Candidate Sourcing Strategies to Build Your Talent Pipeline

Make sure you maintain communication with your hiring manager, says a new report from IQTalent Partners. It is also beneficial to re-engage candidates, even those who have been declined. And though LinkedIn is useful, other online sources can also prove invaluable. “Utilizing smaller, less frequently used sources can help you expand your talent pool and reach untapped talent you would have otherwise overlooked,” says the study. Let’s take a closer look.

April 6, 2021 – Attracting qualified talent is a core goal of HR teams throughout the world. This competitive hiring landscape we are now in can be especially challenging for companies to stand out from the competition. “If you want to stay competitive, you need to source quality talent that is screened and ready for positions in the future,” said Chris Murdock of IQTalent Partners in a new report. “But waiting for these qualified passive candidates to reply to your outreach may not fill your pipeline quick enough, so we’ve gathered our favorite candidate sourcing strategies.”

Communication with your hiring manager is essential throughout the entire candidate sourcing process. “You need to ensure you’re on the same page and calibrate effectively for your ideal, strong candidate profile,” Mr. Murdock said. “This verifies your team is sourcing quality talent and allows you to fine-tune your search criteria based on the team’s feedback. When sourcers are removed from these conversations, it reduces your team’s effectiveness and overall cohesion.”

For many companies, re-engaging candidates is a missed opportunity. According to Mr. Murdock, even though nearly all companies believe re-engaging candidates will help them build their talent community and protect their employer brand, fewer than half of employers re-engage declined candidates. “But, here’s the thing — all that past work your recruiting team did to engage your declined candidate could (and should!) be reused,” he said. “AI platforms can help you mine your ATS to see candidates you already have in your pipeline that would make a great fit. It’s a great way to highlight or take a fresh look at underrepresented diverse candidates to help eliminate the ATS black hole.”

Diversify Your Sourcing Channels

Many recruiters say they first turn to their professional network when sourcing, while others say they turn to LinkedIn but stop there. “While LinkedIn is great, it’s not the only online resource available,” Mr. Murdock said. “Multiple other options are available for online candidate sourcing. Utilizing smaller, less frequently used sources can help you expand your talent pool and reach untapped talent you would have otherwise overlooked. Plus, candidates may be more receptive to outreach messages on less conventional websites.”

Chris Murdock is a veteran of the recruiting and talent acquisition industry with 20 years of experience spanning across multiple industries. He founded IQTalent Partners in 2009 and now leads search execution and client relationships for the firm. Prior to establishing IQTalent, Mr. Murdock worked with Yahoo!’s internal executive recruiting team, gaining in-depth experience across the technology recruiting sphere. He began his career working for Heidrick & Struggles and TMP Worldwide.

Mr. Murdock also notes that recruiters should understand their target candidate’s needs to predict where to find them online and how to attract them. For instance, GitHub is a great place to find talented developers. Other sourcing software like Hiretual and Entelo help you find, engage and pipeline talent while streamlining the process with automation and AI tools. In addition, Mr. Murdock says that organizations “can expand their talent pool significantly by recruiting through their employees’ networks. Run sourcing sessions with your team to see if anyone in your employees’ networks would be a good fit for one of your open positions.”

Perfect Your Outreach Messages

Organizations work hard to source the best candidates, but that doesn’t matter if they won’t engage with you. Mr. Murdock offers a few rules to follow:

  • Lead with a subject line that draws attention –make it about the candidate, not you.
  • Keep the message open and focused on the candidate –for example, use something like, “Tell me about what you’re looking for to make a move.”
  • Personalize your message —use relevant information you found about the candidate.
  • Paint a brief picture of the role and your organization —what can the candidate expect to experience in the workday?
  • Showcase how they can add value — what can they do to help the organization reach its goals? What value would they bring to the team?

Build a Strong Employer Brand

“Candidates aren’t likely to respond to your messages if they perceive your employer brand negatively, and an ‘empty’ employer brand can stall your efforts as well,” said Mr. Murdock. “In contrast, a strong employer brand is an incredibly effective recruiting tool. Organizations that invest in employer branding are much more likely to make a quality hire.

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

In a study by Allegis Group Services, 84 percent of candidates say they would consider leaving their current jobs if a company with an excellent corporate reputation offered them a position. Additionally, good employer branding can reduce turnover by 28 percent. “In other words, what candidates say about you can have a direct impact on your quality of hires and how well you retain employees,” said Mr. Murdock. “The reviews you get on Glassdoor matter more than you may think when it comes to sourcing top talent.”

Follow Up with Candidates Who Don’t Respond

Did you know follow-ups can be more effective than the first email you send? “You can send candidates company news, congratulate them on work milestones, wish them a happy birthday, ask them how big projects went, and congratulate them on new jobs,” Mr. Murdock said. “Even if these check-ins don’t yield immediate results, you want to stay top of mind with your best candidates, so you’re the first to know when they’re ready to make a move. Rather than spamming the candidate, you’re working to build a healthy connection for possible future opportunities.”

Related: Six Sourcing Strategies for Recruiting Passive Candidates

Mr. Murdock notes that even if they’re not interested, candidates may refer someone who would be a great fit. This “polite persistence” is an effective way to keep candidates in the loop while also building a strong relationship with them.

Optimize the Application Experience

Mr. Murdock notes that companies should consider two things: how long it takes a candidate to apply to any given position and how many clicks it takes to fill out an application. “Overall, recruiters should put themselves in the candidate’s shoes to ensure best practices are in play to simplify the application process,” he said. “For example, your career site should display accurately both on mobile and through desktop, and an organization’s job applications shouldn’t include any unnecessary questions.”

Utilize Social Sourcing

To build a robust social sourcing program, Mr. Murdock says recruiters should invite employees to share company news and job openings across their social accounts. When organizations tap into their employee networks, they increase brand awareness and expand candidate reach.

Embrace Employee Referrals

Organizations don’t need to look far to recruit and source candidates. A company’s current employees have the potential to be their best hiring tool. According to LinkedIn research, 82 percent of employers rate employee referrals as the best ROI for quality hires. “Employee referrals tend to fulfill job requirements quicker, stay longer, and refer other strong candidates,” Mr. Murdock said. “By building an employee referral program, recruiters can hire top talent and avoid backfilling roles.”

Don’t Overanalyze Resumes

Resumes are by nature imperfect and an inadequate representation of a person’s experience and capabilities, according to Mr. Murdock. “Don’t spend too much time reading resumes – scan them. If you can’t rule out a candidate based on reviewing their resume in 10 seconds, pick up the phone and call them – you might be surprised,” he said. “You’ll call people you would not likely have called before, and you’ll find out that some of those candidates do have the skills and experience you need.”

7 Sourcing Stage Recruiting Inefficiencies to Rethink
The sourcing stage is the most important part of the executive search lifecycle. This is where you gather the initial pool of candidates, which you will whittle down to find superstars and rare gems for your client. Here is a look at seven inefficiencies that most executive search firms experience during the sourcing stage of a search. 

“Many recruiters fail to understand that resumes are more than just a pdf, a document, or a sheet of paper about work history, skills, and training,” Mr. Murdock said. “They’re people! While it’s easy to lose sight of that fact in today’s digital landscape, remember not to make assumptions about candidates based on their resumes. Additionally, understand that people who are too junior or too senior for your current needs might fit future roles.”

Run Multiple Searches Across Multiple Sources

No matter how strong your sourcing skills are, Mr. Murdock says that you should always run multiple searches. “One Boolean search can’t find all qualified candidates,” he said. “It is also critical to leverage every resource you have available. You may be in love with LinkedIn, but it may hide the best candidates for the position. It is easy to lose yourself down the rabbit hole searching across multiple platforms — you need to stay adaptable. Keep a list of what stands out to you across your searches to help keep yourself organized.”

Don’t Be a Sourcing Snob

Despite popular opinion, job board resume databases are not filled with desperate, low-quality candidates. Mr. Murdock says if your experience suggests otherwise, perhaps it’s your searches or your search strategy. “Suppose you’re the type who believes that the job board resume databases are filled with ‘active’ candidates,” he said. “In that case, you might be surprised to know that approximately 75-80 percent of all resumes in the major job board resume databases are dated over 30 days old. Some are even two to four years old.”

Update Your Online Presence

Placing your job ad on the right board makes a difference for the number of candidates you can source. Mr. Murdock says the top 5 most commonly used hiring channels are:


  1. LinkedIn
  2. ZipRecruiter
  3. Glassdoor
  4. CareerBuilder

“Since most people apply online, it’s crucial to ensure your online platform is up-to-date across all channels that talent might be researching you,” Mr. Murdock said. “Have you googled your brand to see what pops up? Optimizing your online presence is one of the fundamental ways to sourcing candidates.”

Learn About the Role from Co-Workers

Reaching out to co-workers on the team you’re hiring for will help you better understand the position’s responsibilities and work environment, according to Mr. Murdock. “These insights provide an opportunity to enhance the job description when talking to candidates, helping them visualize themselves in the role,” he said. “Software like Microsoft Teams helps simplify this process to gather feedback and add it to your project quickly.”

In addition, networking allows you to discover people you wouldn’t necessarily find online. “Since many of the best candidates are highly involved in their industry, networking events, such as industry meetups, are ideal places to meet potential candidates,” Mr. Murdock said. “The connection can become a future hire or part of your network.”

Related: 10 Tips for Networking with an Executive Recruiter

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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