Sourcing: Separate Role or Integrated Function?

Candidate Sourcing - integrated function of a full life cycle recruiter, or separate role?Whatever your thoughts may be regarding the sourcing role, companies and their HR/staffing organizations have at least 2 ways of handling the talent discovery/identification function: 1) Simply allow full life cycle recruiters to handle the sourcing role as an integrated function, or 2) Separate out the sourcing function and assign the work to people who are solely responsible for talent identification.

So which is the superior model?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here, as I do not believe that either way of handling the sourcing function is intrinsically “better” than the other. However, as someone who has always personally performed his own sourcing and as someone who trains dedicated sourcers whose sole purpose is to identify potential candidates, I can share my insights with you.

One Mind, One Understanding

Having 1 person being responsible for the entire recruiting life cycle, including the talent identification stage, has an obvious benefit of not suffering from any communication/”lost in translation” issues when it comes to understanding a particular position and the kinds of people the hiring manager is ideally looking for.

Who is to say that the sourcer walks away with the same understanding of a specific position’s requirements as the recruiter, and that the sourcer would employ the same search strategies and tactics to identify potential candidates as the recruiter would?


While teams can enjoy certain benefits over lone wolves, there is something to be said for a single point of accountability. A full life cycle recruiter who performs their own sourcing cannot point the finger at or blame anyone else for their lack of results with something like, “my sourcer isn’t getting me enough of the right people.” Moreover, a sourcer can’t claim that the recruiter is failing to successfully contact and engage the prospective candidates they have identified, or that the recruiter simply isn’t calling the people they’re finding because the recruiter doesn’t care for the resumes. Sound familair?

Feedback Loop

A full life cycle recruiter who is responsible for sourcing their own candidates has the advantage of an instantaneous real-time feedback look from sourcing efforts – there is no dependency upon or need to wait to hear back from the sourcer as to what they are or are not finding. I’ve always sourced by own candidates, and I benefit from and enjoy adaptively learning from my research and sourcing efforts to modify, improve and evolve my searches to more quickly find more of the right people to engage.


Whether a corporate or agency environment, it’s typically less expensive to employ 1 person to perform the entire recruiting life cycle than it is to employ 2 people with mutually exclusive responsibilities within the recruiting life cycle, even if the sourcer is offshore.

Due to the cost factor of employing 2 people to perform the entire recruiting life cycle, many staffing organizations “skimp” on the sourcing role, viewing the candidate sourcing role as a junior function, and correspondingly pay the sourcer less than the recruiter.

My only guess as to why this is the case is because a great many people and the organizations they work for don’t yet understand the true value of the sourcing function. Sourcers are undeniably true knowledge workers – and their function cannot be commoditized any more than business intelligence and financial analytics can, regardless of the excessive desire to.

The cliche of “you get what you pay for” applies no less to sourcing than it does anything else.


Depending on the kind of roles being recruited for, finding the right people to engage and recruit can be very time consuming. I know many recruiters who lament their lack of time to really dig into their sourcing function based on their requirement/job opening load – they’re spending so much time reaching out to, engaging, evaluating and processing referrals and active candidates that have responded to job postings that they don’t have much time to go out and actually look for those elusive and prized “passive” candidates.

It can easily be argued that having one person handle the entire recruiting life cycle is inefficient – like having 1 person build your house. Even though there are individuals who are entirely capable of designing a home as well as performing all carpentry, drywall, flooring, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work – it’s not an efficient way to build a home.  

One person that is solely responsible for sourcing candidates can undeniably source a higher volume of candidates per hour, day, and week than a person who has to juggle all of the other steps of the recruiting life cycle. And without having to worry about finding candidates to contact, a recruiter can engage and assess more candidates per hour, day and week than a recruiter who has to source their own candidates.

Typers vs. Talkers

Some people believe that recruiting/HR professionals can be lumped into two main types: typers and talkers. I’ll grant that to some extent this is accurate. I’ve certainly experienced it myself when I have hired and trained full life cycle recruiters – both experienced and inexperienced. Some people are simply better with the people engagement aspect (aka the human element) of recruiting than the investigative hunt of talent discovery and vice versa.

It is a fallacy to assume that just because someone has an uncanny way with potential candidates when it comes to messaging, engagement, screening and closing and control that they will have an equally uncanny ability to leverage the phone and/or technology (databases, ATS/CRM systems, the Internet, etc.) to actually FIND potential candidates, and vice versa.

Specialization of Function

There is definitely an advantage to specialization of function. Asking one person to do (too) many different things can prevent them from being highly productive, and it can also prevent them from developing advanced skills and ability in any one aspect of their job – the concept of the generalist vs. the specialist.

Perhaps it is best to let the typers type and the talkers talk. Two specialists who are able to divide and conquer the recruiting life cycle by leveraging their respective skills and ability can likely outperform a single generalist responsible for the entire recruiting process. However, as previously stated, 2 people – especially specialists – are typically more expensive than 1 generalist, or even a single “super recruiter” who can do it all.

My Thoughts

Technology Enables

Now more than ever, recruiting technology and the unprecedented access to and ever increasing volume of human capital data should actually enable a single person responsible for the entire recruiting life cycle to be highly productive.

If anything, a separate sourcing function was never more necessary than 15+ years ago. Today – not so much, in my opinion.

As I have written before, today – a properly trained and capable person leveraging available technologies can identify 20 or so well qualified and local candidates in under an hour (sometimes in as little as 30 minutes) – not counting ad responses. 15 years ago – without LinkedIn, a well stocked Internet, highly searchable resume databases (free, premium, and private ATS/CRM solutions) and social media, you’d be lucky to identify 20 well qualified local candidates in a week.

And by “well qualified” I don’t mean names – I mean people who match on all variables – specific years of and type of experience, industry, environment, degree, compensation, precise location, etc., and have a high probability of being the right match and ultimately being hired. 

As I am fond of saying – finding people (sourcing names) has never been particularly difficult, but finding the right people (with specific skills, experience, and qualifications)quickly has always been a challenge, although less so today for those with the right skills, experience, and capability.

Hire Right

Yes, it’s true that there are typers and there are talkers. However, I would not suggest designing a sourcing/recruiting model around this phenomenon.

Solid talent management principles would state that you should leverage people for their strengths and not rely on them for their weaknesses – why have high expectations of someone performing a specific function for which they don’t appear to have any innate ability/propensity?

If you need a true full life cycle recruiter who can source their own candidates, make sure you’re hiring the right people who are equally good at typing and talking. Trust me – they exist.  There are many people who can type and talk with equal skill and ability, and they can also be developed from scratch.  Been there, done that. :-)

Value and Invest in Sourcing

There is no doubt that splitting the recruiting life cycle up between typers and talkers can be effective and highly productive. Specialization of function has many benefits.

I believe that for staffing teams employing dedicated sourcers, specialized sourcing training should be available, there should be a clear career path offering advancement for the sourcing role, and compensation for the sourcers should be commensurate with ability and the value provided. There are a few companies I am aware of that pay their senior sourcers more than their senior recruiters who do not source – kudos for “getting it!”

If you examine the entire recruiting life cycle for value, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that any step provides more value than finding the right person in the first place. You simply cannot engage, recruit and hire someone you haven’t found. Unfortunately, many staffing organizations pay their sourcers in an inverse proportion to the value their role can provide their company.

Your Thoughts?

So what do you think? What has been your experience with candidate sourcing as an integrated function of a full life cycle recruiter or as a separate role?

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  • I have tried both models and prefer doing full cycle recruiting. I learn so much about an industry and its people when I am sourcing that it makes me a better all around recruiter. I don’t want to give up that opportunity to keep my knowledge 100% fresh — and I love finding the right person!

  • Jeff Campanella

    Great summary on taking the, ‘assembly line’ approach to talent acquisition. I’ve never been a big fan of segmenting the recruitment process, but there is a solid value prop when the corp recruitment model places rigid boundaries (voluntary or otherwise) on the recruiter to the point where he/she is limited to, ‘inbox recruiting’ (due to aggressive SLAs with business units).

    Thanks for a great article!

  • Marcie Davis

    I too, believe that there is value in both full life cycle recruiting and a specialized split-responsibility approach. I really like the analogy you gave comparing a full life cycle recruiter to that of one person building a house. That one person might be completely capable, but it might not always be the most effective/time-efficient way to get the job done. Time to hire is a significant metric in most corporate organizations, and splitting these roles definitely has it’s benefits.

  • Sourcing Samuri

    I currently work as the sole dedicated Sourcer for Nestle USA. Although I am a Sourcer by Title, my role has been a hybrid to say the least. I have also previously worked as a Sr. Recruiter in the past, and can say my compensation is in the same ballpark as most Sr. Recruiters. Nestle “gets it”! 

    The Sourcer role has been broken down into 3 major pieces. Not surprisingly, the majority of my responsibility and time (50%) is spent Sourcing, and supporting individual Recruiters w/ their “difficult to fill” positions. I accompany Recruiters to in-take meetings w/ Hiring Managers, have complete access to those Managers, and Source/Identify/engage candidates up against the positions requirements. Once the candidate has been inserted into the interview process, my job is done. I would classify this work as JIT Recruiting.

    The next big initiative I take on is managing our Proactive Recruiting Workforce Plan (35%). This piece of my job is highly analytical and cross functional. I manage a Customized CRM system that is separate from our ATS. The CRM system has folders (we call them buckets) for each job function that we hire for at Nestle. Separately, I meet on a quarterly basis w/ the HR Manager’s in each Division to analyze hiring trends and determine “supply and demand” from a Recruiting perspective (Avg. Turnover, expected retirements, approved new headcount). I can determine the “demand” by running these numbers up against the Recruiters numbers (X amount of candidate submissions per 1 hire). I focus 90% if of my attention only on the upcoming quarter, as there are many moving pieces that effect these numbers (unanticipated Re-org’s, acquisitions of other businesses, etc…). It is then my responsibility to load the “demand” number into the CRM system, associate it w/ the appropriate business function, and begin engaging and identifying my “supply” (pipelining candidates for positions opening up in the upcoming quarter). The idea is to shave down some very expensive metrics like, cost per hire & time to fill. This has been a huge success for us, and has gained visibility and interest from our Global Organization in Switzerland.

    The other piece of my job as a Sourcer, is to be a “Candidate Scavenger” (15%). I manage our Alumni Network, and keep in touch w/ all of those employees that leave us voluntarily. I remain in contact with these folks, and welcome them back w/ open arms (if they ever decide to come back, which they often do). I also follow up w/ each Recruiter on a monthly basis to identify all of the candidates that made it deep in the interview process, but never got hired. These candidates are qualified, and gained significant interest from our Hiring Teams. These folks end up being easy hires down the road.

    I have plenty of other responsibilities, but this sums it up. In short, I have been extensively trained in Boolean Logic, X-Ray Searching, and all of that other cool jazz Glenn teaches us. So I am constantly developing Boolean strings for the Recruiters to use, and Training them on how to develop sophisticated strings themselves.

    This is a great post, Glenn. Thnx. I’m very curious to see/hear what other companies are doing…

  • Rhys Goodall

    Fantastic article and comments gang.

    Am a bit embarassed to admit it on this forum but know we’re not alone …

    We’re a 25000 employee multi-national and are only just now dipping our toes in the water of pro-active sourcing.

    Limited active sourcing in some areas yes but as a ruie “post and pray” has been the norm to date. We’re trying to turn that around. LinkedIn has been a major catalyst.

    By chance, the day you posted this, we had 20 recruiters on a teleconference debating this very thing – which model to follow (short-term vs long-term).

    We’re leaning heavily toward the integrated approach to get us up and running but early voices of concern question how can the recruiters take on this new workload when their requisition loads are so imposing as it stands. Longer-term, see absolute value in developing at least one dedicated expert.

    My belief is that reductions in time to candidate presentation and ultimately time to hire will be significantly reduced by adopting direct sourcing approach. Req loads in theory should moderate allowing more time to direct source. Circular benefit.
    Rinse, wash, repeat, improve ….

    We are currently in “too busy to do something different when doing something different will be a partial cure to the business” cycle.

    Can anyone provide anecdotal argument to support taking on the short-term pain of moving toward integrated sourcing.

    I realize the variables are huge but am trying to get rough sample stats like what percentage of successful hires now come from direct sourcing efforts for your co’s.

    Are you able to attribute reduced time to hires?
    Any impact on retention from direct sourced vs. active applicants?
    Improvements to client experience?

    Any info to support would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

  • @Sourcing Samuri – sincerely, thank you for your fantastic and deeply detailed response, and I am glad to hear Nestle “gets it!” I agree with your JIT recruiting comparison and I’m interested in your Proactive Workforce Plan – especially the separate CRM and demand planning approach and calculations.

    @Rhys – Another way to approach the challenge is not to separate out sourcing from the rest of the recruiting life cycle…you can split recruiting between FLC recruiters who process referrals and candidates responding to job postings and FLC recruiters who proactively hunting talent by any means necessary.

    In this model you have dedicated resources responsible for dividing and conquering the active and passive candidate channnels. It’s critical to call out that you have zero control over candidate qualifications/variables when it comes to ad responders and referrals, and it can be very time consuming to process them all – whereas with proactive talent discovery, you have near 100% control over candidate qualifications and variables, because you can “bake” them into search tactics and strategies.

    Thoughts anyone?

  • Great food for thought here.

    Personally, I don’t see Sourcing as a linear, assembly-line function. I say this because ‘efficiency gains’ by a Sourcer aren’t actually gains unless someone further along in the assembly-line can capitalize.

    For example, if we’re working an assembly-line making widgets, and I complete my task (at my Industrialization Era station) in 10 seconds instead of 15, what happens with that saved 5 seconds if the person ahead of me in the assembly line isn’t ready yet? This linear way of looking at things worked until the mid-20th century, but we outgrew it.

    I prefer to look at Sourcing like an Intelligence function, such as is employed within the DOD, NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. Intel isn’t linear; Information comes at you from all angles. The real skill is identifying what data/information is worth exploring.

    It’s probably also why I prefer concept searching to keyword searching. Our Intel units gave up keyword searching long ago – our national security is just too important. Perhaps I’m an idealist, but I also believe recruiting the best people to be extremely important as well.

    Look out for assembly-lines because they represent the opposite of agile, JIT thinking.

  • Rhys

    @BBB – appreciate the recommendation on the FLC speciality split. It’s a good one.

    Thoughts …
    Proposed approach covers a few angles considering Technology / Training / Time

    1) Technology costs and access – realize that there is a large contingent that advise many sourcing tools are free and agree – but not all…. some CRM / and DB’s are charged per seat. We are actually seeing this already with LinkedIn Recruiter – only a percentage of recruiters currently have seats. (I know some would argue that we don’t require Recruiter package to tap this resource but our reality is we’ve signed on and have seats)

    2) Training – It may not be reasonable or practical to expect every recruiter in our operation to become expert on ‘source and engage’ techniques. Might be a good plan If we could divide our recruiter field such that 25-50% are the hunters balance the gatherers. Training costs/effort more efficient with smaller specialized group too.

    3) Time – by splitting up responsibilities for FLC recruiters time/focus better managed.


    1) Nominating the new hunters.
    May be stating obvious but our gut saying recruiters responsible for more senior hard to fill roles who have the ‘marketing gene’ probably good candidates. Recruiters with high volume call centre type responsibilities where active candidates filling the bill probably not the first focus. Sounds simple when you write it out but going to be a challenge to keep feather-ruffling to a minimum.

    2) Establishing a new approach to metrics that would, as equitably as possible, realize the contributions of both ‘new’ camps. Massive change for us.

    3) Internal client experience – ideally would like to keep number of points of contact with client to a minimum.
    If I understand model correctly, this could require both Hunting FLC and Gathering FLC recruiters on a given req. present at either intake or candidate presentation stages. Would have to think about how to manage.

    Anyone using this hybrid approach in a corporate/HR recruiting environment?
    What are your success and pain points?


  • I appreciate your dedication to this post, BBB, as well as all of the comments posted to date. I was hired as a Sourcer into a “pilot” & being compensated fair while not on the same level as the recruiters but with the potential to earn almost as much. I accepted this new challenge mainly b/c I see the opt to move into a mgmt role and grow a team of Sourcers! I have taken your thoughts & Sourcing Samuri’s to heart & hope to switch lanes with my current employer from an assembly line to Nestle’s fast track in the near future!

  • It’s quite inefficient to have the two roles split between two people, unless the other person is the manager in which case the talent spotting should be perfect.

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