2015 Sourcing Champ Speaks Out on Her Craft

By Roy Maurer Nov 10, 2015
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Kerri Mills, a recruiter at Paypal, had only been in the business for five years when she walked away from this year’s SourceCon challenge as the 2015 Sourcing Grand Master in September. The contest, a series of tests where sourcers—those who search for and compile candidate leads for employers—show off their skills, is part of ERE Media’s annual sourcing and recruiting conference, held in Dallas this year.

According to SourceCon Editor Jeremy Roberts, the challenge is “sort of an Internet scavenger hunt” and has been going on since 2007. The last few challenges have had three different phases and last 6-8 weeks, finishing with a final challenge during the SourceCon event. Early on there can be up to 400 participants, who are whittled down to four or five for the onsite challenge which then determines the winner. “Participants must exhibit a deep understanding of Internet technology as clues are sometimes even hidden in a website’s source code,” Roberts said.

Mills talked with SHRM Online about what attributes make a successful sourcer, her peeves when working with hiring managers and the necessity of Boolean searching when it comes to finding those coveted leads.

SHRM Online: Congratulations on the accomplishment. What does it take to be a great sourcer?

Mills: Thank you! I think to be a great sourcer, you need to be creative and have the drive to never give up. A good sourcer needs to be able to look farther than just job boards and LinkedIn to find candidates. Candidates are in so many different places; you just have to step outside of your comfort zone to find them. When I participated in the SourceCon challenge, there were many times that I wanted to give up. I was running in circles and hitting multiple road blocks that kept me from moving forward. I knew the answer I needed was out there, I just had to figure out the right way to find it. It’s the same when looking for that perfect candidate.

SHRM Online: What are some of the issues that complicate the relationship between sourcers and employers? What can both parties do to optimize the relationship?

Mills: This is a hot button [issue] for me. Sourcers have it hard sometimes because employers really have no idea what we do all day. Hiring managers tend to not understand our job and the work that goes into finding candidates. I think a lot of managers think we just stare at the applicant tracking systems all day, waiting for wonderful candidates to apply. It is so important [for sourcers] to set expectations up-front and even give a brief overview of what you will be doing in the time leading up to submitting candidates. Let employers know about the hundreds of resumes and profiles you look at to find them five solid submittals. Being a part of the intake session is such an important piece of the recruiting process. This is the perfect time to share this information and set expectations for the rest of the process.

SHRM Online: How important is it for employers to provide feedback to sourcers?

Mills: Without feedback, it is impossible for the sourcer to tailor his or her search to find exactly what the hiring manager needs. It is so important to send feedback in a timely manner, too. Candidates get frustrated when they go for weeks without hearing back after an interview, and the longer it takes the manager to provide feedback, the longer the sourcer is wasting time looking for candidates that are missing a skill that the feedback can provide. I highly recommend having a feedback form for every manager to fill out after an interview that provides a ranking on core competencies [for each candidate] and notes for each section, and set the expectation during the intake session that this should be completed and sent back within your preferred time frame.

SHRM Online: Is understanding Boolean searching essential for sourcing? [Boolean is a type of search which allows users to combine keywords with operators such as “and,” “not” and “or” to produce more relevant results.]

Mills: In my opinion, yes, I think having a solid grasp of Boolean searching is crucial for a sourcer. The role of a sourcer is evolving, and it is so much more than just smiling and dialing for candidates off of Monster and CareerBuilder resumes. Because LinkedIn InMails are such an easy way to contact people, candidates are getting sick of all the messages and many just ignore them. A good sourcer needs to be able to find new candidates and contact information instead of waiting patiently for someone to accept their LinkedIn message. When you start using Boolean, you are opening up a whole new layer of finding candidates that many people don’t bother reaching out to. If a sourcer wants to continue to grow [his or her] career, knowing Boolean is essential.

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