What Is Sourcing? My Reply To @GlenCathey

Posted: 02/19/2014 in direct sourcing, sourcing

Nothing shows better the infancy of a profession (professional field or domain) than the lack of in-depth discussion and argument around its basics. Think about all the new recruiting sciences such as big data, candidate experience or so: thousands of practitioners are echoing each others’ thoughts without providing less than little value and real expertise on the bottom line.

This is of course the case with sourcing, still, today. Too few experts really understand what and what not sourcing is.

A giant though, Glen Cathey, has recently proposed a new universal definition of sourcing, and while sourcing is certainly a big mess in the minds, no one took the time (or got the inspiration?) to argue with that. Is it because we all think Glen is ultimately right? There is nothing to add to that? Does that definition describe what you (yes, you, Sourcer-Reader) do day by day? Are you happy with that? Are you happy with the limitations of that definition? Does that make you successful? You feel good? Nothing else you want to achieve?

Well, I have got a lot to argue with Glen’s post – and I am sure Glen is the one who will love it!

Sourcing nowadays indeed seems to be the science and art of ”passive candidate” generation, and yes, within a pro recruiting environment it does contain candidate engagement. However, I am afraid this definition is not leading to the right direction. Sourcing, I say, should be a much greater, more responsible and diverse profession and if we, black belts, gurus, ninjas or wizards, do not stand out and force to extend the definition into a much wider scope, I promise, we are all set for failure… This case, sourcing will never be a well-received profession and we, sourcing strangers, will ever remain totally misunderstood.

OK, what am I talking about?

I am probably not the only one who is often stretched with the question: why does direct sourcing take only a little portion of the total hiring? Why do we need experienced and expensive sourcers if all the other recruiting channels provide much more, the majority of the hires? Business and talent acquisition leaders quite often try and understand the value of sourcing from a hiring-end perspective. And I think this perspective is valid. These leaders are all customers and wish to get and pay only for the valuable piece.

Customers, from a LEAN perspective, have the right to request for total waste reduction while their product is produced. Their money should be well-spent during the production cycle without having extra charges due to the deffects of the factory. Deffects should be immediately identified and fixed so that customers get 100% value for their money.

So now think about sourcing! As long as we split candidates being either active or passive we generate a deffect within our hiring production. With this non-sense split we make our customers pay extra attention to something that is totally insignificant for them. No any passive candidate has ever been hired – simply, because every candidate will definitely have to turn into an active, an ‘applicant’ mode somewhere during the selection process. And this is what our customers see and care about.

We should be pleased (or even more: grateful) that today’s customers somewhat understand: sourcing exists. They even appreciated it was a new profession. They understood the significance of that. This is the best that could have ever happened with us so that we have to be smart enough to not lose the momentum and start cutting down the tree under us.

Sourcing is nothing else, again, from a customer perspective, than generating a slate of qualified, interested and available high-potential candidates. This is my definition.

If it is a ‘simple’ applicant or the ever-most-hidden talent (found somewhere deep in a Google cached result) does not make any difference. The value of sourcing sits within the expertise of totalistic channel management, sourcing methodology and technology, process efficiency and candidate qualification.

I would challenge ourselves (our very own, hard-core community) to see how many of us would be able to cover and generate the most of all channels? Aren’t t we somehow scared or little under-educated to grab the big piece and be responsible for that? How many of us are feeling equally comfortable and trained to conduct a proper Boolean search AND re-create a job ad based on reading complexity, SEO or direct audience-targeting? I guess not too many…

Sourcing, again, though has to own the entire candidate funnel and although this is new and not really existing today – this is the only definition and vision, I believe, we all should target.

We own the funnel.

We have got the expertise to make the right choice on channels, we know which channel and method can provide and what, and we are accountable for costing so that we contribute to the P&L as well.

This is how sourcing becomes a real and highly-respected profession. This is the only valuable expertise of sourcing I see today. A long-long journey and we are just at the beginning of that, however, the only way to position sourcing to its right level.

Not too late to start but we have to make it.

Glen, others – what are your thoughts?

Comments
  1. jacobstenmadsen says:

    Balazas, – few dare to take up the argument (meant in a constructive way) against what ‘mighty Glen says (Yes I am a GC fan, in case you wonder) and not very often do we see comments or counter arguments on Glen’s long and very thorough pieces that are miles above anything else in the recruitment sphere.

    I think your comment
    ‘The value of sourcing sits within the expertise of totalistic channel management, sourcing methodology and technology, process efficiency and candidate qualification’
    is the very core of the matter.

    I personally term this the ‘holistic approach’ and/or the ‘conducting of the symphony orchestra’
    It is within this that everything done in sourcing or the wider talent acquisition lie, in which is has value and meaning.

    Let’s see if the good Glen take up the challenge, very interesting conversation amongst those that are in the know and the midst of it all.

    • thebalazs says:

      Jacob – thanks for the comment! Certainly, this was not meant to be a Glen vs. Balazs story but more to generate a live discussion around the definition.

      I agree with you on the holistic sourcing concept and/but what makes me awake all nights is the difficulty we face once trying to implement. The holistic concept looks great on paper (strong as a definition), however operations can hardly make anything with that.

      Why? Is it knowledge, skill-set, lack of ability, perception… what is behind? Why cannot we (so-called sourcing thought leaders) inluence powerfully enough our industry to complete the change?

  2. jacobstenmadsen says:

    Balzas and others, In response to your Why? I may given that the core of what Glen does and you as well Balazs do is sourcing be going off track here, and apologies if that the case. As my ‘symphony orchestra’ analogy, it is about the ‘buy in all around’ and what that entails, how done and with what understanding. One of my past gigs was with Microsoft in Denmark (400 employee local sales, marketing, consulting div of Microsoft Corp. For 4 consecutive years amongst top 5 in country of Best Place To Work) We had a CEO and a HRD that worked very closely hand in hand and where the beliefs and the culture of the CEO was to be found in every single departmental manager, every single team manager and I would dare say at least 90% of the entire workforce, from accounts to enterprise sales. Doing my job there was apart from being Microsoft easy as every single person I worked with and for in capacity of attracting and sourcing the best possible talent knew what they had to do, and did it, every time, every day. Not once was there any friction, disagreement or discord in all matters recruitment, and it was a true joy to work within. My point is that everybody (as the symphony orchestra) has to be in tune, know, understand and perform according to that, – and the result is sorry but only word I can find, – harmony.
    Another example is Unilever where the CEO has as one of his main declared goals and focus to bring in, enhance and ensure superior work force. I know from ex 7 year there global head of resourcing, that this very fact made the entire difference as to how the whole TA function was perceived and how that translated to all they did.
    The conductor (CEO) is the one with the oversight, the understanding and the ability to bring the whole thing together, and it is from his podium that all required come and is executed, he/she can make it a roaring success or a giant failure.
    For me everything is about 2 things (actually one and the same), 1. Mind-set and 2. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’.

  3. I always think a few examples make an article more compelling because it becomes less abstract and easier to understand.

  4. Glen Cathey says:

    First – Jacob, thank you for your kind comments, excellent arguments and specific examples!

    As you know Balazs, I appreciate disagreement, because I believe it fuels critical thinking and forward progress.

    Having said that, I disagree with your definition and many of your points. 🙂

    I don’t use the term “passive” anymore when speaking about sourcing – I’ve defined sourcing as a proactive focus on non-applicants, which includes referrals, by the way.

    I believe one of the main values of sourcing is to ensure a company does not rely solely on hiring the best of those people who happen to have found the company’s job posting and apply. We know that active job seekers are the minority of the employed population of any country, and smaller still is the percentage of active job seekers who, through whatever means, manage to find and decide to apply to any given position posted online somewhere. Even smaller than that is the percentage of qualified applicants. In reality, the probability that any given applicant is fully qualified for the position they apply to is low.

    Admittedly, some companies don’t *really* have to source – they get plenty of qualified applicants and can meet all of their hiring needs simply from processing applicants, especially for certain roles (e.g. non-I.T., non-knowledge worker, non-executive, etc.). However, for a company to rely solely on that small fraction of the total available talent pool (active job seekers who will apply to jobs) says something about their talent acquisition strategy. Whether they like it or not, these companies (and their recruiters!) are effectively saying, “We’re fine fishing in the shallow end of the talent pool, and we don’t care about taking any proactive efforts to find the best talent – we’re happy to simply react to applicants and solely work with people who come to us.”

    For many roles, the best people are actually working for someone else and even if they would change employers for a better opportunity, they are not motivated to take any action to do so. However, a sourcer (or recruiter who sources) can find and engage these folks and turn them into applicants.

    Let’s look at companies like GE, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. – they are deluged with applicants, yet they still have teams of sourcers who are responsible for finding and engaging non-applicants. Why do they do this? Simply because they know that their applicants only expose them to a small minority of the total talent pool and if they are truly committed to finding and attracting the best talent, they have to also hunt in the deep end of the talent pool – non-applicants. A balanced and holistic talent acquisition strategy must include efforts to recruit applicants and non-applicants.

    Another value of sourcing is speed. If a company relies solely on applicants, many positions can go unfilled for longer than acceptable periods of time while TA teams simply wait for the right person to apply. Proactive sourcing of non-applicants can significantly speed up time to find and hire the right people.

    From a lean perspective, sourcing has the least amount of waste associated with it from a talent acquisition perspective. This is because the sourcer (or recruiter who is sourcing) can search for and find people who only meet and exceed minimum “specs” (BQ’s + PQ’s). On the other hand, job posting has the highest amount of waste, as I previously explained – volumes of unqualified applicants with ZERO control over applicant qualifications.

    If your definition of sourcing is “nothing else…from a customer perspective, than generating a slate of qualified, interested and available high-potential candidates,” is there no differentiation in focus and strategy between recruiters who only process applicants and recruiters who only find and engage people who haven’t already applied?

  5. glencathey says:

    First – Jacob, thank you for your kind comments, excellent arguments and specific examples!

    As you know Balazs, I appreciate disagreement, because I believe it fuels critical thinking and forward progress.

    Having said that, I disagree with your definition and many of your points. 🙂

    I don’t use the term “passive” anymore when speaking about sourcing – I’ve defined sourcing as a proactive focus on non-applicants, which includes referrals, by the way.

    I believe one of the main values of sourcing is to ensure a company does not rely solely on hiring the best of those people who happen to have found the company’s job posting and apply. We know that active job seekers are the minority of the employed population of any country, and smaller still is the percentage of active job seekers who, through whatever means, manage to find and decide to apply to any given position posted online somewhere. Even smaller than that is the percentage of qualified applicants. In reality, the probability that any given applicant is fully qualified for the position they apply to is low.

    Admittedly, some companies don’t *really* have to source – they get plenty of qualified applicants and can meet all of their hiring needs simply from processing applicants, especially for certain roles (e.g. non-I.T., non-knowledge worker, non-executive, etc.). However, for a company to rely solely on that small fraction of the total available talent pool (active job seekers who will apply to jobs) says something about their talent acquisition strategy. Whether they like it or not, these companies (and their recruiters!) are effectively saying, “We’re fine fishing in the shallow end of the talent pool, and we don’t care about taking any proactive efforts to find the best talent – we’re happy to simply react to applicants and solely work with people who come to us.”

    For many roles, the best people are actually working for someone else and even if they would change employers for a better opportunity, they are not motivated to take any action to do so. However, a sourcer (or recruiter who sources) can find and engage these folks and turn them into applicants.

    Let’s look at companies like GE, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. – they are deluged with applicants, yet they still have teams of sourcers who are responsible for finding and engaging non-applicants. Why do they do this? Simply because they know that their applicants only expose them to a small minority of the total talent pool and if they are truly committed to finding and attracting the best talent, they have to also hunt in the deep end of the talent pool – non-applicants. A balanced and holistic talent acquisition strategy must include efforts to recruit applicants and non-applicants.

    Another value of sourcing is speed. If a company relies solely on applicants, many positions can go unfilled for longer than acceptable periods of time while TA teams simply wait for the right person to apply. Proactive sourcing of non-applicants can significantly speed up time to find and hire the right people.

    From a lean perspective, sourcing has the least amount of waste associated with it from a talent acquisition perspective. This is because the sourcer (or recruiter who is sourcing) can search for and find people who only meet and exceed minimum “specs” (BQ’s + PQ’s). On the other hand, job posting has the highest amount of waste, as I previously explained – volumes of unqualified applicants with ZERO control over applicant qualifications.

    If your definition of sourcing is “nothing else…from a customer perspective, than generating a slate of qualified, interested and available high-potential candidates,” is there no differentiation in focus and strategy between recruiters who only process applicants and recruiters who only find and engage people who haven’t already applied?

  6. […] you may not  know that Balazs Paroczay recently posted a rebuttal of my proposed definition of sourcing, I strongly suggest you read his argument, as I appreciate […]

  7. […] sourcing as a function of proactive source and engage non-applicant candidates. The response from @TheBalazs was that sourcing should be the owner of all talent supply funnel which includes all the sources […]

  8. […] of what should be considered sourcing and what is not sourcing (read about that here from Glen, here from Balázs, and here again from Glen). But since there are contradictory sourcing definitions, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s