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Job Sourcing 101: A Guide for Small Businesses

Reviewed by Brendan Sullivan, Indeed Recruiter

4+ years of experience, 150+ roles filled

Candidate sourcing plays an essential role in your recruiting process. Where you find your candidates can affect the quality of job seekers you attract and how many applications you receive. Learn how to source candidates effectively to improve your hiring process.

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What is candidate sourcing?

Sourcingmeans identifying potential candidates for open positions in your company. It’s one of the first steps in the recruiting and hiring process.When you source candidates, you proactively look for candidates who meet the requirements of your job vacancies. It includes all the different sources or locations you use to attract applicants. Sourcing in recruitment often falls under the duties of the human resources department. Some larger organizations have dedicated sources, while others assign the duty to recruiters or other HR team members.

Types of sourcing methods for finding candidates

Having a wide variety of candidate sourcing options helps you reach a broader audience. Options include:

Social media

Your company’s social media channels can help you attract job seekers who already know about and support your organization. Create posts about your hiring needs to share with your social media followers. You can also post about the benefits of working for your company, special hiring events you host and profiles of current team members. Encourage your followers to share your posts about job openings to spread the word beyond your current online fan base.

Employee referrals

Rather than spending all your time looking for quality candidates, ask your team to help you. An employee referral program will bring potential candidates to you. Current company employees often have a good idea of what your organizationwants, so they can offer high-quality recommendations. Adding an incentive, such as a cash bonus, for successful referrals might motivate your staff to share your openings.

Hiring events

Hiring-focused events, including job fairs and networking events, let you connect directly with potential candidates. Job fairs typically involve setting up a booth or table with a display about your company. Interested job seekers can approach you to discuss open positions and submit resumes or applications.You also have the option to conduct on-site interviews.

Networking events enable you to meet several people in one place, helping you expand your professional network. This opportunity could introduce you to your next employee, or you might meet other industry professionals who could refer prospective employees to you.

You can also host open house events at your business. Think of it as a job fair where you’re the only organization. Interested job seekers can glimpse inside your offices and meet employees. The open house caninclude screening interviews, demonstrations and other engaging activities to encourage attendees to apply.

Boolean search

Boolean searches allow you to identify specific keywords you want or don’t want to appear in your search results. These can save you an enormous amount of time, especially if you have an extensive database of resumes because you won’t need to manually scan multiple pages of candidate information looking for specific job titles or skills.

Candidate databases

Tapping into a database of past applicants gives you a head start on your recruiting efforts. Previous applicants who didn’t make the cut for an earlier job opening couldbe a better fit for your new position, or they mayhave additional experiencenow.

You can also start building a talent pool before you have openings. This might look like having a general application where interested job seekers can submit their information even if you don’t have any vacancies. Engaging that talent through occasional emails can keep them interested.

Job postings

Strong job postings help attract candidates who want a position like yours. Get specific regarding what you want from a candidate to help job seekers decide if they have the right qualifications. Let your company’s personality show to draw people who share your values and support your mission. If you’re using an old job posting, review it to make sure the details are still accurate.You can post your open position on your website and on Indeed to bring candidates to you.


Your next hire could already be working for your company. Internal candidates oftenwork well for vacancies, whether it’s a promotion or a lateral move to a different department. People who already work for your company know your expectations and thrive within the company culture. It can often be an easier transition, especially for higher-level positions that might have higher expectations. Your department heads may have recommendations for various positions.


Turn to the professional network within your industry for assistance in identifying potential candidates. Do this by directly contacting professional associates at other companies, attending industry events or seeking input from local colleges and universities about members of the graduating class.

What are active and passive candidates?

Candidates can be either active or passive. Both types of candidates can work well for openings. Some situationslean more toward one type of candidate than the other. The differences are:

  • Active: Active candidates are those who are readily seeking employment. They want a new job and are taking steps to secure one.
  • Passive: Passive candidates are those who aren’t readily seeking employment. While they’re not opposed to a new job, they’re not ready to start an active job search.

You often need touse different approaches when looking at active candidates versus passive candidates.

Active candidates are usually easier to source because they’re already looking for and applying to positions. The best methods for finding active candidates are:

  • Social media sites
  • Job boards
  • Indeed Resume Search
  • Hiring events

Passive candidates are a bit more challenging to find because they’re not actively looking for a new position. However, they’re prepared to take a new job if it’s the right career move for them. The ideal methods for finding passive candidates are:

  • Employee referrals
  • Promotions
  • Networking
  • Social media

How to source both active and passive candidates

Follow these steps to source both types of candidates effectively:

1. Learn about the open position

Before you begin sourcing potential employees, know what the open position entails. Meet with the manager who oversees the open position. It can also help to talk to others who hold the same or similar positions to learn what duties and tasks the new employee will perform.Find out the hiring timeline so you know how quickly you need to find candidates.

2. Create a job description and posting

The job description is often the first notification a job seeker has about your vacancy. Crafting a detailed job posting can get them excited about the opportunity and encourage them to apply. Include all the relevant details about the opening and your requirements for a quality candidate.

3. Consider your methods

Determine which sourcing methods will be most effective for the job you’re trying to fill. If it’s an entry-level position, looking exclusively for active candidates is often the most effective. You may have luck attending job fairs, for example.For an executive-level employee, however, a passive candidate search may yield better results because the position is more specialized and has high expectations. Doing research and finding people currently in executive-level roles can help you source candidates with the experience you need.

4. Find candidates

Now you’re ready to find potential candidates. Gather resumes and job applications from active candidates. Reach out to potential passive candidates or sources who can connect you with passive candidates.You want a large number of applicants, but you also want them to meet the qualifications you’ve established. Keep the applications organized as they come in to make the screening process easier.

5. Reach out to the best candidates

Consider the candidates you’ve sourced.The way you handle the applications can vary depending on the structure of your organization. Some organizations let the recruiting team manage all the resumes, while others send through a candidate short list. Smaller organizations might leave the screening process to the owner or manager if there isn’t a dedicated HR team. Once you begin reaching out to candidates for interviews and vetting, you’re officially done sourcing.

Sourcing best practices

Use these best practices to helpwith the sourcing process, regardless of the method you use:

Look at the metrics

You might already use several candidate sourcingmethods. Check the analytics via your applicant tracking system or other recruitment tools to glean insight into what works well. Look at where your candidates come from and where your hires are sourced. You can also analyze retention based on different sources. For instance, you might notice that new hires sourced from your employee referral program tend to stay longer than applicants who find your job posting online. This information can help you choose which methods to use.

Plan before sourcing

Knowing what you need from the position prepares you for the sourcing step. Review the job description to remind yourself of the key qualifications needed for the role. Use what you know about the position to narrow down the best sources.

Scan rather than read

Scanning resumes helps you quickly sort potential candidates and noncontenders. Once you have a smaller pile of resumes, look more closely at each candidate’s qualificationsto see which are worthy of a call.

Run specific searches

If using a database of potential candidates or resumes, use specific search terms to narrow the field to candidates who match your needs. You can always broaden your search terms as you go if you’re not getting the candidates you want.

Look in more than one place

Maximize your sourcing efforts by using more than one method to look for potential candidates. Rather than just posting a job description on your website and hoping job seekers will find it, also post the job on Indeed and employ additionalsourcing strategies to seek out both active and passive candidates.

FAQs about candidate sourcing

What is the difference between candidate sourcing and recruiting?

Both candidate sourcing and recruiting deal with attracting talent to your company.Sourcing in recruitment is a specific stage that focuses only on finding candidates for your opening. Recruiting is a broader process that involves building relationships with candidates, screening applications and hiring.

How many sourcing methods should you use?

The number of candidate sourcing methods you use depends on your needs and your success with different options. Some companies find plenty of applicants using just two methods, while others employ multiple options. Experiment with the number of sources you use and the results from each of them to tailor your sourcing plans.

Why is sourcing candidates an important step?

Choosing effective sourcing methods helps you find candidates who match your job requirements. It can increase the quality of candidates by reaching a wider audience. Having a sourcing plan streamlines the recruiting and hiring process by giving your recruiters and hiring managers go-to strategies.

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