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What is sourcing in recruitment and how does it work

Recruitment all starts with sourcing where candidates are found and attracted with a set of search and attraction tools and techniques.

What is sourcing?

Sourcing in recruitment is the process of finding and attracting the right candidates based on a given set of job criteria.

What is the difference with recruitment?

Recruitment can be seen as the full cycle of finding, reaching, interviewing and hiring candidates.

Sourcing is part of that process, but it’s focussing on the finding part.

Sourcing can also refer to a department or role within an organization which is responsible for proactively finding the right candidates, attracting them and sometimes also doing initial outreach to candidates.

Here's an overview of the full recruitment cycle.

How does talent sourcing work?

The accessibility to talent data has been increasing in the last decades because of the widespread adoption of the internet and the rise of professional social networks.

The world wide web contains billions of profiles of people and their activity online.

Out of all of these profiles the talent sourcer's work is to find the right profiles based on a set of job criteria she or he received.

The talent sourcers translate the set of sometimes very high level job criteria to a search.

The search usually consists of 1) a selection of platforms where the talent sourcer chooses to search and attract talent on and 2) the search criteria the talent sourcer chooses to include.

Selection of platforms

Most recruiters still rely for a big part on LinkedIn. 

But in many industries like tech, recruiters cannot always find enough qualified candidates using LinkedIn only because a lot of people are not active on LinkedIn and because competition for talent on LinkedIn is fierce.

A lot of tech sourcers choose to work with a variety of platforms to find the right candidates.

Examples are GitHub for software engineers, Kaggle for data scientists and AngelList for startup minded talent.

Search criteria

The search criteria determine which results get returned by the platform the sourcer is using.

Most people in the recruiting world are familiar with the search filters that LinkedIn provides like job title, location and keywords. 

But there are many other ways to search for talent like:

  • X-raying: using search engines like Google to find candidate profiles
  • PSE sourcing method: customizable Google search engine that users can build themselves and adjust based on search features like pre-set websites to search in, synonyms, default keywords and languages
  • Sourcing tools: these sourcing tools aggregate data from different sources and present matching profiles based on the job criteria

In these searches Boolean operators and more advanced search operators are key to include in your search to get targeted results (here’s a guide on search operators).

How is talent sourcing organized?

In some organizations there is a dedicated sourcing team that focuses on finding the right candidates and handing over matching candidates to recruiters who pick up (further) interaction with the candidates.

In some cases the role of the sourcer is even more specialized and they are specifically responsible for building pools of candidate profiles without interacting with the candidate.

In other cases the sourcer is responsible for finding the candidates and doing initial outreach.

In the latter case when the candidate shows interest the candidate is usually referred to a recruiter who does the interviews and manages the rest of the process.

Sometimes the perception is that the position of sourcer is a junior role but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many sourcers are highly experienced professionals with deep technical knowledge and skills.

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