Why Sourcing Is the Red-Headed Step Child of Recruiting

red headed step child, recruiting, sourcing

There have been times in my career that I’ve said recruiting is based on gut feelings and intuition. It’s that good feeling or bad one that you get when you are interviewing with a candidate. Unfortunately these instincts no matter how clear not only won’t pay the bills, but also aren’t enough for your boss or leadership team to blindly follow your intuitions. Science isn’t based on insights and premonitions no matter how strongly we feel. It’s numbers, research and most importantly metrics that drive real business decisions.

Anytime I start evaluating a situation the best way to get a holistic picture of processes, effectiveness and performance is to start at the beginning. That is certainly true with recruiting. I’m currently auditing the sourcing function of our recruitment and talent acquisition process. You know those things that happen on the front end of the recruitment process before phone screens, reference checks and interviews. I’m talking about sourcing and your candidate attraction strategies.

Why Internet Sourcing Matters

Sourcing is more than just some geek holed up in the office tapping away on a computer searching for purple squirrels and unicorns for your open requisitions. It’s not just about Chrome extensions or hacking into databases. Sourcing in itself is the process of finding hidden or hard to find talent the is used to help feed your candidate funnel. It’s often a proactive recruiting strategy (but not always) versus a reactive one where as talent acquisition leaders we go on the offensive hunting for talent that fits our current and future openings instead of relying on candidates to find us, we find them. This is completely contrary to our traditional job posting processes where we broadcast out to the masses we have a particular opening in the hopes that a handful of candidates who are qualified for the role, will apply directly.

Sourcing and candidate attraction are often overlooked. It’s easy to want to jump to what people view as the fun stuff like candidate selection, presenting candidates or even onboarding them. However, sourcing and talent attraction are the first opportunities for companies to interface with candidates directly. It’s also a part of the recruitment process we often overlook. I’m not just talking about job postings themselves, however important. I’m talking about the actions and activities we engage in prior to that moment we publish that posting on our career site. Recruiting is so much our current candidate needs in the moment. Recruitment is a lot about putting out fires and emergencies. Sourcing whether phone or internet sourcing is not. It’s part of a long term relationship building and candidate funnel strategy.

One of the reasons I like sourcing is that is measurable, controlled and is targeted. We aren’t inviting every candidate to apply for our job opening. We are engaging with a very small and qualified talent pool of candidates. Hopefully, we are focused on building relationships through interactions beyond the initial email or phone call. This doesn’t always happen, however, in this competitive talent market I believe that building and establishing relationships are the key to differentiation, trust with the end goal of converting and hiring the candidate who is most qualified and fits best within our organization.

Sourcing and Candidate Attraction Do’s

  • Do determine your sourcing to candidate ratio. I want to know the number of reach outs, profiles viewed compared to the number of touches. I’m not only trying to determine the effectiveness of sourcing but looking at it’s effectiveness compared to job posting and other traditional recruitment activities.
  • Don’t forget about a CRM. These interactions, touches and engagements need to be accounted for and managed which starts with moving beyond that sourcing spreadsheet your team has on the shared drive. Invest in a CRM or a candidate relationship manager in order to truly invest in your talent and candidate engagement efforts.
  • Don’t leave your sourcers in the dark. There’s nothing I love more than a good hack. Sourcers, especially those who work on the web are ninjas. They can literally break the internet, but these ninjas need boundaries and training. A sourcing hack is only as good as the qualified candidates they find. Sourcing activities and performance needs to be measured.
  • Do use landing pages to attract and capture talent. We spend all this time attracting talent and engaging them. Sometimes candidates don’t want to build a relationship with us right away. Provide opportunities in the form of landing pages for sourced and engaged candidates to express interest even when there isn’t a formal job opening.

I love all my children equally. Sourcing included whether it’s internet or phone sourcing, interviews or onboarding. It’s important to communicate the importance of sourcing not just to recruiters but also to our leadership and executive team. Doing so will make sourcing the red-headed step child of recruitment no more.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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