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Does Your Company Need an Overall Sourcing Strategy?

I had some really interesting conversations recently with Talent Acquisition Managers and Recruitment Agency Directors who asked me the million dollar question: “Does your training teach me how to build an overall sourcing strategy for my company?”

My answer disappointed them: “No”. Needless to say, I didn’t leave them there. I explained why our training couldn’t teach them how to build an overall sourcing strategy, and why that’s not actually a bad thing.

To answer my earlier question: yes, you do need a strategy for sourcing. If you have a recruitment goal, open vacancies to fill, and an organisation to run, you will always need to have a plan of action in order to stop yourself from getting lost in the process. However, many organisations have, what I would refer to as, “a sourcing vision”, rather than an overall sourcing strategy.

Overall Sourcing Strategy versus Overall Sourcing Vision

In general, I would recommend an Overall Sourcing Vision rather than an overall sourcing strategy. I’ll tell you why: in my understanding, strategy implies more than just one process. Strategy or planning in general creates rules, procedures and limits to follow.

If instead you have a Vision or Mission, with guiding principles that relate to the company’s business mission, your people will bring in more and better ideas; it will facilitate smart people to shine and be creative. A strategy is only good if it makes sense for the task at hand. One must strategise and plan for each requisition, because industries, roles, even locations are so different that you cannot bring it under one hat. That’s just impossible!

If you have an overall sourcing strategy (which means that you have created limits) you have no chance of being better than other recruiters (sorry, the truth is harsh!). If this strategy is really strict you will not have the chance to find more or better candidates (an even harsher truth). If your sourcing strategy is used to impress upper management and IRL it’s a meaningless term which no one knows what it actually means, you are… well, let’s stay politically correct here, you’re “in a bad position”.

No strategy survives first contact with implementation.

In my opinion, it is useless to create and rigidly stick to an overall sourcing strategy. That just does not work! As an agency recruiter, you know that each job req is so different, the skill-sets are so varied, and industries are so diverse that you cannot have just one process, plan or strategy for sourcing all the jobs you have or will have. As an in-house recruiter, even the nuances of individual teams will throw up different requirements for candidates.

For example, you can not say to your recruiters and sourcers that first they will always need to check Twitter because it is trendy to say we got a hire from there, in precisely the same way that it cannot be dictated that you must source from LinkedIn first “because we’ve spent so much money on Recruiter licenses that we better get the value from it”. Now there’s an excuse I’ve heard many a time. Also common are comments like “We’re a legal firm, so we have to use LinkedIn InMail to communicate with potential candidates”, or “I have OFCCP compliance to deal with, so I have to do it this way”.

Rather than a rigid checklist or process, what works is:

  • Ready and available industry knowledge
  • Market intelligence
  • Skills in search
  • A list of available tools (job boards, resume databases, social media sites, tricks, hacks), and
  • Good people

I believe you do not need an overall sourcing strategy. I do believe in strategic thinking when it comes to each req, however. To give you an example, if I needed to find a Lead Installation Engineer in the offshore oil industry, I would devise my plan. I would check the internal database and my own LinkedIn connections. Then I would search OilAndGasJobSearch, OilPro and Skype. Why Skype? Imagine if you’re working for three months offshore at a time, away from your family and friends. You’d have a fairly active Skype account too!

Each sourcer should consider the persona of their candidate. What do they do in their spare time? What websites do they mostly use? How can I get their attention, know their lifestyle, know when they can be reached via phone, etc? It is all about knowing the nuances that will make you successful.

In my view, a good Sourcer should be able to accurately market-map after working on a req for a while. They should to be able to tell you the best target companies, the best countries to look into, what platforms your potential candidates use. They should be able to tell you their individual strategy to look for the best candidates for this req. This is what made me a successful sourcer, and part of a remarkably successful sourcing team at Randstad Sourceright.


My advice for recruiting managers: hire the right people. Nurture clever Sourcers to understand the industry they are recruiting for, to see the whole picture and understand the candidates they are talking to every day (because this is their job at the end of the day). Encourage Sourcers to tell you where your target candidates hang out, which are the best job boards, where are they mostly active, which companies they work for, in which country do they live, etc.

My advice for individual sourcers and recruiters: think strategically for each requisition, and don’t feel constricted by a meaningless process. If you know in your heart of hearts (or because your research told you so), that the candidates you need don’t hang out on the platforms you usually use, then change it up! Fish where the fish hang out.

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