It’s Been 20 Years…Where Is Online Sourcing Now?

Kelly Dingee Kelly Dingee, Sourcing

It’s interesting as a working mother when pivotal career moments time with my children.  My middle child was the impetus for my career in sourcing.  I had been testing the water of online sourcing, digging into chat rooms, religiously using Online Career Center, and had some marked success in hiring Applications and Sales Engineers for my employer in the telecommunication industry.  I liked it, less time on the phone, more immediate results.  It worked for me.  I was in a Generalist role at the time, and there’s a valid argument that I may have earned the nickname “The Terminator” during my second pregnancy.  I seemed to handle a lot of Employee Relations issues when I was 7 months pregnant, and a lot of terminations.  In addition to recruiting duties. I was in one of those horrible situations that so many working families face—childcare with two kids was going to eat my entire paycheck.

I planned to walk away from it all, my budding career, my newfound interest in online sourcing, because I couldn’t figure out how to make it all work.  Enter my boss.  As they say, timing is everything.  She talked me in to working from home, 10 hours per week, sourcing for all open positions.  The company ponied up training funds and sent me off to AIRS and to Bret Hollander’s NetRecruiter seminar.  I learned Boolean and never looked back.  By 2000, I had taken additional trainings with AIRS, received my first “certification” and was back to working 40 hours per week (still from home, like I said, awesome boss).  I gobbled up any information or training I could find on sourcing and was thrilled when I found JobMachine with all of its cheatsheets. I still have that binder on my bookshelf today.

There were two challenges when I was sourcing from 1995-2000. First, I was a unicorn at the time.  Not many companies, especially small companies in D.C. metro, had sourcers.  And community? Fairly non-existent.  The in-person training sessions I attended were the one opportunity that existed for networking and brainstorming.  When I talked about sourcing with my team of recruiters, quite often I watched their eyes glaze over as I explained the structure of a search string.

The other challenge? The workforce as a whole had not quite embraced the internet.  We were in the land of dial-up and AOL.  In many companies, you needed special permission to have internet access.  Finding great candidates online was challenging and the concept of networking online was not a norm.  Forget accessing Chrome extensions to find contact information.

The metamorphosis of sourcing has been amazing to watch, and be a part of.  One of the things I tell my new team all the time is that the fundamentals of sourcing, how to build a search string and extract information online, doesn’t change.  It’s algebraic after all.  The commands, like site:, are familiar tools that I readily use whenever searching online.

As sourcers we are challenged to find new resources.  Always looking for the new candidate pot o’ gold.  We use our search commands (operators) and point them at sites like Github or Behance.  We dive into lists.  We use tools to uncover contact information and we fearlessly reach out—not just limited to finding people, we’ve become master networkers as well.  We’ve brought candidates to the table, introduced them to the merits of social networking.  There is incredible satisfaction when a Hiring Manager says, who do you know? And we produce a candidate within seconds.

Our challenge today is not how to source.  But how to do it better.  We not only find the candidates we need today, but begin connecting to the candidates we need tomorrow. We know how to use data scrapers to rip down information in the blink of an eye.  We flip that information into a useful database that can easily be referenced, not only by the individual but by a worldwide team.

And by all means, we have community.  From Irina’s Boolean Strings and Katharine Robinson’s AirsourceOne to ERE’s SourceCon to the many active Facebook groups, there is a community exchanging information on how to source better 24/7.

Will sourcing be a standalone function 20 years from now? Will we still have sourcers on our teams?  Will Google or Amazon create a sourcing assistant that can easily fill our toughest requisitions? Will the volume of information online continue to grow, or will the public become more cautious? Will a new LinkedIn-like wunderkind be developed?

I don’t know, but based on the past 20 years I can guarantee it will be fun to watch.




**Opinions in this blog are my own, and not reflective nor endorsed by my current employer**