What is the difference between Recruiting and Sourcing?

I get asked a lot about what’s really the difference between Recruiting and Sourcing? Or, where does Sourcing end and Recruiting begin? Or something similar to these questions.

The answer is it doesn’t matter.

The organization has a need for talent.

The organization has to find or grow talent.

You and others in the organization need to figure this out.

So, figure it out!

Everyone is going to design and process this differently. Some will have Sourcers take it all the way until the candidate is screened, then the Recruiter will come in and finish the process. Some will have the Sourcers just find the talent, then have the Recruiter work to contact, screen, etc.

It doesn’t matter how you design it if it works for your organization, and, this is key, it’s replicable no matter who you have in the role.

Stop. Think. Let that process for a second.

One of the biggest mistakes I see really good organizations make is they build and design processes around the talent they have right now. One piece of that talent changes and all of a sudden it no longer works.

“Well, Tim, did all the sourcing and just handed me great talent!” Great, Tim quit because he was doing most of the work and you took all the credit. How is that process working now?

Talent Acquisition is really hard when you have to make it up new each time you have an opening! Talent Acquisition becomes sustainable when you can plug in the skill sets you need and the machine keeps spitting out talent no matter who it is.

Is it Sourcing? Is it Recruiting? It doesn’t freaking matter. Make it work for your organization.

What I find with the most innovative TA shops on the planet is they didn’t look at what everyone else was doing. They looked at what their organization needed and they solved for that problem. Many times the solution was doing something no one else was doing.

4 thoughts on “What is the difference between Recruiting and Sourcing?

  1. You absolutely knocked it out of the park! It doesn’t matter! What matters is solving the problem related to your specific situation. There are a million ways to go about it. However, once you find the root cause and establish that process, everything else will just follow. Talent Acquisition is a team sport! Make sure you recognize the entire team. Lol.

  2. Me: Timmy what’s the difference between recruiting and talent acquisition?

    Timmy: IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!

    Straight stole a play out of The Rocks playbook… “What’s your name? IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!”

  3. Tim, I’m glad you accounted for a range of sourcing models in terms of handoff point. Would’ve been good if you also mentioned the geo- and business unit-variants in decentralized vs. centralized models (Shally Steckerl did a great job delineating this at SourceCon Digital in March – you can read more about that at ). But your main point is excellent: “It’s replicable no matter who you have in the role”. Too many orgs miss that. Another big org mistake worth mentioning is when req volume drops, sourcing is usually the first to suffer headcount drops. Instead, they should be redeployed to other areas where pipelining is needed (this assumes they have accurate workforce planning for the year, another big “if” in many orgs). But because they fear sourcing isn’t a constant need, they tend to hire sourcers on contract. Unfortunately, this means once they start to get really good (they understand the businesses they support well, they’ve figured out the right “hidden” niche channels to tap, developed good referral networks, etc.), they’re probably gone soon after and much of that valuable investment is lost vs. if they retained sourcers longer as FTEs.

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