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Is active sourcing outdated?

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Active sourcing is a hot topic for recruitment. Within this recruitment strategy, an organisation tries to actively get in contact with potential applicants and establish a long term relationship with talented candidates. This approach constitutes the opposite of the traditional, reactive ‘post & pray’ and is gaining more and more attention. But will this trend come to an end as soon as new developments in the field of intelligent technologies enter the market? In this blog post, I’m sharing my thoughts on this topic with you.

The trend of the year

If you’re a regular reader of recruiting blogs and trend lists, you’ll most probably be aware of the fact that active sourcing is a broadly discussed topic that gets reconsidered every year. The German Institute for Competitive Recruiting conducted research on the Recruiting Trends of 2017 and found that active sourcing was a top issue for nearly 80% of the participating companies. The Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg Germany found out that more than 50% of the candidates prefer to be contacted by companies instead of approaching them themselves. In short, active sourcing is a must when it comes to modern recruiting.

Calling & forwarding

At the beginning of my career at a German executive search company, I generally received a ‘target list’ from a customer which included the names of target companies and/or persons that needed to be contacted. Usually, I had to call the front desks in order to be forwarded to the appropriate contact persons. Of course, we also informed ourselves about the potential candidates via LinkedIn and XING. However, contact was essentially made through ‘cold calling’.

Modern recruiting

During my time at the German-based social business network XING, I had the chance to take a look behind the scenes in several HR and recruitment departments. By doing so, I soon realised that many firms – especially SMEs – wanted to renew while they were actually not yet prepared for modern recruiting. Several times, I witnessed the process of restructuring a recruiting process in different companies and came to the conclusion that many of them were now recruiting faster and more cost efficient than before. This was mainly due to the fact that the need for a headhunter had vanished.

During this time, the shortage of specialists was a little less relevant than today and there was a broad offer of qualified and promising candidates. In many companies, much progress had been made with the help of employer branding, the targeted adjustment of adverts on job boards, and the effective use of recruiting software.

Being found instead of searching

Principles that are common practice in marketing now slowly catch on in the recruiting sector. There is less appreciation for commercial messages and the focus shifts to content, employer branding and storytelling. The offering of relevant, personalised information at the right time and the sharing of authentic, personalised stories are put central. Based on these connecting factors, meaningful relationships with the target groups (i.e. the potential candidates) can be established and maintained. You can find out more about this topic in our White paper: Content Marketing for Recruitment.

Intelligent technology

This principle can be further expanded with the help of intelligent technologies. In a first step, you should create so-called ‘candidate personas’ that represent your ideal candidate for a specific position or department. Try to find as much information as possible about this person. What motivates your candidate? What are they doing in their spare time? Which background do they have? With this persona in your mind, you can then start to create personalised content.

Recruiting persona connexys

Your content that was specifically created for your target group aims at pulling relevant visitors to your website. Visitors will leave their data in exchange for relevant content, such as interesting white papers, the results of a personality test or salary checks. Based on this data, profiles of the interested candidates can be created. Behavioral patterns on the website can be saved with the use of cookies. In the future, you can display even more relevant content that is based on the potential candidate’s information, e.g. a job offer that perfectly fits their profile.

Warm ‘recruiting qualified leads’

Recruitment marketing automation is one step ahead of this. With each interaction on the website, the candidate collects a specific score in the background. The opening of an email could, for example, be worth 3 points, and the reading of an article 5. When the candidate has reached a specific score, he becomes a so-called ‘recruitment qualified lead’. Based on the gathered information, we now know that the candidate has considerable interest in our organisation or even in a concrete job offer. Instead of a cold call or a LinkedIn message, this person can be personally contacted in the course of a warm relationship. This is also known as ‘inbound recruitment’.

Candidate Journey in recruiting


Does this mean that active sourcing is being replaced by recruitment marketing automation? When we think about the distant future, I think that the importance of active sourcing will decline while intelligent technologies, such as artificial intelligence, will increasingly shape the recruiting process. At the moment, the early steps in this field are undertaken and first experiences with ‘inbound recruiting’ are being gained. In marketing we can see that e.g. directly approaching leads at events and fairs can fill the pipeline relatively fast, while acquiring a comparable number of sales qualified leads through marketing automation costs significantly more time. Hence, a combination of both approaches (inbound and outbound) is, in my opinion, the best temporary strategy. At least, until recruitment marketing automation gets further developed and becomes another precious instrument for recruiting.

Do you want to learn more about this topic or do you have a different opinion? I’d be happy to hear from you!