A Phone Sourcer’s Union with the Internet

Many people think all phone sourcers do is phone source. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many phone sourcers of today started out life as Internet sourcers and some phone sourcers never really strayed from the original path.

In this article I’m going to discuss how Internet sourcing and phone sourcing can enhance each other.

Back in 1996 or so when the Internet began to gain ground in the consciousnesses of many there was much more “phone sourcing” going on than there is today because very few people understood how to find stuff on the Internet. Search engines were just beginning to become popular and only the mightiest of intellects really understood much earlier than that how they worked. I recall one sourcer telling me her mathematician-father recommended the new search engine “Google” because he knew the two guys at Stanford who’d created it and said they were plenty smart and knew what they were doing. I took her advice back then (it being the late 1990s) and trashed Dogpile and Altavista for Google in most of my daily Internet activities.

As we’ve discussed before, there’s a wide difference between phone sourcing and Internet sourcing. But that doesn’t mean the two never meet. They do, often. The bridge that connects the two is the Internet itself.

It’s a pretty well-received given that there are far more Internet sourcers today than phone sourcers. That may be the case, but I believe seasoned recruiters themselves are expert phone sourcers and when you add that back into the mix, the numbers become much more phone-centric. The one thing that successful recruiters find themselves pressed up against, time and time again, is time. And that’s where hiring outside research comes into play. Sourcing takes up a lot of time and in a recruiter’s ordinary day, an inordinate amount of time.

A phone sourcer typically relies on the Internet as a starting point. I elaborated on this in an article I wrote back in 2008 here on ERE called “Forgotten Fun.” Internet search is fun. If you’re the type (like my sourcer Pam) who enjoys learning new things, doing puzzles, or treasure hunting, you’re in for a treat! It’s easy to stay too long at the bar though and lose your way home. You’ll know this by that little voice in the back of your head that starts warning you that you’re procrastinating — putting off that moment when you must pick up the phone. You know: that voice.

That Forgotten Fun article includes some ways in which a phone sourcer’s work is amplified by the use of the Internet — how the two segue into each other, both forward and backward. I encourage you to read it.

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If there’s one thing I want to impart to you as a prospective sourcer, it is to be constantly on guard regarding your time. It’s easy to sit down at your computer and have half a day gone by when you look up for air. That’s because a sourcer’s nature is to seek after things, and it’s very, very easy to chase off down dark mysterious alleys after shiny objects. The reasons some of those alleys are dark are because there’s no light at the end of those tunnels — they’re dead ends. Don’t forget that. Experienced sourcers know this, and that small annoying voice begins to pipe up earlier rather than later. But until you’ve run headfirst into that brick wall at the end of the tunnel more than a few times I suppose you’re just going to have experience this for yourself to believe me. My condolences.

The best use of the Internet, in my opinion as a phone sourcer, is to spend five, maybe 10 but not more than 10, minutes researching a particular target. After all, you only need a few names to “get in” to where you want to go. Grab three off LinkedIn to get started and then call in to the company location you’re tasked with penetrating. I say three because chances are one will “no longer be in the database” of the company’s directory and, as LinkedIn’s records are ever-more maturing, maybe even one more of those will have moved on to other pastures, long since forgetting that bright hopeful moment in their existences when they filled out their profiles at the networking site. So get three. One should still be there, and when that gatekeeper asks you for a name, you’ll be able to give her one that works for you like a key to pass you into the interior. That’s what a phone sourcer wants: to get inside.

Don’t fall victim to the thinking that LinkedIn can or will always be able to supply you with candidates. It can, but there’s a subtle cost included that experienced recruiters recognize. Of LinkedIn’s 65 million users worldwide, half are in the United States, 11 million from Europe and India, the fastest growing country (as of 2009) has only a surprising 3 million users. The Netherlands has the highest adoption rate per capita at an impressive 30%. Of the 33 million in the U.S., I believe about a fourth to a third have moved on to other pursuits and have not bothered to update their forgotten LinkedIn profiles. Another third are in danger of suffering the same fate at some time in the very near future. That leaves about 11 million registered users in the U.S. with current and correct information, and many of that number suffers the consequence of being contacted, time and time again, by recruiters about open job opportunities. You do the math and think about how many times someone can be contacted without tiring of the event. Of course, some never do tire of it and are on LinkedIn for exactly that reason: to keep their options open and their stock prices on the rise. I think they’re smart, but I suspect even this minority will show that even its patience can run thin.

LinkedIn has several other uses as well. As Shally Steckerl recently mentioned in a blog posting, LinkedIn “also provides some neat competitive intelligence.” Read his posting to learn how you can use the networking site to learn about different job titles companies use. You can also see location information on a company depending on where their people report themselves as being located. Not all company websites offer this location information anymore. In addition, you can use LinkedIn to “reverse engineer” a target list of companies based on where people worked before. I’ve found this to be one of LinkedIn’s most valuable provisions.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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