Guide to Sourcing Talent

There’s no debating that the most important asset of your company is your team. So when building your team, why wouldn’t you want to approach it with the same rigor that you approach building a product?
There’s no debating that the most important asset of your company is your team. So when building your team, why wouldn’t you want to approach it with the same rigor that you approach building a product. With every new job requisition you create, it’s critical to create a unique sourcing strategy to attract and hire the right candidates.

What exactly is a “sourcing strategy”?
The process of finding candidates for a specific role. Different strategies will attract different types of candidates. Once you have a sourcing strategy defined, you will be able to measure how efficient your strategy is and make adjustments to improve the results. Recruiters use a combination of sourcing strategies for a specific job requisition. There is not one single way to approach finding the right candidate. Most searches require a combination of both inbound and outbound sourcing. The more niche/specific the search, the more outbound sourcing the search will require relative to inbound sourcing efforts.

Sourcing Strategies

Outbound sourcing
: The process of building relationships with potential candidates by proactively reaching out to candidates via phone and email. Often entails using tools such as LinkedIn, Github or

Inbound sourcing
: The process of vetting candidate that apply to a posted job requisition or are referred to an specific role by employees or external contacts.

Posting/Sourcing Resources

With hundreds of posting and sourcing resources out there, it’s difficult to know where to market your roles. We’ve narrowed this list down to a few resources that we believe are the best for posting and sourcing for all tech, product, and G&A roles for start up companies:

Applicant Tracking Systems

What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
An ATS is candidate management software that helps recruit people more efficiently. Managing candidate flow on an Excel spreadsheet or project management software is not scaleable. It may work when you are interviewing 2-3 candidates per week. However, when you need to start hiring and onboarding 10 people a month, you will need a system to help track and manage every stage of the interview process, including recruiter and hiring manager phone screens, various onsite interviews, technical screens, offer negotiation and potentially employee onboarding. An ATS can be used to do some or all of these things.

Who does NOT need an ATS?
You are a small company that only hires 1-2 people per quarter.
You plan to stop hiring after building a team of less than 30 employees.
You don’t have employees who are committed to learning how to use the ATS system.

Why do companies need to invest in an ATS?
A good ATS is smart enough to help you find candidates, manage the recruitment process and deliver a solid candidate experience. Some ATS platforms have the ability to go out and hunt for candidates that match posted positions.
You will save time and money in the long run. A good ATS will automate the time consuming aspects of recruiting (e.g., sourcing, scheduling, collecting interview feedback).
You will build a large, searchable candidate database that will be increasingly valuable over time.

Challenges of an ATS?
ATS ranking systems are not always reliable so keyword searches in an ATS may not bring up a relevant pipeline. Your database is only as good as your search mining tools.
There is lots of room for user error. ATSs can be complex, with lots of bells and whistles. While most users see the ATS system as a place to hold resumes and post jobs, the core value of the ATS comes from other functions, which need to be used thoughtfully.
If you build it they might not come. You can invest in a great ATS system with every function available to mankind, but if your employees don’t know how to use it, you might as well not have one. Trainings and office hours are crucial. Hiring managers must be aligned with C-level management to drive employee engagement so that everyone in the company is effectively a recruiter.

How effective is your process?
Combining a well-defined strategy with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you should be able to figure out the following:
How many resumes, social profiles, names, etc., do you have to identify to result in a single hire?
What is the efficiency of your sourcing/recruiting/hiring process?
How do different messaging/engagement strategies and tactics impact your efficiency?
What data would help educate your team about how much effort goes into producing a single hire and the effects of a poor assessment/hiring process?

Homebrew ATS recommendations

There are lots of applicant tracking systems and you could spend countless hours doing demos.
We have narrowed it down for you so that you can pick from two systems that we confidently recommend: Greenhouse and Lever.

We’ve outlined the pros and cons below after conducting our own evaluation and talking to customers in the Homebrew portfolio. No system is perfect, but you will find your recruiting process significantly easier to manage once you implement one of these systems:

Agency Resources

When is it time to use a recruiting agency?
There are several reasons companies turn to agencies. The #1 reason is bandwidth. You are a small company with no internal recruiter or you have an internal recruiting team without the resources or experience to do a specific search. You might also use an agency to conduct a confidential search. If you’re looking to complete a search where someone is currently in the role, it can be easier for an outside agency to lead a discrete search without disrupting the business.

Agencies pride themselves on the relationships they have and build over time, especially retained agencies. By hiring a retained agency, you are hiring someone with long term relationships in your industry who will be making introductions to your company. If you are an early stage company, branding and PR come along with the search process since your agency is telling your story to every candidate they speak with.

Contingency Model

A contingency recruiter earns a fee only when the company hires someone. The contingency recruiter will be a lot quicker and deliver more candidates in order to increase the odds of making a placement. They work for many clients at the same time and often send candidates to several clients at one time.

Note: Please contact
@Beth Scheer
for referrals to contingency agencies.

Fee structure.
Typically, this is a percentage of the employee’s first year compensation package and can range from 20% – 25% of that individual’s base salary. Once you have established a relationship with a recruiter and plan to use them for several roles, try to negotiate a fixed fee per hire vs. % of salary.

When do you use a contingency search agency?
Using a contingency agency is a supplement to the work your company is already doing. The agency does not get paid until they make a placement, so they are doing high volume work. They may be working on competing jobs for other companies (sending out candidates to your company as well as other clients) so it is a fast, high volume, competitive cycle. It is best to have several contingency agencies working for you at the same time. You should not have an exclusive arrangement when working with a contingency agency.

Retained Model

Retained search firms get a retainer (upfront fee) to perform a specific search for what is typically a senior role (VP+). The firm will operate on an exclusive basis with the client and not work with other clients that would represent a conflict of interest.

Note: If you need to find a retained firm for a specific search, please contact
@Beth Scheer

90-120 days is a realistic time frame to complete an executive search (from contract signed to offer letter signed). For this to happen, the client and agency need to establish upfront how much time will be needed to 1) collect candidate feedback and 2) schedule interviews.

Fee structure.
You pay an upfront, guaranteed fee to the retained search firm for their services. While all retained recruiting contracts are different, typically retained agreements give the recruiter exclusive access to the open job requisition.
Fee structure #1: The agency charges a professional fee plus expenses for services. A standard fee is one-third (1/3) of the projected first year’s cash compensation (base salary, target bonuses and signing bonus) for the new executive, normally billed out to you over a three-month period.
Fee structure #2: The agency charges a combination of cash and equity where up to 30% of the cash might be charged as equity in the company.

When do you use a retained agency?
Retained agencies are best for executive roles (VP and above) where the client is fully committed and engaged in the search. If the search is confidential, a retained search is the best way to go for reasons described above. A retained search requires a significant amount of time and money from you. To get the search completed in 90-120 days (average placement time from contract signed to offer signed), you need to be fully committed and engaged in terms of quick turn around time on candidate feedback and availability for meetings. There is always an exclusive arrangement when working with a retained agency.

Container Model

A container model is a hybrid of a contingency and retainer model. Clients pay a fee upfront (anywhere from $7-15K) to secure time and services.

Note: If you need are interested in working with a container firm, please contact
@Beth Scheer
directly for referrals.

Fee structure.
The agency charges a percentage of the candidate’s first year base salary (20-25%). The fee is usually payable in 2 installments, with a deposit upfront (7K-10K) then the remainder at the time the offer is signed.

When do you use a container model?
A container model is best for a role where you want an exclusive retainer process but do not want to pay a retainer type fee. This model is usually best for Sr. Manager, Director and VP level roles. We would not recommend a container search for C level positions because you will want the full commitment that comes along with a retained agreement.

Job Descriptions

What makes a good Job Description?
Describes the skills and competencies that are needed to perform the role
Defines where the job fits within the overall company hierarchy
Can be used as the basis for the employment contract
Communicates the culture and values of the company
Serves as a valuable performance management tool

Good resources for writing job descriptions:

Links to sample job descriptions:

Writing job descriptions using the MOC Framework

In addition to the resources above, we are proponents of the MOC framework for helping develop job descriptions. Job descriptions often get created for roles that don’t ever get filled. Why does this happen? The most common reason is because there is not internal alignment on the role.

How do you prevent this from happening? Go back to the basics and walk through the MOC (Mission, Outcome, Competencies) framework before you go to market with a new executive role. This framework can help answer why you need this person, what this person will do and how will this person contribute to the organization? This process can be very helpful in creating the needed alignment so that you can conduct a successful search.

The MOC framework creates alignment by starting with a good job description. Below is an outline of the MOC framework, which can be used to arrive at a universal understanding of what the job profile is and why the company is looking for this role. There are three components to the MOC approach:

What do we need this person to do over the next 12-18 months (essence of the job in 2-3 sentences, plain English)
What specific outcomes are we looking for this person to achieve in their first 12-18 months (5-8 specific/important goals that support the mission, ranked by order of importance). Outcomes also influence the reporting relationships that might need to be in place for the person to achieve the desired Outcomes.
How do we expect this person to operate in achieving the Mission and Outcomes? Competencies have two levels:
What set of experiences / accomplishments does this person have that gives him or her a unique advantage in achieving the Outcomes?
What competencies does this person need to meet the broader demands of our company culture?

By answering the questions above, and then creating a job description based on those answers, you’re more likely to have the alignment needed to complete a search that lands the right candidate for the position.

Related articles/articles

Updated 5.6.20
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