Sourcing

Tyler Fisher
Tyler Fisher, PHR
The days of “post and pray” are in the past. An effective talent sourcing strategy is no longer a luxury that only mature organizations have, it is an essential for any organization to reach their hiring goals. This article will reveal what it takes to have a high caliber talent sourcing strategy and how to get started developing your own.

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What Is Sourcing?

Sourcing is the process of finding candidates for open positions, future positions and recurring skillsets or evergreen positions.

Sourcing will vary slightly between recruiting sourcing and talent acquisition sourcing. Recruiting sourcing is the process of finding candidates to fill an open job requisition. It is a finite process with a defined start and end point. Talent acquisition sourcing is an ongoing strategy that aims to both fill open positions as well as plan for the needs of finding candidates for future and forecasted job openings. Sourcing in talent acquisition is a long-term strategy with no defined start or end point, but a scalable approach to meet an organization’s growth.

Why Sourcing Is So Important

Let’s explore a few reasons why sourcing is important.

  • Implementing a proactive strategy. Talent sourcing transforms your entire process from a reactive approach that relies on candidates actively applying to you, to a proactive strategy that seeks out the exact talent you are looking for and approaches that talent. Job postings are always going to be part of an overall hiring strategy, but they carry an inherent amount of risk because they leave a lot to chance. Job postings are a form of passive recruitment, which means they rely on people coming to you. In today’s market, where candidates have options of where they can work, you cannot afford to hope that a candidate will pick your organization out of all the options in front of them. The other thing you leave to chance with job postings is who will be applying. It is true that you can set parameters with required questions, but you cannot control who applies to your job, which means you might not even get the candidates you need. Talent sourcing allows you to take more control of who you will be interviewing and it empowers you to get in front of candidates that are not actively applying for jobs.
  • Utilizing passive talent. Passive talent makes up 70% of the workforce. When you rely on job postings you are only accessing 30% of the total available workforce. Opening your talent acquisition strategy to include sourcing empowers you to work with a much larger pool of potential candidates. Passive talent prospects, in large, yield higher quality hires. Studies show that passive talent prospects are 120% more likely to want to make an impact at your organization compared to active job applicants, they are 25% more likely to stay at a company long term and 17% less likely to need initial up-skilling to be fully ramped.
  • Increasing workplace diversity and inclusion. The importance of diversity and inclusion extends far beyond its use as a program to remain EEOC compliant. An entire article could be written on perceived and real benefits of mature diversity and inclusion practices, but within the scope of this article we will focus on the benefits it brings from a sourcing standpoint. Statistics show that women are less likely to apply for a job that they do not meet all of the requirements for on paper, even though they may be more qualified than the male applicants that have applied. Sourcing in some cases will be the only way to reach those qualified potential prospects. Diversity and inclusion produces greater innovation and creativity. When a team has a broader collective wealth of experience, insights and background, they are more likely to find innovative solutions, find access to important information and utilize greater networks that can lead to breakthroughs. Looking outside the box with your sourcing efforts will help you reach your target with qualified hires.
  • Brand awareness. Brand awareness is a crucial tool in closing candidates. Brand awareness is especially important for small to medium-size businesses, or really any organization that is not a common household name like Adobe or State Farm. There are potential prospects out there that are the perfect fit for your organization, but if they have never heard of your organization then there are small chances that you will have the opportunity to work with them. When you reach out to passive talent, you are introducing your brand to people who may be interested but may have never thought of working for your organization before. Don’t leave employer branding solely up to your marketing team. Use sourcing as a brand awareness tool and create your own success. Sourcing gives you the opportunity to introduce your brand to people who you would not have reached through traditional job posting simply because they are not aware of your brand.

Popular Methods for Sourcing Candidates

Now that we have reviewed the importance of sourcing, let’s take some time to understand how to source. Here are a few popular sourcing methods.

Talent Pool Building — Boolean Searches

Boolean searching is a second language to those sourcing. Boolean searching uses symbolic logic operators to tell a search platform the parameters that you would like to use to alter your search. When you are sourcing for a specific role, skillset, education, degree or any number of qualifications, using boolean search logic will help you isolate what you are looking for while filtering out the many profiles that are not relevant to what you need.

Each search platform you will use will be formatted differently. Some platforms have Boolean logic already baked into their filters while others do not. Some platforms use slight variations of the Boolean logic symbols, but here are some universal symbols to help you source more effectively:

  • And. And is an operator that will narrow your search results to include only things that you need. The and operator will link two variables together and require that both be present in your search output. The more ands you add the more narrow your search will be. (Example: If you are looking for a director of data analytics, search Director and analytics)
  • Not. Not is an operator that will narrow your results by filtering out something that you do not want. Anything included after your not operator will be excluded from your search results. (Example: If you are looking for an entry level payroll specialist and you do not want payroll managers showing up in your results, search not manager)
  • Or. Or is an operator that will broaden your search. Or will link two variables together and show results that have at least one or the other. The or operator also includes results that have both, so it will include one or the other or both. (Example: If you are looking for a software engineer and you need someone with either experience coding in python or in java, or both, but at least one of the two, search java or python)
  • Quotation marks. Quotation marks are used to narrow your search field to specific keywords. This feature is helpful when you are looking for something that contains a common word that may inflate your search with irrelevant results like sales or engineer. (Example: If you need a mechanical engineer and you just search mechanical engineer then your search results will populate with anything pulling the word engineer and you may get chemical engineers, putting quotation marks around “mechanical engineer” will filter out anything with that key phrase as it is written within the quotations.

Cold Calling

This is not a term that is usually equated with the warm and fuzzies, but any sourcer worth their salt will agree that sometimes the best way to get in contact with someone is to be willing to pick up the phone and dial.

Here are a few pointers that will transform your cold calling experience from a dreaded time of day to a productive and useful time of day.

Approach a cold call with a high level of professionalism. Be polite. Since you are calling someone with no notice, be courteous of their time. While being respectful of their time, you do not need to be apologetic. Instead of sounding apologetic, approach a cold call with confidence. You’re not calling them to avoid a lapse in their car’s extended warranty, you’re calling them with an opportunity that may improve the quality of their life.

Drip Marketing

Drip marketing is a sourcing strategy that sends a pre-written message to customers. It’s called drip marketing because there is usually a series of messages that get sent over time. Drip marketing can be effective because not everyone responds on the first email, phone call, voice message or text message. Working professionals are busy and sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get in contact with someone. Drip marketing is an effective tool for automating part of your sourcing process. Drip marketing will allow you send out 100, 1,000, or 10,000 messages throughout a series of cadences that simply wouldn’t be possible if you were to try manually typing and sending the messages. You may already have a large database of prospects to create drip campaigns for. If you don’t, there are data aggregating and marketing agencies that you can contract to build customized pools to send drip campaigns to for you.

Job Boards

Today’s job boards have millions of candidate profiles available for recruitment messaging. Many recruiters and hiring managers spend a bulk of their time messaging candidates on job boards because of the sheer volume of available profiles. There are some big names to be familiar with like LinkedIn and Indeed, but these are not the only job boards that offer messaging features. There are many local and niche job boards that offer messaging features within different industries and verticals.

Texting

Texting is a newer tool that many are finding to be an invaluable resource for getting in contact with candidates. Whether or not you should text instead of call or text in conjunction with a phone call is up to you and understanding your target audience. Texting is more informal and personal than a phone call, so you have to be very careful when developing a strategy of when you will use texting. Texting resonates very well with millennials. Texting offers features that phone calls don’t have with the main one being the recipient can think about their response and choose to respond later. Since text messaging does not rely on catching someone at a time when they can be on the line with you it is very effective at getting in contact with busy working professionals. Even if texting is not the right tool for your initial outreach, in today’s tech-heavy culture, texting will still likely need to be an available tool in your sourcing strategy.

Social Media

In today’s digitally connected market, social media is one of the best ways to get in front of job seekers and passive prospects. Using social media dramatically increases the reach of your network from word of mouth referrals. Social media connects you with thousands and even millions of people. It is important to reiterate that both active job seekers and passive talent are all on social media, so utilizing social media puts you in front of the people that you want to connect with in a place that they are already at.

Since so many people are already on and using social media every day, this new way of connecting is a cost effective way to reach a broad, targeted or diverse group of people.

Consider this: you don’t have to use social media as a sourcing tool, but understand that your competition most likely is, so if you are not on social media you are opting for a less competitive strategy than your competition.

A few helpful tips to using social media:

  • Recruit your people to engage on social media. When your people engage with your brand on social media, it helps you get in front of prospects organically and it feels more genuine.
  • Post events. Social media is a great way to market an upcoming event.
  • Post jobs. Posting jobs on social media is a great tool for putting a job in front of someone who is not actively scrolling through a job site.
  • Post photos. Posting photos of your company events will showcase your culture and help people feel connected to your brand.
  • Post videos. Social media is moving away from traditional photo sharing platforms to video centric platforms. Utilize features like stories and live takeovers.

Database Mining

It is likely that you already have a rich source of profiles to reach out to through your internal ATS. Your ATS is a great place to start sourcing for any open role that you have. Maybe you have a role that requires two years of experience and last year someone with one year of experience applied and was declined. Well, that person now may be the right fit. Maybe you have someone who applied for a different role in the past and was a better fit for a role that you were not hiring for then but are hiring for now. Mining through your ATS is a great recourse because you will already have the contact information on these profiles and you do not have to pay any additional premium to have access to them.

What the Sourcing Process Looks Like

With an understanding of popular sourcing methods, let’s take a look at what this looks like from a process standpoint.

Step 1: Angling Versus Trawling

We will use a fishing analogy to help create a picture of the two ways to set up your sourcing process. Both angling and trawling have their place if you understand how and when to use them. The key advantage of this method is precision.

  • Angling. This is a strategic approach where you are using a fine-tuned tool to find one right person. You know exactly what you are going after and you have the tools in place specifically to find that one person. This approach is going to be the best approach for high-level roles or technical roles.
  • Trawling. You are casting a wide net and dragging in everything you can pick up. This can be a great approach if you have entry-level roles, high volume roles or recurring skillset roles that do not have a lot of complex requirements. The key advantage of this method is volume.

Step 2: Initial Outreach

Whether you decide to cold call, text, email or job board message, craft an initial outreach approach that is personable, confident and engaging. Since the initial outreach is how you are going to get your foot in the door or grab someone’s attention, it is important that you customize the communication for each person you are reaching out to.

Pro tip: Many talent acquisition professionals use an email template to send out bulk messages. Bulk messaging is a classic example of trawling, which again could have its place, but most of the time they are trawling when they want to be angling. It takes much more time to craft a customized message to every person you reach out to, but the result will pay off. People can easily interpret when a message was genuinely intended for them and when it is a generic message probably sent in bulk to many people.

Step 3: Cadences

If you only reach out to one person and then decide to move on to the next person, you are going to miss top talent and miss hiring goals. Set up regular cadences of follow-up communications for those you do not get a hold of on the first attempt. The old adage “third times the charm” absolutely applies to cadences. It’s not always on the third time, but that second, third or even fourth cadence is an essential step in the sourcing process.

Step 4: Pipeline

In the same way that you should not move on from a prospect after reaching out only one time, you should not completely move on from a prospect that does not work out at this time. If you connect with someone and the timing is not right, store them away in a place that you will be able to easily access them later. Recruiting usually has tight deadlines and so this step is typically skipped because it takes time and does not yield immediate payout. Pipelining, to be sure, is a long-term play. Your future self six months or a year from now will thank you for pipelining candidates that were potentially a fit but didn’t move forward due to timing.

Step 5: Track Metrics

Other areas of your organization use data to understand and forecast their business needs. Recruiting is no different. When deciding which metrics to keep track of and which you don’t need to keep track of, choose the metrics that will help you understand cost effectiveness, quality and forecasting potential. You can use metrics to not only track performance but understand how a role might fit within a framework of competing priorities.

For example, if you are currently working on eight different requisitions and then have, say, an account manager role open up, then you can understand if you have time to fill that role or not and actually back that up with data. Instead of saying something like, “I already have too much on my plate.” You can say, “our data shows that we will need to send out 77 messages which will generate 23 positive responses, which will create 13 conversations, which will translate into four quality final candidates, which will allow us to force rank and hire the top one. That process will take six weeks. Given that we are currently working on these other eight requisitions, where would you like to prioritize this requisition?”

Step 6: Make Adjustments

Use what you have learned in the past to help you become better in the future. As you start to understand how quickly you can get an interested and qualified candidate for a given role, you can adjust your time to fill expectations. As you start to understand where you are seeing the most success in engaging with qualified candidates, you can make data-driven decisions on where to adjust budget spend for increased ROI. As you initially reach out to candidates, you can track which types of language and messaging are seeing higher conversion rates and you can adjust your messaging to see higher response rates.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Sourcing

Why source candidates instead of waiting for applicants?
There are two reasons why you should source candidates instead of waiting for them to apply to your job opening: 1. You probably don’t have the luxury of rolling the dice on unknowns. When you post a job, you do not know who will apply and when they will apply. Waiting for applicants to apply to your job puts you in a reactive situation, which means you have less control over your outcomes. 2. When you wait for applicants to apply to your open role, you are limiting your reach to a small portion of the workforce. Many top prospects are happily employed and are therefore not actively applying to new roles. Research shows that even though these passive prospects are not actively applying to new roles, many are still open to new opportunities if they are presented with them.
Is sourcing similar to talent acquisition?
Sourcing is similar to talent acquisition because it is a part of talent acquisition. In fact, sourcing is such a large part of talent acquisition that some organizations have designated sourcer roles as part of their talent acquisition team.
Tyler Fisher
Tyler Fisher, PHR

Tyler empowers Talent Acquisition professionals, HR business leaders, and key stake holders to develop and execute talent management strategies. He is igniting the talent acquisition process through: team building, accurate time to fill forecasting, driving creative talent sourcing, and fine-tuning recruiting team effectiveness.

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