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Historically, “recruiting” described the entire process of acquiring new employees. In more recent times, many organizations have separated recruiting into two more specialized disciplines: sourcing and recruiting.

Sourcing is the talent acquisition discipline which focuses on identifying, assessing, and engaging potential candidates for roles – turning them into applicants. People who specialize in sourcing are typically referred to as “sourcers.”

Recruiting is the act of guiding applicants through the evaluation process, negotiating offers, and to some degree onboarding.
While some organizations have recruiters tend to both sourcing and recruiting, sourcing has steadily but surely emerged as a specialized field. Optimizing the two functions can lower recruiting costs and time-to-hire.

It’s important to note that there still isn’t total agreement on where the line is between sourcing vs. recruiting. Some organizations will have sourcers focus entirely on candidate list generation and data enrichment while having recruiters take care of reaching out and converting people into applicants.

The Sourcer’s Role

Geoff Webb, a 17-year recruiter veteran who transformed into a sourcer in recent years gives a unique perspective in his Recruiting vs. Sourcing (a Day in the Life). Having performed in both roles, Webb offers his perspective on the key differences between sourcers and recruiters. A great sourcer will not only spend time on the following tasks but will know which inputs yield the highest outputs. Main tasks that sourcers tackle include:

  • Hunting and finding passive candidates
  • Creating interest and driving talent to the company
  • Engaging potential candidates
  • Networking through industry-related groups
  • Searching specialty and niche job boards
  • And the list goes on…

The hunt often involves a chase – this can mean repeating, tweaking, and improving these activities – until you have a roster of qualified prospects.

Sourcers perform an essential function in the recruitment cycle, using techniques like Boolean string searches and data mining to identify qualified candidates who are not actively applying for positions within their organization.

The Recruiter’s Role

Typically, once a candidate is engaged (they are interested in applying for the job) the sourcer hands off the qualified candidate to the recruiter.

The recruiter manages the relationship going forward. This can involve phone screening, setting up interviews and other evaluations, negotiating salaries, onboarding, and helping both candidates and hiring managers navigate the hiring process.

So Why the Confusion?

Sourcing as an occupation is still a fairly new phenomenon. As talent acquisition teams become more advanced, they add new pieces to the process that improve outcomes but also increase complexity. Specialized technologies have arrived to help identify, engage, and evaluate candidates. As these technologies enter the recruiting process, it becomes more difficult for a single person to master them all, encouraging the “sourcer vs recruiter” specialization.

Many people are not familiar with this new specialization, so they end up calling anyone involved with acquiring new personnel a recruiter. While the two roles are indeed symbiotic in nature, they are not interchangeable.

Collaboration is King

It is pivotal for sourcers, recruiters, and hiring managers to work together to identify, attract, and acquire top talent for their organization. Clear communication between every layer of the recruiting funnel creates the feedback loop necessary to hire the best talent.