Sometimes it feels like sourcing great candidates is like an extreme version of Where's Waldo, where you keep finding look alikes, but it takes hours of scouring to find real man in red stripes. While there may be a sea of candidates out there, especially when you tap into the passive pool, sorting through the resumes, profiles and applications can feel like a never ending chore with little hope for a Waldo at the end.
But do not despair.
There are several strategies to consider and prioritize for your unique candidate sourcing needs, but before we get into them, let’s clarify the difference between sourcing and recruiting.
Candidate Sourcing vs Recruiting
These seemingly interchangeable terms are not as similar as you might think, but they do closely relate. Sourcing is the process of finding a source or pool of prospective candidates. This can be done through job boards, applicant databases, internal sources, social media and events to name just a few. Once the prospects are found and matched with a role, they are guided into the recruiting process.
Recruiters then take over and nurture prospects through the talent pipeline that will continuously circle back to the sourcing process as the employee lifecycle evolves with your company.
For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on the strategies involved in sourcing great candidates. To learn more about recruiting, the talent pipeline and more, check out some of our articles.
Ready to find your next Waldo? Let’s go.
10 Candidate Sourcing Strategies
1. Define the role.
Before you begin sourcing and reaching out to potential candidates, it’s important that the role you’re looking to fill is understood and agreed upon by everyone involved in the hiring process. Clearly defining the role will ensure that no matter where the candidate is sourced from, the position in question and expectations tied to it are explained in clear and consistent language.
This will also help candidates to qualify or disqualify themselves and better prepare for the application process. In the end, putting in the effort on the front-end will save time and resources later down the road and lead to more qualified candidates as a result.
2. Create candidate personas.
In order to fill an open role, you need to know what the ideal candidate looks like. To go about defining this persona, start by doing a bit of research within your company, especially with the team who is looking to hire because they should have a strong say in this process.
Differentiate between the qualities that are essential and those that are a bonus. Consider the necessary skills, experience, ideal personality traits, motivations, interests, goals and how they will add to your culture. Finally, figure out where these people spend their time — online and offline — so you can target your efforts.
3. Develop your pitch.
Just like you pitch a product or service to potential clients, you’ll want to brainstorm a pitch that’s enticing enough to appeal to prospective candidates and flexible enough to be adapted across multiple platforms and mediums. This is where taking the time to develop candidate personas and defining the role starts to pay off, as this information will inform your pitch.
The pitch can and should be used at every touch point with prospective candidates, from social media recruiting and job boards to networking events or even the back seat of an Uberpool. You never know where you’ll find a great candidate, so make sure your pitch is clear, concise and understood by everyone involved.
4. Groom internal candidates.
When it comes to sourcing candidates, it pays to begin in your own backyard. Who could possibly be a better hire than one of your own already successful employees? They come loaded with institutional knowledge, understand your industry and business and have a proven track record of aligning with your culture. What’s not to like about that?
It also pays off from a retention standpoint. Career progression is the second most common reason people change jobs, trailing only company culture. Demonstrating your willingness to promote from within can go a long way in retaining your top performers.
5. Mine your Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
If you don’t have an ATS, invest in one. Your ATS is a goldmine of candidates who have already shown interest in working with your company. They know who you are, they know what you do and they’re familiar with your application process. That’s three major hurdles already crossed!
Far too many recruiters ignore this opportunity, and that’s a big problem. A candidate may not have been right for the role they first applied for, but that doesn’t mean they’re not the perfect fit for another. Keep your mind open, and your ATS well organized, and you’ll have a major competitive advantage when it comes to sourcing candidates.
6. Refresh your employee referral program.
Most companies have adopted employee referral programs that incentivize employees to recommend personal contacts, and with good reason. On average, employee referral programs account for 29% of all hires, making them one of the most effective ways to source qualified candidates.
If your referral program isn’t performing at that level, it may be time for a refresh. Start by considering your incentives. Cash is typically the norm, but it’s not always the best approach. To get the best ROI for your program, ask your employees what they value most — cold hard cash, extra time off or shiny new prize.
7. Use social media...in a strategic way.
Social media should be a major aspect of your sourcing strategy, and we’re not just talking about LinkedIn. Top social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are also viable resources for sourcing candidates. Each of these platforms offer top-notch targeting tools to find the candidates best matched to your role and persona.
But there’s a big difference between using social media for sourcing and using it the right way. There’s a lot of noise out there, and it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Knowing where to find prospects and how to attract them does require a bit of time and research, but in the long run, it will be well worth your while. If you don’t know where to begin, start with our primer on social media recruiting.
8. Attend and host networking events.
Events are a great resource for sourcing both passive and active candidates and initiating the interview process before they even apply. No matter how great a resume or cover letter is, nothing compares to speaking with the person behind the paper.
When it comes to recruitment events, it’s all about creating the right experience based on your needs. A typical job fair approach will help you source plenty of active job seekers, but it likely won’t connect you with many passive candidates. If you’re struggling to find qualified candidates among the active audience, this may not be ideal. Inversely, networking or professional development events will likely appeal to passive candidates, but they may not be ready to apply any time soon. This is fine if you’re looking to fill your pipeline with fresh prospects, but less helpful if you’re looking to make a quick hire
Make sure you understand what you’re trying to accomplish and who you’re looking for before hosting an event, as they can be time consuming to create and promote.
9. Launch recruitment marketing campaigns.
As a recruiter, you might be wondering, what the heck is a recruitment marketing campaign (if you don’t already know, click that link to learn more). Recruitment marketing is a longer, more resource-consuming approach than some of our other sourcing strategies that combines marketing methodologies with the recruitment process.
Oftentimes when sourcing candidates, your biggest challenge won’t be finding qualified candidates; it will be selling them on the company and opportunity. This is made exponentially easier when the candidate is familiar with who you are and holds a positive impression of the company. While recruitment marketing won’t always directly lead to more candidates, it will tee up the conversation for sourcers.
10. Build a talent pipeline.
Trying to source candidates from scratch is about as difficult as it gets, especially when you need to make an important hire on a fast timeline. Having a bench of pre-screened candidates with which you’ve already established relationships, however, will make this process a relative breeze.
Building a talent pipeline is no small feat (there’s a reason we saved this strategy for the end). It takes dedicated and consistent work, but the benefits far outweigh the effort. We’ve covered how to get started with talent pipelining before, and we’ve also aggregated 80+ resources to make the job easier. The rest is up to you!