Crafting an Effective Candidate Sourcing Strategy: A Guide for Recruiters

Sure, your company also wants those actively looking for jobs to apply via your job postings on your career page and other online communities where you post openings.

But, the truth is the best talent acquisition teams understand candidate sourcing — the recruiting of passive prospects — is how they can find high-quality professionals and engage them to learn their interest in open roles.

Candidate sourcing is one of the most crucial parts of any recruitment process. Without a strong pool of qualified candidates to select from, it is impossible to make great hires that will drive your organization forward. That’s why every recruiter needs to have a well-thought-out candidate sourcing strategy in place.

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know to craft an effective strategy for sourcing top talent. We’ll cover the key components of a sourcing strategy, the most important sourcing channels to leverage tips for active versus passive sourcing and much more. Follow along for a comprehensive overview that will equip you to source candidates like a pro!

What Is Candidate Sourcing?

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what candidate sourcing actually entails. Candidate sourcing refers to the process of identifying and connecting with potential job candidates who may be a good fit for open roles at your organization. This is distinct from recruiting, which focuses more on screening, interviewing, and hiring candidates who have already been sourced.

Effective sourcing is proactive, not reactive. Rather than simply posting a job ad and waiting for applications, recruiters actively seek out quality candidates from a variety of channels. This takes strategic planning, creativity, and persistence. The goal is to build up a strong talent pipeline full of qualified contenders to fill both current and future job openings.

Components of a Candidate Sourcing Strategy

An effective sourcing strategy contains several key elements

Sourcing Goals: What are you hoping to achieve through your sourcing efforts? Common goals include building talent pools for future hiring, increasing workplace diversity, sourcing hard-to-find skill sets, and reducing cost per hire by tapping into passive candidates. Clarifying your goals up front will inform which sourcing channels and tactics you prioritize.

Target Candidate Profiles: Define the types of candidates you aim to source, based on skills, experience level, location, diversity factors, or other attributes. The more detailed your ideal candidate profiles are, the more effectively you can target relevant populations. Outline must-have qualifications versus nice-to-have attributes.

Metrics: How will you measure the success of your sourcing strategy? Track metrics like number of candidates sourced, cost per lead, diversity of the pipeline, source of hire data, and pipeline-to-close rates. Analyze this data regularly to refine your approach.

Sources: Which sourcing channels will you leverage to connect with your target candidates? Prioritize a robust mix of sources to access both active and passive candidates.

Process: What will your workflow and follow-up cadence look like? Detail the steps in your sourcing process, from initial outreach to candidate nurturing. Mapping this out will help ensure consistency.

Tools: What sourcing tech and tools will support your efforts? Examples include CRMs, AI-enabled search tools, and outbound recruiting automation platforms. Leverage technology to work smarter.

Team: If you’ll be collaborating with recruiters or coordinating with hiring managers, define everyone’s roles and responsibilities up front.

Budget: Determine how much you can realistically invest in paid sourcing channels and tools. Weigh the ROI of various options.

Let’s explore each of these elements in more depth.

Key Sourcing Channels to Include

Casting a wide net with your sourcing approach is key to accessing both active and passive candidates. Here are some of the best channels to include:

Leverage Social Media

Nearly 4 billion people around the world use social media, making it a goldmine for finding candidates. Prioritize platforms like LinkedIn that are oriented towards professional networking. Search by skills, experience, location and other filters to identify prospects. Follow relevant hashtags and join industry-specific groups to tap into engaged audiences. Beyond just job postings, provide value by sharing insights, resources and thought leadership content.

Utilize Job Boards

While some view job boards as a passive approach, they can generate quality candidate leads when used strategically. Post on niche boards that cater to your target candidate profiles, like Dice for tech talent or Idealist for nonprofit roles. Set up automated alerts for new candidates that match your search parameters. And don’t underestimate behemoths like Indeed—tailor your postings and screening here too.

Employee Referral Programs

Your own staff can be a valuable sourcing channel, referring candidates from within their professional networks. Offer incentives for referrals that turn into hires. Make it easy for employees to submit referrals through your careers site or ATS. Promote open roles and the referral program in your employee communications. Referrals often bring strong cultural fit.

Inbound Recruiting

While outbound recruiting tactics are key for surfacing more passive candidates, don’t neglect inbound channels that bring candidates to you. Beyond job boards, cultivate inbound interest by enhancing your careers site, managing online recruiting events and virtual open houses, leveraging SEO, and monitoring ratings/review sites like Glassdoor.

Collaborate with Universities

Developing relationships with colleges and universities provides access to graduates with in-demand skills. Attend career fairs, host on-campus recruiting events, speak on panels, sponsor hackathons and case competitions, and promote internship opportunities. Consider niche schools that align with your open roles.

Networking Events

In-person and virtual networking events offer connections with both active and passive prospects. Attend industry conferences, trade shows, professional association gatherings, alumni mixers, and community events that attract your target audience. Come prepared with your pitch and hiring materials. Follow up promptly with promising contacts.

Passive Candidate Sourcing

The hallmark of a strong sourcing program is taking steps to uncover “passive” candidates not actively job hunting. This takes creativity and persistence. Search social profiles, publications databases, patents records, conference speaker rosters, community newsletters, and more. Customize outreach and highlight growth opportunities. Expect a lower response rate but high payoff.

Niche Job Boards and Professional Associations

To complement mainstream job boards, research niche boards and professional associations specific to the roles you are trying to fill. For example, for pharmaceutical sales reps or the American Society of Civil Engineers job board. Join relevant associations yourself to access membership directories and job boards.

Tips for Active vs. Passive Sourcing

Striking the right balance between active and passive sourcing is key for a well-rounded recruiting strategy. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Active Candidates

  • Move quickly – they won’t stay on the market for long.
  • Highlight the role and company brand. They are shopping opportunities.
  • Ask direct questions to assess skills and fit.
  • Provide responsive communication and next steps.
  • Sell them on the role, but don’t oversell.

Passive Candidates

  • Take a nuanced, consultative approach.
  • Probe their interests before discussing specific roles.
  • Paint a compelling vision of growth and upside potential.
  • Tout your employer brand, culture and values.
  • Be persistent without being aggressive. Expect a longer lead time.

Regardless of whether candidates are active or passive, personalization and building connections are essential. Even at high volumes, avoid blasting out generic messaging. Show prospects you’ve done your homework and are sincerely interested in them with tailored communication.

Sourcing Top Talent in Today’s Market

The tactics above provide a strong foundation for an effective sourcing strategy. But in today’s ultra-competitive hiring landscape, recruiters have to get even more creative in order to connect with in-demand, often “hidden” talent. Here are a few additional tips for sourcing top talent right now:

  • Get more expansive with location considerations – Remote and hybrid policies open up talent pools well beyond your HQ.

  • Look beyond degrees – Focus on skills and experience; many skilled professionals have non-traditional backgrounds.

  • Leverage contractors as a talent pipeline – Vet contractors for future full-time roles.

  • Tap into underutilized talent pools – like return-to-work parents, retirees, neurodiverse candidates and people with disabilities.

  • Think outside the job description box – Look for adjacent and transferable skills.

  • Scale outreach with automation – Tools can help you reach more passive prospects quickly.

  • Always be nurturing – Stay engaged with prospects even if timing is initially off.

  • Get creative with incentives – Perks beyond compensation can sweeten the deal, like remote work options, development opportunities, and more.

Measure What Matters

The only way to refine your approach over time is to diligently track key sourcing metrics. Monitoring this data will reveal which sources and tactics deliver results so you can double down on what works.

Critical metrics to track include:

  • Sourcing channel source of hire data: What channels are top hires coming from?

  • Time to fill: How long does it take to source qualified candidates for open roles?

  • Cost per lead/hire: What is the investment associated with top channels?

  • Diversity:

what goes into candidate sourcing strategy

How to improve your candidate sourcing strategies

“When competition for top talent is fierce, as it is today, you need to broaden your methods of sourcing candidates,” a quarter of talent pros and consultants recently wrote for Harvard Business Review.

And they’re right. Enterprise employers like yours can only succeed in a competitive labor market by turning over every rock to find high-quality candidates who can help move the needle for their orgs.

Here are a handful of candidate sourcing strategies that can help you pinpoint premier prospects.

Maintain a strong candidate sourcing pipeline

Speaking of your recruitment database, a vital element of any successful candidate sourcing strategy today is not just looking back to find previous candidates and applicants, but to proactively engage them with compelling messaging to entice them to want to learn more about a new opening.

An ideal type of older prospect to revisit is the silver-medalist job candidate.

Because you will source qualified talent for each role, but typically only hire one person for each position, make sure you take the opportunity to keep in touch with talent. That is, ensure silver-medalists aren’t forgotten and are labeled as such in your system for future potential outreach.

At some point down the line, your TA team will want to reengage these formerly final-stage candidates who made it through the interviews, but were not selected. In fact, turning to these individuals can save you time from having to source net-new passive prospects — an added bonus.

Just be sure to personalize your communications to these individuals and remind them who you are so you can refresh their memory about past engagement.

For instance, if they previously interviewed for a developer role, note as such in the intro of your email to them and relay which new, similar role that’s now open may be of interest to them.

Best Sourcing Strategies to find the best CANDIDATES! Explained by Recruiter

What are Candidate sourcing strategies?

Candidate sourcing often includes a variety of strategies, which you can use independently or in combination with each other. The combination of candidate sourcing strategies comprises different phases of the candidate sourcing process. These phases include: 1. Creating a candidate persona

What are recruiting sourcing strategies?

Recruiting sourcing strategies, also known as candidate sourcing strategies, are methods hiring managers use to search for and engage qualified candidates to fill open positions.

How do I start the candidate sourcing process?

To begin the candidate sourcing process, define the ideal candidate profile based on the required skills, experience, and characteristics for the role. You can do this by brainstorming and listing the specific qualifications and traits required for the position.

How can you improve candidate sourcing?

When it comes to candidate sourcing, using multiple strategies and channels can help you build a strong pipeline of qualified candidates for your organization. We offer some best practices to help improve your candidate sourcing efforts. 1. Define the ideal candidate persona

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