Skip to main content
An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

page leaf


What is Sourcing (in HR)?

In HR, sourcing refers to proactively identifying, contacting, and engaging qualified candidates for a job opening rather than waiting for candidates to apply on their own. Since sourcing falls under the umbrella of talent acquisition, General recruiters may handle sourcing as one of their responsibilities, but some organizations use dedicated sourcers who focus only on this task.

The primary goal of sourcing is to pull qualified candidates—especially passive candidates—into the hiring funnel. A recruiter may use a variety of sourcing channels to accomplish this goal, including employee referrals and social networking. More and more, sourcing is becoming a digital activity, with talent acquisition professionals using recruiting software to identify potential candidates.

Most organizations don’t use sourcing for every job opening. For example, if a particular position tends to attract a large number of qualified applicants, there may be no need to source specific candidates. However, if a position is highly specialized, requires a rare skill set, or would attract too many unqualified applicants, an organization may opt to source some or all of their candidates.

What Is the Difference Between Sourcing and Recruiting?

Sourcing is a search for a candidate who can be targeted and convinced to apply for a current or future open position with the company, while.

Rrecruiting involves managing relationships with candidates and guiding them through the company’s screening process.

What Are the Types of Sourcing in HR?

There are three types of sourcing:

  1. Passive sourcing: Reaching out to desirable candidates who are not actively looking for a new job, but who may be interested in learning about new opportunities.

  2. Active sourcing: Targeting and engaging suitable candidates who are actively seeking employment opportunities. 

  3. Direct sourcing: Identifying a specific candidate for a job opportunity and actively recruiting them without using a third-party agency or platform.

How Do I Create a Sourcing Plan?

A sourcing plan (or recruitment sourcing strategy) lists out the steps a company or recruiter will take to produce and track sourcing results. 

This plan asks and answers questions like: 

  1. What qualifications/qualities make a viable candidate?

  2. What sourcing methods have been successful?

  3. What resources are available for utilizing the sourcing method?

  4. What is the end goal (e.g. gaining a quick competitive advantage, reaching a long-term solution, etc.)?

Sourcing is a long-term process, not one that starts with a current job opening and ends when someone is hired to fill that position. The purpose of a sourcing plan is to establish and maintain a continuous flow of valuable candidates that cover the current and future needs of an organization, so that when a position opens, recruiters can target the right talent and win them over before their competition does.

To create a sourcing plan, follow these steps:

  1. Align the sourcing strategy with the company’s HR strategy.

  2. Determine which division/department in the company is expected to grow consistently.

  3. Summarize the expected future situation and time frame.

  4. Pinpoint any potential challenges.

  5. Define the targeted talent using personas that go beyond required job qualifications.

  6. Find out where target talent is located (city, industry, company, position, etc.).

  7. Predict where desired talent will be in 2–-5 years.

  8. Find out how your competitors are sourcing talent and how you can better position yourself to win the best candidates.

  9. Decide which methods to use in the sourcing process.

  10. Put checkpoints and measurements in place before strategy execution begins.

What Are Creative Sourcing Strategies?

The best strategy is a mixture of both traditional and creative sourcing strategies, since it ensures the most valuable candidates are found.

Typical leading strategies include:

  • Searching for internal candidates based on their strengths and their history of experience within the company.

  • Implementing an employee referral program that rewards successful hiring of a referred candidate.

  • Tapping into a recruiter network that already has a huge talent pool of available candidates.

  • Searching for candidates and recruiting on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. 

Creative sourcing strategies include:

  • Reach out to someone who has recently been hired somewhere else, as they still may be open to other opportunities. This is especially true if you can offer them something better or if their new job isn’t meeting their expectations.

  • Use niche social media platforms such as Pinterest, Medium, or GitHub to find more creative or specialized candidates.

  • Mine your current and past candidate base for someone with high potential value who was overlooked or passed over for another role.

  • Network in the real world at both industry and community events.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Recruiting software that helps you hire the best people every time.

You might also like

Summer of Sourcing: Attracting Talent That Stays

Discover how to improve your sourcing strategy and attract talent that stays in Lever's first installment of their Summer of Sourcing series with 15Five, BambooHR and Glassdoor.

Watch Now
ATS - Resumes Don't Belong In Email

Learn how to manage all job postings in one place, streamline your recruiting process—including candidate tracking, screening, hiring, and onboarding—all while saving money.

Download Now