Is Strategic Sourcing the New Recruiting?

Not too long ago, you’d have been forgiven for thinking recruiting and sourcing were one and the same. To the uninitiated, it’s all one job: finding qualified applicants to fill open positions.

However, in a short chat with JD Conway, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager for BambooHR, we clarified that despite similar end goals, recruiting and sourcing are distinct strategies requiring their own dedicated positions. In the past, sourcing might have been reserved for executive positions. But for a small company seeking specialized talent in the current online job marketplace, thoughtful sourcing is proving more successful than traditional recruiting methods.

The key word here is “thoughtful.” It became clear during our discussion that misconceptions are common in the transition from recruiting as a whole concept to the subset that is sourcing, and that in order to see success, you have to change your mindset about the process and the people you’re seeking.

How are things changing on the street level? JD has a theory: “In the past, the majority of interactions were between recruiters and active talent,” or in other words, people actively seeking new positions, “and you could even form a partial judgment about an applicant from the way they maintained contact and pursued a position.”

And today? “It’s the other way around; for the most part, sourcing is about reaching out to people who might not be actively seeking a new position.” And when you understand the reasons why passive candidates aren’t looking, you see a list of reasons why you would want to hire them: They tend to be strong performers, liked by their employers. They probably work hard at their current job and are busy enough not to have time for a job search. And they’re probably relatively happy or at least complacent, because the more talented they are, the more likely it is their employer treats them well.

Is traditional recruiting dead?

Traditional recruiters now find the table flipped when it comes to communication. As JD states, it’s not just your job to find them, it’s also likely your job to woo them. “You have to go in with the understanding that these days, you’re being evaluated by a candidate just as much if not more than you are evaluating them.”

The old “post and pray” tactic of traditional recruiting, in which a recruiter posts a job opening and waits for resumes to come in, won’t cut it in today’s marketplace, and neither will low-effort broad-net sourcing tactics. “You can tell when someone hasn’t put the effort in.” JD says, adding, “A form email is like a red flag to anyone with the kind of smarts you want for a good hire; they not only won’t reply, they’ll blacklist you.” And it doesn’t stop there. Bad tactics can harm relationships with people you haven’t even found yet, whereas good ones can have rewards you might not see at first. As JD puts it, “In a funny way, it’s like dating. You might not hit it off with someone, and that’s OK; you have to be able to handle rejection as well as the disappointment that after all your hard work, it just might not be a good fit. But you know who might be a great fit? Their coworker, or their friend who works down the hall in the same building, or their brother or their old college roommate. So it’s critical to be open and communicative, no matter what the result is.”

Not only that, but it’s essential to examine how your company presents itself. Is it a desirable place to work? Do they communicate openly about values, culture, and benefits? And do third-party review sites like Glassdoor reflect those values accurately? JD says if they don’t, you’d better be prepared to explain why not. “Candidates see you as the face of the company, and they see its faults as your faults. You need to know your organization’s flaws inside and out and be able to discuss them honestly.”

Most of all, sourcing is about time. Finding the right candidate via multiple search and networking channels, researching them thoroughly before making contact, and then building a relationship that paints your company in a positive light—all of it takes a ton of time. JD agrees. “When I hear about people paying $10,000 to LinkedIn so they can blast out 300 InMails to every profile that matches their search results, I want to ask, ‘What’s your dollars-to-responses ratio?’ I might send 30 per opening, after looking hard at each person, and I write them all individually—no form letters. That takes a ton of time, but all it takes for me to justify it is to think about how I’d want someone to approach me; it’s the Golden Rule.”

And the result? “More often than not, they reply; then we take it from there and I try to get to know them as a person. That can take multiple emails, calls, video calls, and meetings. But when you bring someone into a new position that you know for sure is going to work out great, all the time and effort pays off.”