July 15, 2021

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This post on candidate sourcing best practices was originally published in November 2018. It was updated to reflect new data and information in July 2021.

Candidate sourcing strategies can change when there’s a shift in the job market like we’re seeing now as it becomes more and more candidate-centric. While your candidate sourcing techniques should be adaptable to current hiring conditions, best practices remain more constant and are a good way to gauge if new strategies still contribute to your goal of sourcing excellent 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 positions that are difficult to fill. While there are highly specialized sourcers in some companies, in most cases, recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers find themselves performing the sourcing function.

With 92% of companies 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 Limits of the Candidate Sourcer’s Job

Sourcers should understand the limits of their job and what crosses over into recruiter territory. A candidate sourcer finds qualified passive candidates, while a recruiter vets resumes and moves 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 accelerating 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

People are leaving the workforce and 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, a sourcer must have a detailed description of the position, including job duties, desired experience level, and required qualifications. This is an important step because understanding every aspect of the position will help filter out unqualified candidates from the get-go and sourcers can find candidates more quickly.

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.

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

#3: Conduct Detailed Searches

Candidate sourcing best practices include attention to detail, including when sourcers are using a basic 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 the ideal candidate profile are a goldmine for specific keywords to include in searches. There are a plethora of online resources from smart sourcing minds that your candidate sourcers can use to refine and enhance their searches:

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

  • Exclude relevant results: Put NOT or a “-” sign in front of a term you don’t want to show up in your search results.
  • Search for variations of the same profession: Not all programmers call themselves that. Put OR in between two terms like “programmer” OR “software developer.”
  • Get more results by allowing 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 (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, meaning 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. Candidate 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, you’ll have recruiters coming back looking for more candidates and restarting the cycle.

Tip: Encourage your employees in hard-to-fill roles to give ample notice if they plan to depart, and 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 anticipated so your hiring team can focus on finding the best person for the job.

#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 maintain relationships with applicants, staying in communication until a position does pop up for them. Just because a candidate isn’t selected for one position doesn’t mean they’ll be a no for the next position.

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, Twitter, 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.

Social media candidate sourcing reaches every generation, not just Millennials and Gen Z — they aren’t the only candidates who use social media to get their name out. 69% of adults aged 50-64, and 81% 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: Use Facebook’s Graph Search function. It’s a free tool that enables sourcers to find candidates on Facebook who work for a specific industry, near a certain location, or for a specific company.

#7: Track the Right Candidate Sourcing Metrics

One of the most important things a sourcer should track is the best source of new candidates. Whether they’re found on LinkedIn, through specific searches, or from your pool of previous applicants, sourcers should be tracking 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 keep an eye on is time-to-hire for sourced candidates. The average time-to-hire is about three weeks, but that varies by industry. Candidate sourcing best practice is knowing your industry and company average time-to-fill and staying competitive.

Tip: Look at who the best sourcers are and what they’re doing to keep their time-to-hire down. Monitor the difference in time-to-hire based on the role for even more insight.

#8: Look Beyond the Current Position

Every potential candidate is a person with 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 most likely know someone who is an equal or even better fit for the position. Sometimes, the less obvious candidate sourcing strategies can uncover excellent potential employees. 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.

One trick for sourcing the best candidates? Start looking before the position opens up to streamline your search —then check out these 9 candidate sourcing tips from @ClearCompany:

#9: Leverage Your ATS

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is specifically designed to store and retrieve candidate information. The best sourcers take advantage of ATS features by utilizing them to find candidates that have already expressed interest in your company at some point. It contains all the candidate information a sourcer needs to find the right people for the position.

Getting more work done in less time seems like a dream to a lot of people. But, by utilizing your ATS this is no longer just a dream! When the candidate sourcing software is linking with ATS there are fewer locations for talent to hide, which means the sourcer gains more time back in their day.

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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Sara Pollock
Sara Pollock
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As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent thousands of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.

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