Sourcers Get Their Drink On

by Madeline Courvisanos on October 5, 2011 · 0 comments

[This is a guest post from Madeline Courvisanos, sourcing specialist at Quest Research and co-organiser of the latest sourcing networking drinks]

You’re at a bbq and the inevitable question arises. You can feel it coming and clench your jaw in anticipation, steeling yourself for the moment and preparing the speech in your mind.

So what do you do for a living?

Damn. There it is. You stammer your way through an incoherent explanation that you’re a sourcer, which means you’re in recruitment but not a recruiter, kinda like a headhunter but not really, because you do the research bit, see?

No, not really…

This common experience of local sourcers was the starting point for the panel discussion at last week’s (as yet unnamed) sourcing networking drinks in Sydney. On our panel were three passionate personalities from the sourcing community, Mark Reilly (HRX), Vanina Santana-Sweeney (Deloitte), and Ken Hew (Quest Research), who were mediated by event co-organiser Andrea Mitchell. These speakers were carefully picked for their differing sourcing backgrounds, feistiness and proximity (as the other event organiser, I was lucky that the bloke sitting next to me at work happens to be the Sourcing Ninja!). The overarching theme was the status of sourcing in Australia and promoting its professionalization, which led to a wide-ranging and utterly engaging conversation that ranged from sourcing philosophies, to phone sourcing multiple prospects from the same company.

So to return to our initial scenario, the panel all agreed on the feeling of impatience experienced when having to explain what it is we do, but all came to different definitions of sourcing. That said, a consensus seemed to be reached by night’s end that what we do is hard to explain for two reasons: sourcing in Australia is lacking common definitions and frameworks; and because what we do depends so much upon where we work, who our clients are, and even upon our own aptitudes and strengths. Sourcers are chameleons it seems, we can adapt to others needs as ‘situational solution providers’, as Vanina expressed it.

This agility can be a sourcer’s strength, in being able to provide more nuanced non-transactional services, such as market intelligence and building talent pools. Sadly, it can also be our profession’s downfall, especially for sourcers working in an environment where sourcing is poorly understood and the sourcer may become a recruitment ‘dumping ground’. Recruiters or clients may not engage with the sourcer collaboratively, or neglect to build the all-important recruitment strategy, thus leaving the sourcer to pick up the pieces when their own search turns sour. This was discussed as being the key divide between operational recruiters, who look to fill positions today, and the strategic sourcer, who recruits for the future. The role of recruiters was not derided, rather the differences in approach were articulated, with a view to building more productive relationships between sourcers and recruiters. All panelists agreed that when this synergy is achieved between clients, recruiters, sourcers and anyone else involved in the process, it can be incredibly effective and productive.

Another hot topic was the role of specialisation and the strategic use of sourcing. Are there times when sourcing is not appropriate? Do you source simply for the hard-to-fill roles, or any role. When do you call in the creative team as part of the overall strategy? Should all sourcers be made to use both the phone and the internet to source? Or is this an inefficient use of talent if a sourcer has a natural aptitude for one or the other skill? These questions were more contested, and drew in some excellent comments from the audience, who took pleasure in serving it up to the panel!

Finally, the panel touched on the idea of the Sydney sourcing scene needing some sort of structure. Ken has been advocating a sourcing council, to help standardise training, establish a baseline level of sourcing knowledge, to develop certifications for different sourcing competencies and to promote the status of sourcing in Australia. Other areas that the panel suggested may require structure included measurement methods or indicators, and a ‘glossary’ of sourcing terms so as to moving beyond sourcing’s borrowed linguistic origins.

With all of that covered in the space of an hour or two, imagine what the sourcing drinks to come will produce?! The question remains, however, what are we going to call this bloody event?

The next sourcing drinks will be held on Wednesday 26th October from 5.30pm at the City Hotel, Kent St, Sydney. Please contact Andrea Mitchell or me if you are interested in joining a panel, sponsoring the event, or would like to suggest a theme or name for the drinks.


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