Seven Secrets of Sourcing

I like lists; on-the-go literary distillations that tell a story. Here’s another one about sourcing.

The best lists are presented with a pinch of intrigue, turn of phrase, and/or dash of humor. They hold our interest captive for a few fleeting moments and then leave us sated with pointed information.

I hope this list does the same for you.

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Given that sourcing seems to be the hot topic these days, no doubt there will come a time when it is discarded as old hat; that everything there is to know has been distributed and it’s time to put it on the high shelf with all the other HR tomes to gather dust. I say that not quite believing it.

No matter how sourcing-starved you may be, there might come a time when you have had your fill. Until then, let’s assume your throat is parched, your belly is empty, and what you need is a quick run-down of the Seven Sourcing Secrets. Here they are:

  1. Know the right time to source. I’m not talking about economic times, as the demand for sourcing will always be there. I’m talking about your biological time clock, which is the time you are at your best and what time your internal clock coalesces best with the real world. Some sourcers work best in the morning, some in the afternoon. A few of the really deadly source at night. There are techniques for sourcing any time of the day or night.
  2. Know if sourcing in a particular sector makes sense. Some verticals are harder to source than others, having far fewer candidates in them. Know what’s hot and what’s not, including what area of sourcing you’re skilled in that will yield your best return. I’m not necessarily talking about dollars; I’m talking about what areas you like to source in and enjoy. That’s every bit as important as the dollar return. Take stock of your talents and apply them sensibly.
  3. Know where to go. Choosing the right “targets” to source out of is every bit as important as the sourcing process itself. If you choose your targets wisely (i.e., companies that are likely to possess employees with the same skillsets/attributes you seek), the returns on your sourcing dollars will be the greatest.
  4. Know and understand the consequences. Sourcing out of a competitor with the intention of ruining that competitor economically is one example of sourcing gone wrong. This is such a miniscule percentage of sourcing intentions that it is hardly worth mentioning. However, it is an example of what not to do, as the activity could carry great legal penalty. If your intentions around sourcing out of your competitors are to gain good employees, by all means, go ahead!

DO NOT hire a competitor’s employees if your intention is to put the competitor out of business. DO hire a competitor’s employees if your intention is to gain good employees.

  1. Know about nontraditional sourcing avenues. This isn’t about risky nontraditional sourcing techniques that put you in the grey zone of legality. This is about sourcing techniques that are right in front of your nose. Think about the fish bowl of business cards at your local diner, the knowledge inside a particular target’s customers’ heads, and the professional licensing/accomplishment records that are many times kept online.
  2. Understand how sourcing can save you thousands, even millions of dollars. Names sourcing is the new cost efficiency being recognized by Six Sigma. Recognize it too and make it a part of your organizational structure.
  3. Know how to protect your investment in your sourcing organization. Sourcers are not prima donnas. They are tenacious rare-breed bull-dogs not afraid of a fight. Equip them with the tools, technology, and training they ask for and reward them handsomely.

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, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!