How to Create a Sourcing Strategy

Mar 19, 2013

While confusion seems to reign among recruiting leaders on how to build effective sourcing strategies, Donna Quintal at Sears Holdings Corporation has been able to craft a powerful set of analytics over the past few years to help predict where hiring will occur before the requisitions appear and what sorts of candidate communities should be cultivated to meet expected needs.

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 3.36.05 PMWhat Donna has done anyone can do — she started small, made a business case for what she did, and because of her practical and business-focused approach was able to get additional resources and expand the usefulness of her analytics.

It is not necessary to have sophisticated analytic tools or exceptional expertise. These are useful, but they are not necessary to get started. Even simple data can be powerful, and is often more useful in the beginning because it is easier to see the connection between the data and the results that business leaders respect.

Donna started with simple tools — just an Excel spreadsheet and Survey Monkey. She gathered basic data from surveys created in Survey Monkey. She gathered data about the needs and issues the hiring managers had, especially from areas where there were problems. Once she had this data, she was able to look for common issues and target areas for improvement. This was then shared with recruiters and HR for action.

I have laid out a simple model of how you could begin to set up a sourcing strategy that is both effective and that does not require great expertise.

It is loosely based on models used by leading advertising/marketing firms when they set up strategies for selling products or services.

Critics will point out that sourcing people and promoting key positions are more complex activities than promoting products. I agree, but that does not invalidate the parallels and general learnings that can be gleaned. You will need to tailor the model to your needs and learn what works and does not work when applied to people.

Step 1: Talent Market Data

To determine a solid sourcing strategy the first step is to gather the data that you or hiring managers will need in order to drive to a decision on where to focus recruiting activities. By using this data, you can determine which employees have the most impact on the organization, return the most profit, make the most sales, or have stayed the longest.

By gathering a wide array of internal and external data, the analyst can begin to validate or challenge assumptions and get quantified data to create a very precise picture of the best candidates and their attributes.

This picture should include relevant data about such things as your salary ranges compared to competitors and to the attractiveness of your location/brand/industry. Some of the variables can be put on a scale and a group of recruiters and hiring managers could, for example, rank positions by level of sourcing difficulty. How candidates react to these variables depends on your sourcing and promotion strategies. You might include other facts that matter to the candidates you are approaching such as the cost of housing or whether the position can be performed virtually.

But the most valuable data is the internal data that you can extract from any HRIS system. This data should include performance reports and turnover rates, so that they can be correlated to source of hire, salary, hiring manager, and function.

Step 2: Current Situation Analysis

Some companies require employees to complete a survey about their past employment and skills. By gathering data like this, as well as data already found on your ATS, career site, or from other sources of information, you will can begin to see trends and do simple predictions. For example, if every candidate hired from a particular competitor has a positive work history and good performance record, the probability will be high that a similar person applying for a position with your firm from that same firm will also have these characteristics.

There are lots of things to analyze and track that will enhance the recruiting function. For example: What tools and media are you currently using? How are you finding candidates now? How much do these activities cost? What results have you gotten? When are you looking for candidates, and does timing matter? For example, if you are spending thousands of dollars on job postings or banner ads, how many potential candidates did those generate and how many were converted into hires? If you run a Facebook banner on Thursday, for example, does it generate more leads than the same banner ad on Monday?

How long does an external hire take to become productive vs. an internal one?

Through this analysis, you will be able to quantitatively answer a host of questions: Which channels and media should we use? Which are most effective for this type of candidate?  What’s the candidate-generated-to-candidate-hired ratio by channel/media?

There are so many channels (here’s a partial list: career sites, banner ads, bob postings, LinkedIn, social media, Twitter, email marketing, SEO, display ads, posters, Boolean search, agency search, mobile promotions/ads, and tag-along ads on corporate promotions).

Determining the impact of timing or which of two slightly different banner ads worked is more and more important to success. Setting up mechanisms to gather and track this data is critical to any subsequent steps as it is the foundation for making ROI decision.

Step 3: Future Action … What-If Analysis

While you can do much of the analysis described above without high-level number crunching, you will probably need some help setting up this next step. If you have an in-house analytics team or a sophisticated marketing department, they may have analysts that you can collaborate with. Or you may need to consider hiring someone to help you set up the systems to do these analyses. The increased success you will have will be worth dollars spent. There are numerous software programs and tools, such as SuccessFactors or statistical analysis packages, that can be purchased to make the analysis easier.

The data, correlations, and scales generated in the first two steps above can also be used to run what-if scenarios.  What-if scenarios are often used in the military and in large organizations as they plan productrollouts or other major initiatives. They are a method to examine in a quantitative and qualitative way a possible future state. For example:

You might ask, “What if we did not run any banner ads or post any jobs and just used search? Would be get more and less candidates? Would they be of the same quality?”


“What if your PR department focuses a series of public articles and press releases on advances your company is making in some aspect of its business that is directly related to the positions you are searching for? Would this increase candidate interest? Which media would drive the most potential candidates?”

There are countless possibilities and data can be used to help determine the effectiveness of any of these. However, it takes a sophisticated analytical tool and experts to build these predictive analyses and may not be worth the cost for many firms. Yet, increasingly specific tools to do this are available and are easier to use making them more accessible and affordable.


Do you need to be a statistician or psychologist to set up an analytics function? It’s much more useful to have questions that you want answers to and an appreciation of analytical thought and reasoning. Many of the people I have spoken with were self-taught. They learned quickly through conversations with experienced analysts and by using the tools, which often have extensive help sections.

The Final Outcome

You can save your firm money and time by using a data-driven and focused approach. You will know better which tools/media/channels are most effective, and therefore, you can avoid a shotgun approach where time and money is wasted on trying many things that don’t work. Using data will validate or invalidate your prejudices and beliefs, and you will be a more effective leader because of it.

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