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GLENN GUTMACHER, “When Phone Sourcing Doesn’t Work, and What to Do”

Posted on October 2, 2007
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by Glenn Gutmacher, Senior Research at Microsoft
glenn @ recruiting-online.com

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  • Original Post dated: 12/11/2006

    Q: I am an Internet-focused sourcer who sometimes gets primary phone sourced data to expand upon. However, there are times I get high-profile names from high-profile companies, and I still can’t find anything about them, whether I use major search engines and resume databases, ZoomInfo, etc. Why is this, and what can I do?

    A: Aha! You have encountered the only quality problem in name-gen by telephone (a/k/a telesourcing): misspellings. Unless the phone researcher is being very careful to validate spellings, name errors will creep into their deliverables. Sometimes it’s because the source is providing names very quickly, has a strong accent or unclear speaking style. However, when someone is spitting out gold, the researcher may not want to interrupt that conversational rhythm, which asking for spellings might create.

    In your case — since the leads are apparently high-profile ones who should have a decent Internet presence — searching online later just by the name that was least likely to be misspelled (sometimes it’s the first/given name, sometimes it’s the last/surname) along with the job title, function and/or company name info will typically turn up links with the proper spelling that you need to fill the blanks. Ironically, this is typically the opposite of most sourcing functions that break out sourcing specialties: the online researcher supplies the phone researcher initially with data. The online deliverables may contain more instances of dated information and thus need validation, but you typically don’t encounter the spelling errors that can cause the grief you cited!

    The only other quality problem that sometimes (very rarely) occurs with phone sourcing is purposely-misleading information. In this case, the employees of a targeted company have been warned that researchers are after certain passive prospects. They turn over such calls to designated competitive intelligence (CI) personnel who will cleverly feed the researcher false information. A good phone sourcer’s radar will perk up when this happens, and cross-check the data with other sources to validate before submitting their deliverables. However, a relative newbie or a sourcer under a tight deadline to deliver a name-gen project may not take the extra step, and this shortcut comes back to bite them! Of course, this false info tactic can also be done online (e.g., posting false rumors to blogs, newsgroups, etc.) so every researcher must be careful to validate.

    I do not want this blog post to come across as anything against phone sourcing. As anyone I’ve worked with knows, I have the utmost respect for smart name-gen phone researchers, and can’t imagine doing a comprehensive sourcing project without having at least one such person on my team. On a related note, I had the pleasure to meet a top third-party name-gen professional for the first time face-to-face last week, Krista Bradford. She participated with Shally and me as panelists for AOEP’s Challenge of the Sourcing Sleuths. Her information on phone sourcing was excellent, and she uses it in combination with online methods. Analogous to Shally’s excellent Google and LinkedIn cheatsheets, Krista has just created a cheatsheet of sorts for phone sourcing. Maybe some would call it a white paper, but it’s written in a very user-friendly way. She gave it as a freebie to the AOEP attendees (who paid to come), so I don’t know what she’ll do for others who request it, but I recommend you ping her and ask nicely!

    NOTE: Glenn Gutmacher will be speaking at the Cleveland EMA/SHRM in October.

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