(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 can see the point you are making, and fundementally agree. Just as when Computers first came out, if you knew how to operate one you were called a systems programmer and made lots of money. Now, most of us can load an operating system on a computer.

If Sourcing goes beyond name generation and begins to generate relationships that can be maintained for long shelf life periods it will not die, rather it will evolve into a builder of Private Talent Warehouses - valued partner to Recruiting. If a team of front line recruiters are able to tap into a fat, accurate, well maintained PTW for their reqs, I bet they stop goin to the job boards and using agenies for talent.
But in the end:

Tony Montana kills Manny for marrying his sister. After Tony goes home and snorts a mountain of cocaine, his sister goes crazy and tries to kill Tony. She shoots him in the leg but a Columbian assassin shoots Tony's sister and Tony kills the assassin. Tony watches as all of his men are killed and Sosa's men invade his mansion. Tony blasts through his doors with a grenade launcher attachment and guns down many Columbians while being shot in the meanwhile. He takes the bullets without pain (because of all the cocaine he snorted), but he finally succumbs when an assassin shoots him in the back with a shotgun.
John, it's already DEAD. Other than that, EVERYTHING ELSE said is right on the money. I've been wondering for a long time when somebody was going to figure that out.

@ Pierre Coupet Thanks for offering NO PROOF AT ALL for your bold statement. I think you're a great guy Pierre, really swell, but that's a lousy excuse for an argument.
While I agree with you that relationship building is key to successful full-cycle recruiting, I think you are forgetting (like most people do) about telephone sourcing.

While only 3% of the workforce may be on linkedin, EVERYONE has a phone at work.

If your hiring manager has a Req. that you cannot fill through your relationship network, phone sourcing is the ONLY way you are going to find people with specific skills from the companies that your hiring manager is interested in (in a timely fashion).
This has been a highly entertaining discussion to read through! Thanks, John for starting it and everyone who has replied so far. No one ever wants to hear or read that the career path they have chosen and are passionate about is going to die. But, what I think John has done here is challenge everyone to always be thinking of how to stay ahead and never, ever be stagnant. He has thrown down the gauntlet and I say bravo!!

I totally disagree on your projection of the growth of social networks (at least in the sense that you mean it).

Let's take linkedin for example.

30 million people at the moment and it's growing like crazy, but...

Many people in linkedin will either be 1) not in your network 2) have not bothered to update their info and could have changed jobs twice since they made their profile 3) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY Most people don't get serious about their social networking until they are on a job search. It's simple human nature. Why go to all that work to make yourself visible, if you do not consider yourself to be in a job market.

Simply put, PASSIVE candidates (those who are not currently in a job search mode) are best reached by phone, unless your relationship network is so good that you can satisfy your hiring managers Req. for specific hard to fill positions with people from specific companies timely fashion.

I don't think anyone will ever have personal relationships and networks so large that they can be used to satisfy every hiring need.

John Sumser said:
You know, Maureen, a little more time in the fryer makes them crispy. You just have to get them out before they get really brown. :-)

Finding people is about to get extremely easy.

Telephone sourcing has the long term viability of say, a newspaper. That said, I am certain that you have a clearer picture of the long term viability of the telephone approach. 40 Million LinkedIn profiles leaves another 100 million workers to find today.

But they are all online already and social networks will be as ubiquitous as email three years from now.

Nothings going to replace talking to people as a way of building relationships. Telephone sourcers with a modicum of personality ought to be able to transition into the next wave. Online researchers have a bigger challenge.

(If you didn't see this, the venerable San Francisco Chronicle is in real danger of a shut down).
Talent may be getting easier to find and we also know that cycles dictating the urgency in finding talent will eventually shift. There are bigger risks to sourcing.

Within corporate sourcing roles the challenge was that too many companies and sourcing leaders saw themselves as a standalone function and didn't see or pursue the greater value of an integrated relationship with recruiting. As the economy softened sourcing was hit first and hardest because companies saw more value from full-cycle recruiters. I still believe there is value in sourcing as a strategic component of a recruiting function.

For both third-party and corporate sourcers/recruiters the biggest risk is something that John touches on -

"community management skills and stop acting like an email address is a relationship or a list is a community"

The element I would add to this, or highlight, is the absence of caring. If your only there for yourself when you need something your missing the true value and foundation of community. Recruiters too often operate on a "stalk and abandon" methodology. When they're working on an assignment the job seeker is THE most important person in the world and the sourcer or recruiter is relentless about reaching them. As soon as the person is no longer a fit for that role or reaches out when their personal situation changes the likelihood of getting a call back is slim to none. Before you get crazy I realize this is a broad sweeping generalization. But we all know it happens, that it happens too often and is happening even more today. Personally, I'd like to see something written in to SLAs that every candidate receives a response. The access to technology makes this possible - and I don't mean an automated response, get personal. So even if you are outstanding at getting back to people the reputation of the industry your in is being diluted. What can you do to make a difference and challenge others to be more caring. Ask yourself - would @jobangels be taking off with the momentum it has beneath its wings if people had a more positive experience with sourcers and recruiters? btw - I think what @jobangels is doing is fantastic and support it but wonder about the reason why.

In the end, the greatest risk today may be the long-term memory of all the people (job seekers) who have been affected by the downturn. Being laid off is one thing but the sting from not hearing back or having people take your calls is another. Stories are shared over glasses of wine and one by one the value to the service is diluted. Do you think as these people go back to work they will be proponents of using a sourcing or recruiting service. Or, as is more likely the case, they will be bigger proponents of referrals and networking.
Susie, sweetheart. I was in your tutorial at the Recruifest when you talked about the coming importance of the Community Manager. It sounded great and Dennis Smith, who was there as well, was really taken with the term.

Since then, however, he's made no effort to hide the fact that being the manager of a large community on ning has not helped him to find a job. I can't tell you how surprised I was to hear this. It was a lesson for me.

The niche recruiter who walks a regular beat has the benefit of getting to know the people in his neighbourhood. And that is of real value when you go looking for people. But the idea of a community can sound better than it really is.

Regards from me.
For an irony, this is exactly what Danny Cahill said at Sourcecon 2007 - yep, during the peak of Sourcing Kool-Aid. IMHO, it took balls to say it then, not now. Today, the cat is out of the bag - companies like Deloitte, MS, Google, etc. have cut their sourcing programs down to nubs. During the keynote, Danny mentioned something to the tune of, "Pretty soon, nearly all the names will be findable through consolidated tools . . . and once again, history will repeat itself as Recruiting once again returns to its roots as sales, and more importantly, persuasion." That's not verbatim because I can't remember it perfectly, but it's along those lines. As I've said before, you could have heard a pin drop as mouths hit the floor. That wasn't an empty motivational speech - that was a body-blow reality check that has come true.

Strategic Sourcing initiatives are seen as short-term initiatives. It's the 80/20 Pareto Principle at play. If it takes 1 hour and $5 to rake 80% of the leaves in the front yard, there is no point in spending another 4 hours + $100 to rake the remaining 20% of the leaves. That's why we're seeing Strategic Sourcing initiatives (and teams/architectures) going the way of the Dinosaur today. As the 'names' (or better, 'data') becomes outdated and obsolete, then you can revisit and rake the 80% again.

As for Recruiting becoming all about communities, I'm not drinking that Kool-Aid quite yet. The reason is that there are large pockets of individuals who could give two hoots about a social network or community. While we're firing off tweets and debating communities on RBC, they're teaching their little boy to throw a baseball, having dinner with their wife, or helping their daughter with homework. The point is that some people's lives are more about physical proximity than the web. Not everyone I know owns a Crackberry or iPhone. Anyone who says there isn't opportunity cost when your life is more about a social network than your actual real-life circle of friends and family is badly mistaken.

Over time, as Gen-Y ages, we'll see this mentality die off . . . because the Internet has been interwoven into their lives since a very early age. But that day isn't today, and it won't be tomorrow, or even when we begin climbing out of this recession.

What I find funny about the mindset that "The Future of Recruiting is all about the Community" . . . is that it ties back to a revenue stream. The more we speak about 'communities' and 'social networks' at conferences, the more we can build a market, sell new technologies, and offer consulting assistance. As a result, we all make more money by collaboratively telling the same story over and over. I love how history repeats itself as markets creatively destruct and are reborn.

P.S. There are sourcing automation tools beyond Avature's and Broadlook's suites. I'm not saying they're great, but they're out there. At some point, though, somebody has to pick up the phone and talk to another human being - without conversation, a 'relationship' is another overused buzzword used to sell the invisible. I wonder when our market will once again affirm that technology is an enabler . . . but will never replace human interaction when it comes to Recruiting.
To this day, the recruiter who pitches me on the phone with logical energy and passion wins the phone number and referral of the easy to find yet hard to track down "A" player. The person who has LinkedIn and other profiles with a decent online personal brand findability but is more likely to respond to "I had a great conversation with David and he though you should know about..." is much more powerful than the daily inmail we get "connect me to Joe to discuss a search I am working".

Use it all and do it well folks. Sourcing is doing homework and proving you belong at the table so the phone call has value for all parties. Anybody can generate 35k contacts. Most can't create a connection with culture and marketing the potential in a new relationship - The phone is our friend because that is how we remember and how we are sure misunderstandings are less likely.

Long live effective sourcing.

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