The Essential Guide to Sourcing Candidates for Startups

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If you’re a startup in the process of building a pipeline of candidates, you might find it difficult to find candidates that meet your job requirements. A startup must acquire talent to achieve growth goals. Finding candidates might be the most challenging part, especially where you have a job market where the number of jobs outweighs the number of job seekers. This is where having a good sourcing strategy can help.

There are two components to sourcing:

  1. Putting together a compelling job description
  2. Identifying sources for candidates

While writing a good job description is helpful, it won’t help if you don’t get it in front of many candidates that meet your job requirements, it doesn’t help you. This is where sourcing comes in. In this very tight hiring market, you need an edge. Leverage the latest in tools, technologies, and best practices to find those qualified candidates. Keep reading to learn what factors you need to consider. 

Identifying Qualified Candidate Sources

OK, you have great, finely-tuned job postings. Now what? It would be best if you found candidates.

You can post your job description at various places to connect with “active” candidates – those looking for a new opportunity, and “passive” candidates – those who are currently employed and not actively seeking a new job. When posting a job across various job boards, expect a lot of unqualified submissions. On average, only .5% of job board applicants are hired, according to a recent Jobvite analysis.

Social Channels

Using social channels to identify and interact with potential candidates is an excellent method for sourcing. Not only can you reach out to some of the best candidates, but you can also improve your employer’s branding and company culture. Some of the best social sourcing tools:

  • LinkedIn, of course, is a top source where professionals share their career history and list skills and accomplishments. A LinkedIn recruiter license lets you search profiles and send personal InMails to potential candidates.
  • Indeed is one of the largest job boards where you can search through resumes based on job titles, locations, etc.
  • Facebook users are potential job candidates. Facebook Groups are where people with common interests gather and share information. Some current Group examples are Software Development, Computer Programmers, Web Designers, Data Scientists, Sales Professionals Group, etc. Also, you can use paid job ads on Facebook as well.
  • You can engage in discussions, follow industry hashtags, and use tools like search, list, and chat on Twitter.
  • Instagram’s popularity with job seekers is increasing its use with recruiters. According to Jobvite’s 2018 RecruitingNation Study, a quarter of recruiters invest in recruiting efforts on Instagram, especially millennial recruiters (35%) and those working at technology companies (63%) — double the number in 2017. 


Some websites are gathering places for potential candidates. Here is a very abbreviated list for developers, designers, and writers that is easy to add to:

  • AngelList
  • GitHub
  • Bitbucket
  • Mozilla Developer Network
  • Slack
  • Meetup
  • Reddit
  • SlashDot
  • Behance
  • Dribbble
  • Zerply
  • Medium
  • MeetUp
  • Forrst
  • Growth Hackers

As an example of use, Github allows you to see who contributes to open source projects. If you are looking for engineers specializing in Python, look for the top contributors for open-source Python projects. Often a developer’s profile will contain their email address. This is a great way to find talent.

On the design side, with Behance and Dribbble, you can source designers based on their portfolios. Keep in mind that you still have to execute due diligence to review their designs for yourself.

Boolean Search

Boolean searching logic (combining keyword searches with operators like AND, NOT, and OR) will help you target your searches to more relevant results on sites where you can search for candidates.

The speed and match precision of searching for candidates with Boolean search strings effectively allow your recruiting efforts to produce more accurate results in less time, increasing productivity and reducing response time. Numerous online resources help fine-tune your search criteria. Here is an interesting one on LinkedIn that talks about a more systematic approach with Boolean search.

Employee Referrals

Referrals are another excellent source for candidates. Referrals account for between 30 and 50% of hires in the US. It’s a fast, inexpensive way to hire and typically yields good performers. Studies show that referred employees are more likely to stay at a firm longer and be more productive.

Involve your current employees in your sourcing efforts by encouraging them to refer candidates who qualify for your open roles. Announce open jobs. Share a link to the job description or share the job requirements in a company email asking for referrals so that employees understand who fits (or, just as necessary, who doesn’t fit) the role.

Get a new employee referral program together and market it to your employees. Include the scope of the program, what the referral bonus program entails, define how it works – how to refer someone (make it easy), how long until payout of bonus, what happens if two employees refer the same person, who can participate, who can be referred, etc.

Remember that just giving financial rewards might not be the best or only way to boost activity. Experiential incentives can be great motivators – gifts (new iPhone!), time off, paid offsite activities, etc. And here is an interesting article about Google and how they doubled bonuses for employee referrals, and it didn’t work, and what did. Also, think about special bonuses to improve diversity. Intel did a program where they doubled their referral bonus when the company hired women and minorities through referrals.

Recruitment Agency

Finally, keep in mind that you can completely outsource the entire recruiting process to a recruitment agency specializing in finding staff to fill vacant positions. This makes the hiring process easier, of course, but on the downside, it’s costly, typically at $15-50k per hire.

Artificial Intelligence in Sourcing

Unfortunately, the bulk of talent acquisition time is spent on sourcing and doing the time-consuming tasks required, such as pouring over résumé databases, writing complicated Boolean searches, guessing which companies might provide candidates, and dealing with the constrictions of LinkedIn InMail, scheduling, etc. On the positive front, these are the exact activities that can be executed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) at scale.

When it comes to candidate sourcing, weeks and months of tedious efforts can be executed in minutes using AI. Based on specific targeting, such as years of sales experience, base salary range, technology stacks, etc. AI will analyze hundreds of variables across millions of companies to define the suitable targets at a scale not possible in any other way. It will also analyze candidate data and deliver various candidate pools based on sophisticated scoring techniques. All of this occurs in real-time so that you can get immediate results.

Additionally, AI will return predictable conversion rates and timelines, enabling you to identify the number of candidates available for outreach, as well as the expected follow-on conversion rates: how many responses are expected, number of screening calls that will be made, the size of the qualified candidate pool, and the projected role fill date.’s AI sourcing software is an excellent way to apply AI to the traditional manual recruiting process.

When many startups don’t even have an HR person, let alone a recruiter, leveraging AI is a faster, more efficient, cheaper, and more predictable way to drive your talent acquisition program. Think of it as “human-powered, machine-assisted.” You still need to define the proper role – understanding your business, needs, and requirements. But then you can leverage a machine to use that information to help you source qualified applicants.

Start Recruiting for Startups Today

Talent acquisition is the critical factor for successfully driving a startup’s growth. Where do you quickly find candidates that meet your job requirements? That is the goal. But there has never been a tighter job market for employers, and time is of the essence. Startups must prepare for maximum effort to meet their hiring goals.

Sourcing is quite probably the most essential function in the recruitment process. You need to find both active and passive candidates to whom you can present your job opportunities. Websites, social channels, referrals, and employer brand are all key. But don’t overlook the technology. Leveraging AI in sourcing can be your secret sauce.

If you’re interested in using this AI recruiting solution, contact us today!


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