Startup Recruiting Part 3: Sourcing

July 27, 2020

As the next installment of our Startup Company Growth blog series, we’re going to cover Sourcing – the process of building a pipeline of candidates that meet your job requirements. As we discussed in our first post in the Startup series, it is critical for a startup to acquire talent to achieve growth goals. Finding candidates might be the hardest part, especially where “Never before have we had an economy where the number of jobs exceeds the number of job seekers(1)”.     

There are two components to Sourcing:

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

Each is important. In Part 2 – Job Descriptions, we discussed the first component in detail. However, you can write the greatest job description in the world, but if you don’t get it in front of a good number of 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.

Identifying Candidate Sources

OK, you have a great, finely-tuned job description, now what? You need to find candidates. You can post your job description at a variety of places to connect with “active” candidates – those that are looking for a new opportunity, and “passive” candidates – those people 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.(2)

Social Channels

Using social channels to identify and interact with potential candidates is an excellent method for sourcing. 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.
  • On Twitter, you can engage in discussions, follow industry hashtags and use their tools like search, list and chat.
  • Instagram’s popularity with job seekers is increasing its use with recruiters. According to Jobvite’s 2018 RecruitingNation Study, a quarter of recruiters are investing in recruiting efforts onInstagram, especially millennial recruiters (35%) and those working at technology companies (63%) — double the number in 2017.(3)


There are websites that 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 is contributing to open source projects. If you are looking for engineers that specialize in Python, look for the top contributors for open source Python projects. Here is a link to how that is done.   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

On sites where you can search for candidates, Boolean searching logic (combining keyword searches with operators like AND, NOT and OR) will help you target your searches to more relevant results. The speed and match precision of searching for candidates with Boolean search strings effectively allows your recruiting efforts to produce more accurate results in less time, increasing productivity and reducing response time.(4)  There are numerous online resources to help fine-tune your search criteria. Here is an interesting one on LinkedIn that talks about a more methodical approach with Boolean search.


Referrals are another great source for candidates. Referrals account for between 30 and 50% of hires in the US.(5)  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 to 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 important, who doesn’t fit) the role.

Get an 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 same person, who can participate, who can be referred, etc.  Keep in mind, just giving financial bonuses 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.(6)

Recruitment Agency

Finally, keep in mind that the entire recruiting process can be completely outsourced to a recruitment agency which specializes in finding staff to fill vacant positions. This makes the process easier, of course, but on the downside, it's very expensive, 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 résumé́ databases, writing complicated Boolean searches, guessing which companies might provide candidates, 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 right targets at a scale not possible in any other way. It will also analyze candidate data and deliver a wide range of candidate pools based on sophisticated scoring techniques. All of this occurs in real-time, so 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 expected, number of screening calls that will be made, the size of the qualified candidate pool, and the “projected role fill date”. Upsider’s Intelligent Sourcing Platform is an excellent way to apply AI to the traditional manual recruiting process.  

When many (most?) 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 right role – understanding your business, your needs, your requirements.  But then you can leverage a machine to use that information to help you source suitable applicants across 7 million companies and a pool of 100+ million candidates.

If you would like to find out more information on how Upsider’s Intelligent Sourcing Platform is disrupting and revolutionizing recruiting, here are two links:

Bottom Line

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 a maximum effort to meet their hiring goals. Sourcing is quite probably the most important function in the recruiting process.  It is vital for you to find those candidates, both active and passive, that you can present your job opportunities to. Websites, social channels, referrals are all key. But don’t overlook technology.  Leveraging AI in sourcing can be your secret sauce.  Use it!


Upsider will continue to provide information in our upcoming posts that focus on this critical aspect of a startup’s life - hiring.  If you’d like to automatically receive new blog posts and insights as they become available, please click here and have the latest delivered straight to your inbox.

Like this post? Check out the Upsider Blog for more content about the cross-section of data and recruiting.




1.     Note: From “More Jobs Than Seekers in US: Labor Department”, Alexander Acosta, US Secretary of Labor, posted by StaffingIndustry Analysts | June 6, 2018

2.     Note: From “2018 RecruitingBenchmark Report”, posted by Jobvite | 2018

3.     Note: From “2018 Recruiting NationStudy”, posted by Jobvite | 2018

4.     Note: From “Why Boolean Search is Such a Big Deal in Recruiting”, posted by | June 19,2018

5.     Note: From “Do InformalReferrals Lead to Better Matches? Evidence from a Firm's Employee ReferralSystem”, published by SSRN IZA Discussion Paper No. 8175 | May, 2014

6.     Note: From “Intel will award double referral bonuses for diverse hires”, posted by Fast Company | July 29,2015

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