Sourcing vs. Recruiting: What’s the Difference?

Sourcing vs. Recruiting

Last Updated April 17, 2024

Regardless of industry, finding top talent is essential for any company. Because of this, many companies have a general understanding that they need the help of recruiters and talent scouts to find qualified candidates.

What is less commonly understood, however, is the difference between sourcing and recruiting. While both roles serve as vital points of contact with candidates during the hiring process, they have distinct responsibilities in how and when they will perform this outreach.

By understanding just what is sourcing in recruiting, you can engage the help of the right type of specialist at each stage of the hiring process.

Here’s what every business should know about talent sourcing vs. recruiting.

What Is Recruiting?

Recruiting is often used as a catch-all phrase for describing the hiring process—including sourcing. Recruiting entails the various activities that guide a sourced candidate through the hiring process, including activities like candidate screening, technical and behavioral interviews, job offers, and onboarding.

What Does a Recruiter Do?

While recruiting does encompass sourcing, recruiters themselves generally aren’t involved in the sourcing process. Instead, their role comes in after candidates have been sourced for an open position.

Recruiters start by screening job candidates (both those who have been sourced and those who have actively applied to an opening) to identify those who are qualified for the position. They then schedule interviews and evaluations—and depending on the organization, they may also be responsible for conducting these as well.

After a candidate has passed through various rounds of interviews and the company is ready to make an offer, the recruiter also plays a key role in coordinating, communicating, and negotiating the job offer.

Throughout this process, recruiters typically manage a database of candidates who are in various stages of recruiting/hiring at their organization.

What Is Sourcing?

Sourcing is an important subset of the recruitment process. Sourcing in the staffing world refers to sourcing or finding candidates who seem like they would be a good fit for a particular job. The goal of sourcing is to create a strong talent pipeline for a company and its current and future open positions.

What Does a Sourcer Do?

Sourcers are primarily focused on identifying candidates. Their goal is to identify potential candidates, assess them based on qualifications for a job listing, and then engage with those individuals to get them more fully involved in the recruiting process.
Sourcers are often heavily involved in reaching out to so-called “passive” candidates—people who aren’t actively looking for a new job but who seem like they would be a good fit for a position. Of course, sourcers will also reach out to individuals who are actively looking for work, as these people are more likely to be interested in a potential role.

This involves a lot of networking and outreach on LinkedIn, job board sites, and other platforms. Sourcers try to build a large network of potential talent who can be passed on to recruiters.

When Does Sourcing Occur in the Recruitment Process?

While the exact timeline can vary, sourcing generally occurs rather early in the recruitment process. Because sourcing entails searching for, identifying, and communicating with potential candidates for a job, it is generally done before other recruiting activities begin in earnest.

Of course, sourcing typically won’t begin until a job listing and job description have been created for an opening within a company. Sourcers are much more likely to be successful if they can provide prospective candidates with details about the job in question.

A sourcer’s work isn’t necessarily over once they’ve qualified an initial set of candidates. There is no guarantee that any one candidate will be the right fit for the position or accept a job offer. Because of this, sourcing often continues even after interviews with other qualified candidates have begun. However, an organization might set a baseline for when sourcers no longer need to reach out to potential candidates for a position (such as when they have 10 interviews scheduled).

Differences Between Sourcing and Recruiting

Here’s a quick talent scout vs. recruiter breakdown to give a better overview of the similarities and differences between these important roles.

Sourcing Recruiting
Search for, identify, and communicate with potential candidates who may qualify for a position Screen sourced candidates based on their qualifications through resume reviews, interviews, and skills evaluations
Engage with both passive and active candidates Only target active candidates who have applied for a job with the company
Primarily use social media and job boards for candidate outreach Use specialty candidate databases, such as applicant tracking systems, to organize job seeker information and track candidates at various stages of the hiring process
Performance measured by the number and quality of candidates sourced, candidate conversion rate, and cost per hire Performance measured by the time to fill position, offer acceptance rate, retention rate, and hiring manager and candidate satisfaction

Job Responsibilities of a Sourcer

The job responsibilities of a sourcer include:

  • Searching for potential candidates on social media, job boards, and other platforms
  • Identifying potential candidates based on job requirements
  • Assessing qualifications of relevant talent
  • Reaching out to passive and active candidates
  • Generating interest in their company and the open position
  • Networking to find additional opportunities for sourcing candidates

Job Responsibilities of a Recruiter

The job responsibilities of a recruiter include:

  • Developing and posting job listings
  • Screening applications
  • Scheduling (and sometimes conducting) interviews and evaluations
  • Coordinating, communicating, and negotiating job offers
  • Guiding new hires through onboarding processes
  • Tracking qualified candidates in digital databases

In-Summary: Sourcing vs. Recruiting

While sourcing and recruiting both fall under the talent acquisition umbrella, they are not the same, instead playing two different roles in the hiring process. Sourcers are talent scouts who identify potential candidates for a position and act as the first point of contact. Then, recruiters swoop in and further screen the applicant, guiding them through the rest of the process, including interviews, job offers, and onboarding.

By understanding the difference between sourcing vs. recruiting, you can get the help you need to find the right people to join your team.

Related: Staffing vs. Recruiting

Sourcing vs. Recruiting FAQs

What is the difference between a technical sourcer vs. recruiter?

Technical sourcers are primarily responsible for attracting potential candidates to a company, searching for both passive and active job candidates. Recruiters manage relationships with candidates after they have been sourced, managing tasks like screening, interviews, and onboarding.

What is the average salary for sourcers and recruiters?

Sourcer and recruiter salaries vary based on region and experience. However, according to Glassdoor, the current average salary for a talent sourcer is $76,365 per year while the average salary for a recruiter is $62,849 per year.

What does sourcing mean in recruiting?

Sourcing is the process of finding suitable candidates for a company’s position. Sourcing is the process of identifying and assessing potential candidates and then engaging with them to generate interest in the company. After this, qualified candidates are typically passed off to recruiters.

How long does the recruiting process take?

The recruiting and hiring process can vary significantly based on the type and size of the employer, the industry involved, the type of position a person is applying for, and how many candidates have applied for the position. On average, however, the hiring process takes three to six weeks.