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  • Writer's pictureMatthieu Gremaud

Talent Sourcing in the 21st century

Talent Sourcing in the 21st century

Once upon a time, 25 years ago, a company looking for a hard-to-find profile: its hiring manager published job advertisements in local and national newspapers at, by today’s standards, an extortionate price. The same ad appeared on a job site on the internet, on the insistence of the recently hired somewhat geeky recruiter. Needless to say, the whole project failed miserably: not one valid candidacy after weeks of waiting. Desperate and under a lot of pressure, the hiring manager gave the mandate to a well-regarded headhunter. After having almost fainted on hearing the fee, the hiring manager heard the headhunter speak to his researcher and utter a word he had never heard: “You will be in charge of sourcing”.

Fast forward a quarter-century. Once the privilege of the top headhunting firms, sourcing has gone mainstream, thanks to the internet and social networks. The approach has not changed drastically, the tools have. In the earlier days, one or more researchers would phone employees in a target company and, with more or less skillful questions about their function and hierarchal position, reconstitute an organization chart. And then zero in on the potential candidates. Nowadays, all that information is available freely on the internet, and accessible on social networks. But beware, what seems to be easy still requires professionalism, experience, knowledge, and adequate tools.

Even today though, some companies are in a post & pray attitude, waiting for the ripe fruit to fall from the tree. An acceptable approach in a recessionary climate, when people are desperate to find a job, the post-Covid climate is everything but: in Europe and the U.S., all economic indicators are pointing up, at levels not seen since the financial crisis of 2008. In addition, with the shrinkage of the world population, there is a structural imbalance of newly trained professionals entering the market: in Korea, universities incentivize would-be students with new computers and telephones to lure them into their schools. If you need to recruit, hard-to-find, skillful profiles, in this overheating environment, there is no way around setting up or delegating, a sourcing division.

proactive candidate sourcing

Studies show that candidates can be divided into three groups: 25% of all potential candidates are actively searching, 50% are open for a career change - but not actively looking - and 25% are not considering a move.

There are many more issues one needs to learn about when discussing sourcing, but first a definition: candidate sourcing involves proactively searching for, identifying, communicating with qualifying, and engaging talent to fill your company’s current or future positions. This means that the recruitment part - internal consulting with line managers, defining job descriptions, selecting candidates, leading interviews, managing offers, and onboarding - remains the recruiter’s responsibility.

What is a hiring department manager to pay attention to when setting up and managing a sourcing activity? Below are 10 points to consider:

  1. Market knowledge: candidates are first and foremost accessible on social networks. But which ones? You may know LinkedIn, but Facebook is also an inexhaustible source of profiles if you know how to use it. There are many other channels: GitHub (developers), Dribbble (design pros), Aevy, AngelList (for tech talent), Entelo, Hired,, Twitter, and Xing. It really depends on the profiles you are trying to identify.

  2. Technical training: the people responsible for sourcing in your organization need to be trained. It is one thing to type a few keywords on LinkedIn, it is another to know whether or not, and more importantly, how, to apply Boolean searches. There are several training options on the subject. Sourcers also need to have distinctive qualities: be persistent and patient. They need to be precise and consistently apply effective methodologies in their work and be very organized. There is one main reason for this, read below:

  3. Building up a pipeline: the cost of setting up a sourcing activity in your organization may, at first, seem prohibitive. But the reserve of candidates that you can access at any time in the future, compared to hiring a headhunter on a case-by-case basis, can be a lot lower.

  4. Be open and tolerant when assessing social profiles and resumes: your target talent may have other issues than to upkeep their profile on LinkedIn, which is perfectly normal if they happen not to be looking for a new position. They are busy and that is exactly the type of person you search for. So read between the lines and interpret.

  5. Analyze job requirements: Sourcers need to know precisely what profile(s) they are looking for. This will determine the channel and keywords they use in their quest for the optimal candidate. They must know what leeway they have in “stretching” the profile i.e., how rigorously the candidate must correspond to the job description. Avoid searching blindly on titles and functions. A marketing manager in this company may deal with promotion on the internet, and in that company, it’s a sales rep. Understanding what the person does is critical to be able to identify the correct channel and profile. Titles are secondary.

  6. Look inside before you look outside: this piece of advice is more valid the longer you have been building up your sourcing strategy and activity. If you have done a good job at sourcing, you will end up with a clean, functional, up-to-date talent pool in which you can help yourself freely when the time comes. This represents a real asset. Use it! And send regular news to your qualified candidates. "On average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening". The 249 other ones are a gold mine of possible candidates.

  7. Track the right sourcing metrics: we cannot emphasize this too much. Sourcers are not “just” looking for a specific profile, they are building the future talent pool of your company. You need to know what works best and where to apply corrective measures, lest you throw a lot of money out the window. Tracking metrics go hand in hand with an efficient CRM and/or ATS. If you need to acquire one, make sure the integration with the existing tools is possible.

  8. Internal Referrals: it is not unusual, when setting up a sourcing activity, that hiring managers forget the basics, the lowest hanging fruit. Among these is the network of your existing employees. Referrals are the cheapest and among the most effective sourcing tools. Speaking of traditional methods, do not neglect ancient ways of getting to know potential hires: attending thematic conferences, alumni gatherings, trade shows, job fairs, you name it. Organizations can expand their talent pool 10 times by recruiting through their employees' networks.

  9. Employer branding: for anyone having ever worked, however shortly, in a sales activity, the name of your employer carries a lot of (dead) weight, depending on its reputation. The same goes for sourcers. Are you trying to engage, say, coders, for Google? Your life is easy! Employer branding is of the essence. Most SMEs are unknown, so make sure the talent you are approaching finds a clean, well-designed, and up-to-date website, among other things, when they turn to the internet to check on you. 61% of candidates check company reviews and ratings before they determine their interest in a job.

  10. Be creative: if nothing else works, challenge the way you do things. Making one mistake is an error, making twice the same is stupidity.

Creative sourcing

And then there is the externalized solution. For companies with mid-size hiring volumes, it may make no sense to develop in-house sourcing, for financial and organizational reasons.

The Serendi platform offers an already well-stocked platform with a 360° outreach available to its clients. You can play in the same league as large, multinational corporations, benefitting from an up-to-date database full of qualified candidates at a fraction of the cost of setting up your own. No upkeep is necessary and if you do not need it any longer, no questions asked, and no more money spent. Should you happen to launch a recruitment campaign with an RPO provider like Serendi, they will build a qualified talent pool and pipeline over time that is for you to keep. The best of both worlds!


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