Social Recruiting and Sourcing: What’s The Difference? by @JimStroud

Article main image
Jan 31, 2014
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Do you believe in serendipity? I do, kind of, especially today. I was sitting in a lotus position after defending a visiting diplomat from an incursion of kung-fu ninjas. In all modesty, I was quite remarkable. My defensive stance was based on an unorthodox combination of Baritsu and Three Stooges strikes. (Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk). As I emptied my mind to achieve inner peace, I received word from my pal Jeremy over at SourceCon. It was delivered by someone dressed as a Japanese samurai warrior from the 1860’s which I found highly unusual as it is 2014. A gong was sounded and before I could figure out where the sound effect came from, a question was asked.

“Social recruiting and sourcing,” the Samurai bellowed, not wanting his words to be mistaken. “What’s the difference?”

And with a puff of smoke and a descending musical accompaniment (the theme from the 1970’s show “Kung Fu” I think), he was gone. All of this had me somewhat befuddled and more than a little curious, “What is the difference between sourcing and social recruiting?” So, I gave it some thought.

I remember reading a report from Dice (okay, scanning it) about how hard it was to recruit tech talent in certain cities. Here is a quote from that report… “A recent hiring survey from Dice with responses from both recruiters and hiring managers, who recruit across the U.S., found that five of the top 12 most challenging cities to recruit tech talent in are located in the Midwest.”

Hmm… I know that it is / was / most likely always will be a challenge to find the “right” person for a particular job. There are so many factors to consider: salary requirements, cultural fit, skill sets, et cetera. But surely, there is a large enough pool of people online to fill most gigs out there. You just have to know how to find them. Or, maybe I am totally wrong? Is there any data out there to substantiate my suspicions?

I plug the back of my head into the matrix and return unfulfilled, so, I decide to come up with my own data. I wanted answers to the following:

On any given day, how many technical resumes could I quickly find online?
Between Google, Yahoo, and Bing, which had the most resumes indexed?
Are people still uploading their resumes on the open web where recruiters can access them for free? (Not behind firewalled job boards like Monster.)
How do the number of employee profiles on a leading social network compare to the number of employees a company has overall?

From those questions, I hoped to postulate the difference between social recruiting and sourcing. If not that, then I would have wasted some time during my binge on “House of Cards” on Netflix. So, no biggie, either way.

Okay, let me start by setting some parameters for myself. When I say “technical resumes”, I am limiting my search to people who have identified themselves as programmers, software engineers and/or software developers. I did not include any variations thereof. Nor did I include in my discernment titles that included the word monkey, ninja, or guru. Maybe next time I will.

I also am doing this with the realization that I know I will have an approximation of resumes at best and not an absolute result. Different searches will yield divergent results although sharing the same intent. Capiche? Finally, I do include the words “vitae” and “CV” in my rationale when considering resumes. Okay, all that being said, these were my results and how I got them.

To get a number of resumes online, I did a site search on various domains (.com, .net, .edu, et cetera) as I figured there would be no overlap in results that way. I also filtered out words like “template” because I did not want any sample resumes. I also restricted words like “submit” and “apply” because I did not want job descriptions in my results. Search engines give an estimate of total results on page one. If you go to the last page however, you get a more accurate count of what they have actually indexed; such was the number I used. (FYI, to quickly get to the last page of a Google search result, add “&start=900” to the end of the URL of the search results page.) Hmm… what else? Oh!

On the last page of search results, you will see this verbiage, “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the X already displayed.” In some cases, looking at the omitted entries, I found only a few more results and in others a lot more. Just sayin’…

Some of the search strings I used to find resumes in general (and technical resumes specifically) looked like these:

site:me intitle:cv education  -your -submit -apply -template -sample
site:ws intitle:resume education  -your -submit -apply -template -sample
site:net intitle:vitae “software developer” education -your -submit -apply -template -sample

An approximate (again, I say approximate) number of resumes I can easily and quickly have access to via Google comes in at 15,587. Of that number, 22% of them had the phrase “software engineer” on them, 16% had the term “software developer” and 62% had the word “programmer” cited.

Trying a search for technical resumes on Google, Yahoo and Bing; specifically, “programmer” resumes, I found that Bing (yes, you read that right)  had the most resumes indexed. In second place was Google and trailing third was Yahoo. (May I say, wow, did not expect that.) For the sake of the curious, I scrolled to the last of the search results page and went by that number. These are the searches I used in my comparison of the big three:

site:net intitle:vitae education -your -submit -apply -template -sample
site:org intitle:resume education -your -submit -apply -template -sample
site:org intitle:cv education -your -submit -apply -template -sample

To research whether or not people are still uploading their resumes online where recruiters can access them for free, I searched Google for documents that had one of the following phrases in the their title:

“resume of”
“resume for”
“my resume”

I then refined my search results to specific dates to see what the trends were over time. As I suspected, when the economy is doing well, fewer resumes could be found online. However, as soon as the recession hit more work histories turned up in a search. (Check out my graphic below.)


Is that everything I wanted? Umm… Oh! No. I wanted to compare the number of employees a company has in comparison to what can be found online. Let me consider Microsoft, as I am typing this up on a PC. (smile) According to this Bloomberg article [],  Microsoft has about 100,000 employees worldwide. Jeepers! That’s a lot of people. According to Microsoft’s LinkedIn homepage, 109,995 of their employees are on LinkedIn. Gee, is that all of them? Sounds like it is. Is that the case with other major companies? Let me look up a few more.

Hmm… I am going to chalk this up to being inconclusive as the results are across the board. Cisco has more people on LinkedIn than what was cited in a recent news story and Walmart is very underrepresented on LinkedIn. In the case of a company like Walmart, which has so many employees not accessible via LinkedIn or some other social network, how do I reach them? The short answer is social media. The explanation will have to be a future article or maybe, a series. (Maybe a book?)

So what did I learn from all of the above? Well for one, I was only kidding when I brought up my martial arts prowess. There is no kung-fu fighting style based on the comedy of The Three Stooges. At least as far as I am know. All else I cited is totally true! (If you consider truth to be a wild imagination.)

Wait. Didn’t Jeremy ask me something earlier? Oh yeah…the difference between sourcing and social recruiting.

Sourcing is finding passive candidates based on online information whereas social recruiting is attracting passive candidates to you. The advantage of sourcing is being able to find what is readily available (resumes, social profiles, etc.) when you need it. However, the disadvantage is that others can find it as well. (But hey, it is a war for talent, right?) The advantage of social recruiting is that you can potentially generate referrals and leads from individuals who might not have an online presence. However, some are dissuaded by the necessary time it takes to be successful with it. Being proficient in both increases your value as a sourcer and as a recruiter.  

I think I have rambled on enough. If you are still awake at this point, I applaud your patience.


This article is part of a series called Opinion.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!