HR and business leaders who haven’t operated within a recruitment model that includes dedicated recruiters or sourcing roles often undervalue the concept of critical talent sourcing or pipeline sourcing. As opposed to full life cycle recruiters (see definitions below) who handle the end-to-end recruitment process, sourcing recruiters are expert researchers focused on finding and cultivating relationships with talent.
While the two roles are quite different, it’s easy to make the mistake of equating them, and therefore measure and motivate sourcers’ performance and activity in the same manner as a full-life cycle recruiter – on hires. The bottom line: few people in HR understand how to manage sourcers to fully capture the potential positive impact sourcing has on lowering the costs of future hiring and cycle time to hire.
Below are a few tips to avoid making the most common mistakes, while significantly increasing the ROI of your investment in dedicated sourcing recruiters:
First, Defining the Roles:
Full life cycle recruiters are recruiting generalists who have expertise in managing the recruiting process as well as candidate and hiring manager relationships. They typically can handle the end-to-end recruiting process from understanding the hiring need to identifying and qualifying the talent and culminating in the internal interview, offer, and hire. When paired with a sourcing recruiter, they focus only on handling the front and back end of the recruiting process but rely on the sourcer to find and qualify prospective candidates for interview consideration.
Sourcing recruiters (aka researchers or sourcers) are experts who are laser focused on only finding potential talent as well as researching information that leads to referrals to the right talent. More experienced sourcers are also good at engaging talent in a conversation about an opportunity, cultivating relationships for future needs, or referral networking via online sources and the phone. Once a potential candidate is identified and qualified for interest and fit, that candidate is handed off to a full life cycle relationship recruiter.
Don’t view sourcing as a low-level skill and/or a first-level career path into a career in HR. Some organizations hire teams of entry-level sourcers in an effort to keep overhead costs low. Instead, hire the most creative, experienced, and proven sourcer(s) you can afford, pay them well, and always include an intern/junior sourcer on your team so your senior talent can mentor and transfer knowledge to the newbies. Have an open mind as to career path options for sourcers, as there may be other areas of the business that can benefit from their research and creative problem solving skills down the road.
Don’t expect your sourcers to make Dom Perignon champagne on a beer budget! Amazingly, companies will invest in hiring a sourcing team but then won’t invest in arming them with the most basic sourcing tools — like a professional member license to LinkedIn! If you are going to invest in sourcing, plan to review the latest sourcing tools in the market each year and ask sourcers for their “wish list” to make them more efficient in name generation, reverse contact lookup or social candidate engagement. Tools such as Avature CRM, Linkedin Recruiter, Broadlook Diver and Capture, Sendible, and QueSocial are examples of some of the investments in core sourcing tools we believe should be made to ensure efficiency and optimum productivity in sourcers’ work.
Don’t assume all recruiters are good at sourcing. Sourcing is a specialized art and science. In our experience, the best sourcers often have backgrounds in research or creative problem-solving professions like library or forensic science, academic research, or data analytics. Recruiters generally fall into two buckets:
“Hunters” or those who relish the challenge of finding talent using information that leads them to the best job candidate prospects for the job, and
“Farmers” who prefer to cultivate talent and spend hours on the phone screening candidates who have expressed some interest in an opportunity.
Of course, there is the occasional rare full life cycle recruiting professional who is reasonably good at both. But when hiring recruiters, be sure to ask what part of recruiting they get most excited about. Tthey will definitely have a preference and you will know what direction to take the conversation.
Don’t assign your sourcer to the high-volume, lower-level jobs. You don’t want the sourcer to only add more resumes to the hundreds submitted monthly by active candidates responding to job postings. Instead, identify critical roles with multiple annual hiring needs that directly impact bottom line business performance (i.e. sales, IT, R&D, operations management, leadership, and executive roles). Typically, these positions are historically difficult to fill due to a low talent supply and/or high demand for the talent or other factors such as undesirable office location and 100 percent travel requirements. In many cases, these are also the roles on which you spend the most money on contingency search vendors and contract recruiters with specialized skills or networks of talent.
Don’t measure a sourcer’s performance on metrics that they cannot directly control! This is the quickest way to demotivate your sourcing recruiters. They can only control two factors: the number of raw, unscreened sourced candidates they identify, and, to some degree, the number of qualified candidates they submit for consideration. The sourcer has absolutely no impact on the hire other than the number and quality of the candidates handed off to a peer recruiter who is responsible for doing a deeper dive phone screen for fit and managing the candidates through the process to hire.
The appropriate measurement for a sourcer is a rolling average of the weekly number of sourced and presented/screened candidates and, secondarily, the quality of the candidates presented. A rolling or quarterly average is key as it levels out factors such as holidays and vacations that can negatively impact candidate responsiveness. Quality is best measured on the ratio of candidate submittals to interview and, to a lesser degree, the ratio of interview to hire.
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With each step further down the recruiting process beyond the sourcer’s direct influence, the metric should weigh less in the overall assessment of performance. For instance, the sourcer may have a 90 percent ratio of presented candidates accepted by the hiring manager for interview but a 40 percent interview to offer/hire ratio. When evaluating the latter metric, the person with the most direct influence is the hiring manager with sole control over the hiring decision, and he/she may have a preference for hiring internal candidates or a even a hidden, unknown bias against people, for instance, who didn’t attend his/her university.
Don’t stop/start or shift priorities often and expect consistent results. Pipeline sourcing is like a manufacturing process: if you shutdown the plant and then restart it a month later, you essentially have to start from scratch to procure raw materials, await deliveries, and then fabricate the product to stock your inventory. This process is costly and takes twice as long as simply scaling back sourcing efforts to a maintenance level when needs diminish and then ramping up efforts when needs increase again.
The goal is to always have inventory (qualified candidates) on the shelf so that when critical roles need to get hired, quality people are already identified, qualified, and proven to be interested in the opportunity. This will result in shortened hiring cycle time and, over time, reduced recruiting costs for these roles. The best practice is to align sourcers to industries and functional job/skill categories so that they become known in those talent communities as the person to network with when prospective hires are considering a change. A good sourcer is a master networker and loves cultivating relationships with talent that can ultimately yield referrals and hires in the future.
Final Words of Wisdom
For mid to large organizations with ongoing multiple hiring needs in difficult to fill, highly specialized, or mid- to senior-level management roles, using dedicated sourcers can be one of the best investments you make to optimize the efficiency of your talent acquisition efforts. With the right people in place in complementary roles, a recruiting team composed of recruiters and sourcers — where the sourcers are in well-defined roles, equipped with the right tools, and appropriately measured — the ROI can be incredible.