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Active Sourcing: What Is It and How Does It Work?

To attract hidden and passive top talent, and expand their talent pool to draw on in a time of need, recruiters are employing a proactive recruiting method known as Active Sourcing.

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What is Active Sourcing?

Finding and attracting the best-qualified workers in the labour market is the main challenge recruiters face nowadays. Potential candidates, that is those workers who would like to change their current position but are not actively seeking jobs nor replying to job offers, represent 70% of the global workforce. In addition, companies worldwide are dealing with a shortage of skilled workers. Employers are therefore having issues in selecting qualified applicants for hard-to-fill roles. To attract the hidden and passive top talents, and expand the talent pool to draw on in a time of need, recruiters are employing a proactive recruiting method known as Active Sourcing. 

Active Sourcing

A New Approach to Recruiting

Talent acquisition personnel who take the passive approach of waiting for applications to pour in are likely to be disappointed. Potential candidates are taking the passive approach as well. It is a bit like two single adults cautiously eyeing each other across the dance floor.

Recruiters must now behave more like marketing professionals and find ways to effectively reach out to candidates. This revolutionary approach to recruiting and hiring is known as Active Sourcing.

The Active Sourcing definition is of being a proactive recruiting method that targets and engages the most promising candidates even if they are not currently in the job hunt. In many cases, TAs select and establish a connection with suitable candidates before having available positions within a company. Therefore, Active Sourcing aims to build or expand a talent pool for current or future needs that can be tapped at a moment’s notice.

The first step for efficient sourcing of top talents is having a well-defined candidate persona. Recruiters must have clear in mind who they are looking for. They have to identify the industry knowledge, experience, hard and soft skills required for each open position within a company. The next step is tailoring the job offer to the outlined candidate profile. Accordingly, the job description has to be efficient, suitable and personalised.

Moreover, recruiters have to meet applicants’ expectations, making the company attractive to the top talents. Thus, they have to outline all the benefits company employees can enjoy, such as a pleasant hiring process, developmental opportunities within the role and potential career progression, fair salary, good life-work balance, an inclusive workplace and good corporate culture.

For active sourcing to be fruitful, TAs should promote the company’s brands to attract these passive candidates. Conveying a positive corporate image is crucial to attracting top talents. First impressions count, and who better to convince reluctant skilled workers to approach a company than its current employees? Turn the current employees into the company’s best brand ambassadors

Moreover, since top talents share the same networks, the current employees often know talented potential workers who are in the same industry and are unsatisfied with their current job positions, that is passive candidates. Offering monetary rewards or non-monetary incentives to current employees for referring qualified candidates can help you to win over the competition in finding the hidden and best-skilled workforce. Have you ever considered implementing an employee referral program? 

The Reasons Behind Active Sourcing

The tables have been turned in the job market. Gone are the days when there was a surplus of top talent. No longer do CVs sit untouched for weeks in the hiring manager’s inbox. Several factors have contributed to the shortage of qualified labour and the following shift to proactive recruitment.

A sizable portion of the workforce retired in recent years, and millennials tend to postpone career decisions. Many take a gap year before starting university, take longer to graduate from university or pursue graduate degrees.

The scarcity of talent is especially concerning in information technology. Technology evolves so quickly that the workers who are needed right now in IT are still being educated and trained. The skills gap is growing wider by the day.

A LinkedIn study states that 70% per cent of desirable candidates are passive candidates, that is those who aren’t actively job searching. That means that job posting reaches out to just 30% of the workforce at best. Moreover, 52% of candidates who see and apply for jobs are underqualified. 

Nevertheless, among all these disappointing facts, the positive one stands out: 87% of active and passive candidates are open to new job opportunities. It should encourage TAs to implement the Active Sourcing strategies and push talent sourcing in a different direction.

Job interview

Overcoming The Challenges of Active Sourcing

The greatest challenge of proactive sourcing is finding passive candidates and making the initial overture. What are the strategies to establish contact with promising candidates? 

Word-of-mouth within a network is still effective. Public information that lines up with the talent profile can reach out to TAs. “About Us” pages on company websites are a good resource as well. Recruiters can also leverage recruitment fairs, university events and networking seminars and workshops to pre-select high skilled candidates. The company should find an effective method to maintain contact with them to ensure a fruitful talent pool to draw fully from for future vacancies.

However, the best opportunity for identifying and targeting candidates isthrough social networks. Most people have a professional digital footprint to check on, and even more are regularly active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms. LinkedIn Active Sourcing might provide the biggest payoff.

Social networks can be used as well by the current employees to share the company’s vacancies with their friends and acquaintances and refer them for open positions. The #1 way workers discover a new job is through a referral

Implementing an employee referral program streamlines Active Sourcing. It saves time for TAs in looking for candidates since employees take on the search part of the recruiting process. Furthermore, if an employee referral program is engaging, employees will make a high number of referrals and thus contribute to expanding the talent pool by 10 times. And finally, since current employees share the company’s values and vision, they will refer candidates who make the best cultural fit.

The Benefits of Active Sourcing

Although Active Sourcing at the first stage requires a considerable amount of time, having suitable candidates pre-selected reduces the length and costs of the hiring process in the long run.

Firstly, this proactive approach eliminates the need to constantly post on job boards. Rifling through countless CVs that meet the requirements and waiting months for an ideal candidate to show up is not necessary anymore. Recruiters can select a suitable candidate from the talent pool. 

Moreover, if there is a need to quickly fill a new position that has suddenly arisen, TAs are sure to easily find and choose the best fitting and skilled worker. Interviews are almost always successful, and hiring is a win-win both for employers and candidates. Roles are filled very quickly and employees work for the companies they carefully picked out.

Above all, proactive sourcing raises the bar on quality. Recruiters know that they are hiring the most qualified candidates in the entire labour market rather than just the best candidates who saw the job posting and applied. Moreover, they are sure to have selected the most suitable candidate according to the cultural fit

Summing up, these are the advantages of Active Sourcing for recruiters and companies:

  • The cost of the initial effort is offset by a significantly lower cost-per-hire.
  • Job descriptions and postings can be tailored to candidates in the pool according to their qualifications, personal interests and cultural fit.
  • Scaling is fast. Since recruiters and candidates have already built a relationship, the length of the hiring process is sharply reduced. 
  • Operations are not disrupted because of unexpected vacancies, and positions are filled before productivity and customer service are affected. 

Tips for Implementing Active Sourcing

Few companies are prepared to change overnight the recruiting strategies they have always adopted. Here are some tips to prepare for the switch to Active Sourcing.

  • Recruitment systems must be automated immediately. Recruiters cannot build relationships with top talent and perform tedious, repetitive tasks at the same time.

Likewise, the hiring and onboarding process must be optimised for a candidate-centric experience. Providing information, scheduling interviews, and other activities related to the hiring journey must be appropriate.

Active Sourcing Tools that streamline the process are well worth the investment.

  • Recruiters should think of targeted candidates as consumers and show the product — that is, the company — in its best light. They should anticipate applicants’ questions and have the answers ready.

For instance, modern employees want to engage in the workplace and feel at home in their working environment. They want the company’s guidelines and values to align with their own. That is why recruiters must make sure that the company’s website and social media pages appropriately convey corporate culture. TAs are not just selling a job. They are selling the company brand and earning, in turn, years of employees’ loyalty.

  • Along the same lines, website content should be more engaging. Recruiters can improve website design, enrich the blog, publish photos and videos that represent the company’s values.
  • Employers can turn their best employees into brand ambassadors, for example, by asking them to talk about the company on social media. When vacancies arise, employees can forward them to their friends and acquaintances. Their referrals are far-reaching and highly effective: 39% of candidates landed a new job through referrals. 

Firstbird can assist you in quickly implementing a digital employee referral program.  

  • Recruiters must know in advance how they will proceed when candidates respond to their outreach.

Again, the initial active sourcing approach resembles a marketing campaign in which one treads carefully. The first contact with potential candidates should merely be the company introduction that will consequently inspire ongoing discussion. Candidates should not feel stalked or bombarded. From there, a detailed strategy for building trust is crucial.


This proactive new way of attracting talent takes some effort upfront, but the return on investment is impressive. It helps recruiters to build the talent pool of pre-selected candidates, sharply reducing the time and cost of the hiring process. And above all, Active Sourcing targets and engages the most promising candidates in the labour market. 

In addition, integrating Active Sourcing with an employee referral program enables companies to directly reach out to the passive candidates. By promoting the company brand and sharing job offers on their networks, current employees help TAs recruit the most skilled and best cultural-fit workers for open positions, including those hard-to-fill roles. 


The Firstbird Buyer’s Guide will lead you step by step through the top features you should look for in a digital employee referral program.

Download the Buyer’s Guide

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