Modern Sourcing in Executive Recruitment

By David E. Perry, Mark J. Haluska

These days, top executive recruiting firms scour countless sources for outstanding candidates — both active and passive. To achieve this, many firms employ two types of investigators:

  • Researchers: These professionals focus on targeted industries, companies, and functional positions, compiling competitive intelligence from a multitude of sources.
  • Sourcers: These investigators, who rose to prominence in the early 2000s, use the phone, Internet, or both to find detailed bios or résumés of candidates who fit the position profile.

So, what’s the difference? Put it this way: Researchers can source, but not all sourcers can do full-spectrum research, including competitive intelligence. In our experience, sourcers tend to stick with the phone or Internet to locate potential candidates.

It’s not that executive recruiters are unable to perform the research and sourcing functions. In fact, some recruiters — particularly those who have been in the business for 20 years or more and remember the old ways of sourcing — handle all three roles: researching, sourcing, and recruiting. Others, however, believe these activities may not be the best use of their time. For example, the Perry-Martel firm employs both researchers and sourcers — often, several of each on a single project. These professionals work in support of the firm’s recruiters, who handle all client-facing activities, including interviews.

One more thing: Researchers and sourcers source, and recruiters recruit. In other words, once it’s time to make a live connection with a targeted executive, the recruiter takes over.