The 10 Pillars of Effective Sourcing

Too many companies fall into the trap of using a “by default” sourcing strategy as their primary means to find top people.

“By default” implies that a company follows someone else’s best practices, uses boring job descriptions as their primary means to find people, looks for people only after a req has been approved, uses antiquated technology to manage their data, and uses a one-size-fits-all transactional advertising model.

In this article I’m going to make the case that the creation and implementation of a comprehensive sourcing strategy will be required in order to meet the enormous hiring challenges companies will face in the future.

With the demand for talent rapidly outstripping the supply, the ability to fill critical positions quickly with top talent will become a competitive advantage. There will be winners and losers. The losers will be those who follow the winners’ best practices, because once the masses discover a practice is discovered to work, it won’t anymore.

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Here are some fundamental themes you need to consider as you develop a comprehensive and proactive sourcing strategy:

  • Lead, don’t follow. Be first. Everything you try won’t work, but if you wait to find out, it will be too late.
  • Find jobs for people, not people for jobs. This is a fundamental shift starting to gain momentum. The key here is to build a pool of top prospects who are interested in working for your company. Then design a job to meet the needs of the best prospects in your pool.

With this in mind, here are my 10 pillars of an effective sourcing strategy:

  1. Strategic. All of your sourcing programs must tie to your company’s business strategy and operating plan. Base it on a comprehensive forward-looking workforce plan. Once you have all of your key positions identified, rank them in order of importance based on their impact on the company’s performance. For example, senior executives and product-development gurus require a top 1% to 2% person, whereas a top 20% person might suffice for a mid-level manager in a support function. Always target a top-third as the minimum criteria, even for entry-level positions.
  2. Sizzling. In order to capture the attention of top people who are “just looking,” redesign your processes and messages based on the latest consumer marketing ideas and technology. Design everything with the idea of creating a “wow!” experience. Use compelling jobs, interactive talent hubs, easy-to-use career sites filled with widgets tapped into social and business networks, and opportunities to engage with real people before applying. Let people explore your career opportunities in multiple ways; don’t force them to hunt and peck for a specific and boring job.
  3. Segmented. What works for a highly networked millennial won’t for a mid-career boomer. This means everything you do to attract prospects, from how your career site is designed to how jobs are found and described, must be based on the unique job-hunting and career needs of the people you’re trying to hire. The workforce plan can help you out here by classifying all of your open jobs into generational and functional buckets. Start building talent hubs for the biggest groups designed to meet their unique needs. Then, develop multi-faceted marketing campaigns to drive traffic to these sites. Once a prospect is engaged with your company through this talent hub, you can then either present specific openings or develop an ongoing relationship.
  4. SEO’d. Your talent hubs and jobs openings must be found, and that’s where search engine optimization techniques come into play. Design everything you do with the idea that people who don’t know your company will be able to find your opportunities by using basic search tools like Google, Yahoo!, and Live. The best people don’t use the major boards to find jobs, so you’ll need to make sure they can be found using traditional search technology. A good talent hub can be designed from the ground up with the idea that the structure, the links, the URL, the meta tags, the content, and the keywords are those your targeted market would use to find your openings.
  5. Sequential. While you don’t want to compromise candidate quality or time to fill, there’s no reason to pay more than necessary. This is where a multi-channel sourcing strategy comes into play, from low cost to high cost. A free ad on or a $200 ad on Dice or that is scraped by an aggregator like that comes up first on a Google search for “auditor jobs Chicago” is a pretty effective channel. Of course, the ad must have enough sizzle to compel the candidate to read it and then apply. This is only the first of many channels. For example, when a great ad is combined with a proactive employee referral program and a strong internal mobility program, you should be able to quickly find a short list of potential candidates. If this doesn’t produce the results needed, add higher-cost channels into the mix that target more passive candidates. The idea here is to have a series of highly effective channels to use when needed based on cost. This will allow a company to maximize performance while minimizing cost.
  6. Substantive. Sourcing without substance is akin to selling smoke and mirrors. You must have real jobs that offer real challenges and real opportunities for growth. That’s why a highly effective internal mobility program is of such importance. Demonstrating how this works to a potential candidate is a great way to prove that your company offers real careers. This will help attract, hire, and retain your top performers. Executive buy-in and support is an essential component of a well-developed comprehensive sourcing strategy.
  7. Systematic. Sourcing needs to be a well-develop business process with metrics. It’s comparable to a marketing and sales plan broken out by territory, customer, product, and sales rep. For too many companies, sourcing is a random series of reactive start-stop campaigns that have not been measured, tracked, or validated. The lack of a systematic measured process is why so many companies have a “by default” strategy in place.
  8. Sustained. Sourcing is not an event; it’s an ongoing process that changes based on updates to the workforce plan, business conditions, and the competitive climate for the best talent. During slower economic times, creative ways need to be developed to build up the prospect pool of great talent. This pool can then be tapped during times of economic recovery and growth. Shutting off the sourcing pipeline during periods of contraction and ramping it up again in the good times is the best strategy for hiring the leftovers.
  9. Self-generating. There is a hidden talent market that has largely been untouched. For example, here’s a private by-invitation-only site populated by 400 of the world’s best recruiters. What if each of your employees had a private site like this geared around an important business topic? For example, a site designed to generate new members using the latest viral networking technology, such as widgets. There are a lot of great people who don’t know about your company, its prospects, and its opportunities. Using your employees as talent scouts and arming them with some of the latest marketing tools can help quickly spread the word.
  10. Sophisticated. You need to be professional every step of the way. This means your recruiters must understand real job needs, and managers must be willing to engage with prospects who are sitting on the fence. A transactional sales process focused on providing minimal information, asking disrespectful knock-out questions, conducting superficial interviews, and pushing to fill positions quickly is comparable to selling cars, not hiring top performers who have multiple opportunities.

Developing a sourcing strategy as described above is comparable in scope to preparing and implementing a comprehensive marketing plan for your company. In many ways, it’s even more important, particularly as the talent gap for top performers continues to widen.

As you begin this process, don’t forget the two principles presented early. First, be a leader, not a follower. Second, find jobs for people, not people for jobs. If you’re not willing to buy into these two ideas, you might as well skip the whole effort because whatever you do, it won’t be enough.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


2 Comments on “The 10 Pillars of Effective Sourcing

  1. Hi,

    I define sourcing as what Shally and Maureen do, so the term threw me at first. The points are right on especially with ‘Candidate Attraction’, what Lou is talking about is, in essence, marketing. The way you market or position can attract candidates that fit the jobs being filled. The only issue is that I thought most companies are doing these things, maybe to different degrees?

    To Anthony’s point, building a position around an employees skills can be great for the company while the employee is there. I was luckily in this position twice and it worked out very, very well. It was magical. But, I would think, in any case with the right boss/leader a job position would morph around the person filling it anyway. How many times does the job described end up the job you do?

    My two cents.


  2. On most jobs when hiring there is often a small compromise either in terms of skill sets/experience of the candidate or responsibilities within the position, but to design jobs entirely around individuals just because they are good at something might be risky in the long term.

    It might be good for the individual, it might even be good for the recruiter but I’m not so sure it’s good for the company, whose needs must surely always come first when hiring.

    Isn’t this just bad sourcing?

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