Comprehensive Guide for Talent Sourcing

Some say employees are the lifeblood of the workplace, while others consider them as the backbone of any company. Whichever metaphor you prefer to use, there’s one thing we can all agree on: every business needs top-notch talent to thrive and get ahead of the competition.

However, there’s the catch:

  • In 2020 alone, 63% of employers struggled to fill positions, and 31% of hirers said they have vacancies that they cannot fill. (Visual CV)
  • In 2021, 69% of companies report talent shortages and difficulties in hiring talent. (ManpowerGroup)
  • There’s currently a historic surplus of jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 2021 figures, there are 11 million job openings recorded and 6.9 million unemployed workers.
  • Job seekers are thinking about their careers more carefully because of the pandemic. 56% of survey respondents value work flexibility, while 35% look for more time off. (Bankrate)

These findings and trends show that it has become incredibly difficult to find and attract candidates now more than ever. In the past, you may have been lucky enough to have a surplus of job applicants you need to weed through. But today, chances are you are struggling to get candidates even to fill out an application. Therefore, if you want to compel workers to work for your organization, you must learn how to do strategic and proactive talent sourcing.

And to help you out, this comprehensive talent sourcing guide covers the following topics:

  1. The Basics
  2. The Talent Sourcing Process
  3. Frequently Asked Questions on Talent Sourcing
  4. How to Overcome Today’s Sourcing Challenges
  5. How to Tap Into New Talent Pools
  6. How Much Does Candidate Sourcing Cost?
  7. BONUS: Taking Your Talent Sourcing to the Next Level

The Basics

What Is Talent Sourcing?

Talent sourcing refers to the structured process of finding, assessing, engaging and connecting with potential candidates to fill a company’s current or future openings. Its ultimate goal is to build a solid talent pipeline, convert potential candidates into job applicants, and efficiently fill open roles.

Why Is Talent Sourcing Important?

The most compelling reason to include talent sourcing in your recruitment process is that it gives you access to both active and passive candidates. It doesn’t limit your screening professionals to candidates who proactively submitted a job application. Rather, it allows you to also reach out to individuals who may not be actively looking for a job at your company but are open to learning more about the role.

On top of that, it’s worth remembering that the pandemic dramatically reshaped the labor market. It removed or reduced the demand for some roles and increased the need for others. It also shifted the norm from in-person hiring events to virtual recruitment and onboarding, paralleling the seismic shift from on-site work to work-from-home arrangements.

85% of talent acquisition leaders surveyed by IBM for a 2021 study expected difficulty in assessing future talent requirements, while 95% of them reported a reduced internal recruiting capability.

Investing in talent sourcing can help your organization deal with today’s hiring volatility and address skills gaps efficiently in your workforce. It enables you to start conversations with highly qualified talent amid these challenging times and drive more qualified talent into your pipeline.

Talent Sourcing vs. Recruitment

Recruitment used to be a straightforward process of acquiring new employees. However, as the labor market changed over the years, the way companies identified and converted job applicants into employees has evolved as well.

Many organizations have adopted a specialized discipline to make the most out of accessing talent pools online: talent sourcing. This added another layer to the talent acquisition process and further optimized it for better outcomes: by focusing on actively driving highly qualified, interested candidates into the recruiting process, rather than just waiting to see who chose to fill out an application and going from there.

On that note, sourcing and recruitment are indeed related terms, but they’re not exactly the same.

The most significant difference between sourcing and recruitment is that the former is focused on converting non-applicants into applicants, while the latter is focused on converting applicants into employees.

It also helps to remember that sourcing happens early in the overall recruitment process, while recruiters often take over where the sourcers’ role ends. The primary responsibility of a talent sourcer is to find and engage passive candidates, convincing them to apply. On the other hand, the primary task of a recruiter is to manage the relationship moving forward through phone screenings, interviews, salary negotiations and, finally, onboarding.

With that said, talent sourcing and recruitment are both essential parts of the talent acquisition process. They work hand-in-hand to turn the best candidates, both active and passive, into employees through a smooth and efficient approach.

The Talent Sourcing Process

Before anything else, keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to talent sourcing. You are free to decide how to find and engage passive candidates according to your needs.

If you want to build a sourcing system or enhance your existing one, here are some basic considerations to find top candidates and retain their interest.

Create the Job Description

Any efficient sourcing process begins with a detailed job description — after all, you won’t find what you need if you don’t know what you’re looking for in the first place.

For this step, make sure to work closely with managers, department heads and hiring officers. You need to build detailed job descriptions bearing information about job expectations and skill requirements. For an easier candidate search, make sure to be as detailed as you can.

For more details, read our guide on how to write a great job description.

Create a Candidate Persona

Aside from knowing the positions you need to source candidates for, you must also have a clear idea of who the best fit for the roles will be.

Think of your dream candidate persona in terms of the following:

  • Previous experience
  • Skills and competencies
  • Salary expectations
  • Soft skills
  • Values
  • Cultural fit

These details not only help you further narrow down your search; they also give you insights on the best locations and platforms they might frequently use so you can focus your sourcing efforts there.

Read more: Ways to ensure your employer branding attracts your ideal candidates

Source Individuals Who Match the Requirements

Once you have your job description and candidate persona, it’s time to look for talent who matches your requirements. If you aren’t sure where or how to start, you have plenty of options to choose from. To fully maximize your sourcing options, you’ll want to use a combination of tactics, including advertising for the position, searching social media sites, holding hiring events to bring in new candidates and compel them to apply, and more.

In addition, there are talent sourcing tools that enable you to hold virtual hiring events. You can leverage these virtual event platforms to widen your reach and tap diverse and hard-to-reach talent pools easily. Once people engage with a virtual event and are able to speak to someone at your organization, they are much more likely to apply for your jobs.

Don’t forget that you can also tap people you couldn’t interview when sourcing for previous roles. Use your applicant tracking system (ATS) to easily look through past applicants and see if anyone stands out.

Compel Qualified Candidates To Apply

When you find qualified candidates through job posting sites, social media search queries, or virtual hiring events, it’s time to compel them to apply. No matter what source you discover great talent from, getting them into your recruiting pipeline is a critical step — whether you’ve had a conversation with a candidate already or not!

Here, it’s worth noting that a flawed application process can keep you from meeting your sourcing goals. If you’re seeing a challenge moving qualified and interested applicants through the application process, that can be a sign that your organization needs to reassess your standard process and ensure it’s succinct, mobile-friendly, and as short as truly possible. Today, candidates don’t have hours to spend on your application process, and if that’s what it takes — they won’t apply!

This is another reason adding options like virtual hiring events into your sourcing wheelhouse can help you move the needle. A call to action to speak with someone at the company before they apply is much more compelling to job seekers than the idea of filling out another application that may sit in the dreaded “resume black hole.”

On that note, you can sustain the momentum to apply and drive the conversation with top candidates through personalized, transparent messaging that keeps their interest and progress going. Make sure to confirm their interest and availability throughout the process. Don’t be afraid to ping a candidate with a friendly reminder to fill out the application!

Stay in Touch With Passive Candidates

Talent sourcing doesn’t end with the application or when you have forwarded qualified candidates to the recruiters. It’s a task that should go on all year round, whether you are currently recruiting or not.

To maintain a steady flow of talent in your organization’s pipeline, it’s a smart practice to stay in touch with target candidates once or twice a year. Keeping in touch without being too overwhelming may eventually convince them to consider opportunities at your organization, even if they are not looking for other roles at the moment.

FAQs on Talent Sourcing

How Can I Source Resumes? 

Don’t just wait for applicants to submit their resumes on your job post advertisements. Instead, proactively look for resumes and candidate profiles in by: 

  • Searching through job boards’ databases. These websites allow you to post job ads and search through their database, so make sure to maximize them. You can use filters to narrow your search according to skills, education level, experience and so on. Some of the biggest job boards worth looking into are Indeed and Nexxt, but take note that most of them require a subscription for full resume database access. 
  • Using talent sourcing tools. There are readily available talent sourcing tools and platforms like TalentBin, CareerBuilder and ZillionResumes for you to use. These massive directories of candidate profiles allow you to discover elusive candidates through boolean search. 

What Is a Sourcing Recruiter?

A sourcing recruiter is a recruiting professional specializing in the initial procurement of candidates. Their main tasks include finding talent that matches a current or future open role and a candidate persona. 

They also strategize ways to build a strong pipeline of qualified individuals and forward available and pre-screened candidates to the recruiter or hiring manager.  

With that said, it’s worth noting that today’s sourcing recruiter is not just actively seeking talent to fill specific roles — they are also tasked with building the organization’s talent pool. They are regularly using all the tools at their disposal, from virtual hiring events to industry organizations to social media sites and beyond, to keep a steady stream of qualified talent entering into the organization’s database and engaging them across the candidate journey until they are ready to apply for the ideal role for them.

How Do You Source Passive Candidates? 

Historically, a majority of qualified candidates are already employed and may not be looking for other opportunities. (Although, virtually everyone is an active or passive candidate in today's job market — even those already employed). On top of that, some skilled candidates aren’t applying for your open positions simply because they do not know much about your company or the roles themselves. 

It can be challenging to engage passive candidates, but here are some effective sourcing strategies worth trying out: 

  • Don’t limit your social recruiting strategy to LinkedIn. Leverage other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (and maybe even TikTok!) Use these channels in fresh ways to draw the attention of passive candidates, like sharing about your company culture, communicating your clear and compelling employer brand, and showcasing your commitment to building an inclusive and flexible work environment. Organizations that build a reputation as a desirable place to work will have an easier time piquing the interest of passive candidates.
  • Use job boards and candidate database services to source passive candidates. These are great resources for resumes candidates uploaded when they were still on their job search, but great resumes may be out there even after people have found work! And in today’s market, plenty of people are willing to consider a new position if it aligns with their interests, passions, and values. 
  • Establish a referral program. Your current employees are often your best source of new talent, so find ways to encourage them to refer candidates who might be a good fit for your open positions. 

How Can I Find Candidates for Hard-to-Fill Positions? 

Finding candidates for highly technical or other hard-to-fill positions is never easy. But sometimes, the best solutions to this challenge lies in updating your strategy, exploring modern approaches or adapting to the latest HR trends. 

Consider implementing these sourcing strategies to find the highly-skilled talent that you need: 

  • Show what it’s like to work at your company through social media. Doing so helps you build a strong employer brand, allowing you to attract the best talent out there more easily. 
  • Revise your job descriptions. If you’ve been struggling to spark interest in prospective candidates, maybe it’s time to switch things up in your job posts and advertisements. Describe the job particulars clearly, but don't forget to include company perks, benefits and career advancement opportunities. The job should be both realistic and inviting to your candidate persona. 
  • Re-evaluate your expectations and requirements. If your organization has not audited its practices and requirements, now’s the time. In today’s candidate-driven market, you can’t afford to be disqualifying applicants based on skill or experience gaps you may have previously screened out. To compete for top talents, make sure your job descriptions list only the necessary requirements. Align your expectations to what the market today looks like; stop sourcing and screening like it’s 2008. As a talent sourcer, you may have to have this conversation with hiring managers and HR business partners to ensure your organization is set up to compete for today. For example, you can explore campus recruitment. Another smart strategy to source candidates for hard-to-fill positions is to educate students about your organization and screen interested individuals. In fact, many organizations are finding great success hosting and attending virtual career fairs with college career centers to begin developing their talent pipeline and campus sourcing strategy early on.
  • Launch virtual hiring or recruiting events. You can also make your search for the best candidates easier by expanding your reach and tapping the global workforce through virtual hiring events. Regularly hosting your own virtual hiring events not only enables candidates to speak with you earlier in the process and enjoy a better candidate experience but also enables your organization to attend virtual career fairs hosted by other organizations to broaden your talent pipeline by tapping into new candidate pools. This is an excellent way to diversity your sourcing pipeline as well.

How to Overcome Today’s Sourcing Challenges

As if finding great talent isn’t difficult on its own, today’s ever-changing labor market presents companies with more sourcing challenges like the following:  

  • Building a talent pipeline that will engage today’s passive and active candidates 
  • Keeping qualified candidates engaged until they convert into employees 
  • Convincing candidates to invest time in submitting an application 
  • Making sure your existing hiring practices aren’t outdated and turning candidates away
  • Filling open positions fast 
  • Ensuring a smooth and pleasant candidate experience 
  • Communicating a strong employer brand that compels candidates to align with your organization 

While sourcing and recruiting are indeed challenging, the good news is that there are methods you can use to overcome these hurdles. Here are some tips worth following in your talent sourcing strategy:  

1. Tap Into Your Employees’ Networks With Referral Programs 

    Sometimes, the best way to find great candidates is to maximize opportunities within your organization. Here are some key findings and statistics on employee referrals as compiled by Go Remotely: 

    • A company is able to save over $7,500 for each employee hired through a recommendation. 
    • 45% of referred employees stay with the company for more than four years — they are more likely to stay longer than those hired from job boards. 
    • It takes on average 29 days to hire candidates from referrals, while it takes 39 to 55 days for candidates from job sites to get hired. 

    Your employees can help you reach untapped talent faster and easier, so make sure to craft a referral program as part of your sourcing strategy. 

    2. Proactively Find Candidates for Roles That Are Yet To Open to Build a Talent Network

      As mentioned earlier, smart sources are proactive with their sourcing strategies all year round, even if they are not currently recruiting for open roles. They continue searching for qualified candidates according to typical job descriptions and candidate personas to get ahead on roles they’ll need to fill in the future, building their talent network. 

      Many organizations are even creating a minimum viable application that takes no longer than 2 minutes so that passive candidates can opt into their talent network, customize their preferences, and get notifications about future roles that align with their experience.

      With a system like this in place, as soon as you have detailed job descriptions on your hand, you can begin to source for those specific roles from within your talent network. In this way, when your hiring manager starts asking for a particular candidate, you already have a list of pre-screened talents to review and contact.  

      3. Build a Strong Employer Brand 

        The best talent will naturally want to work at the best organizations. Considering this, you need to work on your employer brand to overcome today’s sourcing challenges and easily attract skilled individuals. 

        Here are some steps you can take right now to build or repair your brand and image: 

        • Respond to online employee reviews. Make sure to regularly check Glassdoor and other review sites; respond to the feedback people leave there to let them know you appreciate their insights. This makes your employees feel heard and shows candidates who are likely researching your company online that you genuinely care about all feedback on working for your organization. Ultimately, it shows applicants that your organization is a great place to work. (While you’re at it, you can remind existing employees to share their feedback on sites like Glassdoor proactively, too!)
        • Generate awareness of your organization. Some candidates may be hesitant to send in their resumes because they simply don’t know who you are. To address this, you can generate awareness of what it’s like to work for your company by blogging about life at your organization, sharing your corporate values and encouraging employees to talk about their experiences on sites like LinkedIn. There’s a lot that goes into creating a great employer brand, but it’s mission-critical to make sure that people are spreading the news about why they love working for your organization! 
        • Show what it’s like to be part of your company. Whenever possible, make sure to showcase your healthy work culture, career advancement opportunities and other employee perks. A pleasant and productive workplace is sure to attract the best talent out there. Consider partnering with your marketing team to contribute stories like these on a regular cadence across company social media profiles, blogs, and other places where your organization is already reaching people.

        Watch now: We talk with the head of Employer Brand with Workhuman about why it’s critical for today’s Talent Acquisition teams.

        4. Use The Right Sourcing Tools to Complement Your TA Tech Stack 

          Talent sourcing is a lot like juggling thousands of balls; there’s no way you can manage all of the possible tasks you need to do without the power of technology! 

          As a sourcer, you need to find ways to speak to more potential candidates, faster. And — on their time and their terms (yes, even if it means after hours).

          If your organization’s tech stack was built years ago, chances are, you’re missing the immediacy that YOU need in your role to reach today’s candidate — before they take another role. So, look for complementary tools to what’s already in place that can help you address some of these challenges, like: 

          • a career site and job posting chatbot that can help candidates get quick, immediate answers to their questions so they don’t ghost you before they even apply; 
          • a virtual hiring event platform that can get you access to screen lots of candidates (within just minutes each) and lots of resume uploads; 
          • and a way to easily drive qualified candidates to attend your hiring events. 

          Any talent sourcer’s dream!

          How To Tap New Talent Pools

          Being open to exploring new talent pools can also help you build a strong talent pipeline. If you are looking into tapping candidates from HBCUs, workforce development agencies, professional associations and other groups, here are some tips worth including in your talent sourcing strategy. 

          1. Use Social Channels

            Many potential candidates are passive in the job search. However, they also tend to respond to talent sourcers, especially if presented with the right opportunity. 

            Other than the social media platforms mentioned earlier, make sure to check out these channels as well to find great talent in specific disciplines: 

            • Behance and Dribble - for finding creative professionals and designers 
            • Github and StackOverflow - for finding developers and programmers 
            • LinkedIn - for finding sales and marketing professionals, but also for executives and freelancers.  

            (add others - executive, hourly, etc.)

            2. Incentivize Employee Referrals 

              As we’ve mentioned, employee referrals are also helpful in tapping new talent pools. Aside from the fact that tapping their networks is a fast and efficient way to widen your reach, keep in mind that your employees also tend to be the best advocates of your organization. If people are happy working for you, they will naturally share positive experiences with their network. 

              However, if you want to boost the effectiveness of your employee referral program, consider incentivizing it. Rewarding employees who make good recommendations is an effective way to generate relevant referrals easier and faster. 

              3. Leverage Technology to Improve Sourcing Strategies

                Using the technology we have today is an excellent way to tap the global workforce and expand your talent pool. With this, consider incorporating the following ideas into your sourcing strategy: 

                • Hold virtual career fairs. Conducting campus recruitment through virtual career fairs is a fast, easy and efficient way to educate budding professionals about your organization and screen interested individuals. These events give you easy access to fresh talent and enable you to build your campus sourcing strategy early on. 
                • Reach global workers through virtual hiring events. Aside from engaging students at your local colleges or universities, you can also conduct virtual hiring events to cast a wider net and tap highly qualified candidates from different countries. This is an excellent way to diversify your pipeline and, ultimately, find skilled workers regardless of their location. 

                How Much Does Candidate Sourcing Cost? 

                According to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost per hire in the U.S. is $4,129. 

                But while that is the benchmark, it’s worth noting that estimating the costs of candidate sourcing and recruiting is quite tricky because it involves a lot of factors. Nevertheless, we can agree on the fact that the overall recruitment process can be quite expensive, especially if inefficient processes are in place. You need to optimize your sourcing and recruitment strategies and ensure a steady flow of talent to keep your costs at a minimum. 

                Here are some factors affecting the costs of sourcing and hiring an employee: 

                • Subscription fees for job boards 
                • Cash incentives or prizes for successful employee referrals 
                • Hiring events or career fairs

                How Brazen Can Help Take Your Talent Sourcing to the Next Level

                By this time, you know that the best way to overcome HR challenges is to source qualified candidates, engage top talent and fill open roles quickly. If you are struggling to get the most out of your sourcing strategies and connect with diverse talent pools, Brazen’s virtual event platform is the right solution for you.

                Here are just some of the many things you can do with Brazen as your partner in virtual talent sourcing:

                1. Enhance Your Company Brand

                  With Brazen, you get to host seamless virtual career fairs, hiring events or campus recruiting initiatives. These events connect your recruiters and hiring managers directly with candidates, no matter where they are.

                  But more importantly, the powerful-yet-intuitive virtual event platform lets you customize your event to reflect your corporate branding. In the end, your virtual events will let your employer brand shine and attract highly qualified talent.

                  2. Create an Amazing Candidate Experience

                    Our robust platform is designed to be open and welcoming to candidates. It’s fully mobile-friendly, and it offers different ways for candidates to connect with employers, including chat, video, and live broadcast.

                    You can also use our virtual event platform to hold engaging and informative employee onboarding or orientation for employees anywhere and everywhere.

                    3. Lower Your Cost-to-Hire and Your Time-to-Hire

                      Partnering with Brazen for your career fair, hiring event or campus recruitment event keeps you from being limited to your geographic location. Plus, you get to hold unlimited events and connect with candidates in a cost-efficient manner.

                      But most importantly, Brazen virtual hiring events enable you to make personal connections with candidates at scale. This unique experience helps you find great talent, engage with them and build your talent pipeline, all while reducing cost-to-hire and time-to-hire.


                        Talent sourcing is a crucial part of your recruitment process. It’s the process concerned with finding and engaging individuals who might be a good skill and cultural fit for your company. Ultimately, it’s the process that enables you to speed up your recruitment process and fill your open positions faster and more efficiently. 

                        Finding great hires is challenging, and even more so in these unprecedented times. You will need to not only invest in talent sourcing but also ramp up your sourcing strategies to keep your talent pipeline strong. 

                        If you’re interested in creating enterprise-level virtual hiring events to bolster your talent sourcing efforts and find the talent you need to drive your business forward, we’re ready to help. Our talent sourcing marketplace is the perfect way to supercharge your talent sourcing strategy and ensure that your events are well attended. Brazen enables you to build a seamless virtual event experience that truly attracts, engages and converts top candidates.