Talent Sourcing in the Digital Era: Talent Sourcing Is So Much More Than Boolean

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Nov 9, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Talent sourcing in the digital era continues to evolve and become more specialized. A decade ago, talent sourcers took leadership in social media and social recruiting. Today, talent sourcing are asked to wear several different hats; workforce analytics, email marketing, and content marketing as well as being experts in search techniques and tools to find the target talent. Talent sourcing’s role in talent acquisition has never been greater or more vital.

The four elements of talent sourcing—explore, discover, engage and nurture each requires unique skills and yet influences the other pillars. For example, the information that we glean in creating a talent persona will be used to govern where to discover the prospective talent and then to determine what content could be engaging and nurturing to this target audience. Each pillar or vertical is a canvas to apply our talent sourcing artistry.


In my last blog post, I proposed 9 Ways the Digital Era Has Impacted Talent Sourcing, I suggested that the tried and true doesn’t seem to work anymore. The question before us is “how” does talent sourcing deal with the disruption caused by the social revolution. The “how” involves digging deeper in the available data/information, asking additional questions, implementing a repeatable talent sourcing workflow, crafting messages that resonate and nurturing long-term relationships with target talent.



The digital era features a time when people are open to sharing, aligning to affinity, demonstrating loyalty to their profession and committing to their respective tribe or community. The digital era is filled with information and data. In this era of bigger and bigger data, it should not be a surprise that talent sourcing should take advantage of increased availability of information.

Best in class talent sourcers are adding some additional thinking; they want to know what makes the target talent tick. What is called a persona by marketers, a talent persona will explore the motivators, attitudes, interests, and values of a typical prospect in this profession. The additional insights for exploration this aspect of the target talent is a cornerstone for the other three phrases.

The chief activities that are performed by talent sourcers in this pillar are:

  • The Talent Request- aka the real job description.  What skills, attributes, and ability will the successful candidate possess?
  • The Talent Persona—what makes the target audience tick?  What are motivators, attitudes, interests and values of a given profession?
  • The Talent Supply—how many of this talent type exist and where talent do they live and work.
  • Competitive Intelligence-what is the value props of direct competitors; how do we compete in terms of compensation, benefits, leadership, etc.

Once we have all the important information about the type of talent we are seeking, we need to discover it by using our talent sourcing magic.



The potential of the digital era was that target talent would be easier to identify and make the object of our outreach. To discover the right talent, data is crunched, tools are employed and cyberspace is sleuthed and needles are found in the haystacks.

Best in class talent sourcers are adding an additional tool; a talent sourcing checklist. This talent sourcing checklist identifies the websites that must be visited, the tools to employ and the resources utilized to instill rigor and discipline in the talent sourcing approach. In other words, they overlay a sourcing plan that allows them to create a repeatable process.

The activities performed by talent sourcer under this pillar are:

  • Talent Sourcing Checklist—a roadmap to where the talent resides based on the talent supply data and the competitive intelligence information, and the knowledge base of talent sourcing activities.
  • Data Segmentation & Aggregation—bringing together all possible pieces to complete the puzzle picture for the target talent
  • Target Talent List—the prospects that will be the focus of the outreach and engagement. The raw input/data about the target talent and turn it into a specific list of target talent complete with profiles and contact information.

The digital era has as hoped, afforded most talent could be found. The social data that is voluntarily provided provides transparency into most areas of the talent market. Yet unlike previous eras, the real challenge has shifted to engagement, which is the next pillar.



Winning the battle of the inbox is job #1 in the digital era. The battle the attention of a target audience is a paramount challenge of business. The “do more with less economy,” supercharged with the latest tech gadgets has created very distracted target audiences that are difficult to engage. Using the information from the talent personas, the target talent list that we created are messaged in a manner that gets our messages read and action taken.

Best in class talent sourcers understand the importance of tailoring messages to the target audience that will engage and bring value to them. Close attention is paid to subject lines and they use A/B testing to find the one that resonates with the audience. These companies understand that the outreach is not about them, but needs to be about the target audience. Therefore, they segment the audience by generations (millennial, Gen X, Boomer) in order that the calls to action are based on the criteria that relevant to the target audience and will resonate with them. Finally, when possible, these talent sourcers identify the candidate status of the target audience; whether the person is active; semi-active; passive, or not looking at all.

The chief functions of the engagers are:

  • Talent Engagement Strategy—determine how, when, and how often to engage the target talent audience
  • Talent Messaging—the type of communication that will gain the attention of the target talent
  • Email Recruiting—crafting the messages and telling the story of the talent request in terms of the values, motivators, etc. of the target audience

One aspect of the digital era that has changed is the need to move beyond a one and done transactional interaction to a longer term relationship. The social revolution has placed a premium on providing value and being relevant to the target talent and nurturing a long-term involvement.



One of the realities of the competitive marketplace for talent is having a well-nurtured pipeline for you key talent segments is a huge advantage. While the target talent may have been initially engaged by a job, it takes a different type of content to keep them engaged and interested over a longer period of time. The nurturer creates content and conversations that provide a benefit to the target audience.

The digital era with the target audiences in charge has created a need to provide valuable and relevant information if we want to connect with them in a meaningful way. That ushered in content marketing and in the case of talent acquisition, content recruiting. Content recruiting involves crafting messages that provide information that is geared to what the prospects/candidates want to consume.

The best in class talent sourcers have discovered profession related information tends to resonate with target talent audiences because most of us are lifelong learners. Since the content is about the target audience and not about us, this lifelong learning is supported by a Pew Research study that indicates 74% of us are personal learners, and 63% of us are professional learners. These talent sourcers avoid self-promoting and are more target audience focused on their needs of the talent in which they are seeking to build a relationship.

The chief functions of the nurturers are:

  • Nurture Messaging—typically this is content that is about the target audiences’ profession or aimed at subjects that are of interest and benefit to them. Remember, it is not about us, it is all about them.
  • Talent Pipeline—a screened and partially vetted group of target talent that is iteratively engaged
  • Iterative Engagement Strategy—when and how often to engage an audience is an art, not a science. The key is for a brand to be top of mind with a pipeline member changes jobs
  • Convert to Candidate—being top of mind when a prospect decides it is time to seek another position is the goal of this pillar.

Talent sourcing in the digital age is a craft that continues to evolve and become more specialized. The four elements of talent sourcing—explore, discover, engage and nurture have become very important to talent acquisition as the competition for similar talent by dissimilar companies has become acute. The focus has shifted from finding the people to the storytellers—the talent sourcers that can communicate a brand’s virtues in terms that will resonate with the target talent audience. And the beat goes on…


This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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