Why Recruiters Need to Step Up their Sourcing Game

The Problem

So this is something that I think (and hope) everyone should be doing in their power to accept, change, and implement. The landscape of recruiting today is light-years removed from the free-wheelin' early 90's, where many "old school" recruiters could take on the world with their phone, a rolodex, and maybe a Hotjobs account (with an accompanying action figure).

That time has passed, if it ever should have even existed before in the first place. The top 2 complaints that engineering candidates have about recruiters are:

  1. They never follow up with candidates about steps in the hiring process
  2. They try to sell candidates a job that they know nothing about

And as you might have guessed, your hiring managers will NOT be happy if they hear about those complaints.


As recruiters, we have to master several different skills/abilities in order to be a "good recruiter". Someone who is an aggressive telemarketer or door-to-door salesman will not cut it. You might get your foot in the door, but without technical, sourcing, and company knowledge, you will get the door slam in your face.

The "Old School" Solution

If we go with the "traditional" definition of the recruiter's skills, they are (or should be):

  • Sherlock Holmes-level interviewing skills
  • Candidate management down to the smallest details
  • Being the face of the company (and/or culture)
  • Selling the best aspects of the job and sometimes having to clarify (or spin) the negative ones

The main problem lies with the lack of job understanding and technical knowledge. Sure, you can sell. But the "selling ice to Eskimos" approach only goes so far. People will catch on pretty quickly that you are buzzwording their resume to match your job. The fact is, that candidates have many choices when dealing with companies, and they do not have to deal with just you.

The "New Skool" Solution

The line is blurring between sourcers and recruiters. There are "Candidate Engagement Specialists" which are really sourcers that have front-end recruiting skills. Then there are Full Life-Cycle recruiters who take care of the sourcing function as well as the complete recruiting function.

The logical line of reasoning should be:

  1. Sourcing is a luxury that might not always be available when you need it and should be EVERYONE'S responsibility
  2. Recruiters need strong sourcing skills
  3. But to source, you need to understand the job/group/candidate/company
  4. And to fully understand the job/group/candidate/company, you need a higher-level of technical / functional understanding than the average person
  5. Once you have the technical knowledge and sourcing skills, THEN you can start worrying about how to sell and close.

If you are a recruiter who is only strong at the back-end closing skills, then you are leaving too much up to chance. There are also a host of problems that are happening whether you know it or not. Including candidates that don't respect you, lost candidates who feel like you don't understand what their job is, and candidates that are just plain annoyed that every recruiter on planet is contacting them because they used the word "cloud" on their profile.

It may sound like I'm bashing recruiting here, but I'm not. Recruiting is a completely necessary function in the corporate world. Whether you need separate sourcers AND recruiters is a topic of debate for a different day. My main point is that recruiters (and sourcers too) need to step up their game and be the experts that they say they are.

Recruiting is definitely an art form. There are persuasive elements, salesmanship, matchmaking, marketing, and administrative work involved. But there are a number of factors that cannot be measured. And even though some of it is instinct, let's start improving the things that we can control like knowledge, search skills, and eliminating guesswork. Sure, you may "feel strongly" about a candidate, but there is more to this job than just feelings.

- Mark Tortorici

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