Four Sourcing Buckets For A Balanced Talent Pipeline

By Chris Murdock

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When it comes to sourcing talent, the definition of a “healthy pipeline” can vary by the thousands. Each sourcer’s opinion of what it building a talent pipeline takes is affected by their own company, industry, function, or all of the above. Your sourcing success is affected by employer brand, which can be positive, negative, or non-existent. And, we all know that some industries are more desirable than others. Even some job functions are easier to recruit for than others.

But, even with all these variables, sourcing can be consistent across industry and function when you start with a simple plan and outline the four buckets to find candidates.

The Four Buckets Of Candidates That Compose A Balanced Pipeline:

  1. Referrals
  2. Applicants
  3. Passive Candidates
  4. Internal Mobility

But, sourcing exclusively out of these four buckets isn’t enough. We must add a final layer that is incredibly important: diversity. So, not only should you source talent to have a balanced pipeline made up of the four buckets listed above — now you must make sure that the candidates from each bucket are diverse. It can get confusing. Understanding the importance of having a diverse slate of candidates, sourced from a diverse set of pipelines, will help you and your company build a strong employer brand, a consistent culture, and an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.


Pros And Cons


Pros: Referrals are, by far, the most accessible and efficient bucket of candidates. You typically have fewer referrals, but the likelihood of hiring someone from this category is much higher. Using bonuses can also increase the number of referrals. Your cost-per-hire for a referral can be very low.

Cons: If you’re not careful, your referrals could come from the same set of experiences and companies. You could end up with people who think alike, and if you’re not careful, you’ll have an organization, division, or group that all look alike as well.

Be Mindful: To ensure you’re not creating institutional bias, ask your employees to be mindful of diverse referrals along ethnic, gender, and thought lines.



Pros: Given the current economic climate, this can be a HUGE source of candidates with a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Traditional applicants can also have low cost-per-hire.

Cons: Given the current economic climate, this can be a HUGE source of candidates with a spectrum of backgrounds! You could end up with a lot of applicants who aren’t qualified and end up only getting a few candidates that fit for the amount of effort needed to review the resumes.

Be Mindful: How you treat your applicants can directly impact your employer brand. With that in mind, you must have processes in place that provide a great experience for all applicants. They may not have been chosen, but you want to make sure they still walk away with a positive experience and a positive impression of the company. Now that they’re in your ATS/CRM, they may turn up in searches in the future and be a great fit for someone else!


Passive Candidates

Pros: You can hone in on candidates who have the experience you need using a myriad of tools (SeekoutZoominfoLinkedIn, etc.). The people you want to recruit will not always know you’re hiring, so passive candidate outreach is a great way to pull people into the process. You can ensure a diverse slate of candidates by leveraging diversity and inclusion sourcing and recruiting strategies.

Cons: Passive candidate recruiting can often be the most time-intensive and expensive option out of the four sourcing buckets. You can engage passive candidates through your internal recruiters or third-party firms. However, if you over-index or use too many keywords, you can often miss out on candidates who could be a fit, but don’t share enough information on the front end. The first call is often for selling the opportunity more versus screening, as you would with an active applicant.

Be Mindful: Be mindful that you’re not using keywords and other criteria that will exclude vast swaths of the potential candidate pool.


Internal Mobility

Pros: Opportunity for career progression. Quick ramp-up time as current employees do not require the same level of onboarding.

Cons: You will need to backfill the person that moves to the other role or geography. The ideal internal candidates will not always be aware of the other opportunities within your company.

Be Mindful: Tools, like Eightfold, are making it easier to recruit from within. Remind your employees to keep an eye on new roles to solicit referrals and internal interest.


The four sourcing buckets are a great place to begin your search in building a talent pipeline, but it’s probably an overly simplified breakdown of a balanced pipeline’s components. How you balance the flow from each is entirely unique to your company’s goals and needs. It doesn’t mean that you have to have equal numbers of hires from each bucket, but knowing the high-level pros and cons of each will give you the ability to pull the levers you need to guarantee that you’re sourcing the right talent in an efficient and mindful manner.

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