Technical sourcing skills give agency recruiters an edge

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Source: Shortlist

Agency recruiters often have better technical sourcing skills than their in-house peers because of the high stakes riding on their success, according to a global sourcing expert.

Both internal and third-party recruiters deal with unique advantages and disadvantages when sourcing, but the stress of competition is a surprise perk for agencies, said Irina Shamaeva, who is a sourcing trainer and the chief sourcer at Silicon Valley recruitment firm Brain Gain Recruiting.  “We’re competing so we really need to search deep before we reach out to candidates, because we depend on those placements to make our levy, so agency recruiters are often more technically skilled,” she said.

“Corporate recruiters are often tasked with a lot of working with databases and procedures that takes them away from the proper sourcing they can be doing. That’s their challenge.” Her comments echo those of UK recruitment specialist Andy Headworth, who last year told agency recruiters to keep up with new technologies like database mining and social sourcing, because they must be able to achieve things their clients don’t have the time or resources for to win business.

Where internal recruiters have an advantage, however, is in their ability to build talent pipelines, Shamaeva told Shortlist ahead of her presentation at the upcoming Sourcing Summit.

“If [agency recruiters] stay in the industry for years they may be building some pipelines. For corporate people, they may not be necessarily rewarded for one placement, but for them – for the company to prosper – they need to be building those talent pipelines, and this is where sourcing brings a lot of value for them.”  Sourcing is, however, getting tougher for all recruiters as it gains in popularity, warns Shamaeva.

“On one hand, so much information is online. So somebody who’s not familiar with the area may decide, ‘it’s so easy. Now our job is only to sell, because we can look up everything online and off we go’. “On the other hand, the information that is online has become very distributed and not very easy to access,” she said.  “Sourcing is becoming extremely important, and at the same time it’s becoming more complex and less complex.”

The seeming ease of sourcing is a trap for unwary recruiters who go after low-hanging fruit, because people who are the most visible online are usually bombarded with recruiters’ calls, said Shamaeva. “[A worker] could have, say, an incomplete LinkedIn profile, but [finding] some professional blog, publications or patterns that tell us that they’re really a very accomplished professional – and maybe a top candidate – is tricky, and a special art and science,” she said.

One of the biggest factors stymieing the growth of sourcing is a desire to measure its return, added Shamaeva. “If you want to tell your management that you’re doing well in sourcing, you’re hitting a wall here, because what can you measure? The number of submissions? The number of resumes? How can you compare two positions?”

Where should recruiters start?

For managers trying to encourage consultants to hone their sourcing abilities, Shamaeva advises them to focus on advanced search engine or Googling skills, and effective use of social networks. “Practice is the number one thing. Reading a book will teach you as much about sourcing as reading a book about swimming will teach you to swim. You have to instantly get your feet wet,” she said. There’s no single social media channel that will give recruiters the best return on their time; a combination of channels is best practice, said Shamaeva.

“I would say LinkedIn, but if you go to LinkedIn and just search for a few key words from your job description you will not be doing better than the other person, because everybody does very similar things. LinkedIn is a very wide and deep resource, where you need to be skilled in order to make good use of it. “At the same time, LinkedIn alone is worth less than LinkedIn combined with other searches such as Google searches, professional networks and so forth,” she said.

The third part of the sourcing equation is productivity tools, which will help recruiters collect and process the information they find, said Shamaeva. “There are many little tools. Some of them are free, some of them are browser add-ons… that help you to extract details, such as contact information, for example,” she said.