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Employee Engagement | 7 minute read

Why sourcing is a career in its own right

December 28, 2021

This blog was originally published on SourceCon on December 2, 2021. You can view it here.

Sourcing is a highly sought-after skill set right now – and rightly so. Finding, nurturing, and engaging with candidates with the aim to convert them into applicants isn’t easy. Record job vacancies and chronic skills shortages have resulted in an extremely tight talent market. Competition for talent is high – really high, in fact – and candidates have all the power. Strategic sourcing, as a result, is now critical to securing top talent. But there’s long been a perception that working in sourcing is just a stepping stone to a career as a recruiter. This, however, is simply not the case.

Sourcing is a career in its own right.

What’s changed?

Sourcing has evolved over the last decade. The days of post and pray are long gone; instead, the job market has been permanently changed. The pandemic has had a huge impact, and the needs and desires of candidates have changed. People were forced to transition to remote working overnight and, although it took some getting used to, many realized they preferred it!

Remote roles are now in high demand. Losing the commute allowed employees to have a better work-life balance as they could take the kids to school or squeeze in a workout before logging on. What’s more, the interest in remote roles looks like it’s very much here to stay. The share of job searches for remote opportunities grew by some 460% between June 2019 and June 2021 and is still rising, research from Glassdoor revealed.

And the desire to work remotely isn’t the only motivator that’s changed of late. Today’s candidates want to feel like they can make a real difference. The pandemic gave them time to reflect on what’s important. They also want an organization that supports their ongoing learning and development. Don’t just take our word for it though: More than a third (37%) of candidates said they’d be willing to take a pay cut for a chance to learn new skills, research from PwC found.

Even high-volume roles now rely on more strategic sourcing methods. Sourcers use the latest technology, are trained in cutting-edge methods, and analyze a lot of data to make strategic decisions. This high-touch, strategic approach (which is now the norm) really does directly link to quality, something that can’t be underestimated in such a highly constrained talent market.

Data-led approach

Let’s just say data is a sourcer’s best friend. After all, it’s impossible to successfully source without it. But it’s about much more than gathering data. It must be analyzed so it can then be used to tell the story and advise partners on the next steps. For example, if a healthcare company wants to open a new facility but isn’t sure where to locate it, sourcers can conduct research into the areas that are heavily populated with people who possess the desired skillsets.

They will then make recommendations based on their findings. Previously, market mapping wasn’t an everyday occurrence for sourcers but now it is. It’s not hard to see why. Market mapping provides a full analysis of an organizations’ talent competitors, market, and the employment status of key people who work in it. It allows sourcers to have a greater understanding of the market and increased agility when hiring priorities to shift, as a result.

Top 5 skills that today’s sourcers need

Sourcers need a vast skillset to be effective in today’s market. We’ve outlined the top five skills that are required right now.
  1. Analytical mindset: Sourcers need to be able to understand changing market conditions and analyze what this means for the jobs market.
  2. Ability to interpret data and use it to influence: Sourcers educate and inform both recruiters and hiring managers on the next steps. The ability to interpret data to tell the story of what comes next is not only a necessary skill but a highly sought-after one.
  3. Channel activation experience: Strategic sourcers must choose the most effective channels for their outreach. Not all talent uses the most common job boards. In fact, the more niche the skillset required, the more likely a specialist job board is needed. Therefore, a broad knowledge of the channels available is necessary to determine their suitability.
  4. Coaching: Sourcers with coaching experience tend to excel within their roles. Whether they’re coaching recruiters on the data or coaching candidates ahead of job interviews, it’s a skill that leads to success for today’s sourcer.
  5. Employment branding expertise: Being able to leverage employment branding is something that everyone in talent acquisition needs to do, not just those in sourcing. An employment brand shows candidates what type of company they could be joining and is an effective tool in persuading candidates that an organization will be a good fit for them. If a sourcer can portray that upfront, it’s more likely the candidate will remain engaged throughout the process.

How to demonstrate value if you’re a sourcer

Don’t be an order taker. Do your research ahead of engaging with recruiters. Today’s sourcers act as consultative partners that guide and influence. Sourcing is one of the first steps to engaging with talent in the talent acquisition process and the main aim is to generate leads. Once a sourcer has located the talent, it’s about building interest in the open positions. Sourcers work closely with recruiters and convert candidates into applicants.

Top tips on how to elevate your role as a leading sourcer

  • Work smarter not harder. Leverage technology, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver a seamless experience for all key stakeholders including candidates, hiring managers, and recruiters. And don’t be afraid to go back to basics for quick wins. Engagement is key when building relationships with candidates. If you don’t engage regularly and take too much time, candidates will lose interest. Today’s talent doesn’t hang around. The number of candidates that have ghosted an employer over the past year has increased, reaching 28%, up from only 18% in 2019. Meanwhile, 76% of employers have been ghosted in the same time frame, while 57%  believe it’s even more common than before, research from Indeed indicates.
  • Data is key. Use it to inform decisions and guide strategy. Gather it, collate it and use it wisely to educate. This is what allows you to be a consultative partner in the talent acquisition process.
  • Build robust relationships. It sounds obvious, but the best sourcers are those who excel at relationship building. Sourcers need to build trust with candidates, hiring managers, and recruiters so that they can inform, educate and then influence their decisions.
  • Know your audience. You should be plugged into the tendencies of your audience. Do they expect remote work? Is the industry booming? Are they the type who moves around easily for the next opportunity or tends to stay put? Knowing what positions to match potential candidates with will help when it comes to making speedy hires.

Try this 5-minute exercise:

Think about your role as a sourcer. How can you build upon the skills you already have? What type of career progression would you like to embark on? How can you further develop your sourcing skills?

Checklist for sourcers

Consider the below checklist each time you start a new sourcing partnership:

  • How do well do you know the client?
  • Are you and the hiring manager on the same page?
  • How well do you understand the brief of what’s being asked?
  • Do you understand your market?
  • What tools and tech do you plan to use to reach your decisions? When was the last time you reviewed your technology to see if it can be optimized/upgraded?
  • How many questions have you asked ahead of the project kick-off? (Don’t be afraid to ask questions; the more you know, the easier it will be.)
  • Do you have a mentor in the industry who will guide and advise?
  • Are you taking the time to review your successes? (It’s important to reflect on what you’ve achieved and think about how you got there, what relationships you built along the way and how you can replicate this success in the future.)

It’s a candidate-driven market out there. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it and I’ve been working in talent acquisition for more than a decade. Sourcing is a valuable skill set and plays a critical role in talent acquisition. Sourcing is a career, not a stepping stone.

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About Lee White

Lee White is the Director of Strategic Sourcing in EMEA at WilsonHCG. Located in the United Kingdom, Lee takes great passion in shaping our daily strategic sourcing and operational delivery team initiatives. Above all, he empowers the people at WilsonHCG to succeed at every step of the recruitment process.