What is candidate sourcing?

Author Mike Marschke Date Mar 20 2024

Candidate sourcing is the act of identifying, attracting, and engaging potential candidates for a job. But beyond the traditional actions of just putting your job openings out into the world, candidate sourcing requires a bit more proactivity to uncover the most qualified candidates, some of whom may not actively be seeking employment.

Candidate sourcing is a crucial step for businesses that are competing for a large pool of talent. When you have a solid candidate sourcing strategy, you’re better able to develop a steady stream of high quality applicants, which ultimately helps reduce your time-to-hire and contributes to long-term organizational optimization. 

So gather your recruitment team and join us as we dive into candidate sourcing—from how it works to common obstacles to how to get around these obstacles to help build your talent pipeline and yield better business outcomes.

How candidate sourcing works

Candidate sourcing involves everyone on the recruitment team, including recruiters, hiring managers, and HR leadership. As a team, these individuals must work together to develop a strategy to find the right candidates for openings while also aligning recruitment goals with the goals of the greater organization.

Typically, the candidate sourcing process might look something like this: 

  • Post job openings on the relevant platforms.
  • Collect candidates’ application forms and other supporting documents.
  • Conduct a pre-employment screening to determine whether candidates are qualified to move forward.
  • Communicate with candidates about their status in the hiring funnel.
  • Nurture relationships with candidates who were not selected or are not ready for the opportunity. 

cartoon showing a human with a telescope looking for a job in a city

Not all of these steps are mandatory when it comes to candidate sourcing, or they might occur in different arrangements. The key to developing a candidate sourcing strategy is to identify the steps that work best for your unique hiring needs.

Active vs. passive candidate sourcing

Two main styles of sourcing are active candidate sourcing and passive candidate sourcing. 

Active sourcing requires HR teams to actively search for job candidates through direct job posting or personal outreach. HR teams may even engage certain candidates with the right qualifications before a job is even made public. Active sourcing can serve to build relationships with potential candidates and encourage them to apply for future openings. 

Passive sourcing is less labor-intensive—recruiters simply create job postings and wait for applicants to apply. Recruiters usually need to get more creative with this approach in order to stand out and attract the right candidates. Passive sourcing may ultimately result in more hires because these applicants are actively seeking new jobs.

Dive into 15 candidate sourcing strategies to help you find better talent.

How candidate sourcing improves your talent pipeline

Regardless of which style of sourcing you choose, the ultimate goal of candidate sourcing is to fill your talent pipeline and build a quality pool of candidates who are ready to work.

An ideal talent pipeline is filled with applicants who are engaged, active, and pre-qualified so that when you have new job openings, you’re able to pull directly from this crop of candidates and reach out to them with new opportunities. The success of your candidate sourcing activities has a direct effect on the quality of your talent pool—when you’re able to source the right caliber of workers and vet them appropriately, you’ll always have a steady stream of applicants to fill openings as you grow and scale.

Common candidate sourcing obstacles

This ideal sourcing process may sound perfect, but there are a few obstacles recruiting teams tend to face when it comes to sourcing.

  • Lack of quality candidates. Depending on the quality of your sourcing process, you may notice a few underqualified candidates sneaking through the qualification stages and making their way into your talent pool. This can derail your sourcing efforts and requires time and attention to remedy.
  • Limited budget. Sourcing methods vary, as do their financial requirements. If you’re part of a smaller organization with fewer resources, you may find your sourcing budget isn’t enough to realize your sourcing goals.
  • Overworked recruiters. Hiring teams are stretched thin and often don’t have extra time to devote to an entirely separate sourcing strategy. 
  • Candidate engagement. Today’s candidates are busy, distracted, and always on the go. Therefore, it can be hard to capture (and keep) their attention.
  • Manual processes. The time it takes to manually post jobs, reach out to candidates, and keep them moving through the funnel is slowing hiring teams down, hindering their ability to hire with speed.

Click here to read how Stitch Fix streamlined sourcing to increase their application-to-hire rate by 52%.

Tools for sourcing candidates

If you identify with one (or all!) of the obstacles mentioned above, keep reading to learn a few of our favorite sourcing tools to help you get started on your improved sourcing journey. 

  • Job boards. It may seem obvious to use job boards to source candidates, but there is a certain skill in knowing how to manage your presence on job boards. Most have the option to post for free, but writing a job description that will catch the eye of job seekers is what will get you the most attention. 
  • Social media. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are prime places to source candidates. While the latter may be more tailored to corporate roles, you never know who you’ll connect with when you post a job to your network! 

Read more about the key differences between corporate and high volume hiring.

  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS). If you don’t use one already, learn the benefits of an ATS built for high volume hiring here. If you already have an ATS, check to see whether it can support your sourcing efforts through features like automatic job posting. 
  • AI-powered sourcing software. With a robust and powerful ATS in place, you likely also have access to AI-powered features like automated communications. With AI to help you clean up your manual duties, you’re on your way to faster, more efficient sourcing. 

Read our full guide to AI recruiting software.

Tips for better candidate sourcing

Ready to transform your candidate sourcing strategy? Here’s how to get started.

Identify the ideal candidate profile

Taking the time to identify the ideal candidates you want to hire can help you save time (and sourcing costs!) in the long run. The first batch of candidates may be suitable for the role, but applicants who apply later may be an even better fit. 

To help achieve this, create a job description that includes the main duties and responsibilities of the role and list the applicable traits and qualifications an employee would need in order to perform these duties successfully. 

cartoon image of people in a running race

Deliver personalized outreach

Every candidate should feel like they are personally attended to throughout the hiring process, which can be accomplished through automated communication. (Keep reading for more on this topic!)

Leverage conversational AI and automation to keep your applicants engaged 

With candidates constantly on the go and looking for the next opportunity, you need to be able to keep their attention before, during, and even after you’ve hired them. AI and automation can help achieve this by answering frequently asked questions, reminding candidates of important tasks like uploading documents, and prompting candidates to schedule interviews at times that work best for both you and the candidate.

Track sourced candidates from application to hire and beyond

A high volume ATS with robust data and reporting capabilities can help you identify which sourcing methods are working and which may need to be tweaked. Allow time at the end of each quarter to review your metrics and look for opportunities for improvement. 

Get 15 candidate sourcing strategies to help you find better talent.

The role of software in candidate sourcing 

If you’re not already tinkering with your existing ATS to discover how it can do the heavy sourcing lifting for you, we’ve got a few suggestions!

With a tech-enabled ATS, you can post to countless job boards and even get personalized sourcing recommendations based on the roles you’re hiring for as well as your location. 

Once you’ve decided where you want to source candidates, you can post to job boards seamlessly and use predictive cost models to help predict sourcing spend, allowing you to refine your sourcing strategy over time.

Ready to extend an offer? Use your ATS to send templated offer letters and collect important documents with a few clicks of a button.

The Fountain approach to candidate sourcing

Fountain’s AI-powered sourcing solution delivers qualified, interested, and available candidates for frontline jobs. With Fountain, hiring teams can automate manual processes, resulting in faster hiring times and lower costs-per-applicant. 

How do our customers achieve this?

Fountain Hire automates and simplifies candidate sourcing, enabling a tailored application process for each role and region. By leveraging AI to move applicants through the pipeline faster, candidates stay engaged throughout the lifetime of their employment, all in the same app. Not only does this help deliver more qualified candidates, but these top-tier workers are more likely to stay on staff for the long-term, helping to reduce future sourcing costs.

Eager to learn more about how Fountain can help you build your ideal candidate sourcing strategy? Learn more about Fountain’s smart sourcing solutions.


Elevate your candidate sourcing strategy.

Unsure where to start when it comes to sourcing? Browse our top 15 candidate sourcing strategies to learn how to attract your industry’s top talent.

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About the Author

Director, Strategic Programs

Mike Marschke

Mike Marschke is Fountain's Director of Product who has a passion for innovation and optimizing talent acquisition strategies, enhancing candidate experiences, and driving organizational growth.