Most recruiters would probably agree that an influx of responses from a recently posted job ad is a good thing. And while it’s certainly a step in the right direction, resumes from active candidates may not reflect the best talent available. To hire the most qualified person, employers must also consider passive candidates, many of whom can only be found through talent sourcing.

What is talent sourcing?

Talent sourcing is much like lead generation in sales. Through a variety of methods – online research, networking, referrals, etc. – recruiters proactively locate individuals who may be a good fit for their organization. Ideally, this process occurs even when positions are not currently available so that as soon as a vacancy occurs or a new role is created, there’s a pool of qualified candidates to fill it.

What is the difference between recruiting, acquisition and sourcing?

Talent acquisition is the overarching strategic process that encompasses both talent sourcing and recruiting. It starts with promoting interest in the employer brand and establishing communication with potential candidates, i.e., talent sourcing. And it ends with interviewing qualified candidates, running background checks (when necessary) and onboarding new hires, i.e., recruitment.

The talent sourcing process

A clearly-defined process for sourcing talent can help alleviate stress during times of high requisition. Here are some of the basic steps:

  1. Document job requirements
    Before writing job descriptions, those responsible for sourcing talent should talk to hiring managers and find out what skills, education and experience are necessary for the position. Locating qualified, best-fit candidates is nearly impossible without this knowledge.

  2. Define the ideal candidate
    Here is where HR professionals begin to match potential candidates to job descriptions. In addition to prior experience and skillsets, it helps to think about the personalities and interests that would make someone a good fit with the employer’s brand.

  3. Conduct research
    With job descriptions and information about the ideal candidate in hand, talent sourcing specialists are well-equipped to browse social network profiles, review resume submissions or attend in-person events, like career fairs. An applicant tracking system can be especially valuable at this stage.

  4. Establish communication
    Initial contact with potential candidates ideally should be brief and personalized. The idea is to gauge their interest in the opportunity, but not overwhelm them.

  5. Evaluate the talent pool
    Qualified candidates who were receptive to networking or showed interest in a particular opportunity may be invited to an interview. At this point, depending on organizational workflows, the person sourcing talent may turn things over to a recruiter or hiring manager to finish the recruitment process.

Strategies and best practices for sourcing talent

Once the framework of the talent sourcing process in place, it’s time to execute on it. Some of the strategies commonly used by employers of choice include the following:

  • Improve the employer brand
    Businesses with a good reputation and positive culture are more likely to attract and retain talent than those that are seen less favorably in the public eye. Promoting the brand through traditional marketing tactics and addressing feedback from online reviews are two ways to gain positive recognition.

  • Partner closely with hiring managers
    Hiring managers usually know more about the ideal person for a position than anyone. They can help identify the skills needed and may recommend places where prospective candidates can be found.

  • Re-engage prior applicants
    Previous job applicants are candidates who’ve already shown interest in the company and may have even had their qualifications vetted. By retargeting these people, employers can bypass many of the earlier steps in the talent sourcing process. Some talent acquisition solutions even have a talent community feature, which makes it easier to reengage previous applicants.

  • Make the most of employee referrals
    When valued employees vouch for someone else, it’s a good chance that person will have a similar work ethic and may fit the workplace culture better than an unknown candidate. Many employers incentivize employee referrals for this reason.

  • Use an applicant tracking system
    An ATS can help pre-screen applicants and filter out unqualified candidates, saving recruiters and HR professionals hours of time parsing through resumes. Many solutions are also capable of integrating with job boards so that a single opportunity can be posted to multiple platforms at once. Employers who use an ATS should ensure that they review and comply with all applicable laws.

  • Expand online talent sources
    One-stop-shopping on Linked-In limits an employer’s reach. There are many other online communities, some of which cater to a specific niche or skillset, where underrepresented talent may be found.

  • Attend in-person events
    Technology has made it easy to overlook traditional recruitment methods, like career fairs. In-person and virtual networking events, however, have the advantage of in-person interaction, which allows recruiters to get to know more about a candidate’s personality than they could through a digital profile.

  • Customize communications
    A generic email with a hard sell to apply may not elicit a response from passive candidates. Successful recruiters personalize their messaging and spread it out over the course of several communications to increase engagement.

  • Measure and adapt
    Tracking data, like cost-per-hire or time-to-fill, can help employers monitor how well they’re sourcing talent. If either the performance metrics or the quality of candidates is poor, it may be necessary to reconvene with the hiring manager and adjust tactics accordingly.

Frequently asked questions about talent sourcing

What is sourcing in recruitment?

Sourcing is how employers create talent pipelines. They proactively identify candidates who may be a good fit for their business and then use a variety of networking tactics to keep them engaged until a job opportunity arises.

Why is talent sourcing important?

It may take weeks to months to hire the right person for a job. By sourcing qualified candidates ahead of time instead of reacting to departures, employers may be able to fill open positions faster and maintain productivity.

What are the components of talent sourcing?

Some of the components of talent sourcing include:

  • Creating descriptive job advertisements
  • Locating candidates via online networks, in-person events or employee referrals
  • Communicating with candidates using timely, personalized messaging
  • Screening the most qualified candidates for available opportunities

What is a talent sourcing strategist?

A talent sourcing strategist is someone who has experience networking with potential candidates and creating talent pipelines. Depending on the size of the business and its talent goals, this role may be filled by a dedicated specialist or it may be part of the recruiter’s responsibilities.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing talent sourcing and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.