A guide to talent sourcing: definition and key strategies

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Candidate sourcing is an essential element of every recruitment process. Sourcing takes place when hiring managers and talent sourcers begin identifying people who could be potential applicants for their open roles. Learning about key strategies for sourcing candidates can help you improve your hiring process and find better qualified people for roles within the organisation. In this article, we discuss talent sourcing, explain the key elements of recruitment and share how to effectively source candidates in six steps.

What is talent sourcing?

Talent sourcing is the process of identifying, researching, attracting and networking with potential job candidates for open roles at a company. The main goal of candidate sourcing is turning potential candidates into actual job applicants. In other words, human resources (HR) professionals responsible for talent sourcing focus on finding effective sources of highly qualified professionals and, directly or indirectly, try to convince those professionals to apply to open roles within an organisation. In a broader sense, through sourcing, companies aim to generate a consistent flow of highly skilled applicants.

Related: A guide to talent acquisiti on: definition and approaches

What's the difference between talent sourcing and recruitment?

The primary goal of candidate sourcing is finding and converting professionals into actual job applicants. The goal of recruitment is to convert the most qualified applicants into employees. This means that it's essential for HR professionals to focus on both processes, as sourcing usually precedes recruitment. Although most recruiters take care of both sourcing and recruiting, it's also possible to become a talent sourcer. Sourcers are usually responsible for posting offers on job boards and sourcing candidates using online and offline methods, including ads in print or contacting them directly on professional networking websites.

Related: Headhunting vs recruiting: how these concepts contrast

Key elements of the recruitment process

Candidate sourcing is an important process for any larger organisation that wants to build an effective talent pipeline. In most organisations, sourcing takes place at the beginning of recruitment, right after the HR team plans the recruitment process. Here are the key stages in recruitment that show when sourcing happens:

  • Planning: The first stage of candidate sourcing requires recruiters to establish a clear plan for attracting potential candidates. For example, they may list and analyse recruitment websites that are likely to be the most useful in helping them find many candidates for their open roles.

  • Sourcing: Once recruiters complete planning, active sourcing begins. It involves identifying, contacting and maintaining relationships with potential candidates who may have an interest in applying and becoming active job candidates.

  • Assessing: When enough candidates submit their applications, recruiters begin assessing them. They often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to identify candidates whose skills best match the job description and whose values align well with the company culture.

  • Hiring: The next step involves selecting and interviewing the best qualified candidates and converting the successful ones into employees. The hiring stage also involves negotiating terms and signing the employment contract.

  • Onboarding: The final step is onboarding, which takes place during the new hire's first few weeks on the job. During this process, they get to know their new coworkers and adjust to their new responsibilities.

Related: What is full life cycle recruiting?

How to effectively source candidates

Developing effective candidate sourcing strategies is essential for any rapidly growing organisation that wants to invest in hiring the top talent in the industry. Here are some effective sourcing strategies to consider if you're responsible for identifying and contacting potential job applicants:

1. Identify the company's growth prospects

One of the most effective strategies for finding talent is using information about the company's growth plans to determine job descriptions and candidate requirements. It's vital to remember that finding the best applicants isn't only about selecting the most talented people. It also requires that you identify people who can adjust themselves to the company's changing needs. For example, hiring a highly motivated person can be effective because they're more likely to continue improving their skills even after they get the job.

Related: 11 effective recruitment strategies for attracting top talent

2. Collaborate with the hiring manager

For talent sourcers, it's important to stay in touch with hiring managers when identifying suitable candidates for open roles within the organisation. Making sure the hiring manager approves of your ideal candidate profile is essential, as it allows you to narrow down your search and build a more effective list of sourcing channels. To do that, consider scheduling a meeting with the hiring team where you'd identify the essential keywords to include in the job description and run some test searches to discuss the process in more detail.

3. Create pre-designed templates for candidate sourcing

Before you start contacting potential applicants, you can streamline your process by preparing pre-designed message templates. In the template, include the standard information about the role and the company. You can then copy and paste it and manually fill in each person's details, including their name. It's often helpful to mention what makes you think they'd be suitable for the open role you're sourcing for.

4. Utilise data from the company's applicant tracking system

Consider starting actively sourcing candidates using information that the company has gathered and stored in the ATS that it uses. Taking advantage of this database allows you to determine if there are any people with an interest in working at the company who have the skills and qualities you're looking for. The process of re-engaging past candidates can be effective because many people continue improving their skills when companies reject them. This means that candidates that the hiring team rejected in the past may have better skills and qualifications now.

5. Use various sourcing channels

Using multiple sourcing channels to find suitable job applicants can help you diversify your search efforts. Good examples of sourcing channels include professional networking websites and industry specific job boards. When you're working with a tight deadline, instead of only posting a public message, focus on contacting people with relevant skills directly. It's a good practice to mention that their profile seems interesting and ask if they have an interest in applying for the role you're advertising.

Alternatively, you can also look for candidates offline. This can be a useful method especially when you're looking for potential applicants for highly specialised or senior roles that require extensive expertise in the field. To successfully source candidates offline, you can attend industry conferences or host field-specific group meetings. When you approach candidates like this, you're more likely to have no competition, which means you can get candidates' full attention when presenting the open role to them.

6. Ask current employees for referrals

Whenever you start sourcing candidates for an open role, consider sharing this information with current employees first. For example, you can do this through the organisation's internal newsletter. Recruiting by using employee networks can be especially effective within larger organisations that employ many people. Although it's still necessary for referrals to go through the official recruitment process, this method can be time and cost effective because the interested applicants already know something about the company and often know what to expect from the hiring process.

Common challenges in candidate sourcing

If you're an aspiring recruiter, you may encounter some challenges during some of your first hiring processes. It's important that you don't lose motivation, and simply work out the best strategies for effective candidate sourcing. To prepare, you can review these common challenges in sourcing and example solutions:

A low number of applicants

Getting enough job applicants is an important concern for many recruiters and hiring managers. When you notice that an open job you're advertising isn't attracting enough people, it could be for a few reasons. To determine what has caused this, it's vital to review the job title that you used and if the job description mentions everything that a potential candidate could find useful, including information about employee benefits. Usually, also posting the job on more than one sourcing channel works better, as it has a higher chance of reaching more people.

Not enough time to process all applicants

If there are many interesting applicants, you may want to go through each application individually to make sure you don't miss anyone's application. Although this is possible within smaller organisations, sometimes processing applications manually just takes too much time. To make this process more cost-effective, consider implementing an applicant tracking system that can help you analyse CVs and select candidates based on the specific keywords that they used in their applications.

Related: 9 best tools for recruiting: examples and benefits

Weak employer brand

Candidate sourcing is often more challenging for smaller companies that are still trying to position themselves within the market. In this case it's sometimes effective to work with the marketing team on building a strong employer brand first. All these marketing and promotional efforts can help you present the company as an attractive employer to potential applicants and grab their attention that there's an open role they could fill.

Explore more articles