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March 26, 2024
8 min read

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This post was republished in July 2021 and was updated with new information about candidate sourcing best practices in March 2024.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen recruiting strategies evolve. Companies are embracing a more candidate-centric approach and establishing strong employer brands to attract job seekers. Job descriptions are pared down and company culture is on display. The changes in what top talent is looking for means that candidate sourcing strategies must change, too.

While you should adapt your talent sourcing efforts to current hiring conditions, best practices are a good way to gauge whether new strategies will still contribute to your goal of sourcing excellent candidates. Keep reading for nine best practices to follow.

Better candidate sourcing starts with clearly defined roles — for both candidates and recruiters. Get more tips from @ClearCompany on how to source top candidates:

What Is Candidate Sourcing?

Candidate sourcing is a specialized investigative role in which recruiters use multiple platforms to find the most qualified candidates, usually for difficult-to-fill positions. While there are highly specialized sourcers in some companies, recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers most often perform the sourcing function. Talent sourcing is often the first step in the recruiting process, sometimes even before a job posting goes up.

With 94% of recruiters already using social media to fill open positions, candidate sourcers need to target their searches and modify their sourcing strategies to reach qualified, interested people and bring them on board.

Top 9 Candidate Sourcing Strategies

If you’re adjusting candidate sourcing techniques in light of the competitive hiring landscape, here are nine best practices you can lean on to guide your approach:

#1: Define the Candidate Sourcer’s Job

Sourcers should understand the limits of their job and what crosses over into recruiter territory. Candidate sourcers find qualified passive candidates, while recruiters vet resumes and move active candidates through the interview and hiring process. If you have team members whose sole focus is finding the best candidates and developing candidate sourcing strategies, be sure they don’t get bogged down in tasks that aren’t part of their job (e.g., setting up interviews, sifting through applicant resumes, or negotiating with candidates).

Assess if the candidate sourcing position is working. Is the role expediting the hiring process or holding it up? If it’s being held up, evaluate whether candidate sourcing professionals are taking on recruiting tasks and adjust job duties if necessary. Even a few extra tasks can throw off sourcing productivity and pull focus away from great candidate sourcing techniques.

Tip: If your recruiters or hiring managers are doubling as sourcers, first help them understand this best practices list and help them put together a candidate sourcing strategy. You’ll need to designate sourcing goals and allocate the appropriate time and resources to team members doing candidate sourcing to set them up for success.

#2: Define the Role You Need to Fill

With 42% of workers considering leaving the workforce, there’s stiff competition among companies to get the best talent. So, as with any strategy, candidate sourcing strategies with specific objectives are most likely to be successful.

Clearly defining the roles you’re hiring for makes it much easier for candidate sourcers to find best-fit candidates, so put in the prep work before sourcing starts. Before reviewing a single resume, ensure your sourcers have a detailed description of the position, including job duties, desired experience level, and required credentials. Understanding every aspect of the position will help filter out unqualified candidates from the get-go, and sourcers can focus on potential talent with the right skill set.

Tip: Ask the hiring team (not just the manager) to define the goals of the role you need to fill. This helps you define the role more clearly for your potential candidates, too.

#3: Conduct Detailed Searches

Candidate sourcing best practices include attention to detail, including when sourcers are using a basic search engine tool like Google’s Boolean search. Making the search function truly useful takes a few tricks. Simple searches, like a list of skills and the job title, are going to retrieve easily available, broad results. Social profiles alone don’t show the most qualified candidates for a position.

To truly source the best resumes, a sourcer needs to know exactly who they’re looking for to filter through the passive candidates. Detailed knowledge of the role and ideal candidate profiles are a goldmine for specific keywords to include in searches.

Try these quick tips to improve your Boolean resume search results:

  • Exclude results: Put NOT or a “-” sign in front of a term you don’t want to appear in your search results.
  • Search for variations of the same profession: Not all programmers call themselves that. Put OR between terms like “programmer” OR “software developer.”
  • Get more results with variants: Use an asterisk (*) to expand search results, like for a job title, without adding several terms. For example, search for “account*” to cover accountant, accounting manager, and other related titles.

Tip: Use responsibility terms (e.g., manage, coordinate, organize) to get better results. Avoid buzzwords that don’t really describe the job functions. Additionally, take advantage of Google’s Boolean search abilities and use their defining terms, “and,” “not,” and “or."

#4: Candidate Sourcing Is Not First-In, First-Out

Your candidate sourcing technique should not take a first-in, first-out approach, which would mean filling roles in the order they become vacant. The fact is that some roles take longer than others to fill. Sourcers may have deadlines for finding a certain number of qualified candidates, but that shouldn’t mean they compromise on the quality of candidates selected.

Not every candidate matches their resume or LinkedIn profile when they come in to talk to a recruiter. Your sourcers should be encouraged to focus on finding the best-fit candidates for every job. If your candidate sourcing strategy holds recruiters to deadlines rather than more significant metrics like the number of qualified candidates or retention rates, recruiters will be forced to look for more candidates and restart the cycle.

Tip: Encourage your employees in hard-to-fill roles to give ample notice if they plan to depart. When possible, include them in the process of sourcing and hiring a new candidate for their role. Implement a plan to cover the role if it takes longer to hire than expected so your hiring team can focus on finding the best person for the job.

Tired of sifting through resumes? 😓 Learn nine candidate sourcing best practices to streamline your hiring process and find the right candidates faster:

#5: Build a Sourcing Pipeline

It’s best practice for candidate sourcers to keep in touch with candidates to develop a running talent pipeline. Passive candidates won’t always be passive, and it’s up to the sourcer to remember those people and keep them in mind for future searches.

Great sourcers make an effort to connect with those candidates and keep a relationship going so they can reach out to the candidate when the right position becomes available. Having these relationships ahead of demand ensures that even in a crisis, hiring managers have a great candidate they can hire to fill an open position.

Previous applicants are the best kind of applicants since they’re already interested in your company. So, if a position doesn’t work out for the applicant at the time, great candidate sourcing strategies emphasize maintaining relationships with applicants and staying in communication in case the perfect position does pop up for them.

Tip: Ensure your pipeline stays filled. You don’t have to have an open role to seek out candidates who’d be a good fit. Once you start flexing those sourcing muscles, you might even end up being an internal advocate for incredible candidates before you have a position open!

#6: Use Social Media to Find Candidates

Prospective candidates spend a lot of time on social media, and for sourcers, it’s a gold mine of information. Many candidate sourcing strategies include vetting their social media profiles. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn give valuable insights into a candidate’s personality and help sourcers determine if they would be a good fit for a certain position.

Millennials and Gen Z aren’t the only candidates who use social media to get their name out. 69% of adults aged 50-64 and 75% aged 30-49 use at least one social media site, often daily. Long story short? You can find the right person for the job on social media with the right candidate sourcing techniques.

Tip: Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups that are specific to your industry, area, or the profession you are recruiting for. Get involved in discussions and share job opportunities to reach potential talent in these groups.

#7: Track the Right Candidate Sourcing Metrics

One of the most important metrics for sourcers to track is their best source of new candidates. Whether they’re found on LinkedIn, on role-specific job boards, or from your pool of previous applicants, sourcers should track where their best candidates — that is, the ones who are eventually hired and retained over a certain period of time — are coming from.

Another essential metric to monitor is time-to-hire for sourced candidates. The average time-to-hire is about three weeks, but that varies by industry. Candidate sourcing best practices involve knowing your industry and company's average time-to-fill so you can stay competitive.

Tip: Identify your best sourcers and their techniques for maintaining low time-to-hire. Monitor the differences in time-to-hire for every role for even more insight.

#8: Get Recommendations and Referrals

Sometimes, the less obvious candidate sourcing strategies can uncover excellent potential employees. Every potential candidate has their own social network — colleagues and connections who might also be potential candidates. When reviewing candidates, sourcers should note the industries they have worked in, their management level, and geographic location. All those details are clues that the candidate may know someone who is perfectly suited for a position.

The best candidates a sourcer speaks with will likely know someone who is equally qualified or even a better fit for the position. That goes for your own employees, too. Employee referral programs are another way to source high-quality candidates with high retention rates.

Tip: Sourcing with referrals takes on a whole new meaning when working with local associations, fraternities, clubs, and groups. Join industry associations and attend events for more sourcing opportunities.

#9: Leverage Your ATS

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is recruiting software specifically designed to store and retrieve candidate information. The best sourcers take advantage of ATS features by utilizing them to find candidates who have already expressed interest in your company. An ATS contains all the candidate information a sourcer needs to find the right people for the position and makes that information easy to search through.

Getting more work done in less time seems like a dream to a lot of people. But when you utilize an ATS, it’s a reality. Make candidates easily searchable by adding the appropriate tags to their profiles when they first enter the system. That way, your sourcers can turn to your ATS to kick off their candidate searches.

Tip: When prospects become candidates, and candidates become applicants, ensure a positive and personal candidate experience by creating a seamless path through your whole interviewing process with a robust ATS.

ClearCompany’s Applicant Tracking System can take your candidate sourcing strategies to the next level. Create a strong talent pipeline and quickly search up-to-date candidate data with ClearCompany’s ATS.

See for yourself how ClearCompany tools can up your candidate sourcing game with a free demo.

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