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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

Finding excellent employees for your business is one of the best ways to ensure your company’s success. You can use a multitude of resources and processes to help you find great candidates and grow your organization. Using sourcers is one tool for identifying talented potential employees for your business. Learn what sourcing is, understand the types of sourcing methods you can use to find candidates, know how to source both active and passive candidates and review sourcing best practices.

Related: Recruitment Tools: Three Ways to Efficiently Hire Employees

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What is sourcing?

Sourcing is the process of identifying potential candidates for open positions in your company. It’s one of the very first steps in the overall recruiting and hiring process. It overlaps in some ways with recruiting, but it is considered a separate endeavor.

Recruiting is the process of screening and vetting potential candidates. Recruiting is often the second major step in the hiring process after sourcing and includes several sub-steps like interviewing and assessing potential employees.

Depending on how you structure your organization and what type of recruiting process you use, your sourcers and recruiters may be the same employees or they may be totally separate people or teams.

Related:How to Hire a Recruiter

Types of sourcing methods for finding candidates

When you have an open job position you want to fill, your sourcing team will begin looking for potential candidates. They can do this using a number of sourcing methods and strategies, including:

Social media

One way to source potential candidates is through social media channels. There are a few social media platforms that focus primarily on professional connections and recruiting, so using those is an especially good idea for sourcing potential candidates.

Employee referrals

Rather than spending all your time looking for quality candidates, ask your coworkers to help you. Seek employee referrals for open positions. An employee referral program will bring potential candidates to you rather than you spending the time to look for great leads. Additionally, current company employees often have a good idea of what your organization is looking for in its employees.

Hiring events

Hiring focused events like job fairs and networking events are an opportunity to source potential candidates. For most of these types of events, you’ll set up a table advertising your company and your open positions. Job seekers can approach you to discuss open positions and submit a resume or application.

Boolean search

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

Indeed Resume Search

Indeed Resume Search gives you access to an abundance of job seekers’ resumes. You can use the included search features to find resumes and candidates that fit your specific needs. This platform has over 245 million resumes for you to peruse.

Recruitment databases

Your organization may have a database of past applicants or other potential leads gathered over the years. Use that database as a starting point for qualified and interested potential applicants. You might also consider using the services of a recruiting firm or agency for this task since they have enormous databases of active job seekers to consider.

Job postings

You can post your open position on your website and on Indeed to bring candidates to you. Provide them with information about the position and your company and include the necessary education and training qualifications for the position.

Additionally, take a look at any previous openings you’ve had for similar positions and take note of any strong candidates you received for those. Because they’d shown interest in joining your team in the past, they may be interested in this new opportunity as well.


Look internally for potential candidates. There may be qualified individuals within your organization ready to promote into the open position. Speak with multiple department heads to see if they have any team members who’ve shown interest in a different position or who are ready to take on more challenges in the company.


Turn to the professional network within your industry for assistance identifying potential candidates. You can 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.

Related: How to Hire a Recruiter Job Description Sample

What are active and passive candidates?

You can source two types of candidate — active and passive. In some instances, you’ll want to source both types of candidates, while in other instances, you’ll look for one over the other.

  • Active:Active candidates are those who are readily seeking employment. Active candidates can be employed or unemployed, but they are taking steps to find a new position.
  • Passive:Passive candidates are those who are not readily seeking employment. They may be employed or unemployed, but they are not taking steps to find a new position.

Sourcers should use different approaches when looking at active candidates versus passive candidates.

Active candidates are usually easier to source since they’re readily participating in the recruitment process. 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, though 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 can begin sourcing potential employees, you need to know what the open position entails. Meet with the manager that oversees the open position and others who hold the same or similar positions to learn what duties and tasks the new employee will perform.

2. Create a job description and posting

Using the information you gathered from the manager and other employees, craft a thorough job description that lists all the specific job duties assigned to the role. Make it as detailed as possible and make a note of the people who helped you create it. You can use this job description as part of your job posting if you’re looking for active candidates, or you can use it when you approach passive candidates to explain what the position entails.

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 probably the best course of action. You may have luck attending job fairs that cater to recent college graduates, for example. If you’re hoping to find an executive-level employee, then a passive candidate search may yield better results. In this case, you want the perfect person for the position rather than someone more malleable, who you can train.

4. Find candidates

After establishing your plan for sourcing, use those strategies to find potential candidates. Gather resumes and job applications from active candidates and begin reaching out to potential passive candidates or sources who can connect you with potential passive candidates.

5. Reach out to the best candidates

Consider the candidates you’ve sourced. Depending on how you’ve set up your organization, at this stage, you’d either pass the entire pile of potential employees to the recruiting team, provide the recruiting team with a top candidate shortlist or move directly into the recruiting stage yourself. Regardless of how it’s done, once you begin reaching out to candidates for interviews and vetting, you’re officially done sourcing, and you’re beginning recruiting.

Sourcing best practices

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

Plan before sourcing

Take some time before you begin your sourcing to prepare. Review the job description, make a list of specific skills and qualities you’re looking for in an ideal candidate, and consider the best possible methods for sourcing that person.

Scan rather than read

Sourcers look at many resumes. It’s best to scan resumes rather than read them closely. When you scan them, you can quickly sort potential candidates and non-contenders. Once you have a smaller pile of resumes to work with, you can go back through and look more closely at each candidate’s specific experiences and skills to see which are worthy of a call.

Run specific searches

If you’re searching through a database of potential candidates or resumes, use specific search terms. You want to narrow the field as much as possible to return only the best possible candidates. 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 for quality candidates to find it, post the job and employ additional sourcing strategies to seek out both active and passive candidates.

Leveraging Indeed’s matching and hiring platform is one way you can find the right people for your business efficiently and effectively. With over 245M resumes on Indeed, you will have access to a vast pool of individuals with the skills, experience and qualifications that match your job requirements. 

You can actively invite your top picks to apply or take advantage of personalized invites sent by Indeed. Moreover, Indeed continuously learns from your preferences, delivering high-quality candidates tailored to your specific job criteria.

Consider older resumes

When searching through resume databases, look at all available resumes rather than just the most recently added resumes. You may find some candidates who are still looking for positions after several months or who are willing to make a job switch for the right position.

Job sourcing is an important role. With an effective sourcer and the right techniques, you can find exemplary candidates to consider for your company.

Brendan Sullivan is an Indeed recruiter based in Austin, TX with 4+ years of experience. You can usually find him enjoying one of the several amazing coffee shops in Austin or organizing his record collection.

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