Talent acquisition is a constantly evolving field and, as the market becomes more competitive, acquiring the right talent for any role presents an increasing number of challenges. This often means that recruitment specialization (including sourcing) is key to having an efficient, effective talent pipeline. Furthermore, as part of a larger talent acquisition strategy, we believe that talent sourcing is an integral element of an effective recruitment process.

However, the role of a talent sourcer is often shrouded in mystery; some business leaders are able to value its efficacy, others, often through ignorance, suspiciously view it as something that is overly simplistic and narrow in scope. The question then remains: what does a talent sourcer actually do on a day-to-day basis and how does the role integrate into a company’s overall talent acquisition strategy?


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In order to effectively incorporate talent sourcing within a larger recruiting framework, HR/recruiting leaders need to be able to effectively define the role of a sourcer. While there is a variety of interpretations, here is a simple one that can be used: a sourcer sources talent by employing proactive recruiting techniques to find and identify skilled candidates, both active and passive. That said, what this means in reality is somewhat open to interpretation. In fact, the sourcing role can be fulfilled either as part of a normal recruiter’s daily tasks or by a dedicated sourcing specialist. The role can be uniquely stretched and applied depending on the company’s needs and culture. Regardless of who takes up the sourcing position, a few key concepts define what it means to be a sourcer. Familiarizing yourself with these will allow you to determine exactly how the role should fit within your own organization.

Broadly speaking, talent sourcing can be split into two fundamental techniques:

  • Primary Sourcing
    Primary sourcing (otherwise known as telephone sourcing) leverages techniques to identify candidates and gather information that is not otherwise available in the public domain. This may involve cold calling individuals or companies to uncover data such as job roles, titles and responsibilities, email addresses, or current employment status. Once suitable talents are found using this method, the most effective way of contacting the candidates can be identified.
  • Secondary Sourcing
    Secondary sourcing (or internet sourcing) employs a variety of techniques for the deep mining of candidate information through online channels. This spans the gamut; from social media profiles to the more obscure places on the internet such as forums, blogs or private websites. Today, the wealth of information available online means that HR software has become a crucial weapon within a talent sourcer’s arsenal. Again, once a sourcer has identified a candidate through a particular online portal, the candidate can then be contacted using the most effective channels.

These two approaches are the nuts and bolts of talent sourcing, a solid foundation from which the best sourcers work. However, the daily tasks involved within the role can be further subcategorized, which begs the question: what does the day-to-day life of a sourcer look like?

Day-to-day — what is sourcing in recruitment?

It’s worth reminding ourselves at this point that talent sourcing is a proactive, rather than a reactive, methodology. Here, the proactive approach aims to identify both actively searching and passive candidates through the use of techniques such as headhunting or referral follow-ups (otherwise known as “push activities”) that reach out to a specific target audience. Proactive techniques that make up the core role of the talent sourcer include:

  • Boolean Sourcing — Using Boolean operators on major search engines or social media sites to find potential candidates through targeted keywords
  • Board Sourcing — Scanning job boards using keywords or search operators
  • Database Sourcing — Leveraging a company or organization’s existing database of potential talents
  • Network Sourcing — Utilizing network connections, both online and offline (LinkedIn etc.) to uncover potential candidates
  • Phone Sourcing — Cold calling or otherwise contacting potential candidates by phone
  • Mobile Sourcing — Engaging potential candidates through SMS text messaging

Additionally, sourcing personnel may specialize in particular areas of the discipline—allowing even greater scope for specific investigative skills to be integrated within a larger team. For example, one colleague may focus entirely on phone sourcing, whereas another may be invested in complex and highly refined Boolean search strings. Naturally, a talent sourcer with a specialization will focus on a more limited and defined set of daily tasks, which fit into a team’s wider strategy. However, it is important that sourcers remain versatile and flexible enough to competently fulfill all aspects of the role, with some taking up a jack-of-all-trades approach dependent upon the requirements of the department.

Where does sourcing fit into your talent acquisition strategy?

What makes sourcing so important in today’s market is the speed and specialization with which a talent sourcer can find and identify the right potential candidates for any given position—often providing insightful and surprising results that may have otherwise been overlooked. Whereas traditional recruiters may be more skilled in selling a candidate on a job or company, sourcers are often much better at discovering the candidates and determining what actions need to be taken to interest them in discussing an opportunity in the first place. This means that the integration of a dedicated talent sourcer is the ideal way to build and manage a hiring pipeline, filling it with leads that can be followed up on with recruiters who can close the deal.

If you haven’t already incorporated sourcing into your recruiting processes now is the time to start. Sourcing can help you build and maintain a competitive advantage in terms of the quality of people you hire. Without it you may struggle to fill your company with high quality employees.

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