How To Move Beyond the Buzzwords When You Are A New Sourcer

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Sep 23, 2021

When I started as a Sourcer, the startup I’d joined had little time for hand-holding. I was given a job description, a cup of coffee, and a “good luck!” from my boss. So I dove in.

In those early days, I felt a bit like an elementary school student- taking the word bank from my job description and plugging it into LinkedIn: 


It turns out it was a terrible search. So I stuck with the big keywords – language and framework – and went from there. I would find these highlighted keywords, often in the skills section, and deem the candidate a great match. It wasn’t until I was reviewing with another recruiter that I learned something that would forever change how I recruited.

“They’re building applications. We need them to build a platform.”

The client needs java; this engineer does java. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I missed a critical element that we often forget in our rush to decrease time to fill and increase reach outs. More important than the buzzwords is how we’re using those buzzwords. Let me explain what I mean with a specific example.


I love Python. Not only was it inspired by Monty Python and has inside jokes (spam and eggs, anyone?), but it’s versatile. You can look at three profiles that all contain “Python” and represent three completely different engineers. Some use it for scripting and automation; code camp graduates often build websites; Machine Learning wouldn’t be nearly as efficient without it.

The point is that while Python is your buzzword, its implementation depends entirely on context. If you see SysAdmin, it’s likely automation. Scikitlearn or Pandas indicates Data Science. Flask or Django means it’s website-related.

 A buzzword is as helpful as #trending on Twitter. You know it’s important, but you may not yet know why. In order to understand the buzzword (and, in essence, your req), you have to dig in a bit deeper.

Which is why my favorite question in an intake is, “What does this person do?” This simple question cuts through all the noise of compensation, headcount, and the job description. A good hiring manager will be able to, in plain language, explain the actual need on the team. Listen, write down the function, then compare that to the “About Me” and recent work experience on a resume/profile.

I moved to a distributed system security team two years ago, and that move has reinforced this lesson. Cybersecurity is a broad, ill-defined beast. “Security Engineer” encompasses Security Assurance, Threat and Vulnerability Management, Security Automation, Platform Development, and sometimes even Governance, Risk, and Compliance! I could never be successful simply matching buzzwords or (gulp) acronyms (Looking at you CSPM, DDI, DLT, IAM, GDPR).

Instead, I have to understand the business need and what, specifically, these candidates need to be doing.  It requires understanding the business and research. And more importantly, winning as a team; caring about the success of your recruiting partners, hiring managers, and senior leadership. If you don’t understand the actual need, you will constantly be relying on luck and coincidence to place your candidates – which means more messages, less fruitful conversations, and less trust from your partners.

So before you type in your boolean and hit “GO,” make sure you know what your terms mean. Understand how they work together to search for the right professional for this team. Go beyond your buzzwords to understand the business need and watch your influence and success grow.