Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Referring Is NOT Sourcing
April 21, 2009, 7:30 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Research, Thoughts

Be prepared…this is a bit of a rant! 🙂 (the chick in the picture isn’t me, BTW)

I’ve been in the role of internet research for coming up on 7 years now. Over the years, people in my role have been called many things, including:

  • Jr. Recruiter
  • Sourcer
  • Researcher
  • Admin/Research

There’s never going to be a 100% agreement on what we do, because the function we each serve in our respective companies is different.

There is a new and growing sentiment in many of my online communities now that basically compares the practice of referring people to the art and skill of sourcing. I personally don’t take lightly to something that I hear being said more and more:

“Anyone can be a sourcer!”

Um – no. This is simply not true. This, in my mind, is like saying that anyone can be an automobile if they sit in the garage long enough. It’s never going to happen.

For you recruiters out there, equate this to what many have said over the years, that anyone can be a recruiter – they just need a Rolodex and a telephone. If I were a recruiter, I’d personally take offense to that, because sure you can be a recruiter with those tools, but can you be a GOOD one with ONLY those tools? No – you must have people skills, sales skills, business development skills, and there certainly is an art to becoming a GOOD recruiter.

I’ll say the same thing about sourcing! Sure, referrals are a PART of what I deal with every day. But that in and of itself does not a sourcer make. I get irritated when my function is trivialized and reduced to the latest and greatest automation tool. Regardless of how much of any step in the talent attraction process you’ve got automated, it is STILL a people-centric process. It is still a relationship business. And it will ALWAYS involve people. The moment you remove people from the process is when you stop being consultative and start being transactional.

My colleague David Mullen wrote a post a couple months ago that inspired me to take a look at what makes a good sourcer. I’ve also written several pieces on what makes a researcher a good one: check them out here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Oh and make sure to check out this post which talks about all the sources from which I, as and internet researcher, pull. Networks are included, but there are plenty of other places that referrers wouldn’t consider.

So, why is referring NOT sourcing? Because I say it’s not. Just kidding 🙂 But seriously, they’re different. If you tried to replace the role of Sourcing with a role you called Referral Strategist, eventually the referral network for that individual would dry up. It’s basic law of diminishing returns. Guess what that role is going to end up having to do? SOURCE to find more people for the referral network.

Referrals are great ways to help your friends and colleagues get a foot in the door. I love when people refer their friends to me – it tells me I’ve done a good job at building that relationship. But when I source, I put personal relationships to the side. I’m looking for the best fit for the job, regardless of relationship. Sourcing takes work that goes well beyond referring those within your network.

Please stop trivializing the role your researcher/sourcer plays within your company. In order to be successful, sourcing takes more than knowing how to plug a Boolean string into a search engine or tapping one’s existing network. Realize that you can automate until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, you still need a human being to be there for quality control. And please recognize that sourcing is not just a SKILL that can be taught, but an ART which must be mastered.


4 Comments so far
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That’s a good summary there. Even though I’ve read your posts a lot (and you are a friend of mine!) sometimes I am not 100% sure on all the details that sourcing entails (yes, and was a bit embarrassed to ask). Now I feel like I have more insight into your profession, and I already knew you are very good at it!

Comment by Judy Jenner

Amazing that still, today, one needs to justify what a researcher/sourcer does for a living and how it positively impacts a company’s hiring bottom line.

Thanks for being our voice out there, Amybeth.

Comment by Suzy Tonini

Amybeth – I get it! I am not a sourcer in the true sense of the word BUT I know how to hire good sourcers when I need them.

Thanks again for all the good information you provide. It is always a joy and enlightening to read your posts.


Comment by VZLauter

Amen! As we move ever more and more automated and technological, so many forget that an actual human to interpret, analyze and THINK about the information gathered is a critical link in the process.

Comment by Jill

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