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Applicant Tracking System Recruiting & Hiring

Candidate Sourcing Defined: What Is Sourcing in Recruiting?

June 6, 2024
6 min read
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Sometimes, when you post an open role, applications start flooding in, but for some roles, it’s more of a trickle. That’s especially true for roles that require a specialized skill set or in a tight labor market, like the one we’re experiencing today. The labor force participation rate dropped post-pandemic and has yet to recover, leaving us with more unfilled jobs than available workers. As a result, recruiters must turn to candidate sourcing to find and hire top talent.

Candidate sourcing isn’t just for your immediate hiring needs. It’s part of a robust recruitment strategy that helps build a strong talent pipeline and ensure your company’s most important positions remain filled. Let’s take a closer look at this recruiting strategy.

🚀 Candidate sourcing is the secret to the most effective talent acquisition strategies! By seeking top talent before hiring needs arise, you’ll build a robust talent pipeline and fill positions faster:

What Is Candidate Sourcing?

Candidate sourcing is the process of identifying potential candidates for a role and engaging with them to pique their interest in your company and the role. Traditionally, people looking for work are actively searching for job openings that match their skills, but sourcing seeks out prospective candidates who are not active job seekers. That’s why it’s called “sourcing” — companies seek out and contact candidates rather than the other way around.

Effective candidate sourcing strategies enable recruiters to proactively reach out to potential candidates and build relationships with them before they’re even looking for a new job. This outreach helps create a pool of interested and qualified candidates who can be considered for future openings or referred to other companies within your network. Sourcing also gives recruiters the opportunity to increase the diversity of their talent pools, strengthen their employer brand, and reduce time-to-hire.

Sourcing vs. Recruiting

Candidate sourcing is typically the first part of the recruitment process, though it may not be part of hiring for every role. Recruiting, on the other hand, covers every part of the hiring process, from sourcing to new hire onboarding, and applies to every role. While both sourcing and recruiting are part of the talent acquisition process, they don’t always go hand in hand. Recruiters often start searching for ideal candidates long before there are open positions to fill and sometimes even before they’re created.

🌟 Did you know? Sourcing candidates through social media and professional networks can uncover hidden gems who aren't actively job hunting. Learn more about candidate sourcing:

Sourcing is an excellent recruiting strategy because it speeds up the recruiting process and helps ensure that critical roles at your company remain filled. For example, imagine you work at a software company that needs a fully-staffed software engineering team to meet its goals —but two engineers recently resigned. Due to their in-demand skill set, it can take months to find and hire the right candidate, let alone two.

Luckily, you have a candidate sourcing strategy in place and have built a pool of potential candidates to fill these positions. You can begin reaching out to candidates who fit the job description right away instead of just posting to job boards and waiting for candidates to find you. Sourcing strategies eliminate the process of waiting weeks for applications and sifting through resumes that don’t match the job requirements. You can hire faster and return the engineering team to full productivity in record time.

4 Ways to Source Candidates

There’s a wide variety of candidate sourcing channels available today, from cold outreach to digital sourcing tools. Let’s take a quick look at a few tools and channels to try when executing your sourcing strategy:

“AI has a lot to offer recruiters. It speeds up processes. It writes job descriptions. It powers prescreening video interviews and assesses candidates to find the best matches for roles. Recruitment chatbots can even answer candidates’ questions in real time. Used in the right way, AI saves money and time.”

Bryan Ackermann, head of AI strategy and transformation at Korn Ferry via SHRM

  1. AI-Enhanced Sourcing Tools: The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR is on the rise, and it’s a powerful tool for sourcing candidates. AI-enhanced software is helping recruiters locate best-fit candidates faster than ever. Simply define your criteria for the role, like the required skills and geographic location, and let AI sift through available candidate data at lightning speed. The tool surfaces top candidates, building a solid talent pool and making it easy for your recruiters to prioritize outreach.
  2. Niche Job Boards: Posting to niche job boards helps you get in front of candidates with specialized skill sets. The applicants to a niche job board post won’t all be hired —but they’re excellent candidates to add to your talent pipeline for future staffing needs.
  3. Networking and Recruitment Events: Candidate sourcing is all about making connections before you need to leverage them. Attending networking and recruitment events, like industry-specific conferences and college job fairs, is a great way to get your employer brand noticed by skilled professionals. If your company’s mission resonates with an attendee, or they’re excited by the potential for growth at your organization, they can quickly go from passive to active job seekers.
  4. Social Media Platforms: Just about everyone is on social media these days: there are more than one billion users on LinkedIn and more than two billion active daily users on Facebook. Most daily social media users aren’t actively searching for a job, but the right message from your company could spark their curiosity. Boosting your job posts to targeted audiences helps you reach these passive job seekers and garner more applicants who then become part of your talent pipeline.

Candidate Sourcing Best Practices

Following best practices for candidate sourcing helps increase your chances of sourcing talent successfully. Check out the top nine best practices, then read more about them in our blog post:

  1. Define the candidate sourcer role and hire a team member whose job is exclusively sourcing, if possible.
  2. Define the role(s) you need to fill.
  3. Conduct detailed candidate searches.
  4. Do away with a first-in, first-out approach to filling open positions.
  5. Build and maintain a sourcing pipeline.
  6. Use social media.
  7. Track candidate sourcing metrics, including the quality of the source.
  8. Get recommendations and referrals from employees and professional networks.
  9. Leverage an applicant tracking system (ATS) or other sourcing technology.

HR Tech Improves Candidate Sourcing

Sourcing candidates is an important component of a comprehensive talent management strategy —and thanks to modern HR technology, it’s never been easier to start. Today, you can find powerful ATS software equipped with tools that make sourcing a breeze:

  • Save hours of time and kick off your search faster than ever by surfacing top candidates for your open roles with AI assistance.
  • Sort candidates into talent communities so you can quickly get a sense of your talent pool and contact relevant candidates.
  • Automate candidate outreach with drip email campaigns. AI helps you write, schedule, and send emails that keep your passive candidates engaged and help you maintain reliable talent pipelines.

Explore the AI-enhanced sourcing capabilities of the ClearCompany Applicant Tracking Systemsign up for a demo now.

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