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Recruiters, Sourcers… Headhunters? Oh My!


Confused man and question marksHR is a profession of many hats. How many hats any individual HR person has to wear is dependent upon the size, structure, and whims of the organization that employs them. This is not so unique to human resources, and can be both a blessing and a curse.

What is a little more unique to HR, and infinitely more frustrating, is the refusal to agree upon what each hat is called!

Like the great toque vs. beanie debate, the total confusion about what differentiates sourcing, recruiting, and headhunting causes much strife.

It’s common to expect that your recruiters will do a little headhunting, or that your sourcers will handle some recruitment specific tasks, but unless you actually understand what these different classifications mean, you’re going to run into trouble.

Headhunters – Cool title, cooler job

Headhunters are tasked with finding specific candidates who poses a unique skill set.  The talent they seek is usually in high demand, and harder to convert.

Most headhunters are contract workers who specialize in a particular field, such as tech, or design. They hunt down qualified candidates, reach out to them directly, and then pass on the information they get to their employer’s recruitment team.

Recruiters – Less cool title, sorry guys!

Recruiters are responsible for filling job openings within an organization. They are more likely to work for said organization than a headhunter, but it is also common for recruiters to work for themselves or an agency.

A recruiter’s job is never done; they are involved in the entire recruitment process. From writing job descriptions, to posting them, from serving as the main contact for candidates, to managing the hiring process, recruiters the HR version of a jack of all trades.

Sourcers – Do just that

Sourcers source contact and job related information about potential hires.Sourcing is all about hunting down information and data, it’s a lot less hands on than recruiting as sourcers are not a part of the attraction, interview, or assessment process.

Now that we have are all on the same page; it’s time to talk about how these definitions are changing and merging together.

All three roles are still integral to the hiring process, but they now overlap with each other like never before.

The recruiting landscape has shifted, mostly due to the rise of recruitment technologies and social media. These advancements provide easier and more comprehensive access to information about candidates. It has also changed the ways in which HR interacts with those candidates, and how candidates research and view potential employers.

The importance of sourcing has grown, because these technologies have made it more effective. Recruitment content has changed, because of the kind of engagement social media, and social candidates demand. Employer branding is no longer relegated to those companies who can afford TV commercials, it just takes a Facebook Page.

There is now a greater expectation for recruiters to build a company’s employer brand, push content out via social media, and use big data to target and source candidates. This is because all of these things are now possible, and affordable.

Don’t let that scare you! Be open to the growing importance of sourcing, and the diversification of the role recruiters play, and you’ll see your hiring process become more effective, and an increase in candidate quality and quantity.


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