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10 must-haves for a strong sourcing candidate pipeline

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You just finished developing a hiring plan for the next two years. Exciting, right? Until you think about the fact that, on average, it takes screening 250 resumes to net 4 to 6 candidates for an interview, only to fill one position. That’s if your hiring process is in tip-top shape. If not, you could risk even those applicants not accepting the job offer. PwC found that 49% of US tech sector applicants turned down a final offer due to a poor recruiting experience.

Finding outstanding candidates passionate enough about your company to go through screening and interviews is not a walk in the park. It takes effort to find the best potential candidates and get to know them well enough to convince them that your company is the best place for them to excel. But how do you do that without coming off as too pushy—or worse, desperate? And how do you nurture candidates for roles that aren’t even open yet?

It boils down to having an effective sourcing strategy. Sourcing excellent candidates is a vital piece of the HR puzzle. Giving sourcers, recruiters, and hiring managers a headstart with ideal candidates speeds up the hiring process. In this post, we’ll delve into what sourcing candidates actually means and tips to sourcing candidates strategically. 

What is candidate sourcing?

Sourcing candidates is the process of searching for qualified candidates who fit the job criteria for current or future open roles. Sourcing requires being proactive to ensure there are ample, qualified candidates in the pipeline for various roles. When sourcing candidates, sourcers use keywords or attributes to surface people whose titles, responsibilities, skills, and certifications match certain job descriptions. Then, sourcers reach out to these qualified candidates—no matter if they’re actively or passively looking for job opportunities. The goal is to establish a good rapport with potential candidates to build interest in the company and eventually persuade them to apply. 

Sourcing vs recruiting

Although the terms ‘sourcing’ and ‘recruiting’ are often used interchangeably, they are two different functions. 

Sourcing candidates is the finding, outreach, and pre-screening of prospective applicants. It comes before recruiting, and requires an understanding of the role to be filled to identify possible candidates, make contact, and stoke interest in the position.

Recruiting is the next step after sourcing candidates. It’s the screening and interviewing process, including extending final job offers.

Depending on the size of the organization, sourcing and recruiting may be carried out by the same person or team of people. In addition, automation of sourcing and recruiting tasks gives recruiters more time to focus on a great candidate experience.

What are the must-haves for a strong candidate sourcing pipeline? Let’s get to it!

10 must-haves for sourcing passive candidates

1. Leverage referrals and connections

You might already be planning where and how you can source the best candidates, but don’t forget some obvious avenues. One of your best resources is right at your fingertips: employees. People who already enjoy working at a company can often refer friends or family. Plus, employees probably have other network connections who are looking for new job opportunities. Employee referrals can be a double bonus—they can vouch for the candidate and can help sing praises of the company to get the candidate excited about working there.

To fully lean into employees’ connections, it’s worthwhile to establish a referral program. Typically these programs offer existing employees compensation for referring someone who gets hired. It may seem like an unnecessary expense, until you experience the payoff—45% of referred employees stay at companies for more than 4 years. And employee referrals save companies up to $7,500 per hire. 

2. Use AI for candidate sourcing beyond LinkedIn

Let’s face it, there is a ton of public data available to help you uncover people who would be perfect for your company. Setting up precise searches on LinkedIn, Github, and other professional sites results in a narrow view of an over-fished pond. An AI-based candidate sourcing platform broadens your search and gives you new ways of finding talent based on much deeper analysis than a profile or resume review. A sourcing platform should integrate directly with your applicant tracking system (ATS) and even add a layer of intelligence to sort through incoming applications.

A strong candidate sourcing platform should also offer automation of the most time consuming sourcing and outreach tasks. When you can trust your platform to find and reach out to the best matching candidates, then your recruiting team can focus on wooing interested candidates with personalized outreach and details about the company, hiring manager, and how the position fits in their career trajectory. Sourcing Accelerator combines both a powerful AI sourcing platform and a top team of sourcing experts.

3. Source candidates from a diverse talent pool

Diversity was the top recruiting priority for 57% of talent leaders in our survey. Diverse teams bring more perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas to the table. A Gartner report revealed that employee performance is 12% higher in diverse vs non-diverse organizations. Plus, sourcing for diversity can expand your talent pool to more candidates, veterans with years of experience but a different way of stating it, for example. To achieve a diverse workforce, you have to draw from a diverse talent pool and be mindful of the law.

In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) requirements come into play. Under both guidelines, employers can create targeted outreach campaigns to boost the number of diverse candidates in their pipeline. This could include sourcing candidates from women-in-STEM clubs at universities, networking with organizations like Out in Tech, and so on. To orchestrate these campaigns and ensure talent searches comply with the law, many organizations turn to software. Findem, for instance, allows sourcers to analyze the probabilistic diversity makeup of their talent pool and prioritize diverse candidates for outreach. 

That said, the EEOC and OFCCP rules change when a candidate becomes an applicant. Paraphrasing the OFCCP, it defines an applicant as:

  • An individual who submits an expression of interest in a job;
  • An individual who is considered for a particular position (their substantive qualifications are reviewed);
  • An individual who meets the basic qualifications for the position; and 
  • At no point before receiving an offer of employment does the individual expressly remove themselves from consideration for the position or otherwise indicate they are no longer interested in the position

Once someone is considered an applicant, you can’t discriminate against them based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, skin color, race, religion, citizenship status, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran. With this in mind, it’s crucial to fully leverage your sourcing team to build a fair and representative talent pool at the start of the recruiting process that will translate into a fair and representative talent pipeline and, ultimately, a more fair and representative organization. 

4. Sourcing candidates for future roles

Staying ahead of the curve is one of the most significant benefits of candidate sourcing. Sourcers are trained to communicate with many different candidates on all kinds of platforms, such as Reddit or LinkedIn. Although some conversations on these platforms are surface level and the candidates may not be ready to leave their company now, their circumstances could change in a few months or years.

Keeping these candidates warm and staying in touch is a worthwhile investment一you never know who might come out of the woodwork. Consider creating nurture campaigns for evergreen roles so your company is top of mind for top candidates, prompting them to think of you when they’re ready to make a move. Using a combination of an ATS and candidate sourcing platform helps to keep data organized, offering capabilities such as snoozing candidates or setting reminders to reach out to past candidates.

5. Lean into attributes for sourcing candidates

Keywords rarely unearth the best candidates. Not only are keywords rarely filled out properly on AngelList, Indeed, or LinkedIn profiles, but they only reflect a candidate’s past work, not their future potential. Keywords aren’t informative of soft skills, either. How do you know if someone’s personality is more laidback or aggressive? Do they show signs of leadership? Can they take a product from ideation to completion? Are they a team player?

You need to source candidates based on attributes, the inherent qualities that make them uniquely prepared for a particular role. Findem is the only platform that can source candidates based on attributes, in addition to keywords. Attributes can be tangible, such as whether someone is an ‘open source contributor’, ‘past founder’, ‘female’, ‘has a PhD’ or ‘builds diverse teams’. Or attributes can be intangible, such as whether someone has ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, ‘embodies the company values’ or is a ‘go-getter’. Sourcers can define and identify attributes to better understand the traits and experiences of existing talent and what they need in potential hires.

For instance, the Marin Community Foundation now identifies candidates by using the exact criteria they seek: Spanish fluency, philanthropic advisor, mission driven, volunteer experience, long-tenured employee, development experience, etc. They used to need three to six months to make a hire, but with Findem, they now need less than two months and have 10 times as many diverse candidates in their pipeline, with the exact attributes they’re looking for.

6. Diversify online candidate sourcing

Finding all your candidates in one place is a recipe for disaster. It can severely restrict the talent pool, and it runs the risk of contacting the same candidates over and over—no one likes spamming. Instead, find out what hiring managers desire in an ideal candidate so you can expand your search. Encourage hiring managers to broaden their horizons by asking whether the candidates must come from Fortune 500 companies, elite universities, or geographic locations. Now is the time to ask for specifics. Does this person need to have experience preparing for an IPO, leading a certain type of project, or other specific experience? Findem sourcing experts handle hiring manager intake calls and weekly meetings for many of our customers.

In tandem, stay active on social media. Common sources are LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and AngelList, but there are other platforms, too. Twitter, Facebook, or forums like Quora and Product Hunt also can be fruitful. Find hashtags that relate to your company or job profiles and see who else is posting with those hashtags. Join professional groups, but don’t just lurk. Post interesting questions, and continue the conversation with candidates who are open to talking more with an invite to your next open house event or meet and greet. 

7. Identify best event locations to find talent

Sourcing isn’t limited to online activity. In fact, many candidates are sourced through in-person events. Of course, attending these events can be costly, so it’s important to prioritize based on the candidates you’re likely to make an impression on. To start, make a shortlist of industry conferences that most candidates would attend. Then, consider how to facilitate more intimate conversations at those events, such as going to happy hours or networking sessions. Keep track of where you could have more productive chats and prioritize attending those events in the future to save on expenses.

Once you have a few external events bringing in candidates, explore internal events that you can have more control over. This could be hosting hiring fairs, hackathons, or expert panel discussions on topics related to your company’s products or services. You could also start an internship or apprenticeship program to discover fantastic candidates before they’re even applying to jobs.

8. Don’t forget about outreach to passive candidates

Passive candidates can be diamonds in the rough, so it’s not surprising that 74% of companies report an increase in outreach to passive candidates. But it requires finesse to keep your company on candidates’ radar while still coming across as genuine. Outreach to passive candidates should be highly tailored to their accomplishments and needs in their next role. Invest the time to build relationships with potential candidates before you need them. People are much more inclined to respond to your emails or calls if they’ve already met you in person or virtually. 

Take note of what you learn during casual coffee chats to use in future correspondences. Not only does this personal touch show you’re paying attention, it also shows you want to ensure the role you’re proposing is a good, long-term fit with the person’s goals. Again, employee referrals help here—people who aren’t actively job hunting are more likely to consider a company that a friend or family member enjoys working at and recommends. 

9. Analyze your candidate sourcing metrics

Keep a close eye on which candidate sourcing methods work and which don’t in order to optimize your sourcing strategy. The key is to leverage technology that provides centralized visibility into sourcing metrics across all channels. Your platform should help to determine KPIs, benchmark progress against competitors, find process gaps or opportunities, and view metrics in real time. With this information at hand, you can analyze your pipeline’s diversity, candidate application rate, and the relative effectiveness of sourcing from platforms versus events versus online forums versus agencies versus employee referral programs.

The more sourcing tasks that can be handled automatically, the more time the team has to analyze what’s working and what’s not. That can make a big difference no matter what the talent market looks like. In a hot market, you have to move fast to gain a competitive edge. In a slower market, you may have fewer resources and need to make value-based decisions. Either way, analytics are your new best friend.

10. Build your employer brand

Candidates want a preview of what it’s like to work at a company and how a company treats its employees. That, in a nutshell, is your company’s brand. When the market is competitive, your company’s brand can be a major differentiator for potential candidates. Who doesn’t want to work at a company that values its employees? When reaching out to candidates, emphasize the best parts of working at your company.

Do you have an amazing culture with unique traditions? Maybe your managers are wonderful at empowering their direct reports, so employee retention is high. Highlight your company’s benefits or other intangible aspects of the job, like flexible scheduling. Survey existing employees to gather more anecdotes to share with potential candidates. Not only will showcasing the company brand entice them to apply, it also helps them feel more at ease and know what to expect as an employee there.

Start sourcing the best candidates

Your job is to find the best candidates, paint a picture of what it’s really like to work at your company, and entice potential candidates to join. It requires staying on top of passive candidates, attending events, diversifying your sourcing methods, and always keeping future roles in the back of your mind. Of course, you can implement referral programs, plan ahead, and come up with a set of keywords and attributes to search for. But wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could input your wish lists into a platform that scoured databases and honed in on the most qualified candidates for you?

Sourcing qualified, interested candidates should be the easy part of the recruiting process. By automating more of the process, you have more time to focus on the strategy of building teams, building referral programs, attending events, planning ahead for future roles, and, of course, making hiring managers and candidates happy. Whether you’re looking for a recruiting platform or a full services approach, Findem can help with the fastest way to build continuous talent pipelines.

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