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What Is Talent Sourcing?

Talent sourcing is a comprehensive process that involves conducting research to identify talent, reaching out to these people, and establishing and nurturing a relationship that makes them interested in applying for a position at the organization. While this is a time-consuming process, converting people into job applicants—and eventually new hires—in this way can yield good results and help companies build a funnel that is overflowing with the great talent they want in their workforce.

Talent Sourcing Diagram

Finding great talent can be a hit or miss proposition, especially if recruiters don’t already have an existing pool of potential applicants to tap into at any given time. To remedy this problem, recruiters can take the process of attracting talent more firmly into their own hands by employing talent sourcing strategies.

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What Is the Difference Between Sourcing and Talent Acquisition?

Talent sourcing and talent acquisition are closely related, but they’re not exactly the same. While talent sourcing is the process of finding and communicating with people so they become interested in applying for a position, talent acquisition refers to the whole process of finding talent and then keeping it. As a result, talent acquisition does include the sourcing process, but it also includes the hiring process, as well as the strategies used to retain workers.

What’s the Difference Between Recruitment and Talent Sourcing?

Recruitment and talent sourcing are similar in that they both result in a candidate being hired, but the approaches can be quite different. With recruitment, professionals are engaging in activities designed to fill a specific position. This can involve sourcing, but it also includes all of the activities that take place during the hiring process, such as writing job descriptions, attending recruitment events, interviewing candidates, and conducting background checks. Since recruiters have specific positions they’re trying to fill, they don’t necessarily have the luxury to spend time thinking about candidates for roles that may become open in the future.

On the other hand, sourcing is more of a long-term strategy that can be used to find talent for a current job opening, as well as a future one. During this process, recruiters don’t only look at the qualifications of the people they’re considering, they also think about the bigger picture of how well a candidate will fit into the organization. During the sourcing process, recruiters build connections with the people they contact, which can go a long way toward making it more likely this talent will apply for positions that become available. These relationships also make it more likely that candidates will accept a position they’re offered and stay on the job for a longer amount of time—thus making sourcing a good tool to combat turnover. 

Another difference between recruitment and talent sourcing is who gets targeted. With recruitment, since companies are seeking to hire for current job openings, they are only going to engage with people actively seeking a job. With sourcing, however, recruiters may be engaging with both active and passive candidates. This is important because people actively looking for a job take themselves off the market once they land one. However, passive candidates may be open to hearing about new opportunities that will help them grow in their careers, so engaging with them is a worthwhile use of recruiters’ time.

Time is also a factor that distinguishes talent sourcing from recruitment. When it comes to recruitment, time is of the essence because companies are concerned about staffing shortages that can negatively impact everything from productivity to employee morale. Sourcing is more of a slow burn, so while recruiters may be looking to fill a specific position quickly with this strategy, they can also use it with longer-term thinking in mind that allows them to fill their pipeline with talent they can contact when a job opens in the future. 

The Process for Sourcing Talent

The process for sourcing talent includes several steps that make it more likely that recruiters will find the best hire for the jobs that need to be filled. These steps include:

1. Creating a plan 

The first step of talent sourcing begins with creating a plan that acts as a roadmap for how recruiters accomplish their goals. This plan can include items such as where talent should be sourced and the type of hire that would be ideal to find.

2. Defining ideal candidates 

Defining what the best type of candidate would be is something recruiters can do in partnership with hiring managers. During this process, they should work together to hash out the qualifications that should be highlighted while sourcing—such as education, work background, and skills. Through this work, professionals not only define what the perfect candidate is, they also determine the type of candidates who would not be a good match.

3. Choosing multiple sourcing channels 

To ensure there is a steady flow of candidates being considered for a company’s hiring funnel, it's important for recruiters to choose multiple channels for their sourcing. First, they can evaluate the channels they already use to determine how effective they are. For example, if recruiters are exclusively using LinkedIn to find candidates, but keep coming up short when it comes to getting quality hires, they may consider using other channels. This will help expand their horizons and gain access to many more potential candidates.

4. Encourage employee referrals

When companies have an employee referral program—which can include incentives like bonuses to encourage participation—it creates an all hands on deck environment where everyone has a stake in bringing in qualified hires. Chances are, great employees know other great talent, so tapping into their network gives recruiters a crop of potential candidates that have a lot to bring to the table. This approach can be particularly useful when trying to hire talent from underrepresented backgrounds.

5. Establishing relationships with past job applicants

According to Glassdoor, for every corporate job, there are 250 applicants, and only about four to six will be called in for an interview. This means staying in contact with this talent offers a goldmine of possibilities. Keeping in touch with good candidates who didn’t quite make the mark for specific jobs can save time because they’ve already expressed interest in the organization and their qualifications were previously evaluated.

However, candidates’ interest can wane if recruiters don’t communicate with them regularly. In fact, research from WorkplaceTrends shows that 80 percent of job hunters who don’t get information about the status of their applications are reluctant to apply for another position at a company, so taking the extra step to keep candidates in the loop is important.

6. Creating outreach messages that get attention

From email subject line to signature, crafting compelling outreach messages is the key to grabbing people’s attention and convincing them to engage with a recruiter. No one wants to feel like they’re receiving a chain letter from a stranger, so recruiters should customize these communications as much as possible, while still providing information to sell the position and the company.

7. Building an effective employer brand 

All of recruiters’ hard work sourcing talent will be in vain if the company doesn’t have a good reputation. This is why building an attractive employer brand should go hand-in-hand with sourcing. Recruiters need to tell the company’s story over and over again in as many places as possible—from social media to the careers website. The more an organization spreads the good news about what it’s doing, and how well it treats its workforce, the more opportunities there are for potential talent to become interested in working there.

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Why Is Talent Sourcing Important?

There are several reasons why talent sourcing is important and recruiters should consider using it:


There’s no doubt that talent sourcing can be time consuming. However, pre-screening candidates in this way can increase the efficiency of the hiring process later on. As recruiters nurture relationships with talent, and more people get placed into the pipeline, a crop of candidates develops who have been thoroughly vetted by the time a position opens. As a result, more time spent sourcing leads to less time spent filling specific positions.


Searching for the perfect candidate is costly and may not even result in the right hire. Talent sourcing allows recruiters to seek out exactly what they want, so they can tap into these resources whenever new positions open up. This not only saves time, it also saves money spent posting numerous job ads that could result in a fruitless search.


Companies that have a diversity recruitment plan can use talent sourcing to meet their goals. After doing an audit of talent at the organization, recruiters will know which diverse groups are represented and which are not. This gives professionals the opportunity to seek out specific demographics to boost their representation.


Talent sourcing leads to quality candidates because recruiters have already evaluated their credentials before even contacting them. The time spent to research talent on the front end of the process makes the back end much easier. Since recruiters have vetted higher quality talent, sourcing also increases the quality of hires and the likelihood of retaining them.


As recruiters regularly communicate with the people they sourced, they create a rapport that can't be matched by other recruiting activities. Building this connection increases the chances that candidates will accept a job offer because they’ve established a relationship with the company and learned what it has to offer.

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