Sourcing recruiting strategies: A simple guide

To get ahead in today’s competitive talent market, savvy recruiters don’t only consider the active applicants who respond to their job listings. They’re taking a more proactive approach and investing more time and energy in sourcing recruiting strategies. There are a number of reasons for taking this strategic sourcing approach – it allows you to expand your search, fill your pipeline and uncover high-caliber prospects. In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of sourcing and consider how to add it to your talent acquisition toolbox.

Sourcing recruiting strategies 101: What is sourcing?

In contrast to passively receiving inbound applications from candidates, sourcing is “the active outreach that talent professionals do to connect with potential talent,” says Greenhouse Associate Recruiter Generi Talens. “It's the process of looking through our network to find great candidates that we think would be an addition to our org, and making that first move to get in contact with them.”

Why sourcing should be part of your recruiting strategy

When you look at the numbers, sourcing simply makes sense. According to LinkedIn, 90% of people are open to learning about new job opportunities, but only 36% of candidates are actively searching for a new job. That’s a pretty sizeable gap, so it’s no wonder over 80% of companies currently engage in proactive sourcing.

Camille Conrotto, a recruiter at Niantic, explains why she’s such a proponent of sourcing and believes it gives you a competitive edge: “Engaging passive candidates gives you an advantage. In my opinion, the best folks are never looking. If folks are not actively looking, there’s a higher likelihood they won’t be interviewing elsewhere.”

Want to keep your eye on industry trends? Sourcing can help with that, too. Niantic’s Recruiting Lead Erica Ebinger says, “As long as I’m regularly reaching out to folks, I feel like I’m better able to keep a strong pipeline and gauge the health of the industry.”

Finally, accepting only active candidates can lead to a homogeneous pipeline, which is why Generi advocates sourcing. She says, “At Greenhouse, we recognize that people who apply on our website aren't always a representation of the overall talent that's out there, and it's our responsibility to tap into underrepresented communities to diversify our top of funnel.”

Sourcing strategies to try

Now that you know the reasons to make sourcing part of your recruiting strategy, here are a few tactics to try out.

• LinkedIn

For many recruiters, LinkedIn is the first (and maybe only) stop on their sourcing journey. Generi says, “My top sourcing tool is definitely LinkedIn Recruiter. You're able to look through the entire LinkedIn network by adjusting a few filters such as ‘Job Title’ or ‘Location’ to find the right candidate.”

• Specialized sourcing tools

When you feel that you’ve mastered LinkedIn – or you’re just hoping to supplement the work you’re doing there – you may want to consider specialized sourcing tools such as TopFunnel, Sourceress, Triplebyte, Entelo and Hired (to name a few). Some are focused on helping you identify candidates with specialized skill sets while others help you find candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. Not sure where to start? Greenhouse integrates with a number of sourcing tools and we’ve recently launched the Customer-Preferred Partners program so you can easily browse the tools that are most popular with your peers. Check out our list of partners here.

  • Candidate relationship management (CRM) tools

An average corporate role has 250 applicants, but you generally only hire one person. This means that you’re constantly growing the community of people who are familiar with your company and who have engaged with your hiring process. A CRM allows you to re-engage with prospects and candidates rather than starting candidate pipelines from scratch every time you open a new role. It also serves as a historical record that helps you track all the relevant information for a particular prospect or candidate – when you were last in contact, who from your team was in touch and what the appropriate next steps would be. Learn more about the Greenhouse CRM here.

  • Email outreach

Whether you’re using LinkedIn, a CRM or some other tool, email is likely to be a core part of your sourcing strategy (though if you’ve had any success with carrier pigeons, we definitely want to hear about it!). You can experiment with different send times, subject lines, email content and numbers of emails. For example, our friends at Gem found that email sequences that contained four emails had the highest reply rate – 35% compared with a 15% reply rate for one-off emails. Get more tips on optimizing your email techniques here.

  • Employee referrals

You know who’s pretty great? Your existing employees. And chances are they have some people in their networks who are pretty great, too (both as people and as prospects for your open roles). The trick is to facilitate the employee referral process so they feel motivated to introduce you.

The recruiters at Red Ventures have found that bribing employees with food is one of the best ways to boost referrals. In their “LinkedIn lunch” and “LinkedIn latte” sessions, the recruiting team will choose a handful of employees and go through each person’s network ahead of time so they’ll already have a shortlist of prospects. At Greenhouse, our recruiting team has been known to throw “waferral” parties (a delicious combination of waffles and referrals). Get even more tasty ideas for boosting employee referrals in The 6 Elements of a Winning Employee Referral Program.

  • Social media

While LinkedIn is the go-to social media platform for sourcing, other platforms like Medium, Slack, GitHub and Quora can also work for sharing employer branding talent content and directly engaging with prospective candidates. Red Ventures’ Manager of Technology Recruiting Ted Prendergast advocates gradually building relationships with other people on these platforms. By asking questions and starting conversations, you can create a list of potential candidates who are knowledgeable and engaged. These tactics take sustained time and effort, but as Ted explains, “Even if you get one hire on one platform, it’s completely paying for itself.” Read more of Ted’s sourcing recommendations here.

  • Building relationships

Finally, let’s not forget that recruiting is ultimately about people. This means that one of the best sourcing strategies out there is to be open to connecting with people and building relationships over time – even when there’s no immediate payoff. Camille: “As I've grown in my career, I've relied more and more on relationship building as a sourcing strategy. Building upon relationships I've made in the industry, from venture firms to university professors. Quarterly, monthly, yearly check-ins with candidates I've previously engaged.” You can expand your network and build relationships by attending events in person, connecting on LinkedIn and offering to help people by reviewing their resumes or introducing them to relevant opportunities.

As you can see, there’s no single sourcing strategy – there are tons of techniques to add to your toolkit. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works best for you and your team. And if you discover any additional ideas we didn’t include here, feel free to let us know. We’d love to hear what’s working for you!

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Candidate Sourcing