe sourcers? Unfortunately, that is a topic for another blog.


The King of the Beasts is powerful and charismatic; just like us sourcers need to be. Sourcers have to be good influencers and manipulators. Every day they need to persuade people to leave their jobs (where they might be very happy and comfortable) to pursue something new which will be way more challenging that staying where they are. Like lions, sourcers also need to be social animals. They need to be ‘people magnets’ as people should be drawn to them as they give off positive energy and are fun and entertaining to spend time with.

Lions also sleep on average 18 hours a day. The hours that they are awake are precious as they need to find prey, hunt it down and eat it. They could also spend hours walking to find suitable drinking water in the Bush. All of these things can take an inordinate amount of time. Lions, therefore, need to make each minute of their waking hour’s count, just like sourcers need to do. There is no time like the present to ‘get things done’ and to ‘make things happen.’ Sourcers have to have an unprecedented sense of urgency because the race to find the best talent is not easy or quick.


Rhinos have received incredible amounts of attention due to the cruel and inhuman acts of poaching that they have been forced to endure over past decades. The number of rhinos in the wild is dwindling, and this is large because their horns are a valuable commodity in China. Rhinos are having to show great resilience and tenacity to ensure that they are not added to the world’s extinct list in the not too distant future. Sourcers also need to be tenacious as this job is hard and it is too easy to give up. We need to constantly come up with new and creative ways to find these scarce skilled candidates.

Sourcers also need to be resilient as we deal in a people-focused industry and people can let you down at the last minute. Unfortunately, our ‘product’ has a mind of its own, and it can decide to withdraw from the recruitment process at the last minute; or a work visa may not be granted and so on and so forth. There are lots of variables that can go wrong, but we need to pick ourselves up and continue sourcing like the last candidate didn’t destroy our faith in mankind.

My greatest wish is that all of you reading this blog will be given an opportunity to see the Big Five, in Africa, from the safely of a game vehicle one day. They really are something to behold, and there is no doubt in my mind that we can improve our sourcing, and our interactions with other people, by spending time with these animals and observing their daily activities.

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