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Recruiters & Sourcers – Who should do what

The war for quality talent (those purple squirrels (or unicorns!), needles in the haystack … call them what you will) is fierce. Some might even say it is more fierce than ever before.

Whether you are an internal talent acquisition specialist, a recruitment consultant in a staffing agency, a head hunter, or a business owner or hiring manager trying to run your own recruitment process, finding the best talent has become increasingly more challenging.

Today the recruiting landscape is fundamentally different and yet everyone still wants to find that diamond in the rough.

With the massive shortage for quality talent there are two paths you can take.


Have you ever been guilty of saying that active job seekers – those who are actively in the market looking for job opportunities – are a waste of time?

Unfortunately the popular belief seems to be that, ‘If they are looking for a job, then they can’t be any good.’

I can assure you that not everyone is an active job seeker because they’re not good enough to get the job they want.

Remember an ‘active’ job seeker isn’t necessarily out of work. They might be active because they have made the conscious decision to find a new role and are finally doing something about it!

I’ve always trained recruiters to quickly assess whether a candidate is either running away from something or running toward something. This will help you determine what type of active candidate they are.

Recruiters should definitely not ignore active candidates.


A passive candidate is someone who is currently employed but would still be open to considering other opportunities.

You may be asking yourself, why you would even seek out someone who is not looking for a new job?

In a recent LinkedIn Talent Trends Report, 75% of the 18,000 full time employees surveyed considered themselves passive candidates. 85% of those said they would be willing to talk about a new career opportunity.

However only 61% of companies today are actually focused on recruiting passive candidates.

Seeking out passive candidates as a prime aspect of your candidate sourcing strategy can be especially relevant when you’re looking to fill a role with someone who has very specific skills.

Passive candidate recruiting is often the best way to find someone who truly matches the skill set you’re looking for, rather than waiting on the ideal candidate to come to you.

By definition, the passive candidate is going to be tougher to engage than an active candidate, right?

Not necessarily.

Here’s why …


The whole point of passive sourcing is to find candidates who don’t think they’re interested in leaving their jobs and convincing them to give your open role a chance.

However sourcing is so much more than simply specialized resume search and candidate name generation. And it certainly isn’t taking the response from those applying to your online job board advertisements.

Sourcing has turned into a specialized field of its own, and if you don’t understand the difference between sourcing and recruiting, you will end up adding to your overall cost and time to hire. And if you’re a recruiter you may unfortunately even start to resent the job you thought you were signing up for.


Recruiting and sourcing are increasingly recognized as distinct activities with very different goals and outcomes, requiring very different skills and processes.

Sure, some recruiters can do sourcing and vice versa. It’s a live debate in our industry – particularly on the question of who makes initial contact with a prospective candidate. But we see these activities becoming increasingly differentiated, as the skills and techniques to be a true specialist become harder to master.

We also observe the best talent teams in the world (not to mention some of the largest global staffing businesses) structuring different roles and functions around these different areas.


Perhaps the question should be “So who should do what function?” when it comes to sourcing and recruiting.

How much time are you spending trawling the web looking for your ideal candidate? Hours? Days? Perhaps even weeks? If you’re lucky enough to find them, do you have their contact details to be able to engage them?

Researching, market mapping, list building and email validation although absolutely essential, are incredibly time consuming – not to mention incredibly administratively heavy (recruiters might even say ‘boring’, ‘tedious’, or ‘mundane’).

Sourcing is the work of a cyber sleuth and typically not a natural skill set for a ‘people person’ – ie the recruiter.

Recruiters should be spending more time talking with candidates … not looking for them.


I run recruitment training workshops all the time. When it comes to the module on the difference between sourcing and recruiting, I give the class three different analogies.

Anaesthetists are incredibly skilled at what they do, but they will never pick up the scalpel. Another highly specialized individual will perform the actual surgery.

So many of us are addicted to Master Chef. Seeing the talented culinary geniuses creating their amazing dishes in the kitchen. We would never expect these chefs to then personally deal with the hundreds of hungry and demanding patrons in the dining room, would we?

When did you last come across a highly trained architect physically building a house (or any structure they’d designed for that matter?)

So why do we expect recruiters to source?

I remember what caught my attention on the job ad (back in the early 1990s!) when I first fell into recruitment.

Phrases like “outstanding interpersonal and communication skills”, “strong sales and negotiation skills”, “a hunger to meet deadlines and KPIs”, and “using sales and business development techniques to build solid relationships with clients and candidates”.

I have yet to meet a true sourcer with strong sales skills able to (let alone even wanting to) build solid relationships with any candidate or client.

We should all just stick to what we do best.


*Originally written by Paul Slezak, Cofounder and CEO of RecruitLoop and published in Zippia