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Jan 18, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

I don’t think a dedicated sourcing function has to be included in a TA organization.

The reasons TA organizations hire dedicated sourcers vary, depending on the size and scope of the organization. Some bring on sourcing teams to help offload some of the administrative burdens from existing recruiting staff, others bring them in to focus on going after difficult-to-find talent profiles, and others are brought in for quick-hit augmentation projects. Some companies want sourcers to pipeline, some want them to screen applicants, some want lead generation… the list goes on and on.

Truthfully, sourcing is, and always has been, a skill that should be a part of every recruiter’s repertoire. It’s been said that every recruiter is (should be?) a sourcer, but not every sourcer is a recruiter. As a stand-alone function, sourcing has only been around for a couple of decades. The function has evolved, and there (still) isn’t one agreed-upon definition of what sourcing is. For this article, let’s define a dedicated sourcer as one who identifies, engages, and qualifies non-applicant prospects. This is often referred to as outbound sourcing.


Are You Doing It Well?

My position on a dedicated sourcing function being unnecessary comes with an important caveat: you must be doing several other things very well for that statement to be true. In an ideal situation, all parts of the TA organization work harmoniously and efficiently with one another. In reality, that is not the case, as we deal with human beings who have opinions and emotions and technology that may be outdated or inappropriate for our needs. The following are five areas which, if all are working in tandem with each other, would create a situation where a dedicated sourcing function isn’t necessary.

  • Needs Identification: when the challenge is simply defined as “We have a sourcing problem,” usually the cause is a lack of definition, alignment, and leadership from the hiring manager on what a good candidate looks like relative to the problem that needs solving. Having a well-defined and timely demand signal in addition to alignment with the hiring manager and a tightly defined spec means recruiters can be more strategic with their own sourcing and/or partner more effectively with their sourcers. In many cases, sourcing teams are often used as a way to add volume to a funnel when all that is needed is clear, concise, and precise definition.
  • Brand Recognition and Engagement: in most cases, employer branding has its roots in marketing and has evolved as an attraction element of sourcing. It is one of many talent channels that companies use to attract candidates (others include agencies, university, talent communities, and, yes, dedicated sourcing). When your company’s – or client’s – brand is recognizable and respected, it makes it easier to attract people to want to work there. (Whether or not they are qualified is a different discussion.) If you are blessed to have a dedicated team of employer branding professionals, this is an excellent start. If you have a marketing team that collaborates with them, even better. However, when the budget is a limitation, employer branding can be done at the individual level as long as you set some parameters around consistent messaging. Regardless of the resources available, here are some excellent individuals who’ve shared resources on how to do this function well.
  • Well-written and compelling job postings: a well-written job description will work for you while you tend to other activities, however finding the balance between making a posting attractive and adhering to your company’s HR policies can be tricky. Between incorporating your hiring manager’s list of must-haves vs. nice-to-have’s (and making sure they understand the difference between the two), making sure you don’t incorporate language that would cause some people to self-select out, and making sure your job is posted in the best places, this can be a time-consuming nightmare. A well-written job posting that is not properly positioned within target communities is worthless – when you define your role appropriately and ensure the job posting goes to all the right places, you’ll have a better chance at a manageable in-flow of qualified applicants. There are some excellent resources to help in crafting the best possible job description to work on your behalf and attract the best talent. Additionally, there are several companies that are actually moving away from the traditional job posting and adopting overarching functional “personas” or incorporating machine learning and AI technology to assist job seekers in matching themselves based on skills, culture, and other parameters.
  • Manageable recruiter requisition loads: imagine having 40 different projects all actively requiring your attention, all at varying stages of completion, and all different focus areas requiring you to shift your thought process as you work on each one. While benchmarking hiring data should ideally be done against one’s own historical company data, according to a 2016 SHRM report, 40 is the mean number of requisitions an average recruiter has on her/his plate at any given time. That’s too many to tackle at once effectively. According to ERE’s Benchmarking tool, the median req load is about 20 reqs per recruiter. While more manageable, imagine these 20 reqs range from finance to legal to tech to sales to marketing to customer service to operations to… you get where I’m going. While not every organization has the luxury or budget to divvy up functional areas, figuring out the right balance of overall req load and profile focus makes for an efficient and effective recruiter. More difficult profiles, usually related to executive-level or tech/science-related fields, may necessitate even fewer requisitions, but overall a portfolio of 3-4 functional profiles will allow a recruiter the ability to manage her/his desk. There are excellent resources to help figure this number out for your organization and also for recruiters to efficiently manage their time and be productive, not just busy.
  • Recruiters maintain good proactive sourcing skills: when your recruiting team is buried in requisitions, this often means that their proactive sourcing skills get rusty from lack of use. No good recruiter wants this to happen, but when you’re juggling 40 roles and 30 hiring managers, it’s inevitable that one of the things getting put on the back burner will be proactive sourcing. It becomes easier to simply go through the req’s applicants or get an agency involved. However, as many in our industry would attest, being able to proactively source is a critical skill for a full cycle recruiter to possess to not become expendable. Excellent recruiters should be able to conduct searches not only within their ATS but also in the places where their target talent congregate. When recruiting req loads are manageable, this allows full cycle recruiters to exercise and continually develop this critical skill, which also introduces new candidates into the mix to round out a quality selection slate from which the business may hire.

BONUS: At the foundation of these areas is an excellent operational infrastructure. This includes relevant and functional technology as well as well-established processes and SLAs. If your tech budget is lite, you can still make things work with organized processes and mutually agreed-upon SLAs. (This area warrants its own article!)


Where Is the Imbalance?

As I’m sure you may have gathered by now, few companies simultaneously do all the above well. Usually, there are at least one or two areas that require attention. Some of those scenarios may look like this:

  • You have a brand that has recently gone through some challenging news cycles, and prospects are wary of exploring opportunities
  • Your recruiting staff was downsized recently, and those who are left are incredibly overburdened with req ownership
  • Your job descriptions leave much to be desired and aren’t attracting the right candidates, but there isn’t anyone on the team with time to dedicate to a complete overhaul
  • Your recruiters have underdeveloped or rusty proactive sourcing skills and are more comfortable skimming the ATS for applicants


What Is the Value Proposition of Adding Outbound Sourcing to the Team?

Bringing in dedicated sourcers is not the end-all answer to these problems – a sourcer will not necessarily swoop in and save the day. However, having been a sourcer myself and also managed teams of sourcers, I can tell you from first-hand experience that having dedicated sourcers – and allowing them to focus on outbound activities – will help to alleviate some of these pain points while adding significant value to the overall TA organization. Sourcers whose primary function is outbound activity are ones who go almost exclusively after ‘passive’ talent, or as I like to say, those who don’t know yet that they want to work here. These prospects are sometimes influencers in their industry, may be happy in their current situation, or are simply difficult to find and/or reach. They are either not actively looking to make a job change, not actively looking at your job postings, or not following or being engaged by your company’s brand. Getting these eyeballs on your jobs is critical for increasing the diversity of the selection slate as well as promoting your company’s brand.

Here are some ways dedicated outbound sourcing adds value:

  • By staying focused on the external market, a dedicated outbound sourcer can provide valuable insights into other companies hiring for similar roles. In doing so, they can bring information about competitor job descriptions that may appear more compelling and that may help with some job posting revisions. (overcoming poor job postings)
  • By staying focused on prioritized opportunities (hard-to-fill, low applicant flow, or critical to the business), a dedicated outbound sourcer will be able to add qualified, interested candidates to a shallow talent pool by proactively pursuing individuals who may not have been looking. (overcoming unmanageable recruiter req loads)
  • By bringing in a sourcer who is skilled in data discovery and retrieval techniques, s/he will be able to guide the rest of the TA team in skills refreshers. (overcoming poor proactive sourcing skills)



Teamwork is what this all boils down to. Having the right mix of talent on your team will ensure a smooth operation with quality results that are appreciated by your businesses and clients. Not one TA organization looks the same – the challenge is figuring out what will work best for your business. If you don’t plan to have dedicated sourcers on your TA team, pay close attention to the balance of activities your team is taking on and ensure they have a manageable workload to be effective. If you plan to include dedicated sourcers in your team, make sure you are setting them up for success by clearly defining their role within the team, and then allowing them to focus on those activities while mitigating other distractions. By doing this, you will find your entire TA organization is more capable of providing a tremendous amount of value to your entire business.

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