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What is talent sourcing and how to ace it: An insightful handbook

Talent Assessment | 8 Min Read

What is talent sourcing and how to ace it: An insightful handbook

What is talent sourcing?

Talent sourcing, also known as candidate sourcing, is a talent acquisition discipline. It focuses on generating a consistent pool of professionals for quickly filling open positions in a company. The process includes research and identifying culturally fit, ideally skilled individuals who qualify to fulfill the given roles and responsibilities.

This guide explores the various aspects of candidate sourcing. It equips you with all you need to know about formulating your sourcing strategies, choosing the best tools, and adopting best practices that attract top-of-the-line candidates to your firm.


Chapter 1: Talent sourcing fundamentals

Sourcing is the proactive searching for qualified job candidates for current or planned open positions; it is not the reactive function of reviewing resumes and applications sent to the company in response to a job posting or pre-screening candidates. The goal of sourcing is to collect relevant data about qualified candidates, such as names, titles and job responsibilities.

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)


Talent sourcing vs. recruitment vs. acquisition


Though part of the same HR discipline (talent acquisition), talent sourcing differs from recruitment. This section draws parallels for all three.

Differentiating factors Sourcing Acquisition Recruitment
Objective To identify top talent that matches organizational standards and demands.To build a future-ready talent strategy that comprises effective sourcing and recruitment plans. To address immediate hiring requirements.
Approach Proactive (Involves constant search for potential and passive candidates) Ongoing (Involves comprehensive HR planning to build candidate pools for future roles) Reactive (An attempt to quickly fill positions as they open)
Priority areas Understanding future employment needs of the company, networking, making first contact with potential candidates, finding passive candidates Developing a strategic hiring plan, building a talent pipeline, sourcing, recruiting Screening, interviewing, selecting, onboarding

Talent acquisition is the complete process and strategy for finding, securing and retaining talent. While the candidate sourcing discipline focuses on collecting candidate data, recruiting involves the immediate hiring of professionals to fill vacancies.


Talent acquisition


Objectives of talent sourcing


In addition to the primary objective highlighted above, talent sourcing also enables organizations to:

  • Attract excellent professionals.
  • Build a high-value database of potential candidates.
  • Turn top candidates into applicants.
  • Create a cohesive talent pipeline that functions all year round.
  • Maintain a constant flow of highly skilled people to prevent common recruitment challenges.


Components of talent sourcing


According to SHRM, the critical elements of an effective sourcing strategy in recruitment should comprise:

  • Planning
  • Brand-building
  • Innovative technologies
  • Comprehensive onboarding
  • Use of data analytics

These components help shape the various methods, approaches and best practices in talent sourcing. The following chapters in this guide cover all of them in detail.


Chapter 2: How to source candidates - The seven-step process

The talent sourcing process marks the beginning of talent acquisition. In addition, it helps in creating the benchmark for recruitment and selection. Hence, this process needs to be intelligent and business focused.

Below are the seven key steps that you need to keep in mind.


Infographic 2


Step 1: Groundwork | Know your company

Before initiating any talent sourcing strategy, it is vital to understand the employer for whom you are sourcing. Factors like pay range for various professional levels, the company culture and critical skills demands are essential to consider while looking out for potential candidates.

Step 2: Candidate persona | Define your target

Creating a candidate persona for sourcing and recruiting is the equivalent of defining the target audience for campaigns and marketing. In other words, you need to have utmost clarity about who to approach, for whom to look and where to look.

How to create a candidate persona

  • Gather data about desired demographics, background, qualifications and personal attributes.
  • Analyze the data to identify industry-specific trends: what motivates a particular type of candidate? Where does the ideal candidate search for jobs? What are the must-have skills for a specific role? What are the ideal candidates looking for in their work environment?
  • Find real-world examples of your ideal candidates and use them as references.

Step 3: Create a buzz | Drive candidate engagement

It is vital to understand that individualization-driven talentscape demands you connect with potential candidates at their preferred platforms. The goal is to initiate and maintain engaging conversations that generate an interest in your employer brand. Therefore, as a third step in your talent sourcing process, you should focus on strengthening your presence across the most popular channels. The third chapter of this guide elaborates on some of these channels like social media, job boards and career events.

Step 4: Candidate outreach | Identify and contact potential talent

By now, you should have a ready pool of individuals who are drawn to your employer brand. On the one hand, you can identify the right fit for these applicants. On the other hand, you can actively look for potential talent using the data across your candidate outreach channels. At this stage, it is a great idea to start contacting the professionals whom you have identified as the right fit for your talent needs.

Step 5: Interview and assess | Get to know your applicants better

At this stage, sourcing for recruiters gradually enters the second phase of talent acquisition. Leaders and managers often step into the interview and assessment process to analyze the quality of sourced talent. This step helps with the final decision about rolling out the offers.

Step 6: Recruit| Onboard the shortlisted individuals

Once the shortlisted candidates accept their offers, recruitment and onboarding processes are set in motion. Typically, this is the last step in talent sourcing. However, you can take it a step further with a round of feedback.

Step 7: Feedback | Get the recruited candidates’ opinions

As a conclusion to your sourcing efforts, it is essential to understand what the candidates felt about it. Inviting feedback is an excellent way to respect their opinions and assimilate innovative ideas based on varying perspectives. The latter plays an incredible role in augmenting your future sourcing strategy in recruitment.


Chapter 3: Most effective talent sourcing methods

Talent sourcing methods, also known as talent sourcing techniques or types of talent sourcing in HR, involve numerous ways in which employers and recruiters reach out to potential candidates. These methods utilize talent sourcing tools that allow organizations to promote their employer brand, attract top professionals and build strong networks.

Below are examples of the most successful talent sourcing platforms and sourcing channels for recruitment.

MethodPlatform Description
Networking Job fairs and career events Offering mentorship opportunities and establishing yourself as a place of growth can go a long way in sourcing high-potential talent. Therefore, hosting and participating in professional events is imperative to the success of your recruitment sourcing methods.
Using smart technology/AI for data collection and tracking Applicant Tracking Software, Customer Relationship Management, Talent Management Software Software is a revolutionary solution for talent sourcing. Depending on your specific objectives, you can use such keys to track talent data, application patterns, passive candidates, etc.
Advertising Social networks Professional social networks offer unique virtual spaces for starting high-value conversations with your target candidate profiles. Hence, promoting your employer brand on these platforms is a strategic move for talent sourcing.
Harnessing employee experiencesReferrals, internship programs Your current workforce is the best advocate of your company’s employee-friendliness. Hence, utilizing your employees’ experiences for building future teams is a great sourcing technique. And two critical tools in this area are referrals and internship opportunities.
Opportunity posts Job boards Using virtual job boards for advertising open positions is among the most popular sourcing techniques. Although a more relevant approach for active candidates, these boards can help send alerts about recent postings, thereby creating interest among passive talent as well.

Top five talent sourcing methods summarized

  1. Networking initiative at job fairs and career events.
  2. Using innovative technology/AI (Artificial Intelligence) for applicant tracking and talent management.
  3. Promoting your employer brand on social networks.
  4. Harnessing employee experience via referrals and internship programs.
  5. Posting open positions and opportunities on job boards.


Chapter 4: Top five talent sourcing strategies

Committed line leaders and gifted HR managers together create an organizational climate of spirit and energy—a magnet for the very best professionals. Their talent policies are built to last but are constantly under review, to ensure that they can respond to changing conditions on the ground and to cultural differences across the globe.

Douglas A. Ready, Linda A. Hill and Robert J. Thomas
Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy, Harvard Business Review


What are talent sourcing strategies?


Talent sourcing strategies are detailed plans devised for building future-ready talent pipelines. The latter comes in handy at various stages of talent acquisition and management. It is vital to invest in sourcing strategies that are sustainable and result- driven. This chapter enlists a few examples that will help you ensure the same.


How do you develop a sourcing strategy?


It always helps to have a talent sourcing specialist in your HR department who can focus on analyzing talent trends and your organizational requirements to constantly develop sustainable sourcing plans. Alternatively, a talent sourcing company familiar with diverse types of sourcing in recruitment could help you with these strategies.

To help you get started, this chapter elaborates on several examples you could use as inspiration to formulate a seamless talent sourcing strategy.

Develop talent profiles

A talent profile is a compilation of helpful talent and development-based information that helps management and HR to make:

  • More informed and accurate employment decisions.
  • Changes based on a variety of criteria.

Talent profiles can include the following combination of elements.

  • Workstyle, learning style and preferences
  • Work history and accomplishments
  • Required skills development
  • Professional interests
  • Psychometric profiles for teaming and competency development

Past indicators of high performance can be helpful to pinpoint what type of work an individual would excel at. Comprehensive talent profiles, therefore, enable recruiters to streamline their sourcing process.

Diversify talent sourcing channels

Every channel has the potential to contribute to your talent pool. Therefore, it is vital to constantly expand and monitor the efficacy of a variety of sourcing channels.

Re-engage previous candidates and nurture those relationships

This strategy for talent sourcing opens a new opportunity for utilizing your older talent pools and benefiting from their strengths and expertise.

Include offline sourcing techniques

Offline sourcing techniques add another layer of potential to your candidate sourcing initiative. Examples of offline channels are community bulletin boards, socializing events, offline advertising and so on.

Perfect your outreach messages/email

Messaging plays a key role in reaching the most talented passive candidates. Therefore, perfecting the messaging is a high-value sourcing strategy in which every recruiter should invest.

Best practices for drafting an outreach message

  • Best practices for drafting an outreach message
  • Use relevant data to personalize the message.
  • Briefly explain the role and your organization.
  • State how you think they can add value to the organization.


Chapter 5: Talent sourcing tips and best practices

Just like other HR practices, talent sourcing has its own set of dos and don’ts. Experts advise adhering to the proven best practices to ensure that your sourcing methods and strategies do not go awry.


1. Continue evolving


The number one tip for efficient talent sourcing is to be up to date with the dynamics of the current talent landscape. That kind of understanding is essential for fueling your evolution in terms of approach, planning and skills-needs identification. Things that worked twenty years ago may be redundant today as the needs and aspirations of candidates continue to change. Hence, an employer must make efforts to build an environment where the new generation of talent wants to work.


2. Build an employer brand story


As established earlier in this guide, your employer brand is an irreplaceable part of your candidate sourcing strategy. If you aspire to be a place where the top talent wants to work, you need to constantly work toward improving your employer brand and telling that story in a way that appeals to your candidate persona.

75% Job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job. (Source: LinkedIn)


3. Build and maintain a sourcing pipeline


Building a high-value talent pipeline is among the key objectives of candidate sourcing. It involves shortlisted individuals who are screened, vetted and prepared to step into future roles as and when they open. This pipeline also includes internal candidates who have been groomed and are ready to step up and embrace new responsibilities. It is vital to regularly monitor and improve this pipeline so that it is always high-quality. Sourcing pipelines help reduce the hiring time and other talent acquisition challenges.

Sourcing pipelines only feature candidates who are culture-fit and competency-fit, precisely at the standards you need. That means they are ready to step in as soon as a position is open.

Talent pool vs. talent pipeline

A talent pool is a group of potential candidates in your hiring platform. They may include passive as well as active candidates who express an interest in your company. They also include candidates who may have applied to work in your company but did not make the final cut. It resembles a database for various sourcing and recruiting initiatives, building a talent pipeline, etc.

A talent pipeline or sourcing pipeline, on the other hand, consists of candidates who are qualified and ready to be considered for a job. It is a system where you nurture interested candidates and actively build a relationship with them. So, when there are vacancies, you have a list of names ready for further action.


Image 01


4. Track your sourcing and recruitment metrics


Implementing a system for tracking candidate sourcing will help you identify what areas need improvement. Tracking sourcing and recruitment metrics enable you to answer questions like:

  • Which approach to candidate engagement has worked best for us?
  • Which sourcing strategy works in favor of attracting candidates to seek positions in our company?
  • How many contact attempts does it take to garner a candidate’s response?
  • Usually, where do we find the best candidates?

Tracking your sourcing and recruitment metrics and assessing costs/conversion rates is a powerful way to audit your process and make improvements at the right time.


5. Follow up with candidates who do not respond


It is professional etiquette to value every candidate’s time. Additionally, it is also essential to be aware of why a potential talent does not respond to your outreach or offers. Systemic follow-up sequences should be a crucial part of your sourcing and recruitment practices. It will help you understand new candidate perspectives and flaws that may be hindering the success of your sourcing strategies.


6. Use the right tools/specialized sourcing tools


While you have your go-to platforms for finding prospects, it is equally important to focus on the tools you use in your talent sourcing workflow. The right tools can help magnify your efforts in finding the right talent. There should be a suite of solutions to help you refine your:


Infographic 3


Chapter 6: Talent sourcing benefits and challenges

As the concept of “talent scarcity” gains traction, seasoned recruiters refuse to buy into that line of thinking. In other words, successful talent acquisition teams recognize that there is no dearth of talented individuals but a dearth of futuristic recruitment approaches. That is where talent sourcing steps into the limelight.

Before highlighting the advantages that make talent sourcing so important, we must understand that an HR strategy that focuses on active as well as passive candidates is more likely to succeed than conventional hiring norms. Because when you start looking for competent individuals who have not put themselves on the job market, you are more likely to discover the best talent vis-a-vis the best available talent!


Benefits of talent sourcing


The following advantages highlight the importance of sourcing in recruitment.


It improves the quality of hire

Spending dedicated hours perfecting your talent sourcing strategies gives you a better understanding of the roles and what competencies make individuals succeed in those roles. With this evolved understanding, you can better streamline the way you search for candidates. Moreover, as you begin approaching passive talent, you would notice:


Infographic 4


Passive candidates are often the highlight of effective talent sourcing and rightly so. They are not interviewing elsewhere (less competition for you), and they will choose your company for the right reasons (since you reach out to them and not vice versa).


It increases diversity

With an airtight sourcing strategy, you would have a talent pipeline that is as diverse as you need. Sourcing eliminates the last-minute rush for filling open positions. Therefore, you are free to take your time and shortlist the professionals strategically, to meet your workplace diversity goals.

When you are filling your pipeline ahead of time, there’s time to uncover, engage, and convince underrepresented talent to consider your organization.

It shortens hiring cycles

Talent sourcing goes a long way in nurturing relationships with professionals, way before you need to fill vacancies. Therefore, you have a ready list of pre-qualified and vetted names to approach at the right time. Hence, sourced candidates are twice as efficient to hire, helping you save time and costs.


It helps improve your employer brand

This is an automatic side-advantage of talent sourcing. Since nurturing your employer brand is key to successful sourcing strategies, you would automatically notice a tremendous improvement in the way your organization is perceived and placed in the industry.


Challenges/struggles of candidate sourcing


The key challenge with talent sourcing lies in finding suitable candidates and convincing them that your organization is an environment where they would thrive. There are two ways to overcome this challenge:

  • Investing in HR (Human Resource) experts who can plan and implement efficient talent sourcing approach.
  • Embracing all the strategies and best practices elaborated in this guide to build powerful sourcing channels.

We have additional resources to further help you overcome these struggles:



Candidate sourcing is a crucial talent acquisition channel and one of the most effective ways to hire highly competent professionals. Therefore, it is vital to understand the ways that strengthen and support your sourcing strategy in recruitment.

Mercer | Mettl offers a suite of talent assessment platforms that can help shortlist candidates and build a robust talent pipeline for your organization:

Originally published April 28 2022, Updated April 29 2022

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About This Topic

Talent acquisition is all about strategizing for sourcing, hiring, and retaining the talent an organization needs. This blog offers more insights on the topic.

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