Sourcing candidates

Sourcing Principles and Strategies

Only a tiny percentage of professionals applies to job ads. The rest? The rest aren’t even looking.

Your company might have no problem attracting qualified and diverse candidates. However, companies in more competitive industries need to proactively seek out talent — a practice also known as sourcing.

In this post, we’ll define sourcing, explain the basic principles of this practice, and share tips to help you start building your talent pipeline

What is sourcing?

Sourcing is seeking candidates to meet a present or future hiring need.

Sourcing helps companies prepare for when a position becomes available, setting the foundations for efficient and effective hiring processes. 

The basics of sourcing

The essentials of sourcing are understanding hiring needs, going where candidates are, and building relationships. We look at these three principles in detail below.

Understanding hiring needs

Before you go searching, you need to know what you’re looking for. That’s why, when a position becomes available, the first thing to do is to meet with the hiring manager(s) to discuss the duties and goals of the job as well as the skills required to do it. 

And if the job doesn’t exist yet? You can anticipate hiring needs based on the company’s turnover rate, hiring challenges, and short and long-term goals. The questions below are a good place to start: 

  • Which positions have the biggest turnover?
  • Which positions are the hardest to hire for? 
  • Which skills are likely to be in demand in the near future, based on the company’s goals/industry trends?

Before setting any hiring targets, it’s important to sit down with hiring authorities to create a plan for meeting future hiring needs.

Going where candidates are

Exceptional talent may be on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,, Slack — or offline, at networking events, golf courses, professional conferences, and more.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll want to go where qualified professionals with the skills you seek spend their time. Use the possibilities available in each platform/environment to kickstart conversations.

Building relationships

Cultivating connections, online and offline, is essential to sourcing. Invest time every day in connecting with people. Grab coffee with desirable prospects. Go to lunch with colleagues who can make referrals or intros.

Proactively sourcing will lead you to candidates for jobs that don’t exist yet. Whenever that happens, save those connections and build a relationship with them over time. You can send them periodical updates and follow them on social media so you know what they’re up to. When a job does become available, you’ll be ready to add these candidates to the recruiting process (or recommend them, if your focus is sourcing).

Candidate sourcing tips

Here are tips for getting started with sourcing talent.

Master the art of Googling

Sourcing specialists are known as internet recruiters for a reason. They are experts in the art of searching, and Google is one of their main tools.

To start using Google like a sourcer, learn operators (characters or commands that tell Google what to include and/or exclude from results as well as where to look) and Boolean search techniques (using keywords and operators to increase the relevancy of search results). 

Lean into LinkedIn

The ultimate professional networking tool, LinkedIn is the social media platform you’ll want to be active in. Through LinkedIn, you have potential access to millions of professionals around the world. You can connect with them through groups, an intro from a shared connection, or by directly reaching out.  

LinkedIn’s sourcing and recruiting tools, Pipeline and LinkedIn Recruiter, have helpful features such as advanced search filters, pipeline management, and analytics.

Venture out

LinkedIn is where you’ll be spending most of your time — but don’t let this keep you from exploring other social networks and communities. When deciding which platform to invest your time in, consider size, demographics, profile depth, and accessibility.

Facebook offers limited profile depth, but you may be able to find some good leads in work-related groups. Twitter may also be a good source of hire. (Tip: Search industry-related hashtags on both platforms to uncover even more leads.)

Last but not least, online professional communities and forums can be the best sources of qualified candidates. Professionals who are active in their professional communities tend to be interested in and committed to their profession and industry.

Look for skills, not credentials

Many professional fields — communications, marketing, software development, and design especially — are filled with professionals who are skilled through alternative routes.

When sourcing for these and other roles, focus on the essential skills needed for the job as opposed to this or that degree, or this many years of experience. Focus on portfolios, not résumés. Be open to learning more about professionals with unconventional backgrounds.

What candidates will you source?

Sourcing is a great way to tap into a wider, more diverse pool of candidates. It’s an effective strategy for preparing for future hiring needs. In short, it’s a positive addition to any recruitment strategy.

Sourcing does require special skills, which is why some companies hire dedicated sourcing specialists. If you’re fond of technology and enjoy the thrill of searching for the perfect candidate, this could be the ideal career for you!

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