Breaking Down the Sourcing Function, Part 1: What’s A Sourcer To Do?

There seems to be a mysterious fog surrounding the responsibilities of sourcer. We are viewed as anything ranging from a “junior recruiter,” a data entry person, a “computer person,” a web surfer, and sometimes I’m sure that some of us feel like personal slaves to one or two recruiters with whom we work. While we know in our minds the countless functions for which we are responsible, sometimes it is hard to help others understand our duties and the fact that we need more than 30 minutes to search for the perfect candidate. So my goal with the coming articles is to:

  1. Give some insight as to what the majority of Sourcers are originally hired to do and what they end up being responsible for;
  2. What qualities make up a good Sourcer when you are ready to hire your own;
  3. Some questions to ask a Sourcer during an interview;
  4. What comprises a typical daily routine of a Sourcer; and
  5. Some common myths about Sourcers and my personal clarification on some of them.

As I have been a sourcer for nearly a decade now, I have been responsible for a lot of different functions within the companies for which I’ve worked. I have also had the opportunity to be acquainted with many other excellent sourcers around the world. When I worked at an MRI franchise, I helped moderate a research discussion group that was unbelievably helpful for me, and one of the most commonly asked questions came from the owners of the franchise offices, wanting to know what we did on a daily basis. The typical person asking this question was either thinking about hiring a sourcer or trying to figure out how to get the most out of his/her current sourcer.

At my first job as a sourcer, in my first four or so months there all I did was research. However, as I displayed strengths in other areas, my duties grew. While I am not saying that I did not enjoy other aspects of my job besides sourcing, one has to draw the line somewhere. If you’re not careful, you can become a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none.’ Here are a few of the responsibilities I had when I began sourcing and some examples of how quickly things can get out of hand.

  • Researching and sourcing candidates – This was supposed to be my primary responsibility. When I was first hired on as a researcher at my first job, this is all I was responsible for. I believe that since we are given the title of Sourcer that this should be our main focus. However, a lot of times a person in this role has other technical skills that become known, and this may cause their employer to use them for other technical operations-type activities. What ends up happening is that your sourcer does less and less research, and gets more into…
  • Internal network administration and computer maintenance (passwords, setting up new user stations, troubleshooting, etc) – as the office grew, I learned more about server maintenance and setting up workstations. I became the in-house technology consultant. Since the other folks in the office knew that I was good at this, they stopped doing maintenance on their own computers and relied on me to take care of these things. I began managing our internal network – running reports, setting up Exchange accounts, monitoring use, etc. All of these activities are certainly important! However, if you have hired a sourcer, then why not outsource these tasks to a good IT consulting firm? It is their sole responsibility to monitor these things, and that way your sourcer can get back to doing what you hired them to do – SOURCING.
  • Technology purchases – this is something for which I think your source can give you some good ideas, but not something for which I believe your sourcer should be responsible. While I believe I am a pretty darned good negotiator (I was able to talk Dell down about $1,700 on our purchase of a new server) this took me away from my primary duties of conducting research.
  • Project management for offshore search assistance – I could go off on a total tangent and let you know what I think about offshoring sourcing tasks. But when we decided to use this service, I ended up spending at LEAST an hour every afternoon putting together search requests for our researcher in India only to have results returned the following day that were virtually identical to the results I had already found. I found communication difficult and the results unsatisfactory, plus the ramp-up time for our guy to learn our industries was unreal. I will add a little disclaimer here that this is just my experience and I know that several of you have had excellent results from 3rd party overseas search vendors – but I however do not think they are worth the investment for the amount of hand-holding involved.
  • Technology training – this is one task that I think fits in with sourcing duties, especially if you use a SQL or MDB-based database application. Not everyone is going to be familiar with your database program so new recruiters and staff members will need to learn and understand it. I think as a sourcer, you should know your database inside and out and also be able to share this knowledge with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the training aspects of my various positions. Added bonus to the sourcing conducting database training (and this is a HINT-HINT to all the sourcers out there) – if you are the one responsible for training on proper use of the database, you can teach it the way YOU want it to be used and the way YOU need information coded into the database. This will in turn save you a ton of time on…
  • Database maintenance and/or data entry – while I knew that some of my time needed to be spent with key-coding and activity tracking, I do not believe that data entry should be the sole responsibility of the sourcer. I think 1) each person (recruiters included) should be able to enter their own candidates into their own database, and 2) mass data entries can (and should) be handled by an office manager or data entry professional. Perfect example: a few years ago, one of the ‘senior’ recruiters emailed me the name and contact information of a candidate and told me to put it into the database. I IM’ed him and told him that I was pretty busy at the moment and reminded him of a very simple way that he could enter this candidate into the database on his own. He emailed me back (notice, no verbal communication here) telling me that he was busy closing deals and making money calls and that he did not have the time to enter the candidate into the database, and reminded me that as the sourcer I was there to help and support him. At this point I did not want to start World War III, so I added the candidate into the database, after which I notified him that it would have taken him less time to add his candidate into the database than I’m sure it took him to write and send me the email. (This situation is paraphrased so some of the actual verbiage may have been slightly different, but you get the point). My point here is this: include data entry into your office manager’s or an administrative assistant’s job duties, not your sourcer. Or, you can hire a part-time data entry professional. Why have someone on salary entering loads of data when you can pay someone $7.50/hour to do so? Not very cost effective if you ask me!
  • Presentation creation – now I admit, I love making PowerPoint presentations. But do you honestly think that is the best use of time for a sourcer? This again should be a job duty for an office manager or an administrative assistant. Presentations should always be proofed by their end user, but I don’t think this is a good use of productive sourcing time. And yes – this is something I was tasked with at every one of the companies for which I worked.
  • Website development – please see above comment on IT consulting. This is not something that a sourcer should be spending time on. I think it’s a good idea to allow your sourcer to have some input on the website, as they can help with search engine optimization and creating a good template for your internal job board, but this should be done by either a dedicated IT staff member or a 3rd party web designer.

So what am I saying here?

For recruiters, managers, and search firm owners: use your sourcer, absolutely! But DON’T abuse them. Use them for the purpose for which you hired them – SOURCING! Give them the option, once they complete their sourcing duties (like that ever happens!!) to work on some other projects. If they truly have a passion to explore other areas of the office operations, they will force themselves to become more efficient sourcers so that they can finish their primary duties early and get their hands into other activities.

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For sourcing professionals – don’t be afraid to say ‘No!’ The WORST thing you can do for yourself professionally is allow people to walk all over you. Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to tell someone “I’m sorry, I just do not have time to do that right now.” Remember your primary function – sourcing. Also remember, no one person in the office owns you (except the one who cuts your paycheck!) Don’t allow any one person to dictate your schedule. In an article I wrote last year, Effectively Managing Your Research Projects, I listed out some tips for making sure that you don’t spend too much time on any one project or person. Remember you are a valuable member of your recruiting team and don’t let anyone abuse you.

In the next article, I will go over some ideas on what to look for when you are hiring a Sourcer, or if you are currently sourcing, some tips on good skill sets to have to maximize your marketability!

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter and SourceCon.com with ERE Media. She currently works as Sr. Manager, Technical Talent Sourcing for Walmart eCommerce. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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