8 min read

What Is Talent Sourcing – And How Is It Different To Recruiting?

Nikki Dale
Nikki Dale May 11, 2021
What Is Talent Sourcing

Employers and recruiters who are looking for top talent to hire for open roles need to work hard – or smart – to ensure they get the best people applying.

This is where talent sourcing comes in. According to Lever, 24–33% of all hires are sourced, and this is second only to direct applicants.

So effective talent sourcing strategy can really pay off in these times of low unemployment and in a candidate-driven market.

What is talent sourcing?

Talent sourcing can be a part of a thorough recruitment process, or it can be a separate entity altogether.

In its simplest format, talent sourcing is identifying qualified candidates who are not actively applying for a role, researching their suitability and turning them from individuals into job applicants.

This might be through combing CV databases on job boards, looking at social media or using professional networks to identify people who meet the criteria for the role, and then connecting with them. It is also about building interest in an open job role by reaching out to potential applicants to ask them to apply.

Basic talent sourcing is about finding the names, proof of skills and qualifications, and contact details of individuals who match the desired candidate persona.

Why is talent sourcing important?

talent sourcing

The job market today is candidate-focused, and although there is competition for the top jobs, applicants can afford to be more choosy about the positions they apply for.

This means that making sure a candidate pool even exists needs more work than just advertising a role on a job board. Ensuring qualified and skilful candidates are top of the list can be the hardest part, but it is even more important.

Effective and efficient talent sourcing approaches potential candidates first, to invite them into interaction and show them a role that would be a good fit. That applies whether they are actively looking for a new role, or are a passive candidate who is not currently in the market for a change.

What is the difference between sourcing and recruiting?

Talent sourcing and recruitment are similar, but not the same. In fact, sourcing feeds into recruitment, to create a consistent flow of highly-skilled and qualified applicants for roles.

Sourcing is the precursor to recruitment. It is the starting point of a recruitment process, searching for and identifying talent, then nurturing them and turning them into leads for the hiring team.

Recruitment teams then take those sourced candidates, alongside ones who have applied directly through a job board or have been put forward by a recruitment agency, and funnel them into the application process.

Recruiters oversee each stage of the process, from initial screening through assessment, interview, and finally onboarding and employment.

The talent sourcing process

There is no single 'right' way to source talent for your business, but there are a number of things that should be considered when you are looking at strategy.

What are you looking for?

The first step in talent sourcing should be to create an 'ideal candidate' profile for all roles. This might include skills, experience, and qualifications, as well as behavioural and personality traits, and should be used as a basis for any recruitment efforts to ensure that you are getting the right hires at the right time.

Using this profile, talent sourcers can understand what a good candidate looks like on paper, so that they can focus their efforts on sourcing the right individuals to nurture into applicants.

Choose sourcing channels

There are so many places that you could be using to find the best applicants for your role, and the best strategy will use more than one source for this. Choose from a combination of:

  • Job boards
  • CV databases
  • Professional networks
  • LinkedIn
  • Social media
  • Retargeting (contacting people who have visited your website recently)
  • Geotargeting (reaching out to people in the local area)

Build the brand (and make it personal)

Any talent sourcing activity needs to be attractive to potential applicants, so ensuring that your brand messaging is on point for the type of person you are looking to recruit is important.

This could include creating a careers website, establishing a social media presence, or just making sure that you have a clear and consistent voice in the industry.

When reaching out to potential applicants, it is more likely that your message will be acted upon when it is truly personal – using names and appropriate qualifications, for example.

Funnel into the recruitment process

The aim of the talent sourcing effort should be to ensure that there are well-qualified candidates consistently being taken through the application process – and ultimately being hired.

However you choose to source talent, make sure that the transfer to the recruitment process is as painless as it can be for the best results.

8 tips to source top talent

talent sourcing

1. Understand your metrics

Metrics are really important in any evolving practice, and talent sourcing should be no different. From first identification to eventual hire, keeping records about every candidate will allow you to assess what is working to improve – and also to get rid of what is not working.

There are several metrics that you should be tracking, but here are some ideas:

  • Time to hire
  • Conversion from source to interview
  • Conversion from source to successful hire
  • Cost per hire

Every business wants to streamline their recruitment process, getting better hires faster. But unless you are measuring performance, it can be difficult to quantify what is working and what isn't.

2. Build a sourcing strategy

Using your 'ideal candidate' matrix, try and find out where you might find people with the right qualifications. The obvious sources like job boards and LinkedIn are a good start, but don't be afraid to think outside the box with social media sites and other places too.

Creatives might be found in Facebook groups related to their fields, and software developers might be found through sites like GitHub. Even relatively new places like Clubhouse might be of interest.

Find the sources that work for your business, but don't be afraid to change it up if something new comes up.

3. Use employee referrals

As the saying goes, 'good people know good people', so why not ask your current employees to make referrals? There is good evidence to suggest that referrals tend to make good hires, so building some sort of reward programme for employees to benefit when they have suggested a hire could provide a good source.

4. Build a sourcing pipeline

Using some sort of recruitment Candidate Relationship Manager (CRM) or Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), create a funnel that ensures all potential candidates are contacted in the same manner.

You might want to automate a series of email contacts, or shake it up with other ways of making contact. The aim is to get the individuals through the pipeline to become applicants and then eventually employees.

5. Build your brand

talent sourcing brand building

Younger people are more likely to want to work for a brand they have an emotional attachment to, so building a recognisable brand with a clear aim is important. Sourcing talent to an unknown entity might be ineffective, but if you can create excitement for a role or the wider business this is more likely to be attractive, especially for graduates.

Consider the benefits of using social media in new and interesting ways, to make your business and your open roles more accessible and appealing.

6. Always be sourcing

Candidate sourcing is not a 'one and done' job. A recruitment strategy should always involve planning for the future, and that means looking ahead for hiring needs: for the next quarter, the next year, and even farther.

Keep details of unsuccessful candidates – they might be suited for a role in the future – and also keep in touch with hires who might have moved on, too. Bear in mind ideal candidate profiles for all roles, since it is more likely that as the business grows there will be roles that might suit someone previously overlooked.

7. Use AI and technology

Manually searching job boards, social media and professional networks for potential applicants is not only time-consuming, it can also be rife with errors.

Human error in mistyping keywords, and the broad strokes of a Boolean search means that manual searching is way too long winded for many talent sourcers – which is where technology can make a difference.

With the right AI, sourcing can be automated and accurate, with the entire open web scraped for relevant details, with no bias thanks to the data-driven algorithms.

Machine learning offers the opportunity to be more efficient with initial searches, and more effective in ranking talent according to the important criteria.

8. Consider internal hiring

talent sourcing recruiting different

Internal hiring is a form of talent sourcing that might be overlooked, especially if the role is not a promotion. However, it is worth bearing in mind that some employees would enjoy a sideways step in their career, perhaps to specialise in something more aligned to their own interests.

Internal sourcing for roles is also a good step if you are restructuring or there are other big changes coming about. Offering internal candidates first refusal on applications builds confidence in the business and is the right thing to do in many cases in terms of employee happiness.

Nikki Dale
Nikki Dale May 11, 2021

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