Raghunath Ramaswamy
Raghunath Ramaswamy Educated in pure sciences, my journey has its roots in Software development, Sales and Marketing. Since 1995, people have been the centre of my professional universe.I have since focused on acquiring, engaging, managing, nurturing, equipping and developing human resources.

Talent Sourcing: You Attract What You Are

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We will be using the word Talent Sourcer and Sourcer interchangeably in this document.

Attracting talent has been a critical priority for all business owners worldwide.

Getting the right talent on time always determines an organization's ability to scale.

We constantly hear organizations rue over lost opportunities due to

1. Scarcity of talent

2. Inability to acquire talent on time

3. Quality of talent

Is this true?

How do organizations address the challenges of the availability of talent? Are organizations targeting active applicants or passive applicants? Are organizations addressing the challenges reactively or proactively?

To improve its ability to acquire talent and remain ahead of the curve, hiring organizations will do well to understand the characteristics of active and passive applicants. This understanding is critical to help the sourcer where to focus. 

Characteristics of active applicants


Active applicants are targeted against open positions.


Active applicants are under the radar of everybody. Not only is the sourcer looking out for the applicant against an open position, so are the other competitors. 


When one considers the recruitment funnel, the ratio of the number of applicants who accept the offer is a relatively low subset of the number of applicants who are identified. As a result, there are significant wasted efforts at every stage of the recruitment cycle.


All those offered do not join. It makes the actually available active applicants a relatively lower subset of those that are offered.


This impacts the cost of hire, time to hire, and quality of hire.

Characteristics of Passive Applicants


Passive applicants are targeted for requirements planned in the future.


Passive job seekers are individuals who are currently employed and not actively looking for a new job, but who may be open to a good career opportunity if one came along.


Passive applicants may not be under the radar of competitors. 


When one targets passive applicants, the sourcer can go about the task of identifying prospective applicants without much pressure. The sourcer has the time to do the necessary due diligence.


There is time to do the due diligence and time to form relationships. It directly impacts the recruitment funnel, leading to improved cost of hire, time to hire, and quality of hire.

The lion's share of sourcing involves proactively searching for qualified job applicants for current or planned open positions. The emphasis on the word proactive is the key to continued success in the 'War for Talent'. The word proactive would mean that the activity would entail targeting passive applicants. 

This process manifests itself into:

Constantly connecting with prospective passive applicants through LinkedIn & other social media platforms, participating in groups on online platforms, participating in conversations on online platforms, and engaging the targeted set of applicants. 

Connecting with prospective passive applicants has to be preceded by the necessary due diligence about relevant applicants. In addition, it is vital that these applicants' skills and capabilities are aligned with your organization's needs.

Therefore, a meaningful engagement strategy can help convey the employer brand and an employer value proposition. In addition, it helps convert the passive applicant community into a genuinely set of interested applicants excited to work with your brand.

These are scenarios where an organization can predict its requirement well in advance. However, some organizations receive requirements out of the blue in real life. There are also unforeseeable spikes in requirements. In such cases, a reactive approach becomes necessary. 

The hiring organization in the real world has to be equipped to handle both proactive and reactive scenarios. Hiring organizations must de-risk themselves. The hiring organization should factor in many sources to equip itself to face the hiring challenges. The sources may include but are not limited to social media, job boards, agencies, employee referrals, and other forms of referrals.

Every productive search of the sourcer is an invaluable addition to the fortunes of the hiring organization. Therefore, the hiring organization must implement an applicant tracking system in the true spirit. It will ensure that every resume sourced is stored in an applicant tracking system. Each resume is tagged against a relevant source.

Recycling resumes with properly written notes improve an organization's ability to acquire talent in reduced time and cost. It also enhances the quality of hire.

Central Sourcing Philosophy

Sourcing is two ways. It is both inbound and outbound. The sourcing initiatives must be anchored around a holistic social media presence and a well-implemented applicant tracking system. It will ensure a great employer brand, employer value proposition, and supremely well-organized recruitment outfit. It is an insurance against turbulence that is likely to be generated by unpredictability and sudden spikes.

Ideally, any organization should work towards enhancing their social media presence and GET FOUND for their needs, thereby reducing or eliminating the activity of SEARCH. 

Sourcing Initiatives: Consolidating the gains

We take stock of the several components of sourcing to consolidate the gains.

The Relevance of Social Media in Sourcing

The sourcer and the hiring organization have unlimited power endowed at their disposal. However, to invoke the power of social, the sourcer and the hiring organization have to reinvent themselves. It involves a shift in mindset, greater transparency, and the sourcer’s need to upskill and adopt a completely different way of working. 

Social media demands that a sourcer be pro-active in every aspect. Planning is quintessential. The sourcer has the power to set up a network of choice and nurture it for the sourcer’s needs. Engagement is the key to succeeding on the social media platform. Sourcer’s understanding of their network is the key to engaging effectively. It will positively impact the hiring metrics.

The role of an Applicant Tracking System in sourcing

Receipt of resumes from diverse sources

A recruiting organization fulfills its positions through its recruiters, agencies, and employee referrals.

The sourcers may source and download resumes through diverse sources but not limited to multiple job boards, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites. In addition, they may source through various means.

Therefore, it is imperative to understand the source of each resume that finds its way into the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

The ATS must be facile enough to accept resumes from diverse sources at the touch of a button and capture the resume’s source.

An ATS gives you a deeper understanding of where your applicants come from, which channel performs the best, and allows for continuous improvement.

At the heart of the ATS is the central database.

Storing all applications in an Applicant Tracking System eliminates the possibility of an application getting lost or getting stuck on a sourcer’s desk.

The responsiveness of the recruiting organization determines the speed of recruitment. Responsiveness is dictated by the speed and accuracy of retrieving the right applicant profile. A centralized warehouse of well-qualified applicants dramatically improves response time. In addition, applicants may be well qualified by gathering exhaustive applicant information such as reasons for a job change, previous/current employment, education, certifications, strengths, international work experience, preferences, thereby building dimension and depth to the database.

Job Boards

Job Boards are critical to the sourcing fortunes as they constantly update resumes on their platform. Resume Freshness is vital to pick up the applicants early on in their job hunt.

Head Hunting 

To be able to headhunt is an added weapon to the sourcer's arsenal.

Other Sources

Job Posts/Advertisements, Employee referrals, and Vendors are other sources organizations rely upon to recruit.

Key steps to effective sourcing

Sourcing is an art and a science. 

The Talent Sourcer drives the sourcing initiatives. 

Being tech-savvy and having the ability to correlate are prerequisites for a sourcer's job. Perseverance and curiosity help the sourcer to travel the extra mile. The sourcer must be familiar enough with all the options available and creative enough to look for resources where others are not looking out.

Improvisation is the key. There is no single route to the prospective applicant. In the late 90s, I had to fulfill Sybase DBA positions. I had no access to the internet, social media, job boards, mobile or applicants with telephones at their residence. I had to find out which organizations had Sybase DBA and then headhunt the resource through the board lines of the organization.

At a fundamental level, sourcing involves obtaining relevant resumes using appropriate search constructs. At a deeper level, the sourcer must ingest a resume to get pertinent insights that are not visible to the normal eye.\

Sourcing: Search, Scan, and Synthesizing

Sourcing can be broken down into searching, scanning, and synthesizing

It is only natural to scan while you search and synthesize.

Synthesizing is a critical part of the sourcer's activity.

We shall first take a look at what needs to be synthesized before we look at the different searching techniques.

Synthesizing the resume and social media profile

The act of sourcing is initiated through a search construct that trigger search results. The search can be initiated on Applicant Tracking Systems, Job Boards, Social media platforms, and others.

Sourcing is not about how effectively the sourcer uses the search constructs on different platforms to obtain search results. Instead, it is how effectively the sourcer can synthesize the information on a resume or a profile.

The sourcer must cultivate the habit of reading the resume well to obtain vital insights about the applicant.

While reading the resume, the sourcer will do well to understand the number of years of relevant experience, gaps in employment history, educational qualifications, the number of job changes made, the role and contributions made by the applicant to form first level impressions. 

The sourcer will do well to validate the resume while reading it. 

This process holds good while scanning a social media profile or a LinkedIn profile.

The resume and the social media profile offer abundant insights other than the applicant's experience.

The resume has information about the projects, products, technology, roles, skills, organizations, team sizes, education qualifications, and universities.

The social media profile of the same person can give more significant insights into all the above details. 

The sourcer will do well to understand that social media platforms like LinkedIn have separate pages to showcase projects, organizations, products, and universities.

Greater insights about the elements of the resume available in social media give an enhanced picture of the applicant.

The sourcer should guzzle the information on the elements available in social media to form an impression about the organization's lines of business. A curious sourcer would undoubtedly try to scan the website and understand pertinent aspects of the organization. It could be a rich source of information that the sourcer could harness when an appropriate opportunity arises.

An Intelligent sourcer should be able to extract information about the quality of projects and products, the kind of skill sets available in the organization, the locations they operate, and the number of people available in each location.

The ability to correlate information gives the sourcer the necessary competitive edge.

Note: A sourcer will do well to compare the resume or profile of the same person available on different platforms to check for consistencies in the representation of experience.

The sourcer must be well versed with the features of all the social media platforms to infer further. All social media platforms have unique characteristics. 

 Relevance of the Google X-Ray search

In real-time, large requirements have to be serviced against demanding deadlines. The sourcer may be facing challenges in getting the required number of resumes from existing social media platforms, applicant tracking systems, job boards, employee referrals, and agencies.

The Google X-Ray search is one such tool that helps to X-Ray through platforms to discover results.

Data can be structured and unstructured. 

The need for Google X-Ray search in a structured platform

Let us look at why the X-Ray search is required to retrieve resumes from structured data.

It is possible to retrieve resumes from structured data available in social media and specialized platforms through an X-Ray search. However, it is not possible to retrieve structured data available from Applicant Tracking Systems and Job boards. 

The sourcer will do well to note that search is constrained by the search features provided by specific social media platforms. A case in point is the search in LinkedIn. The platform does not support the NOT operand. Search is also constrained by the levels and size of the sourcer's network on LinkedIn.

The Google X-Ray search is immensely useful to break past the barriers imposed by social media and other specialized platforms.

The need for Google X-Ray search in an unstructured platform

Unstructured data is a collection of data that is not necessarily, organized in a way for you to find the names of the people with skills and job titles

The sourcer has to be resourceful enough to discover profiles from large repositories of data scattered on the web in different forms. For example, data could be available on newspaper websites, conferences, professional bodies, and company websites. These could contain an individual's name, job title, and place of work. It is sufficient information for a sourcer to target the person and reach out to the individual.

So how does the sourcer put structure on unstructured data sources?

It is essential for sourcers looking for niche skills usually unavailable in ordinary places.

Google X-Ray search manipulates the web and organizes it to give the structure we need to find those people.

Talent sourcing: We attract what we are

A sourcer is constantly involved in either proactively nurturing a talent pipeline or in a mad rush to respond to a requirement reactively. In either of the cases, the sourcer needs to qualify a resume for its relevance and quality. It alone will result in a gainful pursuit.

A key observation that we have made earlier in the chapter:

The sourcing initiatives must be anchored around the social media presence and the applicant tracking system. It is an insurance against turbulence that is likely to be generated by unpredictability and sudden spikes.

A holistic social media implementation ensures that the employer brand conveys the unique employer value proposition.

The responsiveness of the recruiting organization determines the speed of recruitment. Responsiveness is dictated by the speed and accuracy of retrieving the right applicant profile. A centralized warehouse of well-qualified applicants dramatically improves response time. In addition, applicants may be well qualified by gathering exhaustive applicant information such as reasons for a job change, previous/current employment, education, certifications, strengths, international work experience, preferences, thereby building dimension and depth to the database.

A well-implemented applicant tracking system ensures a responsive recruiting organization that values the importance of data.

These activities reflect the intrinsic culture of an organization.

If you do so, you will not only get what you are but may end up getting what you want!!