Hiring 101

Sourcing Candidates: 5 Strategies to Fill Your Hiring Pipeline

You're recruiting for a great company. Your latest job opening is a stellar opportunity for the right candidate, and you've done the role justice with a carefully crafted job posting. Days pass, then weeks. You have a trickle of applications, but... still no gold medal candidates. What gives?

Simply put, there's a lot of competition out there. In today's hypercompetitive job market, even great businesses with great job openings struggle to source strong talent. Maybe you don’t have brand recognition yet. Maybe you're hiring for a highly competitive role. Maybe your open roles were just lost in the noise of a thousand other job openings.

In any case, the solution is simple: proactive sourcing—seeking out and connecting with ideal applicants. While other companies take a passive approach to hiring, waiting for candidates to come to them, you have an opportunity to bring your job openings directly to the people who are most qualified.

Today, we're sharing five high-leverage recruiting strategies to help source qualified candidates for every one of your job openings.

1. Start with your silver medalists.

If you've hired before, you'll have an applicant tracking system—or a spreadsheet—full of silver-medal candidates. These applicants interviewed well but either declined your offer or weren't the right fit for your last job opening. Today, the situation might be different.

A past candidate might be better suited for a current job opening, or they may have acquired new skills and experience since their last interview with you. They may have changed their career trajectory and now be ready to consider a different role.

Approaching these candidates is a fast, cost-effective way to fill your pipeline with quality talent:

  • Candidates already recognize your brand. You're starting the recruiting process from a position of familiarity and trust. They've applied and interviewed with you before, so you can spend less time selling the benefits of your company, and more time selling the role.

  • You have good insight into their skills and experience. If you've run phone screens and in-person interviews with a candidate, you'll have a good understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests, making it much easier to find a role they'll thrive in.

  • They'll feel handpicked for the role. It's flattering to receive an email saying, “We know things didn't work out last time, but we'd love you to apply for this new role.” You've saved them the effort of reaching out for a new role, and built goodwill with the candidate in the process.

Re-engaging previous applicants is faster and more efficient than virtually any other candidate sourcing strategy. Research from Laszlo Bock, Google's former SVP of people operations, found that “recruiters were 6x more likely to hire someone already in their recruiting database.”

2. Harness the power of semantic search.

Ideal candidates can often be hidden away behind unusual job titles. If a search hinges on a single job title—say “front-end developer”— it's easy to miss out on stellar candidates who use a different title, like “UX engineer” or “JavaScript developer.”

You can tackle this with a semantic search strategy: widening your net to source candidates with roles and skills that are related—if not word-for-word identical—to the role you're trying to fill. Glen Cathey, SVP of global digital strategy and innovation at Randstad, identifies five types of semantic search useful for recruiters, the simplest of which are:

  • Conceptual: Searching for skill keywords (javascript, ux design, css), title variations (javascript developer, ux engineer) and common misspellings (front end devlopr).

  • Contextual: A candidate who lists “front-end developer” as their most recent title is likely to be a better fit than a candidate who last had the title a decade ago. Simply matching a keyword isn't always enough: You need the context surrounding it.

  • Grammatical: Looking for combinations of nouns and verbs that indicate “responsibilities and capabilities.” While words like Python, deploy, and browser are relatively meaningless in isolation, finding them in a single sentence reveals a niche skill, like “used Python to successfully deploy Chrome browser extension.

Semantic Search

Get started with semantic search by using boolean search strings—adding specific symbols to your search engine queries to modify results, like “OR” to combine searches (“ux design OR front-end design”) or “*” to function as a wildcard (“front end *”).

Some applicant tracking systems, like Hire, make it easy to search through your existing candidate database without having to devise these long boolean strings.

3. Don't limit yourself to “active” candidates.

In a competitive job market, candidates that are actively looking for a new job are often hired in record time. Even if they aren't, it can be tough to stand out to a candidate who has a number of competing job offers. Thankfully, there's another demographic that many companies overlook: passive candidates who aren't currently seeking a job.

Many employed candidates are receptive to recruiter outreach. It might be that they're growing increasingly frustrated with their current role, or they might be ready for a switch but lack the confidence or direction to know where to start looking. Sometimes, outreach provides the catalyst required for people to evaluate their current roles and realize it's time for a change.

Here are some resources you can look to when starting to source passive candidates:

  • Personal blogs, where would-be candidates share their work experiences and ideas

  • Social media, using job-specific hashtags (like #contentmarketing or #engineering) to find passive candidates

  • Portfolio sites, like Dribbble for designers and GitHub for developers

Once you've found a potential candidate, reach out with a simple, honest message: We think you're a great fit for this role. Would you like to learn more?

4. Experiment with uncommon sourcing channels.

With most recruiters sticking to a handful of tried-and-true websites, taking a novel approach to sourcing can differentiate your role and reach a broader base of potential candidates.

Try sourcing candidates through the following means:

  • Your personal network. Reach out to any friends, colleagues, or connections you think would be a great fit.

  • Social media. In a recent LinkedIn survey, 43% of recruiters reported that professional social networks were their top source of new candidates, ranking just above job boards.

  • Internal promotions. Existing employees are a known entity: Their skills and experience are clear to see, they're familiar with the company and culture, and they have existing relationships with other team members.

  • Employee referrals. Why limit sourcing techniques to your own personal network? Try setting up an employee-referral program, offering a financial incentive for any referrals that result in a successful hire.

  • Niche job-posting sites. While most candidates will come from sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, it's sometimes worth posting new vacancies to some of the more niche job-posting sites. We've collected some of our favorites into a list of 50 Free Job Posting Sites.

The “best” sources will vary by industry and role, and the best candidates can come from virtually anywhere. In short, it pays it to experiment.

5. Critically assess every sourcing channel.

Different sources will generate different results in terms of the response rates, the quality of applicants, and the number of successful hires. While experimentation is valuable, it's important to keep track of the success of each new channel you try and to focus your efforts on those that offer the best results.

Measuring applications alone won't provide a useful measure of source quality. As we explored in 5 Recruiting Metrics Every Hiring Team Should Track:

“Applications are a vanity metric—they don't directly translate into growth—and it's more useful to determine source of hire quality by calculating the ratio of applicants to hires.”

Track your applicant to hire ratio, not just your number of applications

Reaching out to 200 LinkedIn users might net 50 applications and a single hire, while 50 employee referrals might generate only 10 applicants, but two new hires. In terms of successful hires, this would mean that employee referrals are eight times more efficient than LinkedIn and are worthy of further exploration and an increase in budget.

Sourcing quality candidates

When it comes to finding your next great hire, the spoils usually go to the most proactive recruiter. These five strategies will help you fill your recruiting pipeline with great-fit candidates; and because sourcing is like any other recruitment process, it can be analyzed, iterated on, and improved over time. In short: Master sourcing and you'll never struggle to fill another vacancy.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.