The Taxonomy of Sourcing Types

I presented at the SourceCon 2011 event in New York on February 8. It was my first SourceCon event and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet interesting people and “feel the learn” as Shally put it.

I have some observations about sourcing as a result of talking to many people there and watching the presentations of others. My idea was to put on my “management consultant” hat and make some suggestions that I think could advance the body of knowledge as the “sourcing” function attempts to step out and create an independent identity and “community” affinity.

People used terms like “sourcing industry” and “sourcing profession.” However, from what I could see, the term “sourcer” has a different meaning to each individual depending on how they think about the role of sourcing in the overall recruiting process.

Achieving a reasonable level of verbal precision and role clarity about sourcing is an extremely important cornerstone for future growth — especially if we want to use words like “industry” and “profession” in the same breath as “sourcing.”

This article is focused on beginning the dialogue to help achieve more verbal precision and role clarity for sourcing. That’s the cornerstone; taxonomy –classification. Part Two will describe an idea for better assessment of candidates for various sourcing roles, once they are defined. Part Three will suggest a way to finally determine the ROI of different sourcing methods employed by the different types of sourcers in their day-to-day work. Finally, Part Four will offer a method of calculating the ROI of various sourcing training programs.

Toward More Verbal Precision and Clarity

Right now we have three basic types of sourcers; internet, phone, and a “hybrid” of both. There needs to be a much better definition of the difference between an “Internet” sourcer and a “phone” sourcer. I would prefer to coin new terms that are more inclusive and descriptive of the actual activities a sourcer performs. My suggestions are “All Media Sourcer,” (AMS) and “Human Contact Sourcer” (HCS).

The “All Media Sourcer” (AMS)

All Media Sourcing includes Internet searches of all relevant destinations and social networking sites. It also includes internal searches—electronic or otherwise–of accumulated resumes, databases, business card collections and attendee lists, etc. It may even include observing a potential candidate or source to candidates interviewed on television or radio or quoted in a hard copy publication.

In All Media Sourcing, the focus is on the mastery of all forms of media and specialized search techniques and algorithms that identify job candidates or sources to job candidates. In its purest form there is little or no human interaction between the “All Media Sourcer” and job candidates or sources to job candidates.

The “Human Contact Sourcer” (HCS)

Human Contact Sourcing is very different from All Media Sourcing. It includes customized, Sourcer-To-Candidate (STC) human interaction via email, text message, instant messaging, internet forums, and interactive social media  communication. It also includes direct phone calls to switchboards, gatekeepers and to individuals at work, at home or via their cell phone. Human Contact Sourcing also involves face-to-face human interaction at meetings, conferences, trade shows and “meet ups.”

In Human Contact Sourcing the focus is on the mastery of direct human interactions that yield job candidates, sources to job candidates, and even competitive intelligence gained from those human interactions. In its purest variant it includes little or no All Media Sourcing activities.

The AMS/HCS “Hybrids”

There may not be a “pure” AMS or HCS professional, but they serve as useful endpoints on the spectrum of sourcing activity.

Sourcing hybrids come in all sizes and flavors along the AMS-HCS spectrum. Many sourcers say, “I do both types of sourcing.” For those who truly do both types of sourcing in equal amounts, we could legitimately call them ‘Pure Hybrids.” But there probably are not too many of those. A “Pure Hybrid Sourcer” who must have strong expertise, ability, and motivation in both areas, is equally comfortable in both, and should logically command the highest compensation.

This type of sourcer employs whatever activities are called for at a given point in a search to achieve optimal results.

The question then becomes, “Well, if you aren’t a Pure Hybrid Sourcer, then what relative mix of both types of sourcing do you employ in your work?”

My observation is that the vast majority of sourcers are primarily All Media Sourcing-focused but do some aspects of Human Contact Sourcing work as well. They may find a candidate profile on LinkedIn or via a complex, brilliant search algorithm, then call the company switchboard or send an email to verify that the candidate is still employed there. That would be a hi-AMS, lo-HCS Hybrid Sourcer. These types of sourcers are often out of their comfort zones when they are asked to be relatively assertive on the telephone or in face-to-face situations.

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Naturally there are hi-Human Contact Sourcing professionals that do some background checking via all media sources prior to initiating human contact. They would be hi-HCS, lo-AMS Hybrid Sourcers. These types of sourcers are often out of their comfort zones when asked to execute complex “whiz-bang” search algorithms. I believe these types of sourcers represent a distinct minority in the overall sourcing community.

The “Sourcing Spectrum”

So the “sourcing spectrum” could be depicted as follows:

Clearly there are different “competency levels” depending on the type of sourcer. In the model presented above, there are at least five that present a healthy starting point for further analysis and discussion.

In the absence of accurate survey data (which is needed), I would hypothesize that the current frequency distribution of the global sourcing community population would be skewed 75% or more to the left of the “Pure Hybrid” in the All Media Sourcing regions.

The Need for Rigorous Job Analysis

In order to discuss and define competency levels for sourcers in general, still deeper investigation must be performed.

Job analysis must define processes, activities, and competency levels for both All Media Sourcing and Human Contact Sourcing roles, and for the various hybrids. When I conduct job analysis it is a brain-draining process of questioning incumbents in jobs, “what do you do,” “why do you do that,” “how do you do it,” “for whom do you do it,” “how do you report it,” etc.

The goal is to identify and articulate 7-11 job functions in a role. Typically if there are fewer than seven functions then they need to be broken apart (or there is not enough job). If there are more than eleven functions they need to be combined (or there is too much job).

The resulting position description uses all action verbs; i.e., “identifies,” “finds,” “contacts,” “reports,” “determines,” “calculates,” “presents,” etc.

Has such rigorous job analysis been performed for sourcers? If so, an online discussion of it would probably be of great interest to the “sourcing community/industry/profession,” which was our starting point in this article.

It would also make for a most interesting presentation at a future SourceCon.

Paul Houston is president of the strategy analysis firm Results Management Consultants in Denver and also is a niche third-party recruiter. He is an expert at using the telephone as a tool to conduct complex business and forensic research -- most frequently advising corporate strategy and recruiting functions about unique approaches to improving the ROI of their initiatives. A life-long baseball fan, strategist, manager and player, he is a member of the Colorado Over 50 Baseball Hall of Fame.

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