Phone Sourcing Basics

How many of us remember the days before Google, LinkedIn, and other social media sites… When sourcing was a primary function of recruiters, who relied on phone sourcing as the primary means of connecting with potential candidates. When recruiters resorted to purchasing phone directories of targeted companies and then figured out how to break through a phone system to reach the desired department, often resulting in many misconnections that somehow lea to the right person.

Phone sourcing has become somewhat of a lost art form – which is interesting considering that we live in a world of connectivity yet have lost the personal touch of picking up the phone and calling, regardless if you are full cycle recruiter, a sourcer, or a researcher.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that, at times, cold calling can be daunting and sometimes it’s easier to hide behind the computer.  Many today have either never cold called or are fearful of doing so, not realizing that ultimately it is the human connection that creates lasting bonds within networking.

When I started out as a phone sourcer, I was led to believe that creating elaborate stories would get me to the candidate I desired. Quickly, I discovered that honestly and ethics, combined with a simple question of “can you help me,” was of greater value.

There are best practices that I follow when phone sourcing:

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  1. Don’t be afraid of rejection.Don’t take rejection personally. Undoubtedly you will encounter two types: those willing to talk with you and those unwilling.
  2. Don’t be afraid to call back or talk with anyone. If you do encounter an unwilling individual, try calling back using another approach.
  3. Be courteous to the gatekeeper. They desire to help, but often need subtle persuasion.
  4. Ask for help. It’s okay to admit you’re not an expert. People who are experts love to talk about what they do.
  5. Know what the target looks like. Let’s be honest, if you have absolutely no clue as to what you are looking for in your search, then perhaps it would be a good idea to spend some time figuring that out first. The other side of asking for help is the risk of sounding incompetent. People who are really good at their jobs are insulted by recruiters who call not knowing exactly what they are calling about.
  6. Aim for a positive candidate experience. We all have heard stories from candidates about their negative experiences with recruiting and sourcing. View each interaction as an opportunity to change a perception, even if the individual is curt or rude and hangs up. When I’ve encountered such an individual, I acknowledge that they are not interested by saying, “Thank you, I appreciate your honesty and time,” which normally catches them off guard with kindness.
  7. Use a script if you need to; at the very least have a bullet-point list of what you are looking for. I personally refrain from using a script, as many lack a “natural” rhythm to the conversation.  When starting out, I did use a script, but I soon found that I was comfortable talking on the phone with just about anyone and just as quickly put it aside. I do however, keep a bullet-point handy.
  8. Call back, but don’t call so many times that you become a nuisance. While persistence is key to success, calling into reception every five minutes will not win friends. Engage those individuals you speak with to forward you to the right person, and make sure you ask for direct dial numbers and extensions.
  9. Be considerate of the other person’s time and location. They may not want to or be able to speak with you while at work or sitting in a cubical. Ask them “is this a good time?” If not, suggest speaking with them after hours at home. Try to get their personal email, offer to leave your number or email. Be convenient. After all, you are calling them –  not the other way around.
  10. Consider what you can do for them. Build a bond. Have their interest at heart.
  11. LISTEN! Be ready. Use a headset, have computer ready to transcribe or at the least a notepad and pen to take notes. LISTEN, (as Maureen points out in her post Over Confidence). This is recruiting/sourcing 101.  Limit distractions, be ready. Gather competitive Intelligence.
  12. Don’t hang up in fear. Hanging up is rude. In today’s world, caller ID is everywhere, and anyone can Google a number and/or name and put the two together. If you hang up, don’t expect that individual to take your call again or recommend your company or you to anyone they know. Employees talk and share stories about rude recruiters and sourcers. My suggestion is that if you get stumped, think quickly, either admit it to the receiver, or politely ask if you can continue the call at another date and time (suggest each) due to schedule conflicts.
  13. Don’t be afraid to leave a message. In general, people will return calls, if for no other reason than curiosity.
  14. Follow up as promised. This applies to full cycle recruiters more than sourcers/researchers. Check back with them periodically, especially if you recruit/source within a specific field and anticipate a future need.
  15. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be honest, if you never work on positions that would be of interest to them, it’s okay to let them know this. This goes back to #9…How can you help them?  If they mention that they would like to work for a specific company or in a certain position and you have the contacts to make an introduction, offer to do so, but follow through.
  16. Say “Thank you!” Be considerate and understanding; thank someone for their help. Even gatekeepers want and need to feel appreciated, even when they are unable to provide you with information.
  17. Persistence pays! The more phone sourcing one does, the easier it becomes. Phone sourcing and recruiting are ultimately driven by numbers. The more you call, the closer you will come to finding the right individual.
  18. Six degrees is real. The impression you leave is important not only for your personal brand but also for the company that you are representing.  A good impression may lead the person you contacted to recommend you or your company to a colleague when looking for their next position.

Phone sourcing can produce some great candidates, but it does take forethought and effort. Implementing some of these best practices into your phone sourcing activities may help you to take your efforts to a new level of productivity and success.

What are some of your phone sourcing best practices? Share them in the comments below.

Lori Barry has been in recruiting and sourcing for over ten years, focusing on direct sourcing and recruiting for technology companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500, recently managing and leading the Talent Acquisition team for a national telecommunications company. Previously, Lori worked as a successful management consultant providing strategic recruiting and sourcing solutions to companies in either start up or growth stages.

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