A recruiter’s guide to sourcing

Women on phone sourcing for candidates

Most recruiters will probably tell you that in the current job market they’re spending 80% of their time sourcing for candidates. You can probably ask “well, isn’t that your job?”. The answer is both yes and no. To clarify that, in this article, we will guide you through what sourcing is, where recruitment and sourcing part ways and also offer advice on how a sourcer can create a proper candidate pipeline.

What is sourcing?

In a nutshell, sourcing is the process of searching for candidates to fill existing roles. Sourcing is done by a talent sourcer or a recruitment sourcer. Their job is to have a thorough understanding of the job requirements to find and engage the right candidates.

A sourcer starts their search by checking a public database, a social network such as LinkedIn, or their company’s internal database. Based on the job description and conversations with a recruiter, the sourcer will generate a list of keywords they will use in their search for the perfect match. The initial result generated from this search is a talent pool that matches the job requirements to varying degrees. This can start with just one candidate and can go up to hundreds of candidates or more.

The next step for the sourcer would be to contact these potential candidates via a phone call, email or instant message. During this process, they will assess whether the candidates truly match the job requirements and exclude those candidates that do not. If a sourcer is not working on a specific role they might decide to build a network of potential candidates who could be a match for upcoming roles. This is where the sourcer’s job ends and a recruiter’s job begins.

Sourcing vs. recruiting

Sourcing and recruiting are often used interchangeably, however, sourcing is a crucial part of the recruitment process. Recruiting actually begins with liaising with hiring managers to understand the requirements of a role. Once these requirements are understood, the recruiter will either source themselves or ask for the help of a talent sourcer. Once the sourcer has pre-screened potential candidates, they hand off the talent pool to the recruiter. Recruitment then continues scheduling interviews with qualified candidates, managing the feedback process, salary negotiation and performing various administrative tasks.

Curating a pipeline of candidates for future opportunities

Sometimes, sourcers are not working on active roles, but they build and maintain a pipeline of skilled individuals. These passive candidates are usually the first people you would reach out to when a new opening appears. It is important to note that just because a candidate is not actively looking for a job, that doesn’t mean that they would not be open to a new opportunity. According to LinkedIn, 70% of the global workforce are passive candidates.

To curate a pipeline of candidates, a sourcer needs to understand what kind of roles the agency or the company would normally hire. With this information, they can join industry-specific social media groups and professional networks which provide a great candidate pool. The sourcer can then connect with potential candidates and have access to their wider professional network as well. 

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Six ways of curating a valuable candidate pipeline


Building relationships is the backbone of any sourcing process. A recent LinkedIn survey revealed that referred candidates are four times more likely to be hired. Building a good relationship with members of your personal network, professionals in your industry and candidates you’ve sourced in the past is time-consuming, but an effective way of engaging with potential candidates. Word of mouth is and will always be one of the most effective and trust-inducing marketing strategies.

Your company’s ATS

In your Application Tracking System or database of candidates, there may be a great number of applicants that were overlooked because they did not match the position they applied for. They have already indicated a desire to engage with your brand, and you have already interacted with them at some point. These candidates could help you speed up the sourcing process.

Use different channels

Apart from professional networks, social media platforms are an excellent source when looking for candidates. Try for example a Facebook group for expats who recently moved to your country, or an industry-specific group. It is also advisable not to limit your search to the internet. University career services and job fairs could also be a rich source of candidates.

Diversify the keyword search

As a sourcer, you have to be very creative, especially when building your list of keywords. While writing resumes, applicants might not be aware of the keywords used in the job description, and would therefore not appear in the keyword search. As a sourcer, thinking outside the box is not limited to keywords but also being able to spot transferable skills. The ideal candidate might not be a match with their current experience but the skills they’ve gained from other roles would be a good fit for the position you’re working on.

Personalise your approach

It is easy to create a template and send that out in bulk to lots of people. But these impersonal and rather unwelcomed emails will rarely receive positive responses. To boost engagement, try personalizing your outreach messages. This could be achieved by acknowledging their previous position with what you are looking for currently, approaching them by using their name, introducing yourself and scanning their profile for something unique you can pick and match with the position you are looking for. Most likely the very first line of your message is enough for a candidate to consider it or ignore it. Therefore, take your time and make your message count.


Life happens and we all overlook messages. Someone may have missed your outreach in the high number of messages they receive from recruiters. Follow up with them and always end your message with an action point.

Employer branding

An employer with a good reputation, offering amazing benefits, employee experience and learning and development opportunities across the board will naturally attract candidates and applications. Investing in developing your employer branding will allow you to build a candidate pool with a continual flow of new applications.


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