The Recruiter vs. Sourcer Dilemma

Jan 9, 2013
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Recruitment, Recruitment Group, Talent Acquisition, Talent Acquisition Group, Executive Recruiters, Recruiter, Corporate Recruiters, Internet Recruiters, Sourcing Specialists, Talent Acquisition Specialist, and I am sure I am missing some monikers associated with recruiting.

I had a colleague in one of my 2012 meetings describe the job of the recruiters as being sourcing specialists. She went on to explain that recruiters don’t sit at a desk; they get out and they actively meet people. They don’t just post positions and do the administrative stuff. Sourcing specialists, on the other hand, use keywords and methodology to find key professionals to fill open vacancies … that was her way of explaining our recruiter role to some non-HR staff. In her mind, she believes that recruiters who aren’t out and about actively recruiting are sourcers.

While I spent most of my time in that meeting biting my tongue, her description caused me to think about recruitment as a profession and whether or not we are misunderstood or having an identity crisis.

I happen to think it is a little of both. Recruitment seems straightforward to hiring managers, job seekers, and anyone else who isn’t heavily invested in performing those specific duties that are required of a recruitment professional. Here is where the misunderstanding begins: you don’t have a clue as to what recruitment truly is until you are in it. The other piece is there are operating definitions or generalizations within the industry for what recruitment professionals do; they either get expanded or diluted by individual organizations depending on their needs. In keeping with my colleague’s mindset, she equates travel and in-person interaction with “true” recruitment. It is an essential duty in her mind. Without those two things the recruiter is merely a sourcer in her world.

Sourcers on the other hand have been an entry-level position in recruitment in the places I have worked. I’m not diminishing what a sourcer does, just speaking from my experience.

Of greater importance is that they are an essential part of the recruiting staff that engages the passive and even active candidates and gets them excited and enamored with the organization so the recruiter can seal the deal and ultimately procure a hire. There are some sourcers who are just short of genius and work in technical and non-technical fields where they are highly coveted. However, to call a recruiter a sourcer is slightly insulting depending on who you speak to in the industry. For a recruiter, it is not just getting the candidate interested, it is conducting effective interviews; it’s being up on the latest in employment law and compliance; it may even include helping hiring managers manage their people better. It is also knowing how to set a salary and sell less-than-stellar benefits in a company that may not be the greatest.

The point is: recruitment or talent acquisition is complicated. It requires much more insight and knowledge in other facets of HR than meets the eye.

So who are we? Are we an industry made up of a diverse set of professionals dedicated to hiring the best talent for our companies? Or are we a misfit bunch with a mash-up of roles and responsibilities that lack context?

It doesn’t much matter. Recruitment is recruitment is recruitment. It’s all the same crap. There may be different industries, regions, and skill sets to consider, but at the end of the day it is all still recruitment. In a profession, that requires its professionals to be multi-talented to keep up with increasing demands for top talent; good recruiters better be good sourcers and sourcers should be ready to get into other facets of recruitment if needed. None of us can afford to have tunnel-vision when it comes to our roles in HR.

You can call yourself recruitment, talent acquisition, or procurement of human capital. Whatever you call yourself is quite irrelevant. Of greater importance is that you are the focal point, shining star, and essential facet of the organization accountable for driving the talent strategy in a way that adds value to the company.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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