On the hunt: HR’s ‘Talent Sourcers’ use a proactive approach to locating unique, hard-to-find applicants

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The Talent Sourcing Team locates highly skilled individuals who would not have applied on their own if a sourcer hadn’t found them. Clockwise starting left,  Jackie Gonzalez, Michael Enriquez, Ashley Cube and Sahar Rouse.

With an abundance of applicants for about 500 job postings open on average at any given time, it’s clear that plenty of people are interested in working at the Lab. However, as recruiters know, for highly specialized jobs in STEM, locating the right person can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

That’s where talent sourcers come in. Using various research methods, they find, engage, qualify and submit highly qualified candidates into the pipeline who may not have applied on their own.

When talent sourcing team lead Jackie Gonzalez was hired onto the HR Talent Acquisition (TA) team as a full-cycle recruiter five years ago, the demand for proactive sourcing had recently tripled. Debbie Eaton, director of TA, proposed a new proactive model to her team and asked Gonzalez to assist with writing a proposal for funding to create a sourcing team. In October 2022, TA was awarded initial funding for a three-person team with plans to expand further, and Gonzalez was promoted to team lead.

“We added an additional layer of recruiting support in the middle portion of our recruiting cycle in which talent is proactively identified to assist our full-cycle recruiters with managing the high volume of hiring that we need to support our stakeholders’ needs,” Gonzalez said.

To learn about open roles, sourcers schedule intake meetings with hiring teams, during which they determine necessary job qualifications, skills and attributes and ask a series of questions to gain in-depth knowledge of the roles. They often use reverse engineering, identifying the group’s top hire, where they came from and what was on their resume to develop a plan to find people like them.

Sourcers search for qualified applicants using public databases such as SeekOut, LinkedIn, Reddit, online communities, social media profiles and competing companies. They use advanced search strings and data mining to identify prospective candidates who fit a target profile and create interest around open positions through various forms of outreach. Once candidates apply, sourcers conduct phone screens and assess fit and qualifications before turning them over to a hiring team.

To assist hiring teams, sourcers confirm if there are specific pre-screening questions that they can ask during their initial phone screens to help identify a potential fit earlier on in the process. In some cases, this allows qualified applicants to skip the secondary phone screen with the hiring team and move more quickly to a panel interview.

“It is exciting to see the sourcing team grow both in number and in impact to the Lab in partnership with hiring teams,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Larry Durham. “We appreciate the Lab’s continual investment in the teams who pursue critical talent for our organization. This is truly a win-win proposition.”

Coming to the Lab with previous experience building a sourcing team and leading a recruiting team at Facebook, Gonzalez was accustomed to what she called “the hunt,” or researching where talent is found for specific positions and recruiting targeted individuals based on this information. She saw the benefits of bringing this expanded service to the Lab, particularly for hard-to-fill technical positions.

“When we figure out that a hiring team is going to be looking for additional talent, that’s when we jump in and start to help,” Gonzalez said. “If you do a strong enough intake and you find really calibrated talent, you can work faster and create a more aligned hiring process.”

With a looming recession and many companies implementing large layoffs and/or hiring freezes, it's more important than ever to be intentional about hiring the best of the best. The sourcing team checks layoff sites and social media groups to stay current on the workforce market and make targeted plans to reach out to highly specialized workers who have been laid off.

The demand for top talent continues and sourcing qualified candidates for unique technical roles is expected to remain a challenge for recruiters. But the Lab’s talent sourcing team is up for the challenge, building applicant pools on an ongoing basis.

“Many of our critical roles remain unfilled the longest, and when they go unfilled it impacts mission work,” Eaton said. “The goal is to have a continuous pipeline of talent, so when that next opening does occur, it can be quickly filled with the talent the sourcers have been nurturing all along.”

- Kimberly Moore