How to Be a Good Manager to Freelancer Sourcers, and What You Should Expect If You Want To Go Freelance: an Interview with Vanessa Raath

By Halyna Divakova 11.08.2021 10 minutes to read

For Recruitment Leaders in big companies, managing freelance sourcers may be a huge part of day-to-day operations. In this entry to our Guide for Building and Scaling Sourcing in Fast-Paced Organizations, we decided to take a look at the job of a manager of a freelance sourcer from both manager’s and freelancer’s perspectives. We’ll be using help from Vanessa Raath, a freelance sourcer, global talent sourcing trainer, career brand specialist, and coach who kindly agreed to do this interview. 

Vanessa RaathVanessa is on top of the freelance sourcing game and carries insights and best practices from her countless hours in the field working with very different types of clients. This also means that Vanessa has worked with all sorts of managers, and can share what makes an exceptionally good Recruitment Lead when it comes to working with freelance contractors.

In the interview, we are going to discuss how to be an awesome manager of sourcers, what it is like to work as a freelance sourcer, essential tools that can assist to get you unstuck in your job, sourcing insights, and so much more. 


Vanessa, thank you for doing this interview! Since we’re writing a guide for Recruitment and Sourcing Leaders, I want to start with the question of their biggest concern. You’ve been working with a variety of companies globally and encountered countless recruiting managers on your professional journey. Tell me, what makes a good manager of a sourcing team? 

This is an interesting one to answer because being a good manager of a sourcing team means two things.  

First of all, they have to be good at managing people. And people who are good at sourcing are not necessarily the best people managers. I’m a prime example of this! So just because you have somebody in your team who’s the best sourcer or recruiter, it doesn’t mean they should be your prime candidate for the managing role. People management requires a whole different skill set.

Second of all, from what I’ve seen, and all of the clients that I’ve interacted with, what makes a good manager, in the sourcing space, is that the manager has a good knowledge of how to source talent themselves. It’s good to have a Sourcing Manager who can source better than the rest of the team because you’ve got to rely on this person to keep the team’s sourcing ability up to date and inspire them to continue learning. This manager has to drive the thinking behind your processes and always be learning themselves. 

Hence, the sourcing manager should be responsible for skilling themselves up in sourcing, always be learning, and then holding sessions where they can train and pass on this information to their team of Sources. So for me, if the Sourcing Manager isn’t passionate about sourcing, and isn’t always learning new things, then I don’t know if they’re going to be the best manager.

From what you said, do you think that a good Sourcing Manager should dedicate a lot of their time to educating their team? Isn’t it the case where you (as they often say) should hire people who are better than you in the field?

In my opinion, yes, you could hire Sourcers who are better than you —as long as you have a solid understanding of the methodology and how they’re approaching their work.  

Sourcing is constantly changing, plus there’s also always something new breaking. For instance, something changes on LinkedIn, and you can’t use well-known tools anymore. You have to stay on top of your game. On top of this,, you can’t know everything about sourcing, there will always be something to learn. 

But there has to be a dedicated person who’s going to learn all that new stuff, and then share it with the team. And for me, that would be a perfect role for a manager to take up. But this Manager should also be encouraging the team to always be learning through group training sessions. The Manager also needs to secure a budget to get the whole team to attend conferences which will hopefully ignite their love for sourcing even more.  

Awesome. Let’s go back to your side of things as a freelance Sourcer. I imagine you get hired for new sourcing projects often. What do you usually need to start working?

Working as a freelancer can be a challenge because you usually can’t start sourcing until you’ve met with all of the key players involved in the project. My first requirements when I start with a new client is to understand the client’s needs, take some time to do some research on the company — who works there, what kind of people have been successful there in the past, or are currently successful in the desired positions, etc. 

Then I also look at the location or the geography in which I’m going to be sourcing. It’s important to know where the people that I need to source hang out, what platforms they prefer, and so on. 

Before I get started on a sourcing project, I like to meet with the key stakeholders, which are normally the Talent Acquisition Director or Head of Sourcing, as well as with the Hiring Manager, where possible. This is all necessary to get a better understanding from them about the talent that they’re looking for. 

It often boils down to what is the information that doesn’t appear on the role description, which I need to know to be successful with this project. 

What kind of support do you expect from the person who is your Manager on a certain project?

To be honest, as a freelancer, you don’t always get that much support. It’s often that you’re expected to take the specs and hit the ground running.

But it is always nice to get a firm hold of some deliverables and requirements for the project: the due date, the number of people expected in the first round of sourcing, etc. I think the more you ask, the better the project will go as you will have a better idea of what the client is looking for. And the more frequently you talk with the key stakeholders, the better the questions that you’re going to ask at the beginning of your next sourcing project will be. 

Is it better for them to share as many notes with you as possible and include you in in-house discussions of the position?

I believe that a Sourcer can only deliver the very best candidates if they know as much as possible about the role. So yes, I do think the talent acquisition team needs to share the answers to some of the main questions. For example, has anyone on the team started sourcing for this role already? Is there a shortlist of candidates?? Where are they focusing on sourcing their candidates from? We need to avoid duplicating candidates. As a freelancer, you need to add another dimension to the project, expand and compliment instead of repeating. 

I am not just going to have a look at LinkedIn, which, in my experience, is what the internal recruiters are probably doing if they have not done it already. No offense to internal recruiters out there, but as a freelancer, you have to come to the table with something different — that’s what the company is paying you for. 

So it’s always good to find out more insights, like who they have already spoken to, have they had any offers sent to anyone, who’s declined, which candidates are preferred, or tend to perform better in this role, etc. 

Get all of that information from a client so there’s no duplication and no one’s time is wasted.

By the way, how do freelance projects usually work? Do companies share the ATS access with you, or is it just some kind of a spreadsheet?

Sometimes they do, sometimes they give me a spreadsheet with names. It all depends on the company. 

I’m working with a big company out of the US at the moment – they even offered to provide me with a corporate email address to show that I work at the company. Another one has said that I can access their ATS. Some other companies said that they are definitely not giving me access to their CRM, under no circumstances. Well, I wouldn’t start sourcing there anyway as I would hope that the internal teams have tried this already! 

But as a freelancer, you need to bring something new and innovative to the table. You cannot continue to fish in the same fishing ponds with their internal Recruiters. 

Speaking of in-house recruiting: in your career, you worked both in-house and as a freelancer. What is the difference between those options for you? Are there any key differences that anyone should consider in case they want to switch paths?

It is quite different. When you work in-house as a Sourcer, you can access Hiring Managers a lot easier. You are normally working very closely with a Recruiter too. It’s almost like you have more control over the whole process. 

When you’re working as a freelancer, you normally have one point of contact. Usually, it’s a Recruiter, or a Lead, within the organization, and you don’t seem to have as much control. It’s almost like you’re just handing over the best shortlisted candidates. And I think that is where the difference comes in.

That’s why when hiring a company to do sourcing, you need to be in a close partnership with them —so that they can always be your brand ambassador when talking to candidates. f you don’t empower them to do that, then it actually makes the reach out work for them more difficult. 

I think there’s more risk involved for a freelancer as to whether your candidate is going to be successful and get the position. There are a lot of factors that could go wrong in the recruitment process which the Sourcer has no control over. That is why sourcing is paid for on an hourly rate as opposed to recruiting where you only get a payment if you make a placement.

You mentioned the Sourcer being the ambassador of the company. It’s quite a risk for the company when they hire freelancers. Do you think there should be some kind of education? Tutoring Sourcers about the values of the company, for example.

Absolutely! Companies are taking a risk if they are wanting the Sourcer to do the outreach to the passive talent too. . They let you represent their company, and you could be saying the wrong thing, you could be misrepresenting the information, you could be misunderstanding the company’s vision and not doing the right thing. 

That’s why partnership is so important. You’ve got to trust who you’re bringing in as a freelance Sourcer. You’re going to trust that they have the qualities to send the right messaging to candidates on your behalf. That’s also why a lot of clients would rather prefer you to just shortlist candidates, as opposed to doing the reach out. 

This way, there’s less risk for the client. And to be honest with you, I found that it is an easier way to do it. Putting together the email campaigns and waiting for responses is quite time-consuming. If the company isn’t going to give you a corporate email address, the results might not be as successful either — compared to an internal recruiter crafting the email outreach campaign from the company email address. 

So you say that usually freelance Sourcers are paid per hour. What are the main KPIs for freelancers when it comes to a new sourcing project then? Is it to create a shortlist of candidates? To offer a bigger pool of talent? Could you please explain how it works?

Being a freelancer is interesting because every company you work with actually requires you to do things slightly differently. 

In some cases, the service I offer to my clients is that I’ll go and cover the desired market for them. So I’ll go and find all of the Android developers sitting in Perth in Australia, or in New York, or something like that. I’ll create a shortlist of names and links to any of the online platforms with email addresses. Then it’s up to the internal team to reach out to those candidates. 

It also depends on other factors. How many roles are they working on? How difficult are those roles? How many candidates do you think you can find in an hour? 

What I always agree on upfront with the client is how many hours they want me to put towards this project and how many candidates are they (realistically) hoping to receive. Once we have those numbers agreed on, I know that I can start sourcing.  

Are there any downsides to this process? Can you get stuck at some point, for example, you can’t find contacts of people who seem to be a good match? How to overcome this? 

To be honest, you can get stuck anywhere in sourcing. You could also end up going down a lot of funny-looking rabbit holes. 

But when you’ve got the right software and the right tools, you’ll get through. Like the AmazingHiring solution being one of them — it is great at finding email addresses for me. With such tools, you probably are not going to run out of options. 

The difficulty of the sourcing project differs depending on what and where you are sourcing. . For example, with a project that I did about six months ago. When I submitted the shortlist, the Recruiter came back to me and said that a lot of those people were freelancers. The company never stated upfront at the briefing that they didn’t want freelancers. The company assumed that

because those candidates are freelancers right now, they didn’t want to have a permanent role again in the future. However, we did not talk over this concern in advance, and this created miscommunication between us — a lesson was learned and another question was added to my pre-screening list.

Sometimes it all comes down to really good communication and asking the right questions at intake, and most often to having some really good tools, tips and tricks at your fingertips.

What would you recommend to anyone who thinks of starting to work as a freelance Sourcer? And for anyone hiring a freelancer? 

If you’re looking to start as a freelance Sourcer, you are going to need to brush up on your sourcing skills. You can’t be a freelancer and just look at job boards and LinkedIn and say you’re a Sourcer, it doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. You’ve got to upskill yourself and you’ve also got to start building a brand around yourself. You want to be noticed, you want people to take you seriously and most importantly, you want Talent to be attracted to you. 

If you’re looking to hire a freelance Sourcer, make sure you’ve got the time to meet with them upfront to give them a solid brief. You need to spend some time with them at the beginning of the project to get their buy-in about your company, what you’re looking for, your culture, and any specifics around the role. Then you must schedule regular check-ins with them. 

Get your freelancer to source for the first five hours, then submit a shortlist, have a look at it, decide whether they’re on the right track. After that, maybe recalibrate. It has to be a pure partnership. It can’t just be one-sided.

Thank you, Vanessa. This has been a perfect summary of what we have discussed here. I wish you the best clients possible who align with what you’ve described here.

Here at AmazingHiring, we hope that this insightful interview will help you bring in and onboard freelance sourcers as smoothly as possible.  

The right tools, great communications, and free flow of information between your freelancers and your in-house team is key to success. Try putting yourself in a freelancer’s shoes to get a hold of their expectations, ins and outs of their process. This way, you will make your partnership work and deliver maximum value. 

And if you are looking for the right tool to empower your in-house recruiters and freelance sourcers alike, check out the AmazingHiring sourcing platform

By the way, you can always use our free Chrome extension to boost your tech hiring.

Until next time!

Halyna Divakova Marketing Consultant Halyna is an HR-tech enthusiast who has been hiring people for her teams in various IT companies since 2015 and knows the pains of attracting and retaining the best talent.

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