Last Wednesday, I wrote a post about how I believe that sourcing is not dying, but evolving. I ended the post with a teaser about what I believe sourcing will evolve into in the coming years. I certainly don’t think the need for the skills which sourcers possess will go away, but I feel like other aspects of a sourcer’s repertoire will become more in-demand as our communication methods continue to change.
As I mentioned last week, human interaction is an integral part of any profession that falls into the same classification pool as sourcing, talent attraction / acquisition, recruiting, HR, etc. To ignore the fact that our jobs are very ‘high-touch’ would be foolish, no matter how deep into the technical aspect of sourcing we may be. In the coming years, and I think especially over the course of 2010, I see sourcing taking on a huge role of proactive communication. Since the accessibility of information via social networks keeps getting easier and easier, I believe being a good relationship-builder is going to go up in value. Please note: I do not believe this means that sourcing will inevitably equal recruiting. The reason I know this is because not all recruiters know how to build relationships. You all know what I’m talking about – we all know at least one recruiter who is a script-reading robot with the interpersonal skills of a rock.
Sourcers who are good communicators are going to be the goodwill ambassadors and (I hope Glen will forgive me for this) the talent pipeline builders. Sourcing is going to take on a very proactive marketing-type role, involving such things as interaction in discussion forums, posing questions on LinkedIn, writing for and selecting content for a company blog, getting involved in the Chamber of Commerce, attending networking events, and getting the word out about either their companies or their clients.
We have seen throughout the history of recruiting how important building true relationships is, and sadly I feel that recruiting, and thus sourcing, has become more transactional in recent years. Sourcing of the future will move away from the transactional and more toward the strategic, as people become more web savvy and numb to blanket messaging. Sourcing, I believe, will begin to take on more of a proactive than a reactive role. Since more of the technical search aspect of it can (and will) be automated, this opens up a window of time to start being proactive. Consider this: traditionally, sourcers wait to research until they receive a search request from a recruiter. I think the future role of sourcing will be for sourcers to continually have their ‘antennae’ up for good talent, and to also take the opportunity to start developing those initial relationships so that when timing is appropriate, the recruiters can approach them warmly with job opportunities.
There is no cookie-cutter mold into which a sourcer fits. At SourceCon 2007, during my presentation about what true research is, I stopped for an interactive portion and polled the audience of researchers for their educational and professional backgrounds. I asked 5 people to share, and not one of them had the same educational OR professional career path. So, when thinking about who would be the best types of people to hire for this future sourcing role, two in particular come to mind. They might surprise you a little:
- Public relations specialists: In the ‘entry level’ years of PR, traditionally individuals will conduct research and create ‘pitch lists’ for their companies or their clients. While they’re honing these research skills, they are also taking lessons on pitching, managing campaigns, and client interaction from their senior coworkers. Translate this into a sourcing role: you’ve got someone who knows how to find the right people, and then who knows how to interact with them professionally and get them excited about a company or a job opportunity.
- English majors: I am the daughter of an English teacher, and I used to help Mom grade her students’ grammar papers. But earning a degree in English goes well beyond knowing proper grammar – you learn to master the high standards of accuracy, clarity, and finesse of the language as well as information synthesis, summarization, and analysis of literature. As search engines strive toward semantic comprehension, a person who has studied sentence mapping and understands the historical progression of the meanings of various words and phrases will be able to pair this with searching a social network to find the right people. And with the increasingly lackadaisical attitude toward proper grammar and punctuation in communication due to spellcheck and text message abbreviations, someone who has mastered these skills will be highly sought-after in a role where good communication is so crucial.
I have mentioned the PR job description in a couple of blog postings, discussing the similarities between its and recruiting’s job duties. English, on the other hand, I would guess is a bit of a surprise to some, but I truly believe that will be a sought-after major in the coming years.
As we observe and experience the change in our job functions, let’s not forget the importance of knowing the basics. Understanding Boolean will always be key to successful sourcing. But understanding the rising value of strategic proactive relationship discovery and development will help you evolve with the position. Work on GOOD networking skills. Start learning about semantic search. Educate yourself on professional communication skills. Study the people who really know how to cultivate relationships. And don’t believe for a second that sourcing is dying – it’s just getting a facelift.
I’ve seen the topic “sourcing is dying”, written in a couple of different forms, in a couple of articles over the last year. Without any disrespect to my colleagues who have penned these writings, I must disagree with your sentiments. Here are some of those articles:
- Digging Into RecruitingBlogs.com v2.08: The Death of Sourcing (February 2009)
- Is Sourcing Dead? (March 2009)
- The Death of Sourcing (November 2009)
Sourcing is not dead; it’s not dying; it’s not even on a respirator. It’s simply evolving.
Where sourcing over the last several years has been about finding the hard-to-find folks by manipulating complex Boolean strings, with the growing popularity of social media technology, finding profiles, resumes, and contact information online has gotten easier. But this absolutely does NOT mean that sourcing is dying. All it simply means is that information availability is changing and the role of sourcing must change with it. This is not unlike any other job function – when certain aspects of a job function become automated or simplified, it means that other aspects of that function grow in importance. Hence, leading to job function evolution.
Sourcing is not just about digging up information, regardless of what some (including myself! yeah I admit it) have said over the years. Any profession that falls under the umbrella of recruiting, talent attraction, talent acquisition, HR, or however you want to classify it, contains an element of human interaction. Thus, communication plays a role, with varying degrees depending on where you stand. With the automation of SOME parts of sourcing, the communication aspect of the role is being amplified. Notice the emphasis on “some”, because you cannot, and SHOULD not in my opinion, automate personal touch.
With social media technologies becoming more mainstream tools in a sourcing toolbelt, the difficulty of finding people is diminished. However, as Glen Cathey states in his article, finding people is easy, but finding the RIGHT people is hard. We’re not just sourcing for a needle in a haystack these days. With the economic downturn and unemployment in the double digits now, we are all of a sudden searching for a needle in ten haystacks. Though finding people in general has been made easier, we still must find that right person.
With that being said, I believe that over the next several years, sourcing will evolve into a new role – retaining of course the technical elements of Boolean search, but to a smaller degree. With tools that can automatically generate complicated Boolean search strings and query multiple search engines or networks at once, much of the technical knowledge needed to be a successful sourcer can be automated. I will stress here that knowing advanced Boolean as a sourcer is still, and I believe always will be, a must. You wouldn’t want a teacher who didn’t know her ABC’s, or a physician who couldn’t pass basic anatomy, would you?
So, what will sourcing evolve into? Well – in the interest of encouraging you to come back and read more, and just because I love the suspense, I’m going to leave you hanging until next Monday 🙂 Stay tuned for part 2 on the Evolution of Sourcing.
There was a LOT of great feedback from my post on why recruiters should care about marketing, advertising, and PR. I hope that everyone who read it got some new knowledge and possibly some ideas on how to improve your overall recruitment strategy by grasping the functions (and the benefit) of each of these important components of running a successful business.
There was one particular comment I wanted to pull out and focus on, because it takes the importance of marketing and ties right back to my original love, which is research. The commenter, Steve, is a former executive VP of Sales and Marketing for a Fortune 500 company (and he’s also my boyfriend’s dad!). Here is what he said:
“…I am only going to touch on the marketing phase. The true function of marketing is research. The job of the marketing department is to search for products or services needed by the end user(the customer). It is their job to work closely with the engineering and sales departments, giving these the departments the proper research and data needed to have a successful launch of a product. Of course there is the glitz of coming up with the proper slogan, packaging and promotional items, but these are very minor compared to the mountain of research which must be done first if a product or service is going to be successful.“
You can’t read this assessment and not fit it right into recruiting! The glitz of recruiting is building the relationships with the candidates and the clients, and ultimately making the hire, but there would be no candidates if there were no research done to find them. Anyone who functions as a researcher knows and can absolutely relate to the vision of a mountain of research, whether for leads or for industry knowledge. These are both vital for a recruiter to perform at his/her peak potential and match ideal candidates to their clients. Having said this, we know that the research would be worthless if it weren’t put to good use, such as a recruiter turning it into a hire. Researcher needs recruiter as much as recruiter needs researcher. So, as Steve observed, all parts of the business operation must work closely together and in harmony in order to have a ‘successful launch’ – i.e. a new employee.
Thanks for your keen observation Mr. D!