Thorough Sourcing Part II

Can I see your call sheet?” I asked the nervous young recruiter as I pulled up and sidled another chair along his.

I was there on the second day of the phone sourcing training I was doing for the company — the day where I visit each participant’s desk and sit with them, demonstrating and then listening in to them on the phone approaching gatekeepers.

Think of this as that day in school you sweated when the teacher handed out the “big test.”

You’re scarcely able to contain yourself for wanting to get the thing over with.

You fidget. You sit up straighter in your chair. You’re ready to begin.

And then it happens.

The page lands on your desk.

You wait anxiously for her to say “begin” as ‘she continues past you down your row.

You put pen to paper and you begin — at the beginning.

So it is with phone sourcing- there is a beginning point and an ending point.

The beginning point is with organization.

I ask each of my students on the first day of class to prepare a “call sheet” for our desk time together that includes:

  • The job description
  • The companies where they feel the people they’re seeking are most apt to reside
  • A listing of those companies with their addresses, websites, main numbers, their fax numbers, a brief bio on what the company does, and any names they already have at the company.

I’m often asked why I need fax numbers.

It’s very simple. I need the fax numbers because sometimes when I call the Gatekeeper I meet with Unfriendly Fire.

Fax numbers save time.

I immediately glance at my work document for the fax number. If it appears to be the same area code and the same prefix as the main number there’s a chance the internal dials of the employees will also share those magical six numbers and it’s just a matter of calling in (I call this “stabbing in”) to numbers around and within the numbered range of the two.

Main: 513 891 xxxx

Fax: 513 891 xxxx

Sometimes the fax number will include a different prefix.

Main: 513 891

Fax: 513 793

In those cases the direct dials of the employees may share the fax number’s 513 793 beginnings and calling on either side of the fax number may land me on the desks of the employees. (They could, as well, land on either side of the main number as well.)

Sometimes none of this works but chance holds that one of the above two scenarios does work.

When neither works I have another trick. I go to Google and put in the company name and the area code. Many times this brings up the direct dials of employees from that company who have posted something on the Internet and left their signatures (that includes their direct dials) behind. In this instance it’s usually just a matter of picking up on that and running the extensions that align on either side out.

That’s my basic recipe for “stabbing in” when the front desk is no help. It’s rare that a phone sourcer who uses this technique to gather information does so ineffectively. Usually by the third or fourth live person who answers when you’re stabbing in willy-nilly, you have the information — or a good beginning on the information — which you seek.

I’ve digressed.

As it is with anything there is a beginning point. Our beginning point as phone sourcers is to have a carefully prepared “work document” that includes information that will assist us on the call.

We never know what’s going to assist.

The Gatekeeper might ask us what division we want the Controller of.

A quick glance at the company bio might reveal the different divisions so that you don’t skip a beat in answering her.

It also helps us use the lingo that is most likely to occur inside the company. Not all companies use the same identifiers for their divisions.

A company specializing in polymers might use the following words to separate functions within their environs:








By looking at a company’s bio (or even their main website page) you may glean what word it is the Gatekeeper is most likely to recognize.

You’ll sound more like you know what you’re talking about.

This, in turn will bolster your confidence.

Article Continues Below

This, in turn, will bolster your response rate.

Some companies use different job titles.

A Brand Manager in one company might be a Product Manager in another.

An Account Executive might be a Territory Manager in another or a Sales Rep in a third.

Still, a Quality Director could be called a Champion or a Master Black Belt or a lot of other things.

Taking a quick look at a company’s job page will reveal what they call themselves on the inside.

Knowing what language is used on the inside of a company is a true use of the words “semantic sourcing.”

I have to confess: I thrilled when I started to see the word “semantic” attached to “sourcing” in the Recruitosphere.

I thrilled because that’s exactly what phone sourcing is — linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used by humans to express themselves through language.

Voiced language; in this case — the stuff that makes many, if not most, sourcers nervous.

Talking to people — asking for information — pressing when you sense an opening — withdrawal when you feel a threat — retreating when you need to regroup — attacking when you know you can’t lose.

All this commotion that makes most sourcers uneasy.

Like our hapless recruiter sitting next to me. Next, we’re going to listen in on “the call.”

You’ll be surprised at what you learn.


This is an on-going series regarding phone sourcing. The beginning of this project is here.

Subsequent portions will appear weekly.

Here is this Tuesday’s Phone Sourcing Tip/it is also listed in the ASK Maureen group here on ERE.

I hope you’ll join and contribute to our discussion!

Identifying yourself immediately on the call goes a long way toward “removing the mystery” for the Gatekeeper. It is not necessary to state the company you’re calling from/on behalf or nor is it necessary to state the reason for your call. A simple acknowledgment of her name (if she tells you when she answers) and your name will many times get the job done!

“Hi Sheila, this is Maureen Sharib. Can you please transfer me to your marketing department?”

“Hi Sheila, this is Maureen Sharib. I’m trying to reach George O’Connor. Is he in?”

“Hi Sheila, this is Maureen Sharib. I’m trying to reach the Product Manager for your xyz product. Can you tell me who that is?”

If she does not tell you her name, just leave that part off. NEVER ask her for her name! This can be construed as confrontational and you want to avoid confrontation at all costs.

“Hi, this is Maureen Sharib. Can you please transfer me to your marketing department?”

“Hi, this is Maureen Sharib. I’m trying to reach George O’Connor. Is he in?”

“Hi, this is Maureen Sharib. I’m trying to reach the Product Manager for your xyz product. Can you tell me who that is?”

Phone sourcing is simple but it’s not easy!

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!