What is Talent Sourcing? Goals, Process, Key Tips and More

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Employees are the lifeblood of any workplace. Your entire business thrives or crumbles depending on the qualifications, motivation and work ethic of your workforce. New workers must share the company’s values and understand the bigger goals you’re working to achieve.

That’s why many use talent management software as part of their talent sourcing strategy to find motivated professionals both new and old. But finding the right individuals is no easy task. In 2018, 41 million people quit their positions. That number could reach one in three employees (around 47 million) in 2020 according to the Work Institute.
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Top Six Talent Sourcing Methods

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With retention becoming more difficult than ever, companies have to get creative if they want to find the next generation of leaders and innovators. But how to do it?

To answer this question, first we need to understand the very basics of talent sourcing:

Article Contents

Talent: The Skills and Workers You Need

While the word “talent” has become an umbrella term for the entire workforce. In the world of HR, talent is more commonly known as the qualities of potential employees a business values most. To find the right people, you first must understand what would best represent your company and propel it forward. In order to do that, you need to do some talent sourcing.

What is Talent Sourcing?

With the competition as fierce as it is, only companies with a clear and effective strategy succeed. A good strategy begins with understanding where to find, or “source,” the best candidates. Talent sourcing is the process of identifying, generating, researching and networking with potential hires.

You’ll want to find them quickly, make sure they have impeccable skills and experience, and engage with them. Getting the right staff can be a hassle. That’s why, in the modern day, searching for employees has gone from being reactive to proactive.


So what’s the goal of talent sourcing? High-quality candidates, of course! From a purely technical sense, sourcers are looking for the diamonds in the rough. They want to turn the top candidates into applicants.

These may be individuals who are supremely qualified but may not be looking or aware of the specific opportunities. Or they could be potential hires who are a good fit culturally, have some or most of the competencies but come from an unexpected location or background. Talent sourcing is especially important in highly technical jobs with specific skills such as nursing, IT, programming or other industries.

The goal is to create a cohesive talent pipeline that operates year-round. Job sourcers are trying to feed quality talent into the front end of the process. They hunt them down, qualify them, and either pass them to a recruiter or start the interviewing. (Which we’ll cover in a moment.)

By having a constant flow of high-skill people, an organization ensures they’ve got a leg up for any hiring challenge. They can get the right people when they need them.

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Talent Sourcing vs. Talent Acquisition vs. Recruiting

Talent sourcing is part of the larger talent acquisition process. The main goal is to attract excellent professionals. However, you must first source and identify who you want to target.

Sourcing is proactively looking for the best potential hires for open or future positions. Recruiting focuses on filling open positions. The main purpose of sourcing is to be proactive. When a position opens suddenly, a company can be better prepared to get someone in right away. Instead of being forced to skim through resumes or finding someone who remotely meets the requirements on short notice, your business can be ready for any expected or unexpected vacancy.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, sourcing focuses on finding as many relevant qualified candidate data as possible. That includes names, titles and job responsibilities; it’s the very definition of what talent sourcing is all about.

Differences Between Talent Acquisition, Sourcing and Recruiting

The difference between talent acquisition, sourcing and recruiting.

Just a few decades ago, communications were limited to the telephone and classified ads, so sourcing was primarily done by recruiters. With today’s technology and the globalization of the job market, companies have much more exposure and thus have to handle a much larger amount of resumes.

So in order to find the top professionals in any industry, companies must automate at least part of the process. This is where systems and software can help sort through and pick up the keywords that matter to the company.

In a small organization, one person might do the talent sourcing and recruiting. They must get people engaged who might not otherwise apply and guide them through the hiring process all the way until onboarding. However, in a bigger business, they can afford to split up the role. Sourcers find candidates, make sure they’re qualified, screen them with a quick phone call and have them queued up so recruiters can interview, hire and onboard.

Businesses need to search for quality employees themselves, or they risk never having an opportunity to hire them. That’s where sourcing can be very helpful. But how to go about finding the right professionals?


This begins before a position even opens up. That way, you already have a list of people to target by the time the job is posted. You won’t have to scramble in the moment. Sourcing can vary from place to place but here’s a general overview of talent sourcing and its milestones.

Step 1: Creating the Position

The first step is creating a job description. You need to know it inside and out or tracking down a candidate will be impossible. What’s expected of them? Are there hard or soft skills they must have before the first day? During this process, it’s important to be in close communication with managers, department heads and hiring officers. Ultimately, this should produce a detailed job description.

Step 2: Creating a Candidate Persona

Once you’ve gathered all the key info, it’s time to think of your dream hire. A candidate persona is a write-up of the best person to take the position. What competencies do they have? How do they jibe with the company culture? It’s your blueprint for the perfect fit. During this step, you’ll want to think about the channels, locations, websites and platforms your ideal fit frequents.

Step 3: Identifying the Best Candidates

Now that you know what you want it’s time to go out and get it. You’ll need software like an ATS or CRM to capture information and automate everything. You’ll also want to search social media sites, job boards and more. Look at people who you didn’t interview last time around and see if anyone stands out. Last, you should always be collecting candidates year-round. Reach out to them and see what comes up.

Step 4: Contact Candidates

Once you’ve sought your potential hires, it’s time to contact them. Type up a direct, personalized message. Creating templates for emails further down in the recruiting process is a good idea, but spend time making this one unique. It’s the most important first touch. If you don’t hear back, don’t despair. Shoot a followup or two their way. They might need a little prompting sometimes.

Remember, in that initial contact you don’t want to bog them down. Don’t ask them to fill out an application. Don’t give them a long test or other knockout criteria to pass. This is just to confirm it’s worth everyone’s time. Once that’s established, schedule a 20-minutes phone call to sit down and confirm that this candidate is available, interested and ready to apply officially. Here is where you can ask them to fill out forms or take competency tests.

Step 5: Interview and Assess

Depending on the company, this may be where a talent sourcer ends their service. Look at your notes and narrow down the top potential hires. Then, pass them along to the recruiter, hiring manager or other workplace contact. However, if you’re also involved in the recruiting stage, they could involve you in interviewing to find the best fit.

Step 6: Hiring and Onboarding

When the final decision is made, it’s time to send the offer, nail down the specifics and officially get the right employee on staff. Again, this could very well be the job of a company official. No matter what, if you’ve done your job correctly, the hiring and onboarding should go smoothly.

Step 7: Get Feedback

The last step is easy to forget but is essential. Ask how the process was for them. Did you do a good job of matching them with a place that complemented their abilities? What could be different or better? How did you represent the brand? You can critique, adjust and move on.

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Now that we know what talent sourcing is and how it works, it’s finally time to look at strategies. A good talent sourcer should always innovate and improve, but it’s important to have an established routine first.

Here are six ways to get talent sourcing done:

1. Social Networks

Social media can be a great tool for finding the best candidates. In fact, according to a CareerBuilder survey, a staggering 70% of employers used social for talent sourcing. The reason social media is so effective is many potential employees are passive in the job search but respond to the right opportunity. It’s also relatively easy to advertise and reach the desired people, especially compared to other methods.

Here are some channels and what you might find on them:

Behance and Dribble

Behance and Dribble are two great platforms for finding creative professionals and designers. Owned by Adobe, Behance allows users to post samples for an online portfolio of photo, text and multimedia work. Dribble also gives users a chance to showcase work and encourages networking. In it, you can interact with and hire creatives.

GitHub and StackOverflow

Finding developers and programmers is tough because the demand is so high. Most aren’t actively looking for jobs. That’s where GitHub and StackOverflow are helpful. GitHub is a platform for open-source code developers to showcase, review and manage code and projects built on open source code. Many serious developers use it in their workflow, and it has detailed profiles to peruse.

Github Screenshot

Do research to find out where different professionals spend their social media time.

Stack Overflow is more of a question-and-answer site. It’s a little like Quora specifically for developers. Developers can also collaborate, get support for and get help with developing ideas for projects. Both have search functions, some that require a paid account, to find high-quality candidates.


You can find pretty much any of the professionals we’ve already listed on LinkedIn. However, this is an especially good platform for sales and marketing professionals. Sourcers can also see accomplishments, career history and other info. No matter who you’re looking at, make sure they have active accounts before you reach out to them or you’re wasting your time.

While LinkedIn has customizable search functionalities, many professionals chose to do an X-Ray search on LinkedIn. This means using boolean searches through Google to find specific information on a website. You can do it directly on Google with some of the higher functionality of the site. A minor example would be using the, “+” sign to look for two words in the site or putting quotation marks around a word to look for a specific phrase. If that’s too complicated, there are several free websites that make this kind of search much easier.

2. Jobs Boards

Job boards are popular for a reason; they help connect millions of people with the best workplace each year. To use them today, it’s no longer enough to simply post a job description. If you want to get the attention of the real pros in your industry, you must use more proactive techniques such as the others on this list.

You can still use job boards since posting a creative job description isn’t very difficult, but don’t expect it to be enough if it’s the only strategy your company is using.

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3. Employee Referrals

One method that has been consistently effective is the word of mouth. Referrals lead to quality hires much more often than almost any other source, but to get referrals for the positions you’re looking to fill, you must use your most powerful tool for this sourcing strategy, which is your own workers.

After all, who could be a better advocate for your workplace than the staff? Chances are that the friends of your current employees share the same values, and are much more likely to be a good fit for the company. These potential candidates might even be open to working for you to work together with their friends.

That’s why you should work on your branding to make referrals come naturally. If people are happy working for you they’ll share their positive experiences at work with others.

A very effective strategy for making a referral program work is incentivizing it. Companies with referral programs that reward the employees that make good recommendations for new hires have been effective for a long time and remain one of the best ways for the foreseeable future.

4. Job Fairs

Job fairs have gotten a bad rep for attracting mostly mediocre individuals but they can still be very useful if you use them correctly. A good way to find top-level staff is to find events that aren’t primarily recruiting related. Look at gatherings for experts in a specific field.

There are numerous communities of industry authorities that have regular meetups. These can be a great place to make connections with some of the brightest minds in a field. Even if you can’t attend the event yourself, getting the event roster is a way that could help you track down at least a few candidates.

5. Software

Talent sourcing, just as almost any part of business today, is much more efficient with the help of technology. Instead of spending hours hunting down names, you can more easily find the qualified ones right away.

The tools can even help source contact information on candidates, which used to be a time-consuming task. Another cool feature that’s available in some software platforms is the ability to quickly comb through potential hires according to many specified metrics.

Some of the more advanced software solutions can even go as far as identifying employees that are similar to those that were already hired or marked as promising.

However, as with any software purchase, it’s important to know exactly what you need and figure out if the volume you deal with justifies the price. Be sure to think about the requirements you’re looking for in recruiting, talent management or other applications. Run the numbers to make sure it’s the best choice.

Here are a few different types of software that can help:

Applicant Tracking Systems

It’s no secret why an ATS is a must. By scanning and dissecting resumes and providing lightning-fast information about whom to contact, this is something almost every serious recruiter or talent sourcer needs to dig through the piles of information. Which brings us to the next helpful software.

Profile From Talent Sourcing Tool

Recruiting Software

Using recruitment & staffing software you can help businesses streamline processes that used to require manual labor. You can use it to make scheduled automatic posts and sort through various metrics such as skills, abilities and even passions in seconds rather than sorting manually, which could take a very long time. Instead of posting individually to job boards, it can post to many and has onsite and cloud-based options.

Recruiting software and ATSs often overlap. Some common ones include:

For our full article on the top ATSs, read it here. If you’re interested in learning more about recruiting software, here are some of the best cloud recruiting choices.

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Customer Relationship Management

While not as directly tied to the process as some other software, CRMs are all about maintaining a spotless database. Depending on the technology setup you have, you may want an ATS that feeds directly into your CRM for a smooth and streamlined experience.

Some CRMs include:

See more in our article about Salesforce and its alternatives.

Talent Management Software

Talent management software encompasses a broad range of functions and can measure employee progress, create succession plans, aid in recruiting or several other HR functions. It’s especially helpful in tracking competencies and analyzing skill gaps essential for any talent sources.

Some talent management software includes:

For more of the top talent management software check out our leaderboard.

6. Passive Candidates

The last and most important source is a constantly curated list of passive leads. Passive leads aren’t always looking for jobs while active leads are people reaching out and applying to an advertised job.

Keep in contact with them once or twice a year. Don’t overwhelm them. When you reach out, make sure it’s only for opportunities they really like. Otherwise, use a few light touches a year to keep them updated.

Other Key Tips

Always Be Evolving

There are a few other important tips and tricks for sourcers to keep in mind. First, always be trying new strategies. Without evolution, you can only be stagnant. Know the latest and greatest trends and don’t be afraid to experiment. Being agile and flexible in your strategy can only do you good.

AI, for example, has provided a lot of opportunity for innovation. As automation continues to grow, there are more and more opportunities. It can help speed up background checks, scan for requirements and even send messages.

Build an Employer Brand Story

Narratives are important online. With every point of contact, you are telling a candidate a story about the company’s brand. That’s why you have to make sure you’re not only professional but deliberate. Know what story you’re trying to tell and make sure the steps you’re taking aid in this narrative.

Don’t Give Up

The entire process can mean a lot of dead air. It’s discouraging, especially when you’re trying new things or getting down a routine. Persistence is the name of the game. Always take a moment to celebrate the wins too. There’s nothing better than changing someone’s life by matching them with an amazing job opportunity.

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The Wrap-Up

Talent sourcing is the act of finding and qualifying people who would be a good cultural and skill fit for a company. Their jobs overlap a lot with recruiters and the overall process of talent acquisition where a business attracts the best of the best. However, talent sourcing is about proactively finding the perfect fit, even if they’re not looking.

Finding hires is tricky. Creating a candidate persona is a great way to find out what you’re looking for. Through social networks and job boards, you can hunt down and generate a list of possibilities. Meanwhile, the intimate contact of employee referrals and job fairs gives you an “in.”

Lastly, the software helps through automation. With talent management software, it’s easy to post, pull and analyze information for multiple systems to get great people. Ultimately, the goal is to generate passive leads who could be yours if the price is right. If software is the sensible next step for you, you’ll want to compile your requirements as the first step in your selection process.

Overall, talent sourcing can lead to happier, more productive workplaces with people who love their jobs. Not just tolerate them. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Does your company use talent sourcing or recruiters? What are the top software and social media programs you’ve used to get into it and why? Is there a hot talent sourcing trend you’ve recently discovered? Leave us a comment below!

Grace SavidesWhat is Talent Sourcing? Goals, Process, Key Tips and More

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