Chris Russell

3 min read


What are Sourcing Techniques

The most critical part of any recruitment program is searching for the talent a company needs to fill a current opening or for jobs expected to become available in the future.

There are multiple methods of finding candidates. Sourcing active job seekers by posting a job and selecting from among the applications that come in is the most common. Passive sourcing is the art of proactively searching and identifying talent that isn’t looking for a job and may never have even heard of the company.

Sourcing these passive candidates is a more challenging and time-consuming process, especially if the job has unique requirements or is in high demand. But it also can yield candidates who are more productive and more likely to make a strong, positive impact.

Sourcing is Proactive

The first place to start a proactive search is in your own backyard.

For every job opening a company will receive dozens or even hundreds of applications. But only one candidate gets hired. The runners-up were likely just as good. Many have since gained more experience and learned new skills. Now, instead of the silver or bronze medal, these once and future candidates could become your gold medalists.

Social media, too, is a powerful way of identifying potential candidates and developing leads. Every day, hundreds of recruiters sift through the 740 million profiles on LinkedIn for the people who best fit their open jobs. Not only do these profiles have such basic information as work experience, skills and accomplishments, many include links to portfolios, projects and professional articles.

Communicating with these potential candidates may be the hardest part of sourcing on LinkedIn. Professionals in high demand areas like software development may not even read your message. So instead, text them. Research puts the open rates for text messaging at 90% and the response rate is 2x as high as for phone or email.

Go Beyond LinkedIn

Though LinkedIn is the most popular way of sourcing passive candidates, don’t overlook other social media. 

Facebook is especially useful for searching for candidates among the thousands of active affinity groups on the site. While LinkedIn has its share of groups, many of those where the most in-demand professionals gather are closed. Facebook’s groups tend to be more generous.

Besides joining a group, recruiters can use Facebook’s top of the page search tool to find members fitting basic search terms. With the help of web scrapers and free profile building tools, a skilled recruiter can source candidates they may not find anywhere else.

Other social media can be even more fruitful, since there’s not as much competition from other recruiters.

Using hashtags, Twitter and Instagram will turn up individuals as well as groups of relevant professionals. What makes them more valuable is using them to turn up leads to potential candidates. While both can be searched for specific skills or titles, searching by hashtags can be far more useful. People attending conferences, publishing articles and other work related events will tweet about them.

Instagram, which is all about photos, can be especially useful. You’ll find people identified in the captions of photos from company and industry events who might not turn up elsewhere.

Not sure what hashtag to use? Check the directory.

Additional Sourcing Techniques

Other valuable sources are association directories and professional lists and collections of academic and scientific papers, journals and books.

Access to professional directories may be limited to members. Those that are open usually provide much more than a name and affiliation, so cross-check against Google Scholar and JSTOR. Professional publications will have contact information at least for the lead author, as well as the affiliation of every named contributor.

Another good place to look for scientific talent is the Patent Office database.

One clever and little known way of limiting searches of all kinds is to use Google and emojis. Yes, we are talking about those smiley faces and other icons people use to enhance email and text messages. By including a telephone, cell phone, email and related emojis in a Google search with your other criteria you’ll get only those results that also have contact information. Check here for a cheat sheet of emojis you can use.

Our list here is just a sample of the many ways to source passive talent. We once heard of a tech search firm in Silicon Valley that distributed free paper placemats to restaurants and bars with a coding puzzle leading to their job site.

You may not ever go to such lengths, but it shows that sourcing great talent can be done in all sorts of ways.

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Emissary is a candidate engagement platform built to empower recruiters with efficient, modern communication tools that work in harmony with other recruiting solutions.

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