What Does Search Mean?
Search encompasses the steps that you take to find a piece of desired information. According to a good friend of mine named Webster, it can mean:
Search (transitive verb)
1: to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something
2: to uncover, find, or come to know by inquiry or scrutiny
Sometimes the search takes time and that’s a good thing (the point of a journey is not to arrive). You can learn many things throughout the process of search. Other times search is near instant and that’s also good thing. If you wanted the right reference for a bibliography, would you rather have it in 2 hours or 2 minutes?
What Does Sourcing Mean?
Sourcing was not invented by anyone alive. It was not invented by anyone in the 90’s. Back then I called it “internet recruiting”! Most people then called it “research”. In the 80’s, the advent of research firms became a money generating business. That was sourcing. Back then and even before that, there were marketing and legal teams that had “researchers”. Guess what? Those were SOURCERS too! So unless you were developing market research teams in the early 50s, you did NOT invent sourcing.
The sourcing function has evolved as well. Besides getting a fancy new name, sourcing has evolved by including various aspects of the talent acquisition process. I see many posts online: “What does a sourcer do?” Or “How do you define sourcing”? Or even “Is a full life cycle recruiter a sourcer?” There are many variations and all of them are right. The one constant is the search piece. That is what makes a sourcer. The rest is window dressing and how much contact you want to have with the candidate after you find them. Being a recruiter does not automatically make you a sourcer. And there are some sourcers who would rather deal in name-generation all day long instead of phone screening a candidate.
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Search and sourcing are three things: the puzzle, the journey and the solution. They are all rewarding stages and all can last for any amount of time. Many times we fall down the rabbit hole and get lost in the search process, only to easily step aside that trap the next time we see it. Many mistakes can be made during the sourcing process. Whether it’s not enough research, researching the wrong information, making the wrong assumptions, or a lack of critical thinking, making these mistakes and fixing them is what makes you a better sourcer.
Besides the search process to find candidate profiles, there is the assessment of the candidate’s profile. Many mistakes happen here as well, whether it’s a lack of understanding the role, or a lack of understanding what you are looking for. Not to worry, research and double checking your work will set you up for success the next time you encounter this search. And believe me, you will ALWAYS run into similar searches.
Domo Arigato, Mr Roboto
Mind you, we’re not savages here. There are some cool state-of-the-art things that technology has brought to sourcing. Everything from semantic search algorithms to AI software that “learns” about which types of profiles you would like to see more of. There are sourcing automation extensions which save time and mouse clicks. There are some really easy to use scraping tools. And there are data enrichment tools that get their power from accessing web APIs.
Despite all the new search technology and AI software, Boolean is not dead (though there are some speakers who love to say it). You still need to be able to write a good search string. You may not use it all the time, but the writing of a correct search string will solidify the exact thing that you are looking for in your mind’s eye. Yes, there are many sourcing vendors that offer the solutions that “do the sourcing for you”, but it’s always good to look behind the curtain. After all, these may be AI sourcing tools, but they were still written by humans. And if there is one thing that is certain, it’s that humans are prone to make errors and wrong assumptions.
Being able to devise correct search strings for job roles is the core of a good sourcer. And not just one string for LinkedIn. This means string variations that work for your ATS, Google, Bing, Facebook, GitHub, Twitter, research sites, speaker profiles, resumes, personal homepages, as well as many more. As we’ve proven time and time again, not every candidate exists in the social network of your choosing. And some of them have so little information that they are missed by Boolean strings and AI matching software. So it’s always good to have as much control over your search as possible. You may not need to use it, but having the option will make you a better sourcer.
Message in a Bottle
For some roles and companies, sourcing can encompass the outreach / messaging / screening aspect of the hiring process. Well does that mean that they are a sourcer? Are they a full life cycle recruiter? Are they a sourcing recruiter? Who really cares? The point is, if you can customize outreach messages, then you add a very important skill to your job. Phone sourcing and cold calling take this a step further. You may only find so much information online and the rest must be found out through a phone call.
There’s a joke within the sourcing community that everyone knows where everyone is, and it’s really just a matter of getting the candidate to respond. This is not completely true but it’s pretty close. All the cool tools and search methods won’t save you unless you can get a response from your candidate. Personalization is the key to good messaging. And learning what the candidate actually WANTS is even more important. If your response rates are below 40%, then perhaps it’s time to look at different outreach messages. A/B test your messages. Use email tracking tools.
The phone screen is usually the final step before handing off to a recruiter. To successfully complete a phone screen, the same research and learning process used during sourcing must be used when asking questions of a candidate. The right questions get to heart of what the candidate wants and what they do in their job. Asking the candidate “do you have machine learning experience” is not a phone screen. It is you running a survey. So do yourself a favor and learn the aspects of what the candidate does and find out if they actually do it for their job. WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW. That’s your secret right there for phone screens.
Time Stand Still
I’ve been training people how to source since 1997. That seems like a long time when you simply write it, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. I think the reason is because search methods, sites, tricks, and technologies are always changing. And that keeps everything fresh. The people are changing as well. Each new class that I teach brings about new problems that need solutions. Coming up with those solutions are one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job.
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I attended my first SourceCon in 2008. I missed the previous year because of budget constraints and made sure that I was going to attend the next one. Along the way, I’ve met many sourcers, recruiters, managers, HR specialists, vendors, programmers and musicians! Every person I’ve met has had a great viewpoint into sourcing. And more important, a DIFFERENT viewpoint. Along the way, I’ve shared my sourcing hacks, listened to others share theirs, and even collaborated on ideas with the community. The sourcing community is what makes up SourceCon.
I spoke at my first SourceCon event in 2011. The editor at the time was AmyBeth Quinn and she gave in to all of bugging that I should speak (LOL)! Since then of course, I’ve spoken at SourceCon 10 times. I’ve shared the stage with some very good (and much smarter) speakers and they always bring fresh ideas or new takes on old ideas. That goes back to that community aspect of SourceCon. If you have something to say, then you should definitely say it! Whether it is a blog post, webinar, roundtable or speaking session. The new blood and new speakers keep us all evolving.
I’ve enjoyed being a part of “the search” for most of my career. It’s been great to meet so many people who share the same mindset and inquisitive nature. Many existed before me and many more will arrive after me. Being in an industry that embraces change is awesome. And even though change is the name of the game, it’s always good to take a look around and enjoy the present. I leave you with a chorus written by a guy named Neil Peart:
Time stand still
I’m not looking back
But I want to look around me now
Time stands still
See more of the people
And the places that surround me now
Time stands still