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Is sourcing dying, or just morphing?

By ZoomInsights staff

The Mayans may have been wrong about the world ending in 2012, but there is a new doomsday prediction that has some people in the recruiting industry in a panic. In this case, the Mayan calendar was replaced by Dr. John Sullivan, who wrote on ere.net: “Finding top talent among professionals is now becoming painless, to the point where almost any firm can do it successfully. The time is rapidly approaching where nearly every professional and working individual in the developed world can be found by a recruiting function.”

It sounds like Sullivan is describing a bit of a recruiting renaissance, right? Wrong! “Finding top talent will always be important, but eventually it will become so easy that, except in specialized cases, there will be no reason to have it done by highly paid recruiters,” he continued. If finding the best candidates can be done with a simple Google search, then companies will no longer need sourcers, he argues.

The reaction

Sullivan predicted some backlash in his article: “Because there are so many individuals, consultants and vendors currently involved in sourcing, they will of course negatively react to this forecast with some degree of passion.” But as it turns out, Sullivan seems to have given voice to what many people in the recruiting industry were already thinking — though some are more optimistic about their future.

Jonah Manning, founder of the sourcing firm PeopleOps, told ZoomInsights, “Yep, sourcing is dying. Luckily for veterans like me the definition of sourcing has been skewed for a while. The vendors that do name generation, resume sourcing on job boards and other high-level services may have a tough time in the future. One thing to consider, though: For many recruiters, sourcing was never about their lack of ability to source. It was the lack of time to source properly. Even with tools like LinkedIn making it much easier to locate candidates, it's still a slugfest getting them interested and in process.”

If you ask Tim Sackett, EVP at HRU Technical Resources, the death of sourcing isn’t nearly as dire as it might sound. “Easier sourcing means more sources, which means more candidates to have to filter through. While one part of the job becomes easier, the other half becomes more complex,” Sackett said.

Sullivan doesn’t agree with Sackett on this point, though. He told ZoomInsights that most leads come from external vendors who do all the work in customizing a list to the client’s needs. “And if your primary target is a passive candidate,” Sullivan said, “you simply have few choices outside of non-applicant sources like LinkedIn or ZoomInfo.”

The push-back

Sullivan firmly believes that people will be increasingly removed from the sourcing equation, although not everyone agrees.

Manning said, “It is my firm belief that those same skilled sourcers will find even more fertile ground because, as these networks like LinkedIn continue to mature, the ability to understand the granular attributes of what a hiring manager is looking for will not be an undervalued skill for the foreseeable future.”

For his part, Sackett isn’t sure most companies ever truly separated the sourcing tasks from the recruiting work. “I would say 97 percent of HR shops would never have the resources to truly use sourcing as it was theoretically designed. When I see non-gigantic companies using sourcers, primarily they are using them as junior recruiters, not actually as sourcers.”

So while the recruiting community may not be in agreement about the fate of sourcing, it seems that everyone can agree it’s definitely in flux.


As Sullivan points out, sourcing passive candidates requires tools like ZoomInfo Pro, which enables granular searches for the exact candidate attributes an employer needs. ZoomInfo’s deep profiles include education and work history, plus 12 years of news articles and information available nowhere else.