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Sourcing is Selling: Presentation from #SOSUEU Amsterdam 2013

Johnny presented the following slide deck at the SOSUEU Sourcing Summit Europe event in Amsterdam last week, challenging the theme of what recruiters typically think of Sourcing.

Sourcing is Selling: Why Sourcers need to Sell from Social Talent

Recruiters think that Sourcing is a name-gathering activity or a search for qualified prospects.

Effectively, Sourcing (like Recruiting) is Selling. Taking inspiration from Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human and Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow, Johnny belives Sourcing is about moving others – through the ABC of Selling (no longer “Always Be Closing”) – Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.


How do recruiters (and Sourcers) get the attention of candidates? Typically, Recruiters and Sourcers use electronic communication more than any other format in their first approach to a qualified prospect.

In Elaine Wherry’s eye-opening “Recruiter Honeypot” experiment, detailed in her blog, she created a persona (Pete London) that would be irresistible to technical recruiters and put up his CV, portfolio and contact information online. It took weeks of no one finding Pete’s website before Elaine eventually put Pete up on LinkedIn. Suddenly, Recruiters started emailing – an average of one email every 40 hours from 382 recruiters across 172 organisations. Pete received just ONE phone call. So how can recruiters stand out from one another when 382 of them are vying for the attentions of a hot candidate all using the same medium? RESORT TO OLD SCHOOL TOOLS!

Similarly, Ted Goas’s excellent mirror-holding blog to Recruiters entitled “An Open Letter To Technical Recruiters”, we learn how Recruiters really approach high-demand candidates. With little due care and attention, it seems. Ted can categorise these (always email) approaches in one of two ways:

Type 1: relevant, personalised, gets Ted excited about the role
Type 2: non personal, not worth his time – and he responds with a link to the Open Letter blog, in an effort to teach these Type 2 recruiters something.

Recruiters, when they’ve sourced a candidate, generally approach their communication in a very selfish way. They don’t sell the job, because they’re looking to solve their own problem, not the candidate’s problem. Thinking like a real salesperson, approaching your pitch with a high level of attunement means wording your approach with You, Your and Yours – see it from their point of view. Not “My company” or “My client”, “We are looking” etc. Find ways to connect to a potential lead by getting perspective (do your research), Read the Room (ie, analyse their social network presence to get a feel for how to approach them), Strategic Mimicry (adapt your style to suit the person you’re approaching), Find Uncommon Commonalities (make small talk that means something)


Recruiters are faced with an ocean of rejection from cold-approach candidates, but we need to stay afloat – by sourcing candidates who we think are great, they need to think we’re great. We can challenge our thinking to be less declarative (“I can do this!”) to interrogative (“Can I do this?”). When we ask the question, we automatically answer.

Remaining positive is a huge battle, and as sourcers who routinely have to source potentially 60+ leads for one conversion (ie, getting the job), that ocean of rejection can seem to be too stormy. Re-align your conversion measurements to ones that are achievable – conversions to responding to your initial approach, conversions to agreeing to meet you in person, conversions to getting them to write you a CV, conversion to getting them to accept the job offer.


Sometimes, clients don’t know some of the problems they have. It’s up to a great salesperson to make their customer realise the problems they have that you can solve. It’s about framing the acquisition – but remember, you have to also be able to solve the problems they know about as well!

The Pitch

Starting a conversation which you can convert into an appealing outcome for both of you is what your aim in your pitch should be – you only have 1-2 seconds to pitch by email (the subject line), and 3-7 seconds to pitch by phone. By email, measure how your emails perform. Use utilities like Yesware to measure email open-rates, click-through-rates and bounces. On the phone, you have to think on your feet: you’re looking to hear offers (an alternative time to call back perhaps, or a personal mobile number rather than their office phone?), hear them say yes (positive inclinations when asking questions) and make your client or hiring manager look good. Don’t win an argument for the sake of it, it’ll leave the customer (your potential candidate) with a bad taste in their mouth.


Make your approach personal – be authentic, find uncommon commonalities and be natural! Make your approaches purposeful. Keep yourself buoyant by reading thank you notes and emails from candidates and clients, and remember the candidates you serve and their experience.

Have passion

If you don’t have passion for your work, you won’t derive satisfaction from it. Which will in turn make you less passionate about your work, and derive even less satisfaction. Vicious cycle! Passionate about sourcing and recruiting! Great! Demonstrate it!

Not passionate about sourcing and recruiting? Maybe it’s time to source yourself a new job…

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