Sourcing vs. Recruiting

The terms “sourcing” and “recruiting” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they can actually have a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle differences in meaning. Let’s take a look at some of the differences when sourcing and recruiting functions are separated.


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  • Focuses on the talent pipeline side of the equation, not on the application, interview, and hiring side.
  • Goes in-depth into sourcing methodologies and focuses on future needs.
  • Is less likely to actually interact with candidates once they become applicants. Instead, sourcing is more focused on the pipeline and interaction with candidates to get them to apply in the first place. Once the application process is initiated, the communication usually moves to someone else on the recruiting team.
  • Is, in some ways, a sales role, but the sourcer is selling the benefits of working for the organization. A sourcer is finding people and getting them to apply, just as a sales person would find customers and get them to buy.
  • Can happen even in the absence of a specific role to fill.
  • Is more proactive, seeking out and making initial contact with both passive and active candidates.
  • Is more likely to involve networking and research.


  • Is more likely to encompass the entire hiring process, from sourcing to hire. In other words, recruiters handle more aspects of the process, including job posts, application tracking, screening of candidates, background checks, interviews, hiring, onboarding, etc. Recruiters may also handle sourcing.
  • Is typically focused on specific job needs and specific vacancies to fill; recruiters become more active when there are more jobs to fill.

In short, sourcing is a major aspect of recruiting but not the entire process. Once sourcing is complete, the rest of the recruiting process still needs to happen to fill a vacancy.

Many times, the same person performs all of these functions. Many organizations do not differentiate between a sourcer and a recruiter; the individual in the role is expected to handle all aspects, from sourcing to placement and onboarding. Even in organizations where the roles are separated, there is often overlap.

Which Will You Emphasize?

We’re seeing more and more organizations put a greater emphasis on sourcing. As technology takes over some components of the recruiting process, some employers are opting to dive deeper into the sourcing side.

Technology can help to create short lists, conduct initial candidate contact, prescreen candidates, and schedule interviews. As such, some organizations are opting to have recruiters either focus more on the sourcing component or hire people specifically for that component.

It all comes down to organizational needs. Having a separate sourcing component in the recruiting process may decrease the time to hire because there’s a more robust pipeline of talent from the sourcing side. When the pipeline is already filled with screened candidates, the applicants tend to be higher quality and a better fit for a given role.

Does your organization employ people who specialize in the sourcing components of the recruiting process? If not, is it something you’re considering for the future?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

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