(Feb 27, 2009) Sourcing, as currently practiced, is a short term phenomenon. There is money to be made in the field today because the techniques required to find people are arcane and confusing. Additionally, with the strong exception of Avature and Broadlook's products, there are no useful tools for the automation of the process.

Meanwhile people are getting easier and easier to find.

The next waves of innovation in social networks will be all about making the membership accessible to each other. Right now, finding additional network nodes, new friends or interesting potential connections is a black art. You've got to be a Boolean Black Belt. You need a guru. There's an entire consulting industry built on specialized knowledge.


You may rest assured that this situation will not last.


The web is best when it tears down the friction that separates information from the people who need it. The folks who work hard mining data manually today will be flipping burgers in the near future. The skills required to move forward are unlike the ones being taught. Contemporary sourcing is a dead-end occupation with little in the way of transferrable skills.


Next generation recruiting is about relating intimately, not about mutual discovery. It's about fidelity and long term value exchange, not one night stands. It's about data that updates itself because the relationship is constantly working. Finding each other? Easy. Building an enduring relationship? Hard.


For a while, sourcing will be a high dollar, easy pickings income source. But, in the relatively short term, the need for the expertise will evaporate. Former sourcing luminaries will be familiarizing themselves with the alarm on the French fry machine and the relative difference between Rare, Medium and Well done.


Evaporate, as in "What air freshener scent would you like with your car wash?"


So, what do you do if you're a sourcer (or any kind of Recruiter, for that matter)?


  • Get really good at being a productive member of an online community. Join stuff, volunteer, get experience.
  • Develop repeatable methods for discovering new communities and joining them.
  • Develop community management skills (Jason Davis is a good role model).
  • Stop acting like an email address is a relationship or a list is a community.

 


I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed. Catch up with me.

 

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I got your number. I know where you live.
The point to sourcing is not that I have access to all 200 million in the "phone book", but that I can identify from out of those millions, the few people who are right for the job today. Pouring more people into the funnel is not going to make the job any easier. In fact, it's going to take more skill to filter through all the unqualifieds.

The technology will effect the way things are done; the numbers of people contacted in relatively short order; but it will never eliminate the need for human sourcers, whos main purpose is not just to locate but also to qualify candidates.

Sure HR can do the same thing (i.e. nuture candidate pools), the point is given all the other tasks they are accountable for (screening, interviewing, facilitaing interviews, coordinating feedback, testing, background and reference checks, extending offers, on-boarding, and all the federal administration that goes with employment) - do they really want to?
The data is sparse, the trend is unmistakable. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the change is predictable. That's exactly what the newspapers have done. That's exactly what sourcers will do.

Data is extremely hard to come by. You can complain about generalizations or wait until the data is irrefutable. This video about the final edition of the Denver Newspaper is pretty sobering. That was a 100 year old institution. Internet sourcing is about 10 years old. That doesn't mean that Internet sourcing will last another ninety years. It means the end is nigh.

Here's the first kind of indicator. This google trends analysis shows the relative 'popularity of linked in vs Monster. Comparing LinkedIn's traffic vs Monster's on Alexa, shows an even wider variance.

It's inevitable that the current technology will fall off and a new one will replace it. It's not arm waving to notice that people are getting much easier to find. The reason that sourcing has commanded a market and a premium is that this wasn't always true.

It's pretty weird to get criticized for suggesting that our market may not recover. If it's even partially true, savvy business folks will want to know and plan. The first step in any recovery is admitting there is a problem.

The thing about the drive thru window is that you can throw your back out giving the customer his burger. Always try to make the customer reach for his food.
John Sumser's idea for ensuring you're found from birth forward

EverySourcer can find a rock any old day of the week but only a few know how to find diamonds. Technology will continue to improve but it won't make up for morons - okay, perhaps a little but only so much. Technology will for many years to come be like everyone having Ferrari in their driveway: Sure it can go fast and sure lots of people have their drivers license but the individual interpretations of the driving experiences will widely vary.

Who knows if LinkedIn will even survive? Pressure to perform and a little bit of arrogance has ruined many companies. Looked what happened to MySpace? It's still great if you want to find pornstars and rockstars.

Who's to say that Twitter with its gazillion users won't be the one to survive?

And of course the type of recruiting you do is part of the equation. Contingency v Retained, entry-level v. c-level, industry specifics... there are so many variables; some of these variables will respond better to technology, other to humans.

John, sorry but we haven't seen the paradigm shift yet. Perhaps this Stimulus Plan will be part of the movement - not that movement but come to think of it...

Wednesday evening I spoke to Columbia University's Student ACM Chapter; as smart as these people are, only one of them had what I would call a reasonable web presence. Even those with the most basic of web experience - a Facebook page - aren't terribly sophisticated, certainly not to the level of the average RBC recruiter.

Technology won't tell much about these folks but I can... because I spoke with them.
The death of sourcing! Oh noooooes!

I imagine this conversation could have happened at any technological advance in the history of selling employment services, and it is a long history. Some say we are tied for the title of "oldest profession". :) So this discussion could go back pretty far. Paper was invented and names could be written down, the pony express started delivering letters, the telephone was invented, the fax machine, databases, email, web sites, and now SMedia.

The fact is, it is not easy to compile an up to date contact list for all workers in the US. People move around like grains of sand in the desert, and in this economic reality it is more like sand in a desert windstorm. Though it may be easier to find contact information online on many candidates, it certainly doesn't cover all candidates. Recently I purchased 20 names from Maureen for relatively high end folks in IT/finance. I was shocked to find that only 3 of them were on Linkedin. That was amazing to me. But once I had that list I still had to call them, establish rapport, and nurture the connections. No list of names will magically become a set of qualified candidates. If a telephone book was the solution to our problems, well we'd all be out of business.

Social Media is no panacea. In fact I sometimes see tools like twitter or linkedin or facebook as amplifiers. Stupid sourcers/recruiters that use them stupidly look even more foolish than they did. Using them properly takes nuance and dexterity, and sadly, not everyone has that.

Right now there is a subset of folks active in Social Media and online networking. It is growing, sure. It is relatively easy to find good folks right now on places like twitter, or Linkedin or Facebook. The people active online are still a smaller percentage of the total workforce, and it is still a relatively voluntary activity that has some novelty. But there are a lot of facebook and Linkedin pages that are out of date. Phone sourcers that give you 100% accuracy are more reliable. Perhaps someday updating social networks will be mandatory, perhaps we'll have little devices embedded in us that do it for us and GPS sensors will inform our location to boot. As that happens the signal to noise ratio will shift, and eventually it will be like the phone book.

As more people interactcome online navigating the vast amount of data more will be difficult and sourcing will evolve once again. It always does, because it, like all we do, is dealing with people and finding people, qualifying, and delivering people is never easy.
"Finding people is about to get extremely easy." That might be true but when is it exactly?
"Telephone sourcing has the long term viability of say, a newspaper." How long is that?

Ach, Johnny, why don't you work a few searches with me and we'll see what you say when you're down in the trenches.
Loved the drive thru remark -priceless!

John, I said early on there were some things I agreed with you about. I have long since been warning sourcers against becoming over-reliant on things like LinkedIn and using them as their drug-of-choice. What's "easy" and ample is always what goes down the drain first.

I'm going to say this again - the data may be sparse John, but the fact remains MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT ONLINE IN ANY KIND OF FORMAT THAT MATCHES THEM "EASILY" TO AN OPEN POSITION YOU'RE TRYING TO FILL.

You may say I'm sticking my head in the sand about this but I don't think I am. I've done alot of hard thinking on this deciding where to take TechTrak in the future. As long as the work we turn out is custom and unique in its space - meaning the names we telephone name generate for our customers are names that can ONLY be found by calling into companies, one by one, and ferretting - you may call it rifling, Judy - them out with what you refer to John as personable abilites, I'm not worried.

What I do worry about is that my product (telephone names sourcing) gets wide-brushed with much of what's being passed off as "sourcing" today - Internet scraping, list brokering, LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and the other social network farming products that are flooding the market and whose functionality is easily offered offshore for pennies on our dollars.

You see, I liken phone sourcing to what they refer to (in sales) as the hunter function - the person that goes out into the world, carrying a bag, knocking on doors and talking to people in-the-first-person. I liken Internet sourcing (at least MOST of it - there are some great performers in it still doing some great things - I think Cathey, Steckerl, Gutmacher here doing the extraordinary stuff) as more of the "farmer" function - culling and hoeing through what's in the field; this is likened more to the "Account Manager" function in sales.

The hunter (phone sourcer) is the guy out front on the edge of things - venturing into the dark spaces where most fear to go, gun-carrying and loaded to the lip. He (or she) is the one who is prepared to take sourcing to where it will absolutely go in the future - to the outer-reaches, the place where others only dream of.

I am prepared to listen to your rebuttal.
"It's pretty weird to get criticized for suggesting that our market may not recover. If it's even partially true, savvy business folks will want to know and plan. The first step in any recovery is admitting there is a problem."

I'll suggest that it already has begun to recover. New clients are coming on board and high level positions are being filled.

But I'm just a Sourcer. What do I know?
You know, Maureen, the great thing is that the twin arches on the uniform look just like a Star Fleet Insignia, if you squint your eyes. You save on your clothing budget at the same time.

People who do actual telephone sourcing are really courageous. The willingness to hear "No" while relentlesly pursuing an objective is laudable. I'm sure that the core skill will endure. It's really hard to build relationships and keep them current.

The vast majority of people who do sourcing these days are glued to their computers running nuanced Boolean search strings. Their output isn't a warmed up connection, it's a list. Why sometimes it even comes from the "deep web".

The shuck and jive about sourcing is about this particular aspect of it. The technical skills are transient. The people skills are not.

My original post wasn't about "phone sourcing". Now that I've had some time to think about it in public, there's some merit to what you are saying.

My guess is that the number of real seasoned pros who do the human side of sourcing is pretty small. My guess is that technology that makes finding people a lot easier will increase the demand for relationship builders. That's a great place to invest good people skills. Building good search strings doesn't get you much when the machine does it for you.

The other thing that is becoming apparent to me is that the term sourcer is no more useful than the term recruiter. We don't have good specific shared meanings for these roles. Generalizations break down in a hurry when we use the same words to mean different things.
Maureen:

You descriptive is accurate, as is your desire to differentiate some sourcing functions from others.

This : "The hunter (phone sourcer) is the guy out front on the edge of things - venturing into the dark spaces where most fear to go, gun-carrying and loaded to the lip. He (or she) is the one who is prepared to take sourcing to where it will absolutely go in the future - to the outer-reaches, the place where others only dream of" is a thing of beauty.

Most folks are passive. It is like theh post and pray method of (non) recruiting. The active folks who go out and make schtuff happen by finding that which is harder to find, will never be the norm.

People selling people to people will not go away. But hte game may change and it might get harder to do it if you are simply average or, below average. We are seeing a culling form the herd right now. Darwin at work. But the herd will not disappear.
Absolutely, John, you hit on something here:
"The other thing that is becoming apparent to me is that the term sourcer is no more useful than the term recruiter. We don't have good specific shared meanings for these roles. Generalizations break down in a hurry when we use the same words to mean different things."
What can we do about it?

And here, you identify a real arising need:
"...technology that makes finding people a lot easier will increase the demand for relationship builders. That's a great place to invest good people skills."
More and more of my work these days is entailing the second product that we offer: profiling.
If you can "reach out" to the people that the machine can source for you (though this, still, to me, is problematic in that if the machine (easily and at MOST Internet sourcer skill levels) found them for YOU it also found them for HIM and HER and HER too...and oh! don't forget THEM... and when you contact these people they've already been contacted so many times their livers have turned black and the reception is almost hostile) and turn the few who you've been lucky enough to be one of the first to "find" into a viable possible candidate your stock is surely going to rise (along with the networks) in the coming years.
FAR BETTER YET:
If you are one of the few (yes, I'm using analogies freely here - it's my country and I have long since borne the name "Maureen") who can first TELEPHONE SOURCE persons who are not likely to have EVER been contacted before because - guess why? - they're not on the Internet - and approach THEM with your opportunity you'll be far ahead of the game because:
1. You won't have to kiss so many frogs because these people (most likely) have never before been contacted by a recruiter.
2. Your reception will be much kinder and the whole interaction much gentler and your acceptance rates much higher.
If you can do this second highly skilled and far better function YOUR STOCK is going to skyrocket.

Thank you John for bringing this issue to the forefront.
Outstanding John! Relationships are the Holy Grail.

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