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The Difference Between Sourcing and Recruiting

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Talia Knowles is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast, with over five years of experience in writing and editing.

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The Difference Between Sourcing and Recruiting

The Difference Between Sourcing and Recruiting

Sourcing and recruiting are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are differences between the two processes. In short, sourcing is one step of recruiting, while recruiting is a more extensive process with several distinct stages. 

Depending on the size and structure of your business, the same employees might take care of sourcing and broader recruiting responsibilities. Even so, it is helpful to differentiate the two terms to better analyze your system’s strengths and weaknesses. 

DefinitionSourcing involves proactively identifying, finding, and engaging potential candidates who might not actively be seeking new opportunities.Recruiting involves the end-to-end process of hiring new employees, which includes sourcing as well as screening, interviewing, and selecting candidates.
PurposeThe purpose of sourcing is to build a pipeline of potential candidates, often before a role is even open.The purpose of recruiting is to fill a specific job opening with the most qualified candidate.
TacticsSourcing tactics might include social media outreach, attending networking events, and leveraging personal or professional networks.Recruiting tactics might include job postings, resume screenings, phone screenings, and conducting interviews.
TimeframeSourcing is an ongoing activity aimed at developing relationships with potential candidates for future roles.Recruiting usually has a defined timeframe related to a specific job opening.
EngagementSourcing is generally passive, reaching out to candidates who may not be currently looking for a new job. Recruiting is active, engaging with candidates who have applied for a job or have been sourced and are interested in the position.

What is Sourcing? 

Sourcing is the initial stage of talent acquisition that involves identifying and attracting potential candidates for a specific job or position. It focuses on proactively searching for and building a pool of qualified individuals who may be suitable for future or immediate hiring needs.

The sourcing process typically involves searching for candidates through various channels, such as job boards, social media platforms, professional networks, and internal databases. 

Then, sourcing teams will assess potential candidates based on their qualifications, skills, experience, and suitability for the position.

Sourcing can be understood as an investment in candidate pipelines in preparation for future vacancies. It’s important to develop and maintain relationships with potential candidates, even if there are no immediate openings, as this will speed up the hiring process later on. 

What Are the Steps of the Recruiting Process? 

Recruiting describes the broader hiring process, which involves evaluating, selecting, and hiring candidates from the sourced candidate pool. It focuses on identifying the best fit for a job opening and moving candidates through the hiring process.

Recruiting typically involves reviewing applications and resumes, conducting interviews, and engaging in one-on-one or panel interviews to evaluate candidates’ skills, cultural fit, and suitability for the role.

The process also includes assessing candidates’ performance and extending job offers to the most suitable individuals. 

1. Pre-Screening Stage

Advertising a new position is the first step of hiring. Many recruiters use LinkedIn, job boards such as Indeed, or platforms like Facebook or Instagram to share job descriptions with potential candidates and make it easy for them to submit an application. 

Sometimes, a passive candidate is the most desirable option. A passive candidate is someone who is not actively looking for a job but may be interested in a new opportunity if one is presented to them. 

In these cases, recruiters will spend time reaching out to passive candidates, making connections, and trying to persuade them to pursue a new opportunity.

2. Screening

After advertising the vacancy and recruiting passive candidates, it’s time to screen the applications you’ve received. 

Screening typically includes the time and resources it takes your HR department to review resumes and assess candidates’ qualifications and fit. You may want to invest in an ATS to speed up the process. 

Automating some stages of the screening process with an applicant tracking system, also known as ATS, will save your reps time and energy and allow them to focus on thoroughly vetting new candidates. 

Still, screening isn’t a process to be rushed, as you’ll want to ensure that the best candidates make it to the interview stage. 

3. Initial Interviews

Scheduling interviews with qualified candidates can also be a slow process. Especially if they’re currently employed elsewhere, it can take a while to find the time to sit down with them, either in person or virtually. 

To keep the process fair, recruiters won’t make a decision about who moves on to the next round of hiring until they’ve completed all initial interviews. That means that even if candidates interview early, they likely won’t hear back for a few weeks until all other candidates have been interviewed. 

4. Assessment and Evaluation Stage

Once all initial interviews have been completed, recruiters will analyze what they learned from applicants’ resumes and interviews to decide who proceeds to the final rounds of hiring. 

Hiring managers will take their time reviewing the information on each candidate and may meet with recruiters or higher-ups to consult before they make a final decision about who to interview again. 

5. Final Interviews and Selection

Finally, the top candidates will interview with the hiring manager, their potential supervisor, or another authoritative employee. Again, scheduling these interviews may take time, especially if the interviewer has a busy schedule. 

Once they are complete, candidates can expect to hear back in a week or two once the final decision is made. Of course, even once a job offer is extended, onboarding a new hire can also drag out the time to hire, or the time between a position opening up and officially being filled. 

What is the Difference Between Sourcing and Recruiting? 

Sourcing and recruiting are two interconnected but distinct stages in the process of acquiring talent for an organization. While both activities are crucial in finding suitable candidates, they have different focuses and objectives

Remember that specific practices and strategies may vary depending on the organization, industry, and region.

The primary goal of sourcing is to create a talent pool from which qualified candidates can be selected during the recruiting stage, while the goal of recruiting is to finalize the selection process and hire the most suitable candidate. 

Therefore, sourcing is an aspect of recruiting, while recruiting is the broader process that encompasses evaluating candidates and selecting the best fit from the sourced pool of candidates for a specific job opening.


The processes are connected, but sourcing and recruiting refer to different aspects of hiring. 

Though it is less comprehensive than recruiting, sourcing is critical because it helps build a talent pipeline and ensures a pool of qualified candidates is readily available when job openings arise. 

Emphasizing a sourcing phase can significantly improve the overall recruitment process by encouraging organizations to proactively search for talent, reducing time-to-fill, and increasing the chances of finding the best candidates. 

Sourcing and Recruiting FAQs

What are some effective sourcing strategies?

Effective sourcing strategies include leveraging online job boards, professional networking platforms (such as LinkedIn), social media, employee referrals, talent search agencies, attending job fairs, and utilizing internal databases. Combining these strategies helps cast a wide net and reach more potential candidates.

How can recruiters optimize the recruitment process?

Recruiters can optimize the recruitment process by streamlining job descriptions, enhancing candidate screening and evaluation techniques, implementing applicant tracking systems (ATS) for efficient candidate management, maintaining regular communication with candidates, and continuously improving the candidate experience.

What are the key skills required for successful sourcing and recruiting?

Critical skills for successful sourcing and recruiting include strong communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to effectively evaluate candidate qualifications, proficiency in using sourcing tools and platforms, an understanding of industry trends and talent markets, and the capability to build and maintain relationships with candidates and stakeholders.

What is the role of technology in sourcing and recruiting?

Technology plays a significant role in modern sourcing and recruiting processes. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) help manage candidate data, job boards and social media platforms facilitate sourcing efforts, video interviewing tools streamline candidate evaluations, and analytics tools provide insights for optimizing recruitment strategies.

How can employers enhance their candidate-sourcing efforts?

Employers can enhance their candidate sourcing efforts by ensuring their employer brand is strong and appealing, utilizing targeted job advertisements, actively engaging with passive candidates through networking and professional platforms, participating in industry events and conferences, and fostering relationships with educational institutions and professional organizations.

How can recruiters ensure diversity and inclusion in the sourcing and recruiting process?

Recruiters can ensure diversity and inclusion by implementing unbiased candidate screening processes, promoting diverse job advertisements, utilizing various sourcing channels, establishing partnerships with organizations that focus on underrepresented groups, and providing unconscious bias training to recruiters and hiring managers.

How can sourcing and recruiting be measured and evaluated?

Sourcing and recruiting can be measured and evaluated through metrics such as time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, quality of hire, candidate satisfaction, diversity metrics, and the effectiveness of sourcing channels. Regular analysis of these metrics helps identify areas for improvement and gauge the success of sourcing and recruiting strategies.