Talent Sourcing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Debra Teo

Debra Teo

7 min read

Talent sourcing can be the foundation of a strong hiring pipeline at your company. It can be the difference between having good applicants and great applicants. It can unlock new pools of candidates that you didn’t even know were out there. And mastering talent sourcing is within reach, starting with this guide. We will take you through the basics, including defining talent sourcing and related terms, then get into more in-depth knowledge, including sourcing for different roles and the specific tools to use when sourcing. Let’s dive in.

Navigate this guide:

  • What is talent sourcing?
  • What is passive talent?
  • Sourcing vs. recruiting
  • When talent sourcing takes place
  • The importance of talent sourcing
  • Talent sourcing for technical vs. non-technical roles
  • Cold outreach vs. warm outreach
  • Who is responsible for talent sourcing?
  • How do you write great talent outreach emails?
  • What are the best talent sourcing tools?

What is talent sourcing?

Definition: Talent sourcing is the process of finding potential job candidates and converting them into job applicants.

Don’t let the simplicity of that definition fool you. Talent sourcing involves a lot of work and many varied activities to be successful. Sourcers have to figure out where to look for potential candidates, how to identify the candidates that could be a good fit, how to reach out to these people, and how to convince them to apply. It’s a role that combines sales, research, human resources, and more.

What is passive talent?

Definition: Passive talent are people who are not currently actively looking for a job, but may be open to a new role if the right thing comes along.

Most of the people that sourcers reach out to are passive talent. If someone is actively looking for a job and applying to roles, it’s likely they won’t need a sourcer to tell them to apply to a job because they are already doing so.

However, people who are passive talent are not looking and applying to roles. They need a sourcer to present them with the right opportunity at the right time before they will take the effort to apply to a role.

As a sourcer, it can be hard to know to what degree a candidate is passive until you reach out. Here are some possible mindsets for passive talent:

  • They may not be looking for a new role because they are completely fulfilled and happy with their current one.
  • They may not be looking for a new role because they are doing okay at their current job, but they know something better might be out there.
  • They may not be looking for a new role because they are overwhelmed with their current job and don’t have the time or energy to find something better.
  • They may not be looking for a new role because they think there’s nothing better out there, even though they don’t like their current job.
  • And many more! That’s why it pays to reach out and learn more about passive talent.

Sourcing vs. recruiting

The short answer? Sourcing comes first.

Sourcing is the first step in the process of finding great people and hiring them to work at your company. The whole world is full of people who could possibly be a great fit at your company. Sourcing is the process of finding these people and engaging with them so that they’d want to consider the company or the role.

Recruiting involves taking those interested applicants and converting them into successful employees. Recruiting and sourcing are certainly related processes. In a small company, it’s even likely that the same person could be managing both sourcing and recruiting, managing the hiring process end-to-end.

When talent sourcing takes place

To borrow a term from the world of sales and marketing, talent sourcing is a top-of-funnel activity. This means that it takes place at the very beginning of the hiring process, well before your recruiting team is evaluating applicants and coordinating interviews. Sourcing is the first activity you should spend time on, so that you can build up a pipeline of applicants.

Talent sourcing should be happening all the time, on an ongoing basis. This is to help ensure that your company has a steady stream of qualified applicants in your pipeline. Just like you wouldn’t advertise your product only once a year, you shouldn’t source candidates only once. Sourcing has to be an ongoing process to be successful.

The importance of talent sourcing

Talent sourcing is an essential part of building a strong pipeline of applicants and therefore a strong pipeline of successful new hires. You can’t market a product without identifying your potential customers. You can’t sell a product without identifying your potential buyers. And you can’t hire great people without identifying potential applicants.

As recruiting teams recognize the importance of effective talent sourcing, more and more resources and time are being dedicated to it. Sourcing can bring in many more potential applicants than waiting around for candidates to be interested in the roles you post. Sourcing allows recruiting and hiring teams to be proactive and find the candidates that will be the best fit possible.

Talent sourcing for technical vs. non-technical roles

While there are some qualities that sourcers must have for all types of roles, there are some talents that you must develop based on the type of role you are sourcing for. Specifically, technical vs. non-technical roles can require you to bring certain skills to the table to ensure you are targeting candidates successfully.

The key thing to know about sourcing for technical roles is that they demand some technical knowledge. You will be searching for candidates who need to know certain programming languages or have particular math skills. It’s important to be clear what those requirements are and to know the role inside and out. A candidate won’t know if the job is right for them if you are confusing programming languages.

When sourcing non-technical roles, it’s important to understand the breadth of potentially relevant experience. Unlike technical roles, you will likely be looking for candidates with broader, more subjective skills like critical thinking, independence, reliability, and more. It is important to think creatively about how people’s past experiences could give them the skills necessary to be successful in the roles you are sourcing for.

Cold outreach vs. warm outreach

Reaching out to potential candidates is a key part of sourcing. As a successful sourcer, you have to figure out the best way to approach all types of people, including cold and warm leads. Just like in sales, cold leads are potential candidates who haven’t had any contact with your or your company yet. Warm leads are potential candidates who have had some contact or introduction to you. Both types of leads need targeted outreach to ensure they become successful applicants.

Cold outreach

Be clear, concise, and respectful. You’re the first point of contact for this potential candidate. You have the opportunity to give them a great impression of your company, showing that you are genuinely interested in learning more about them while respecting their time.

Warm outreach

Be warm, genuine, and direct. This potential candidate has already had some contact with your company, be it a connection through a mutual contact or reaching out to your team. Now is the time to really sell them on your interest and their potential at your company. Don’t be shy in expressing your enthusiasm for them and encouraging them to apply for the role.

Covey is the only platform that brings together a powerful referral gathering feature built on a more efficient workflow and CRM. Get a demo today to find out how we can help you outreach to the best talent connected to your employees.

Who is responsible for talent sourcing?

The answer to this question will likely depend on the size and type of company you work for. As the importance of talent sourcing grows, many companies are dedicating resources towards it. At a smaller company, a recruiter may branch out to include sourcing in their role so that they can build out their hiring pipeline. This can eventually lead to more resources being dedicated towards sourcing.

At a larger company, there may be a dedicated person or team of people whose only job is sourcing. They will likely have experience in recruiting and hiring, and they will be knowledgeable in the skills it takes to be successful at sourcing.

Some potential job titles to look out for:

  • Talent Sourcer
  • Recruiting Sourcer
  • Talent Acquisition Manager
  • Talent Acquisition Sourcer
Talent sourcers are one of the most difficult positions to hire for in the talent acquisition industry. Find out how Covey and help your organization with this pain point.

How do you write great talent outreach emails?

How to write great emails is something that every person, no matter their function, likely has to grapple with at their job. But it is of even more importance for those in sourcing roles.

Just like salespeople, sourcers have to craft compelling outreach emails to convince potential candidates that they should apply for a certain role. When writing a great outreach email, it pays to keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Be specific - Paint a vivid picture of the amazing role to your potential candidate. Talk about the role, what makes them a great fit, and what next steps to take. And don’t say, “Let me know if you have any questions.” Instead, try, “Are you free for a call this week?” Or even “Are you free to chat tomorrow?” That way the candidate isn’t guessing about next steps.
  2. Be concise - Your potential candidates are likely in-demand if they have great qualifications and experiences. They could be getting multiple emails every week reaching out about new opportunities. So keep it to the point.
  3. Be personal - This goes beyond putting a potential candidate’s name in your email subject line. Take the time to really look at their previous experiences and accomplishments and tailor your email to them. If you’re particularly impressed by a certain role or achievement, say so. Anyone can say, “I think your experience will be a great fit for our company” and candidates know that. They are looking for a more personalized experience from outreach emails.

What are the best talent sourcing tools?


LinkedIn is a cornerstone of sourcing and recruiting. It is a great tool to use to search for potential candidates. You can look by region, company, past role, and more. It’s also a great way to see who is open to new roles and message them directly with opportunities.


Covey offers everything a recruiter needs, including sourcing, drip campaigns, referral gathering, and candidate pipeline reporting. You can automate the steps you need, while customizing everything you want. Covey is a great way to manage the sourcing process efficiently and effectively.

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