How Should We Break Up Sourcing and Recruiting?

sourcing recruiting

We suck as talent acquisition leaders. We suck because we don’t share with each other all of our failures! One of the biggest TA failures over the past decade has been this concept of how to break up Sourcing and Recruiting. It’s still one of the hottest topics in recruiting process!

Yes, we definitely need sourcing! Now more than ever.

Yes, it makes sense to have individuals specialized in sourcing on your TA team.

Yes, you still also need people on the recruiting side.

So, what the hell should we be doing?

Currently, most corporate TA leaders, at all size levels, still struggle with how to break up the process of recruiting between Sourcers and Recruiters. We struggle because we continue to look at the recruiting process linearly. We put the entire recruiting process down on a single line and we look for a ‘natural’ break along that line where Sourcing starts, then stops, Recruiting starts, then stops.

When it’s described like that you see how silly it actually seems. In no way could we ever just chop the process in ‘half’ and give half to the Sourcer and give half to the Recruiter. It just never works! Believe me, most TA leaders have tried this, or will try this, and fail.

I love to blame Steven Covey and his stupid 7 habits for all of this thinking! Remember, Synergy? Leadership theory through Covey taught us that if we can get people to specialize in one thing really well, while someone else specializes on another piece really well when we bring these two separate pieces together, we’ll actually have more!

That’s great, but recruiting talent doesn’t work this way.

In most organizations, you have around three levels of positions. The first level of position is one you can fill every day without much trouble. You post an ad, one million people want that job, you never lack for talent or candidates. The second level of position is your mid-level jobs, you post, you’ll get some candidates, not a ton, but some, you might have to make some calls and ask for referrals, it takes work, but it’s not overly difficult to fill the job, usually. The third level of position is the one you post and you get zero candidates, these are the super tough ones.

The problem with chopping the process in half and having sourcing do one side and recruiting do the other is you don’t really address the real problem, the third level positions! If the Sourcer’s performance is measured on getting candidates, they’ll spend all day giving you candidates you could probably get on your own without much effort. Level one and two positions. They’ll look like rock stars at sourcing, you still have a major recruiting problem.

The best organizations don’t chop up the process of recruiting. They look for the problems within the process, then hire talent to solve those specific problems. So, the better answer is you use your sourcers to find your level three candidates, contact those candidates, screen those candidates, pre-close those candidates, then pass them along at that point in the process to the hiring manager or recruiter, whoever takes over in your process.

Today’s sourcers are almost like hired guns. They’re fixers, just as valuable as recruiters, if not more, they get brought in when there’s a problem. You plug them into the hot spot in your process, and it might be that hot spot doesn’t go away for months or years. The fact being, they can do everything a recruiter can do, but they only come in when extra help is needed.

I don’t need my sourcers working Administrative Assistant jobs. My generalist recruiter can handle the sourcing it takes for that job. I need my sourcers to focus in on the tough stuff, and then follow it all the way to the end!

FOT Note:  We here at FOT like to think we get talent and HR at a different level. At the very least, we are probably going to have a different take than the norm. So it made perfect sense to ask SmashFly to be an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write, without restriction, on all things related to recruitment marketing and how it helps organizations find, attract, engage, nurture and convert talent. To learn more about SmashFly’s Recruitment Marketing Automation Software for modern recruiting organizations, please visit the SmashFly website.  

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. Kelly Dingee says:

    Spot on. Sourcers are fixers. 🙂

  2. Mike Chuidian says:

    I agree, Tim. That’s how Donna Dolfe here at Sears Holdings runs our Sourcing team. Eddie and our C-Suite come to us for the ultra difficult positions to fill specifically on the obscure technology, data science and executive side. I agree that Sourcers of our teams’ caliber should not focus on the entry and mid level roles, since most of the time those roles get an abundance of applicants and our recruiters can fill those with no problem. From a corporate aspect, recruiters are limited on time because “the recruiting process” takes up a lot of their day, leaving very little time to actually do some meaningful sourcing. I do however believe it’s imperative for recruiters to know how to source on a high level, just in case there is no sourcing function in place. Donna puts it best….”High level Sourcers are best in-class recruiters”. Will always be a recruiter at heart, but being a high level Sourcer and leaving the “process” part of recruiting behind is more like my cup of tea. Lol.

  3. Great article Tim. You’re basically describing sourcers as advanced recruiters. I’ve noticed many sourcers are starting to gravitate towards this process. Our roles are definitely blending, and I like the idea of not separating church and state, but assigning sourcers as”fixers. With this model, corporations need to realize the value of a true talented sourcer regarding pay and responsibility.

    • Tim Sackett says:


      For sure! When sourcing first hit the market it was billed as this geeky role for people who didn’t want to talk to candidates, but had great search skills. You just search for talent, then pass those ‘leads’ along to a ‘real’ recruiter.

      This is the reason sourcing a job function was seen as less than recruiting. As sourcing evolved I think TA leaders quickly figured out, that wasn’t what sourcing was, and only a tiny portion of people who wanted to source, didn’t want candidate contact.

      Today’s sourcing pros have every skill of a recruiter, but also bring a toolbox of skills most recruiters don’t have. Today’s sourcers, are the next-generation of recruiters. Maybe we call them Recruiters 2.0.


  4. David Oliver says:

    Great read! Thanks, Tim! In many of the orgs I have been a part of, a sourcer is the step between a coordinator and a FLC recruiter. Totally agree that they should be recognized and respected as experts in their craft.

  5. Jim Durbin says:

    “Sourcing pros have every skill of a recruiter.”

    This simply isn’t true. It’s the equivalent of a fry cook saying they have every skill as a 3 star Michelin chef.

    • Tim Sackett says:

      Okay, Jim, I’ll bite –

      Explain. Exactly what chef-like skills does a Recruiter have that a Sourcing pro doesn’t?

      I’m assuming you’ll get into things like working with hiring managers, negotiating, developing offer letters, following your ATS process, and other really super hard to learn ‘chef’ skills.

      You’re kidding, right? The hardest skills to learn in recruiting are the skills that sourcers have. It’s the ability to find talent quickly. I can make a great Sourer a full desk successful recruiter much faster than I can make a great Recruiter a full desk recruiter, because the harder to learn skills are sourcing.


  6. Rob McIntosh says:

    Nice piece Tim. I have been building Corp sourcing teams for a long time and I have been espousing for years that you should never have them focus on the 80%+ of those roles where the candidates come to you (careers Web site, social applies, etc). They should be focused on the roles/job families where you have to go and proactively identify and attract.

    The fundamental issue still remains that the word ‘Sourcing’ is so woefully misused to place a label on so many different things, that all it does, is continue to create more confusion.

    How you structure and align to your business (decentralized, CoE, RPO, etc) is important, but not as much as in what they focus on. Call them sourcers, recruiters or talent scouts if you want, it just needs to be clear in your own organization on what they do and why they do it to solve a business problem for those 20% roles imho.

  7. Gerry Crispin says:

    I can only reiterate Rob’s comments. Sourcers are not round or square pegs nor are the problems they solve. While I agree they focus on the 20 percent of the 80 20 rule, any TA leader needs to ensure their skills are complimentary to their peers not fixed specifically as either autistic versions of hr or super recruiters.

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