Talent Sourcing Strategies Starter Guide: Learn the Basics

If you believe your business is only as strong as your employees, acquiring talent should be an ongoing focus. When seeking talent, you want to make sure you are considering as many of the best people as possible. Talent sourcing strategies can help you find great candidates who may not be actively applying at your company.

What Is Talent Sourcing?

Talent sourcing involves taking active steps to identify and recruit the best candidates for your company, even before you have a specific opening. You may conduct extensive research about the identified candidates for high-level jobs before contacting them to gauge interest. 

Through successful talent sourcing, you should have a pool of candidates who would fit well in your company. Once a job vacancy occurs, you already have a line of communication going on with potential high-level candidates.

You don’t have to limit your pool of candidates to those who are actively seeking a job when performing talent sourcing. Perhaps your research shows many of the most talented people already have a good job. You can still reach out to these potential candidates to gauge interest in working for you in the future.

Talent Sourcing Vs. Recruiting

Think of talent sourcing as seeking out people who may be great for a future opening. Recruiting involves actively seeking someone to fill a current job opening. Both talent sourcing and recruiting involve finding highly talented people for your company. 

Talent sourcing involves networking with those talented individuals, determining over time whether this person would be a good fit for your company. Talent sourcing can help you find candidates for highly specialized positions that may not be open for months or years in the future. 

Recruiting is more immediate. You are trying to fill a position that is currently open with a highly talented individual. You simply need to hire the best candidate now.

What Are Talent Sourcing Strategies?

Talent sourcing strategies are the steps the company takes to ensure better results when they are recruiting talented individuals. Such strategies can vary for different companies, but these strategies typically fit into two primary categories.

  • Identification: Your strategy for talent sourcing involves identifying people who may be a good fit for your company in the future. It also can involve identifying which high-level jobs may need filling during the next several months or so. You then can begin networking with talented people who may be a good fit down the road.
  • Improvement: To encourage the highly talented people you find to leave a good job to work for you, you need to make your company as attractive as possible. Finding ways to improve your brand, your compensation packages, and your ability to communicate with potential candidates is important to attracting talented people.

We’ll dig into more of the strategies in the upcoming sections. You may only want to use a couple of them when you are just starting out with talent-sourcing strategies. As you become proficient with your first few strategies, you can then add more strategies, further improving your results.

Identify the Talent You Need

One of the trickiest aspects of talent sourcing is trying to define the process you will use. It’s far easier to set up a process when you have a specific job opening you are trying to fill. You post the opening, recruit candidates, perform interviews, and hire the best candidate.

When deploying talent sourcing strategies, though, you don’t necessarily have a specific timeline for hiring. The CEO or CFO might hint at being ready to retire in a year or two, but there’s no set time. One of your key department heads may suddenly accept another job without warning.

By employing talent sourcing strategies, you can at least feel like you have a head start on finding a quality candidate when a key job opening at your company inevitably occurs. 

Preparation Is Key

Start with an up-to-date list of requirements for each key job in the company. Review each set of requirements every quarter to guarantee that it accurately reflects the job as it currently stands.

This list should not only list the tangible requirements. It should include intangible qualities that are important to have. You may decide things like uncompromising integrity and having an optimistic attitude are just as important as educational accomplishments and job experiences.

You don’t want to spend a lot of time chasing candidates who have great skills but wouldn’t be a good fit for your company. When you know what intangibles are important to your particular company’s most important jobs, you can focus fully on the best candidates.

Think of this like creating a persona of the perfect candidate for the particular job you have in mind. 

With the requirements in hand, it’s easier to keep an eye on potential candidates via talent-sourcing strategies. Some candidates may possess the skills and intangibles that could apply to more than one position, making them particularly valuable.

Find a List of Candidates

Sourcing talented potential candidates isn’t as easy as going to a website and finding a list of people. Be prepared to tap into quite a few different potential sources to find talented people with whom you can start a dialogue. Some of the talent sourcing strategies you can use to flesh out your potential candidates include the following.

  • Recruiters: If you don’t mind the fees, employing recruiters can be a time-saver to begin tracking down good candidates. Give the recruiter a list of your desired skills and intangible factors, and let the recruiter do the legwork. If you have a large enough company, you may want to employ your own recruiter for this task. Recruiting software may be able to help you, too.
  • Referrals: Your current employees probably spend quite a bit of time networking and meeting others in the industry. They may have people they believe would be a good fit. Ask them for referrals.
  • Search online job boards: Through online job boards, you can often search through resumes for keywords. If you have a niche job for which you are trying to source talent, you may be able to find someone with the right keyword/skill. If you are using general keywords for searches on these boards, you may end up with an overwhelming number of results.
  • Ask clients: Your current clients may have some recommendations of talented people they’ve encountered who could be a fit for your company. You may have a few jobs inside your company that don’t necessarily require knowledge of your particular industry. Potential candidates that your clients suggest may fit this need.
  • Track past applicants: You may have had great people apply to your company but who lost out to another candidate or weren’t quite the right fit for that specific job. However, you may want to keep in contact with these people for potential future jobs. As those candidates work elsewhere, they may gain skills that create a better fit with your company in the future, or they might be a great fit for a different role, making it worth keeping tabs on them.
  • Track past employees: Maybe you had an employee in the past who left to seek a new opportunity or a promotion that wasn’t available at your company. If this person left on good terms, stay in contact. Such people may be open to returning to your company when the right position opens up.
  • Use social media: Take the time to learn where high-level executives and other key employees in your industry gather on social media. Keep an eye on these sites for people who show promise or who are generating buzz in the industry with their accomplishments.
  • Look at professional organizations: People who are among the best in their industries often belong to professional organizations. If you have people in your business who also can join these professional organizations, have them do it. Then use the gatherings to network and make contact with great potential candidates.
  • Visit industry events: When conferences are occurring related to the industry in which you want to seek talent, attend those events. Such events are a great way to network and find out about people who are making waves in the industry. You may even have a chance to see potential candidates in action, leading seminars, or making a sales pitch.

Make Use of Applicant Tracking Software

Screenshot showing a list of candidates that have applied to various open positions. The data also shows their rating, status, last update, phone number, and other upload data.
Applicant tracking software like BreezyHR makes it easy to organize, categorize, and review candidates for any open job.

As you begin to collect names and information about potential candidates, you need to set up a way to keep track of everyone. The best applicant tracking software packages can provide this service for you.

Many of the features of these packages attempt to help HR departments track applicants for actively open jobs. However, you can also use the software to keep track of people you identified through your talent-sourcing strategies.

After you add the information for the candidates you want to track, you can search through the information using keywords. It’s far easier to find certain candidates through searches in the software rather than looking through handwritten notes.

Many applicant trackers allow you to generate emails directly from the software interface, simplifying the tracking process. Applicant tracking software allows you to write notes about the candidates as you speak with them. Set up reminders to check in with candidates every few months through software alerts. 

You even have the option of discussing the various candidates with other members of your team. Team members can rank the candidates if desired. These discussions and rankings will remain hidden from the candidate. Having a record of such discussions can be helpful when you are closer to the time when you need to make the actual hire.

Pay Attention to Feedback

As you are trying to source talent, you may find that potential employees don’t see your company favorably. If so, all the work you are doing to create a list of talented candidates may be a waste of time. Talent sourcing doesn’t work if the best people have no desire to join your company.

You can attempt to counteract this problem by seeking feedback as you perform your talent-sourcing actions. You will be speaking with quite a few people while sourcing talent. Everyone from headhunters to past employees to professionals in your industry likely will converse with you as you try to track down talent. 

As you are talking to these people about potential candidates, ask them how they perceive your company. Receiving honest feedback about how people outside your company feel about it can be invaluable in this process.

The feedback may show you that you have multiple areas in which you need to improve. Or you may find that the perception of the company from the outside does not match up with what’s really going on inside the company. This means you need to adjust your company’s public messaging tactics.

At the same time you are cultivating a set of potential candidates, work on improving the perception of the company. You may need to increase salaries or create a better incentives package to overcome perceptions that you undervalue your employees. Targeted social media engagement is another way to improve the perception of the company.

Measure Your Successes and Failures

As you begin making use of talent-sourcing strategies, it’s important to keep records of the steps you take. You should have a detailed list, so you can go back and review the actions down the road. 

This information makes it easier to determine whether you need to tweak your strategy. If you find that you are not receiving the quality of candidates that you want to see using your current strategies, an adjustment is necessary. On the other hand, if one particular strategy is delivering a high level of results, you may want to devote more resources to it.

Track the expenses involved with each step as well. If you end up with a cost-per-hire that is far too high, you may need to adjust your strategies. 

Remember, though, that you’ll most often use talent-sourcing strategies for the most important positions in your company. The cost of hiring for a position like a department head will be higher than for an entry-level position with or without using talent sourcing strategies.

Don’t become discouraged if you don’t seem to be making immediate progress, either. The implementation of these strategies should always have a long-term focus. You may not see results for several months. 

Final Thoughts About Talent Sourcing Strategies

Don’t assume that receiving a lot of resumes for a particular open position at your business ensures that the talent of the applicants is high. Deploying talent-sourcing strategies is the best way to find great candidates.

Think about talent sourcing as a proactive approach to hiring. Rather than posting an open job and sitting back while people apply to it, you seek out the best candidates before a job opening appears. 

Through talent sourcing, you actively research and seek out candidates who you believe would be a good fit for a role in your company. You then will have a headstart on finding great candidates when a key job opens. Talent sourcing requires an investment on your part, but the rewards of having high-quality candidates excited about your company can be tremendous.

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