Sourcing Strategies for Small Startups with Limited Resources

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Jan 22, 2024

In the world of startup recruiting, we’re not just Sourcers, we’re the magicians who conjure the ideal candidates from the most unexpected places. If you’ve ever been part of a small startup, you know the drill: you wear multiple hats, play both sides of the recruitment game, and navigate the ever-changing landscape of hiring with limited resources. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s undoubtedly an exhilarating ride!

I’ve spent over 20 years in technical recruiting, and the startup world has been my playground. My experience spans across a handful of technical recruiting agency start-ups, along with numerous partnerships with start-up technical software companies where I’ve served as an agency recruiter and advisor. As young companies in the early stages of operation, and often not yet profitable, a frugal approach to investing in recruiting resources is not just important, but essential to growth strategy. In this article we’ll explore strategies for sourcing in startups, including harnessing free (or very minimal cost) technology, tapping into communities, and embracing the unique startup culture.

Embracing the Startup Vibe

Startups are like roller coasters, full of twists, turns, and unexpected drops. To thrive in this environment, you need to embrace the startup vibe. You’re not just a Sourcer; you’re a versatile talent do-it-all. You might be drafting job descriptions one minute and cold-calling clients asking for new business the next. Embrace the chaos and remember that adaptability must be your superpower!

The Art of Being a One-Person Team

Startup Sourcers rarely have the luxury of separate sourcing and recruiting teams. You’re the entire team rolled into one. I have still never worked within an organization with separate recruiting and sourcing teams.

To excel as a one-person or small team, consider these strategies:

  • Prioritize ruthlessly: In the fast-paced environment of startup recruiting, it’s crucial to identify the most critical tasks and channel your energy towards them. This means understanding your limits and accepting that you can’t accomplish everything simultaneously. Make strategic decisions about where your efforts will have the greatest impact. Focus on activities that lead directly to placements, such as sourcing and interviewing candidates, and nurturing client relationships. While administrative tasks are part of the job, it’s talent sourcing and deal-closing that impact the bottom line. Don’t let operational tasks overshadow the primary goal of making placements.
  • Leverage the sourcing community: There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience in our sourcing community that can be incredibly valuable. I admire and follow a long list of influencers in our space. For the sake of brevity, I can’t list everyone here, but would be happy to point you to a few names and podcasts if you ping me, or comment below. Engage actively with our peers, presenters, and speakers who have a cornucopia of tips, tricks, and insights to share. Participate in forums, attend webinars, and join networking events to stay abreast of the latest trends and techniques in recruitment. Community resources, like all things SourceCon, can provide fresh perspectives and innovative approaches that can significantly elevate your recruiting game. You may even become inspired to become a speaker or presenter yourself!
  • Set boundaries: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential in avoiding burnout. Sure, there’s something to be said (and money to be made) for hard work and sometimes long hours, but setting clear boundaries between your professional and personal life is ok, too. Remember that taking time for yourself is not a luxury, but a necessity for sustained productivity and creativity. Hobbies, exercising, spending time in nature, meditating, or just spending time with your besties can rejuvenate your mind and keep you energized.

Leveraging Technology

Ah, the heart of the matter! Embrace the power of technology to enhance your sourcing efficiency. Utilize sourcing tools and automation software to handle repetitive and time-consuming tasks. I cite a list of tools below that can help streamline your workflow, allowing you to spend more time on high-value activities such as candidate engagement and relationship building.

Here’s my list of recommended tools that have free versions or very minimal costs. Many have an AI component. Certainly, there are numerous more, with new ones releasing daily, but these I’ve used or demoed. You can typically find free training, YouTube videos or webinars on just about any tool.

  • Search: Google X-Ray; Bing, which sometimes offers alternative results to Google (I learned this during my first try at a SourceCon hackathon when the answer only came up on Bing!), DuckDuckGo for privacy
  • Sourcing: GitHub & Stack Overflow for tech talent, Behance for creative roles, Reddit, Google Alerts, Facebook, X
  • Job Boards and Posting: Indeed, Glassdoor, AngelList
  • Email Finders:
  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): OpenCATS, Zoho Recruit, SmartRecruiters
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): HubSpot, Zoho CRM, Insightly
  • Industry/Group Networking Platforms: Reddit, LinkedIn Groups, Slack Communities, Meetup Groups
  • Real-Time Layoff Tracker:
  • Social Media: Hootsuite, Buffer
  • Project Management: Trello, Asana
  • Surveys: Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Typeform
  • Design: Canva, Adobe Spark
  • Communication: Slack, Discord for team chats and community building
  • Scheduling: Calendly, Doodle
  • And of course, ChatGPT, the Swiss Army knife of the digital world

I’ve just started my journey with Zapier training, which seems to be a stellar tool for enabling non-techies the ability to set up an integrated and automated workflow. If you have several disparate platforms, I highly recommend taking a look at its features. (I tried Microsoft Power Automate in the past but gave up trying to set it up on my own. It’s a bit complex for the non-technical person.)

Sourcing and Evolving Tech

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on AI extensions, a topic that could easily fill a lengthy article on its own.

I’ve been captivated (borderline obsessed) the past couple of years watching the tech world’s rapid evolution, especially when it comes to AI. It’s fascinating to witness the surge of new resources sprouting up, each promising to be a game-changer in our field.

Each of these extensions has the capabilities to serve a specific purpose in recruitment, from enhancing candidate sourcing and engagement to refining job descriptions and streamlining recruitment-related tasks.


  • Enhances your writing on Gmail, LinkedIn, X, and many other social media platforms.
  • Perplexity AI: Offers an AI-powered assistant for complex data analysis and fact-checking.
  • Merlin: Enhances writing and summarizing and allows users to interact with websites, PDFs, blogs, and other content sources.
  • Textio: A writing platform that helps create job descriptions and candidate & employee communications free from gender or cultural bias.
  • Instant Data Scraper: A web scraping tool that extracts data from web pages into a structured format. Helpful in scraping pages of profiles in a few clicks.
  • Synthesia: Generates AI-driven video content from text input, useful for creating engaging recruitment videos.
  • HeyGen: Automates and personalizes candidate engagement through AI-driven video communication.
  • Fireflies AI: An AI assistant that records, transcribes, and analyzes meetings and interviews.
  • YouTube Summary: Provides concise summaries of YouTube videos for quick content absorption, like training videos.
  • Grammarly: Enhances writing quality by offering AI-powered text generation and grammar checking.

Again, these extensions usually have free and upgraded (paid) versions, depending on the features you wish to utilize.

Investment and Upgrading

While many tools and extensions come with limited free versions, it’s worth remembering that the value often matches the price. As your business grows you might find yourself eyeing advanced features which could require an upgrade. If you’re working with a modest budget, a good strategy is to initially invest in a quality sourcing tool and a contact finder. Of course, if you’re already a pro with X-ray and OSINT techniques, you can put your budget towards exploring more creative and innovative tools. (NOTE! As I went to submit this article, by chance I caught a glimpse of a post on the SourceCon Facebook group about X-Ray “dying” and LinkedIn profiles being redacted. Go check it out. Breaking news in the sourcing world!)

My Personal Toolkit

For way too many years I utilized full LinkedIn Recruiter ($$$$$), but with the plethora of new tools in recent years, I no longer find it necessary. This stack does me well, coupled with many of the free resources and (sometimes paid) extensions I’ve mentioned.

  • ATS: Loxo (paid)
  • CRM: HubSpot (paid)
  • Sourcing: hireEZ (paid) + many tools/resources I’ve mentioned
  • Contact Finders: hireEZ and Lusha (paid)
  • Job Postings: Indeed (free and I sometimes pay)
  • Design: Canva (paid)
  • Surveys: SurveyMonkey (free and sometimes paid)
  • Transcriptions: (free, probably upgrading)
  • Microsoft 0365 (paid): Outlook Bookings for scheduling and Teams for video interviews
  • Microsoft CoPilot: Also breaking news within the past 24 hours! CoPilot now has FREE and individual subscriber versions! You can upgrade to CoPilot Pro. CoPilot is integrated with Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Outlook and OneNote and Pro offers accelerated performance with ChatGPT-4 during peak times, and faster AI image creation. Very cool.

Finally, consider these free resources:

  • Niche job boards: Explore industry-specific job boards where candidates congregate. These platforms often host a concentrated pool of talent with specialized skills tailored to specific industries, making them a goldmine for targeted recruitment. Try a search for organizations within your niche, i.e.: IEEE, an organization for Electrical & Electronics Engineers.
  • Employee referrals: This is a big one! I just had a hiring manager tell me that 75% of their hires are from referrals. Leverage the networks of not only your current employees, but also your friends and families. Often, the best hires come from within your trusted networks.
  • Networking: Actively participate in industry events, conferences, and seminars. A quick online search should yield a number of relevant events in your area (if close to a metropolitan area.) These events are excellent opportunities to meet both potential candidates and clients in person. Building relationships through in-person networking cannot be understated. Get involved. A world of opportunity awaits!
  • Alumni networks: Connect with universities and professional training institutes, like Project Management Institute (PMI) for Project Managers. Alumni networks are great places to find fresh talent or experienced professionals who are looking to make a career change.
  • Freelance platforms: Explore freelance and contract-worker platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are home to a diverse range of professionals who might be interested in full-time opportunities or can provide specialized skills on a project basis.
  • Industry publications and blogs: Keep an eye on industry publications and blogs, like TechCrunch, AdWeek and even Mashable. They often feature thought leaders and rising stars in their fields, providing a line to high-caliber professionals who are deeply involved in their areas of expertise.

Lessons from the Trenches

  • Failures are lessons: Don’t fear failures; embrace them as valuable learning experiences. Each misstep is an opportunity to learn and grow, providing insights that can refine your approach and strategy in the future. “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” – Brené Brown. So true!
  • Iterate and adapt: Be willing to tweak your strategies based on what works and what doesn’t. The ability to quickly pivot and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the startup world is crucial. This agility can lead to discovering effective new techniques and staying ahead in the game. Don’t get stuck in your same, stagnant routines if they’re not working for you.
  • Stay resilient: The startup journey can be tough, and resilience is your armor. Cultivating an attitude of perseverance will help you to weather the storms and emerge stronger. Embrace the learning curve, for in every failure there’s a lesson that paves the way to success.

Play the Long Game

It’s important to remember that the financial payoff in the world of startup recruiting can be very rewarding for those who stick with it. The nature of startups often means that recruiters play a pivotal role in shaping the future of these companies. Successfully placing the right talent can lead to significant growth, not only for the startup but also in your career. The satisfaction and rewards of seeing a company flourish partly due to your recruiting efforts can be immensely gratifying. So, while the path may be strewn with challenges, the potential for a substantial financial and professional payoff is a compelling reason to stay the course.

Sourcing for startups, especially with limited resources, is a thrilling and challenging adventure. Embrace the chaos, stay adaptable, and remember that your role as a one-person or small talent team is vital to your startup’s success. I encourage you to share your experiences and strategies below so that we can learn from and grow with each other.

Stay curious, stay innovative, and see you at SourceCon in Orlando, April 9-10th!

About The Writer

April Toms is a Sourcing and Recruiting pro with over two decades of experience in IT recruiting and Account Management. She currently leads Talent Acquisition for Davis Technology Management, a premiere staffing agency and MSP start-up based out of Dallas-Fort Worth.

She’s involved in local professional organizations, particularly in areas related to women in technology and professional development. Coming from a long line of military family, April is also an avid supporter of Veteran services and has served as past Vice-President of her American Legion Auxiliary chapter. Additionally, she’s involved in animal welfare causes, opening her home as doggie foster and volunteering at local animal shelters.

In her free time, you’re likely to find her traversing mountain trails or exploring State Parks with her camper in tow. She’s also on the lookout for a motorcycle buddy in her area if you like exploring the open backroads on two wheels!

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