3 Things Agency & In-house Sourcers Can learn From Each Other

UK Sourcers meetup - July 2013

I’ll be honest, when I first started writing this post I was pretty sure it was a good opportunity to show the clear divide between agency and in-house sourcing professionals and the very distinct opportunities each party had to learn from the other. As I got writing I became less sure. This was compounded when I went to Katharine’s recent UK Sourcers’ Meetup which had a fair split from each party and, guess what… There was no big divide in the room, just similar challenges and the sharing of ideas.

So, what things are exclusive to the domain of each group that can act as a learning opportunity?

Always Be Learning

If you want to learn, and get better at what you do, you need to understand that good ideas can come from anywhere – so always be open to learning. This holds true for both parties but… Sometimes this is easier for the agency sourcer. Why? Well, a roundtable like a UK Sourcers’ Meetup, an event like a Tru unconference and, I’d wager, the average viewer of a SocialTalent or South African Recruiters’ webinar is more often than not an agency recruiter. Typically they have a little more control over their day than an in-house recruiter!

The Brand – A Mixed Blessing?

This is the biggie, but not in the way that you might be thinking. Typically, when someone talks to me about moving from agency sourcing to in-house, they want a different career structure, one client, and often to work with/for “a brand”. Imagine how much easier life will be with that name behind you? Well I tend to disagree.

There can be a honeymoon period for a sourcer, when you first move in-house, around brand but it tends to be formed by your own confidence in it and in the newly found pride you get from a new role. What I actually find tends to happen, a few months down the line, is that in-house sourcers start talking about their frustration with potential candidates around the brand. This doesn’t hold for all and if your brand is loved congratulations but… If you are seeking, as most are in the current market, experienced professionals from direct competitors (as is everyone else for that matter) they will already have a perception of your brand. If that person has been working for 10-20 years in a direct competitor that perception may well be negative and will certainly not be the same EVP that your brand ambassador demands you take to the market!

So, after a while a great in-house sourcer tends to do one thing well. Create a style of approach (either in writing or over the phone) that is personalised, driven by the opportunity not the employer, and hangs the employer on in the background as an additional benefit but not the be all and end all.

It’s not you, it’s me

So this is the point in sourcing to my mind where things get very different, letting down the candidate and to date this is something that seems to weigh heavily in favour of the agency sourcer or recruiter, so what can the in-house sourcer learn? The “break-up” is a very difficult scenario for those working in-house, after a candidate has been ruled out for a role, there’s no place to go. While corporately there should/might be a talent pool, the reality for all the in-house sourcers and recruiters we train is that they say they have little time or capacity to deal with any genuine aftercare or ongoing communication, yet this is often where the agency sourcer comes into their own. For the agency sourcer there might always be that other opportunity, therefore a reason to keep open the conversation for both parties and to stay in touch.

But is there anything here that the in-house sourcer can learn from their agency counterparts? Well firstly, it’s time dependent (and to a certain extent budget dependent which you may not control/have access to).

Three Lessons Learned

One: First tip for in-house sourcers (and agency if necessary); find time to learn online and research your role!

Typically your working structure can be more prescribed than your agency counter-parts but if you can make time at work, or on your journey, get in front of some good webinars and implement what you can.

Two: First tip for agency recruiters. Do not be put off or believe your candidates will be put off by your agency brand or the lack of employer brand.

You need to create your own style and engagement in an approach that is personal to you and the service that they can expect from you as an individual.

How do you do this?

  • Don’t send a generic InMail – “want a job”, “I’m working this job”, “I want to talk to you about a job”. I know this sounds obvious, but I’ve seen some horrors!
  • Do seek to engage – Explain why you have chosen to make contact, give clear avenues to communicate back at a time that will suit them and play to your strengths. This is the start of your conversation with this potential candidate and you should be looking beyond this single opportunity, something your in-house peer cannot always do.
  • I’m aware these tips should work for both parties, and often approaches are too bland, but I think too often the agency sourcer lacks the confidence to support their approaches appropriately.

Three: Finding a way to stay in touch is important if your role is to build a “talent” pipeline, community or whatever other phrase your firm has come up with and this is where you need to be a bit clever.

For it to work and become a potential source of further candidates beyond your original intro it needs to become about more than jobs and about what the candidate pool delivers.

Here’s some things I’ve heard people doing recently that might work for you;

  • Offering webinars with your business leaders/technical geniuses/brand advocates on a topic of interes
    • While we’re on this point, do avoid the obvious here; for instance suddenly thinking about doing something on D&I to offer directly to D&I potential candidates and show what your business is doing in the field may be futile. It’s something everyone is trying to do and much as with random poorly planned initial approaches if there’s too much of something it becomes spam! Instead maybe think of someone who in your organisation demonstrates the success of D&I but get them to speak about what they do day to day or what makes them brilliant for your firm, that wider engagement will be far more interesting for a far bigger pool than making it a single issue event.
  • Can you offer any kind of check in service?
    • Again this is something we see discussed in theory for recruiters/sourcers and in our training but time is an issue. That said you can sometimes do something relevant, potentially make use of a spare hour for an online Q&A to which you invite former candidates; if you want to think about what might work talk to your colleagues in graduate recruiting, particularly if they have a good alumni network and see what works for them. This is something the US tends to be great at but over here we’ve still got some way to go.

Finally

I’d suggest that the biggest thing any sourcer can learn, wherever they work and whoever their employer is, is to listen and then implement what they think will work for them. Sound basic? Maybe, but too often sourcing is focused on being in the back room and being a transactional service, focused on solving yesterday’s problem of a candidate shortage in-house or in an agency.

Get your head up, watch and listen to people who are good at what they do and then work to personalise and implement that in your own world. Agency and in-house sourcers aren’t so different, most started in one world and ended up in another, what stands out about the good ones is their ability to learn and then take those new founds skills and competencies and put them into a personalised framework of their own.