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May 8, 2019
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

What is the difference between a recruiter and a sourcer? Fun fact – most dictionaries have no idea what a “sourcer” even is Even Grammarly turns up blank. It is hard to be surprised then, how many people have no idea as well.

In some developed economies, like the US, the recruitment industry is already very mature, and such knowledge has spread more. However, in Poland where I work, many times a sourcer is considered to be only a temporary junior position for those, who are still waiting for their real recruitment opportunity. This perception is probably one of the reasons it is so hard to find good sourcers.

Luckily, because of the efforts of our local community, the market is more and more conscious about fundamental differences in both job characteristics and skills required to be a sourcer and a recruiter.

Sourcer and Recruiter – Differences

When we look at the standard recruitment process, we see that the sourcing phase is focused on defining a candidate’s persona and finding the right places to reach out to them.  One needs to have pervasive knowledge of the market and sourcing techniques: both will be inevitably used when it comes to finding ways to contact people and attract them to the offer.

The recruiter steps in when it’s needed to build rapport, convince candidates to take part in the recruitment process, check if the person is, in fact, right for the role, and present the job offer with all of its pros and cons. Recruiters also support candidates through the recruitment process and cooperate with Hiring Managers.

When we talk about a Full-Stack (or Full-Cycle) Recruiter, this is a person who does both things.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Separating Those Roles?

I’ve asked this question on Quora, and once reposted on Linkedin, it generated a vibrant discussion. What Karen Azulai said expresses what I think about this topic:

On my end of the world… what I see is that the companies themselves are seeking to separate the two, as the end to end recruiter

  1. Has no time for quality sourcing
  2. Doesn’t like sourcing very much …
    (..) The way I see it – passionate sourcers are not eager for e2e processes. They are all about the search and the initial assessment, i.e., about finding the gold 🙂 I also recommend they get more involved in road map meetings. So – with the right personalities and when their role becomes as interesting as that and not just LinkedIn monkeys.. they have no wish to become e2e recruiters. It’s when u think recruiters should do the sourcing that this issue comes up as they are mostly not searchers in their DNA. I see the process more effective this way. (…)

On the other hand, Irina Shamaeva also presented the cons of separating the two roles in a very convincing way:

Separate Sourcer and Recruiter roles require quite a bit of infrastructure to work well.

  • Information gets lost if two people (Sourcer and Recruiter) do the job vs. one (Recruiter)
  • To provide value, Sourcers need to be aware of the company/team culture, HM’s preferences, and other things not reflected in a job description – not always provided
  • To provide value, Sourcers need fast feedback – not always accomplished

My view on the role separation has changed over the years. I used to believe that it’s always good to separate roles (or outsource sourcing to specialists – and I don’t mean low hourly-paid workers abroad). Now I think that it’s best for Recruiters to do the majority of Sourcing and for Sourcers – or outsourced Sourcing function – to work on the most difficult roles and the candidate pipeline.

However, with “Sourcing” having been used as a term in Recruiting for over twenty years, and separate Sourcer roles existing at least for ten, we have to admit – we are still not seeing any industry standards on the Sourcing role’s responsibilities and interactions with Recruiters – not worldwide and not in the US. There are several reasons to think of, yet it is still puzzling!

I’d also like to bring up one more voice in this discussion (Glenn Gutmacher), which sheds light on the problem of deciding what the point at which the roles should be separated is.

Our company has split it: the sourcers handoff to recruiters immediately after the first phone screen. We also do some pairing within the sourcing team (for frequently-recurring roles requiring passive pipelines) where one sourcer does the online research for certain channels, and the other does a phone screen. Of course, many roles are filled by recruiters without any dedicated sourcing support.

As we start to consider whether to separate roles or not, we also need to decide how duties are distributed within the team, remembering that each point generates information losses and every person added to the process makes it a bit more difficult for the candidate. We need to remember that sourcers are not “Linkedin Monkeys,” as it was said before and that they need to be included in the planning phase to be successful at their job. Then, the more significant concern is how to get rid of bottlenecks that are caused by the information leaking out? Piret Luts gives a nice answer:

(…) Our sourcers are researchers and pipeline/talent pool, builders. But they are involved already from the first recruitment brief- so they still have the touch with the business, and they know from the direct source what they need to look for. It is a bit easier to handle with in-house TA team. +on top of that we are also developing the agile recruitment/daily standups, etc. 😉 makes the hand over process easier for everyone.
But it is also easy to manage when everyone is in the same location- with different locations it is still a journey to learn for us 😉

Many different sourcing/recruiting models can work, depending on the company’s structure, culture and objectives. But don’t be afraid to break and rebuild a system that is not working. You may have inherited a structure that was sub-optimal from the start, or once worked well but is no longer appropriate. In today’s highly-competitive recruitment environment, constant re-evaluation is necessary if you want to bring value to companies, candidates and the market.


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