Fairly regularly, we see sourcers and recruiters getting used interchangeably. In some companies, there’s no way around this because the team is small and the staff has to pull double duty, but let’s make clear the differences between the two, how they overlap, and how you can decide which route is best for you.


Let’s start with the actual definitions:

Sourcing is the act of finding passive (and sometimes active, but more often passive) candidates and qualifying them against the open position’s requirements. It can also involve being the first to reach out to a potential candidate and gauging their interest in discussing the position/their likelihood of changing their current position.

Recruiting takes over at the end of the sourcing process or they take the reins from the start with active candidates (those who have applied to job board postings). The recruiters guide the conversation between the hiring manager(s) and the candidates on the shortlist. Recruiters are often the ones by the side of the candidates from when they express interest in the position until they are either offered the job or removed from consideration (hence why there is so often a focus on “candidate experience” in recruiting conversations).

NOTE: Everyone seems to have a different definition of these two roles so if you’re looking at going down one route or the other, be sure to ask questions, quadruple read the job description, and make your desires clear in interviews.

For a lot of companies, these two roles are pushed into one and they’re simply called “recruiters” which, of course, further muddles the two. But sourcing and recruiting are technically two separate positions and some people might be more suited for one position or the other.

For both sourcing and recruiting there are certain tasks and skills that overlap:

  • A focus on the candidate: No candidate wants to hear from a sourcer or recruiter who hasn’t taken the time to do some research about them and what their needs may be so a focus on the candidate is crucial to success in both positions.
  • Qualification of candidates: Through every step of the recruiting process candidates have to be confirmed to be a good fit for the position so both sourcers and recruiters need to be researching, asking questions, and qualifying a candidate’s skills.
  • Dedication to the placement: Both sourcers and recruiters need to want to have the position filled. They both need to have the drive to get the job done so that every piece of the process can run smoothly.
  • Calm in the face of rejection: Both professions deal with A LOT of rejection from candidates who aren’t interested to hiring managers who dislike every option, so an ability to bounceback from bad days is a must.

Which one is best for you depends on who you are as a person and as an employee!

If you’re more inclined to want to deep dive into research and data and make a KILLER first impression, you might be more suited to being a sourcer. As a sourcer you have to be willing to sink a lot of time into the front end of finding potential candidates and then be willing to relinquish the control of the situation to the recruiters. You also need to be able to notice when something isn’t working and be willing to adapt to be successful. If you’re the one that your friends always come to to find the best restaurant, doctor, or the person they ran into on the subway, then you’re on the track to being a great sourcer!

If your passion lies in working directly with people and guiding them through stressful situations, being a recruiter might be the best path. Recruiters have to be as comfortable with delivering bad news as they are with delivering good news so a high level of empathy and understanding for the candidates you work with is crucial. Recruiters need to be capable of working with people of all different personality types and exceed at communication while also being exceptionally detail-oriented.

So which one are you and why do you love it? Let us know on Twitter!