Slam Dunk: How To Source Like An Athlete

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” said hockey star Wayne Gretsky.

Those words couldn't be more relevant to Jenn Hall.

Hall has been in recruiting for a decade, sourcing for The Walt Disney Company, being a technical recruiter for Google, the manager of executive recruiting & sourcing for Hulu and now as the senior manager of people acquisition for Westfield. But before all of that, she was an All-American athlete with an 18-year basketball career.

How did she make the leap from pro-athlete to pro-recruiter? Hall says her success in sourcing has come directly from applying the core fundamentals she used on the court:

  1. Practice
  2. Commitment
  3. Discipline

“My recommendation would be, look at one of these areas – whether it’s practice, commitment, or discipline – and pick one,” said Hall in her recent talk at SourceCon in Anaheim. She suggests examining your routine so you know when you are consistently finding your rhythm. “A lot of times we get so caught up in the day to day we just go where we’re going. Do you do your sourcing in the morning? Do you do it at night? When do you do your outreach? It’s all about what works best for you and how you’re going to be able to execute it.”


Hall equates sourcing practice with training for free throws in basketball. You might notice how players bounce the ball before their shot exactly the same way every time. Hall says that routine is what delivers more accurate shots every time. Sourcing, she says, is no different. But practice in sourcing and recruitment isn't just about memorizing boolean strings, or beating your PB response rates. Hall says it goes much further.

  • Research: Learn everything you can about a role, from who succeeds in that role to the specific skills that make someone great in it. Even if it’s a role you know, don’t assume anything. Be broad is your discovery: “I look at research lists, I look at Forbes, I look at related recognized brands.”
  • Analyze market data: It’s not just looking at it and believing what you’re seeing, it’s making sense of it to be able to understand how you can be that value-add to that hiring manager and to the candidate you’re recruiting. How scarce is this type of candidate in the market? Where are they graduating? What is the median pay for this kind of role?“Learn about the market, understand where it’s at, so when I go in, my hiring manager doesn’t even have to give me a job description,” says Hall. “I go into that first meeting and I have everything. That’s how you’re going to be able to be that value-add.”
  • Internal networking: Use your team! Ask them, how does this sound? Is this something that resonates with you? Look at their backgrounds, look at their companies, and then contact that passive talent.

Once you have all this research, have analyzed your data and know the market fit, it’s time to create your initial target list and a roadmap to execute.


Hall says that what matters most is how you see yourself and that being confident in your abilities will get you where you need to go.

It Starts With You: You have to dig deep. You’ve got to think about, how am I committed to this? What is it that resonates with me? If you don’t know what that is, do some thinking on it.

Define Your Goal or Mission: If you don’t define this, how do you know what are you going for? What are you going to be achieving?

Be Curious: Ask a lot of questions. Remember, the silly question is often not silly at all. It’s the beginning of a new pathway toward a solution. Understand you’re going through that process to test that data, analyze that data, to get to where you want to go. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Remember: Never give up on pursuing the questions until you get meaningful answers. “How many recruiters out there just get some answer but you can tell the hiring manager hasn’t really thought about it, and you’re thinking, gosh, I know there’s more there,” said Hall. “That could be the difference maker of someone accepting your job or taking a job from someone else. How are you going to be able to connect with that person? That’s what you’re doing here.”


So, you’ve been practicing your dribbling and shooting, running plays and getting better all the time. Now it’s time to implement what you’ve learned. Stick to the fundamentals, says Hall. That is what will keep you going when the going gets tough. “Love your routine,” she said. “Focus on your goal to make sure that you can sustain that throughout the entire lifecycle of your search.” It’s important to apply that sense of focus and discipline from start to finish, to make sure that you execute your sourcing plan well. Hall emphasizes the importance of making sure the hiring manager has been consulted thoroughly so that everyone is on the same page. Additionally, making sure the team is well aware of the sourcing strategy means the right questions are being asked, the candidate is aware of the process and everyone is working towards the same goal.

After all, isn’t that how we get the best person in the job?

This article has been amended from an original piece which appeared on the 1-Page Blog

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