What’s Your Sourcing Specialty?

Researcher at heart? Systems geek? Read on to find out…

Maisha L. Cannon 💻
Published in
6 min readJul 29, 2017


TL;DR: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a SuperSourcer!

Search gone stale? Never fear — it’s SuperSourcer to the rescue! || Image Courtesy: Cathy Neal

Those unfamiliar with the daily efforts required to successfully source talent in today’s red-hot job market largely assume that all sourcers spend their days doing is sending bulk InMail messages (or as Steve Levy calls it, InMaul).

The work I do as a Talent Sourcer is, in fact, quite varied.

I classify this work, in general, as the big IDEAS — Identification, Engagement, Assessment and Systems.

Pop Quiz: How many outgoing messages does it typically take to get one on-site interview response in your industry? Drop your response in the comments or Tweet me @talentgenie. Not sure how to calculate? Try this funnel calculator by Glen Cathey.

The truth is that SuperSourcers take a much more thorough, thoughtful and tactical approach to the art and science of finding talented professionals.

Aziz. Wearing multiple hats. Clearly, he’s an honorary sourcer.

The Reality

As I consider the largely ‘transactional’ sourcing practices I’ve observed over the last four years in Silicon Valley, I realize that taking a more strategic approach to sourcing could help to elevate the experience for us all — sourcers, hiring managers and candidates alike.

In the current system, group of tens to hundreds of sourcers compete against one another on year-long employment contracts, bound by rules of engagement, seeking leads that they can nurture, engage, assess and then hand off to a recruiter (hopefully for an ‘offer accept’ or a hire).

Mix in a little metrics mania, a fiercely competitive market where even six-figures can be considered poverty level, and a lovely stress-ridden, high-pressure cocktail awaits.

The Dream

Lately, I’ve been envisioning what it would take to build a “sourcing dream team.”

This team would consist of a multi-faceted group of sourcers who understand their individual strengths within the sourcing cycle and use their areas of expertise to elevate the skills of the entire team, and, subsequently, the entire sourcing effort.

Imagine, if you will, a sourcing utopia, where each teammate plays to their strengths.

Kobe-sourcer lays it up, Shaq-sourcer dunks, Fish-sourcer hits threes. When the team works together, it’s magical.

Teamwork makes the dream work. || Source: Google Images

To achieve dream team flow state, one must first isolate what part (or parts) of the sourcing lifecycle they excel in and enjoy most.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take a very non-scientific, experience based, approach to defining the big IDEAS of the talent sourcing cycle.


Here are the core pillars of what I view as the big IDEAS of sourcing.

(1) “ID” is for Identifying

You’re likely an industrious identifier if you excel in and/or enjoy:

  • the research
  • talent mapping/market mapping
  • going beyond the keywords and creating strategies to uncover untapped talent for any given role
  • combing deeply through your target candidate’s skills experience, schools, companies, publications, conferences, etc. and noting any trends
  • listening to videos/talks about the subject matter you’re sourcing for to enhance your understanding of the role

Booleanista Beware: You can easily end up in a rabbit hole of research for hours before you realize you haven’t messaged anyone yet (gulp).

Sourcer, meet rabbit hole. || Source: Giphy

(2) “E” is for Engaging

You’re likely an enthusiastic engager if you enjoy and/or excel at:

  • talking to people, understanding their career motivations/aspirations
  • creating compelling subject lines to woo your target audience
  • personalizing messages to prospects, including random tidbits you surfaced while researching
  • attending offline sourcing events (conferences, Meetups, tech talks, job fairs, community outreach events, social impact outings, etc.)
  • identifying someone’s true motivations for moving and strategically using that intel to partner with recruiter on closing the candidate
  • turning any opportunity into a ‘sourcing moment’ — in yoga class, at a family gathering, or even in line at the bank

Booleanista Beware: You can end up chatting with a candidate for 45-minutes before you realize you haven’t yet asked the requisite questions. #ChattyCathy

Engager: Ah yes, I too love cats! || Source: Giphy

(3) “A” is for Assessing

You’re likely an apt assessor if you enjoy and/or excel at:

  • evaluating candidate skill sets against role criteria
  • assessing the state of the market and using industry insights to your advantage when approaching prospects
  • aligning & setting expectations of the hiring manager
  • asking the right questions of both the hiring team and the prospect
  • ‘nailing it’ on the first round of candidates you submit, with high ratio of pass-throughs at each round of the interview funnel

Booleanista Beware: You may have a tendency to overthink your evaluations or be overly-detailed in your assessment (page-long phone screening notes, anyone?) You value being thorough over being fast, which could be a challenge in some environments.

Left brained nerdy types make great assessors. Source: Giphy

(4) “S” is for Systems

You’re likely systems savvy if you enjoy and/or excel at:

  • utilizing recruitment marketing tools to optimize your efforts
  • writing custom scripts to automate processes
  • learning to code
  • hacking systems using advanced Boolean, bleeding-edge Chrome Extensions, or other little known tools
  • evaluating tools to identify best solutions for your team’s sourcing workflow, from scheduling to dashboard solutions
  • strategizing on how, when and where to use the data you’ve collected with the tools you’ve researched
  • measuring what matters, collecting accurate and relevant data
  • being an early adopter and advising technology companies on the ins-and-outs of the sourcing workflow (aka, why their product sucks/rocks)

Booleanista Beware: In a high volume, highly pressurized environment, your passion for exploring fixes may be suppressed in the name of pushing out messages and assessing talent. No worries — just keep those phone screenings short so you can get back to the hacking!

When you finally crack the code. Source: Giphy

The Bottom Line

In addition to these four parts of the sourcing cycle, William Maurer aptly notes that today’s modern sourcer is essentially a teacher, ambassador, chief strategist and search expert.

A true SuperSourcer takes pleasure in crafting a holistic approach to sourcing — from cultivating a pre-sourcing strategy to delivering a flawless white-glove handoff to recruiting partners.

Environments that empower sourcers to succeed take into account that sourcers will need a mix of quiet time for identification, cutting-edge tools to allow for automated messaging and engagement, reliable and consistent input from the hiring manager to ensure accurate candidate assessment, and a proven hiring system that ensures the careful care and handling of passive candidates.

Pop Quiz: So what’s your sourcing specialty? What parts of your sourcing cycle did I omit/forget? Mention it in the comments or Tweet me @talentgenie.

Who’s ready to join forces like Voltron? Dream team, unite!

Thanks to Lesley Braxton, Susan-Marie Meacham and Élever Professional for your Tweets which inspired this article.

© Maisha L. Cannon and Career View, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Maisha L. Cannon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content at maishacannon.com.