How To Be a More Productive Sourcer in 2016: Knowing Your Time by @researchgoddess

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Jan 13, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Inevitably, at some point in your sourcing career, you’ve looked up from your screen with 32 tabs open at all stages of search and thought this very thought. Where did the time go? You feel like you just sat down at your desk and it’s already the end of the day. Was it productive? What do you have to show for your work? Sure, there are always going to be days where you’ve sourced and come up with no good prospects – that is to be expected. But how often is that happening? Do you keep track of your activities well enough to know where your most productive time is spent?

Great sourcers are, by nature, inquisitive and curious. Which means they are also usually ‘squirrely’ and easily distracted while chasing their curiosity. While these are excellent traits to possess, they can also lead you down some pretty extreme rabbit holes if you’re not careful. The trick is to be able to identify this about yourself and set up some parameters to keep yourself in check so that you can be as productive as possible.

As a sourcer, you understand that time is everything. For anyone who works on commissions, in particular, time literally is money. Whether that applies to a prospect’s job change timing or the need find a large number of people to quickly staff up for a major project, it’s one of those things we never seem to have enough of. So how can you make your time work most efficiently work on your behalf, instead of letting it run the show and, ultimately, slipping through your fingers?

Understand Your Time

Before you can make your time work efficiently for you, you must first understand it. By this, I mean you need to figure out where you’re spending your time during your workday. By taking the time to track and analyze where you spend your days, you can do a number of things:

  • Find out when during the day you tend to get easily distracted
  • Understand what programs, applications, or sites yield you good results vs. bog you down
  • Learn about daily, weekly, and monthly habits
  • Learn about your personal searching habits
  • Make thoughtful adjustments to your patterns to optimize your sourcing

This is tough to do on your own, so I personally use a tool called RescueTime. It is a web-based time management tool that tracks the activities and duration of a users’ computer usage by keeping tabs on the sites you visit as well as the applications you use over the course of the day. If you have an Android device, this isn’t limited to your desktop activities, either – there is a mobile app that can track what you do on your mobile device. On your PC, the app you download collects data on the sites you visit and the programs you use, keeping track of the amount of time you are actually using them. You can set up goals for yourself and view reports and dashboards of summaries of where you spend your time.

(PS: this is all in the free version. There is a Premium version that provides a lot more functionality but you can get quite a bit of data from the free one)

I felt earlier last year that I was spending a tremendous amount of time bogged down in emails, so one of the goals I set for myself was to spend no more than 3 hours a day in email (yikes but I had to start somewhere). Taking a look at November 2015 I achieved that goal almost the entire month. Additionally, one of my goals is to be in “Productive” categories for at least 4 hours per day, which was achieved about half of the month. However, the goal I’d set for myself to spend more than three hours a day in Business-categorized activities (OneNote [which is where I take screen notes], ATS, spreadsheets, project management, etc.) still needs some work.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.47.43 AM

If RescueTime is not for you, there are other tools to help you understand your workday time use. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Protect Your Time

Once you get an idea of where your time is being spent, you can start to make adjustments to your activities and take back your time. In my opinion, there’s no better – or easier – way to do this than to use a free tool that all recruiters and sourcers have access to: your calendar. By keeping your calendar organized, you will be better able to protect your time and keep yourself focused. I personally use Outlook, and I color-code categories to visualize my time blocks in my calendar. If you’re sourcing for multiple industries and/or clients, you could use color coding for different teams, specific functional profiles, or whatever makes most sense to keep yourself organized. If you don’t use Outlook, pretty much every calendar application will allow you to color-code categories and do this.

Here’s one of my weeks last year when I was still primarily screening and scheduling candidates:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.49.52 AM

The categories I use include:

  • Red for candidate screens
  • Green for client meetings
  • Dark green for recruitment leadership meetings
  • Orange for recruiter (colleague) meetings
  • Purple for training
  • Blue for candidate interviews
  • Yellow for 1:1 meetings with my manager

My role has evolved over the last year, and I have transitioned away from spending a ton of time sourcing and screening. This particular weekly snapshot was full of screens, but one additional important thing that is vital for sourcers to schedule is a few regular sourcing time blocks. This will ensure your sourcing time is protected and that people don’t randomly stick meetings in the middle of your sourcing time. And I recommend being jealous of your sourcing blocks – don’t let people schedule over them.

Bonus: using an automatic appointment scheduler, like TimeTrade or, adds an additional layer of protection to your calendar by letting you choose only time blocks you want to share with people to schedule meetings with you.

Validate Your Time

One other thing you can do with all of these tools is to match them against your individual success metrics to ensure you’re spending time working with tools and resources that are producing efforts. Whether you are measured by number of hires, offers, or qualified candidates presented, by keeping track of where you find your prospects and comparing that to the amount of time you spend with those resources, you will prove yourself a more valuable part of the hiring process.

Our strategic sourcing teams at HPE measure success as a mix of both qualitative and quantitative metrics. I maintain a dashboard for my team that shows where our sourcing efforts are focused by resource, as well as how we are doing with our success metrics. Additionally, we include information that ties our efforts directly to the business’ overarching goal, which is making hires, by showing how achieving our success metrics ultimately leads to the business achieving its success metrics.

In Conclusion

By having a better understanding of your personal time, you can control it rather than it controlling you. By doing a thorough analysis of where you are spending your time, you can plan to mitigate time-wasters from your workday while setting goals for spending time in places that yield better overall results to ultimately get you closer to achieving your personal sourcing goals. By protecting your time, you let your teammates know that your time is valuable and give yourself a better chance at achieving your overall goals by staying focused within specific time blocks. And finally, by validating your time, you prove the worth of your work by being able to tell a data-driven story of how your efforts result in the achievement of goals that reach beyond your own personal ones, and help your organization hire great people.

Follow-up: what are some ways that you personally strive to be more disciplined with your time? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!

[clickToTweet tweet=”Sourcers: understand, protect, and validate your time using these tips” quote=”Sourcers: understand, protect, and validate your time using these tips via @researchgoddess”]

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.