How to Find Candidates: Sourcing a Bigger, More Diverse Talent Pool

Joe Caccavale

16

August

2021

7

min read

|

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Unfortunately, ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t translate too well to talent sourcing - unless of course you’re a big-name organization.

Below we’ll show you how to find candidates by optimizing your sourcing efforts for both skills and diversity - based on years of our own trial and error and a little behavioural science know-how.

Clearly define requirements 

If you’re looking to source a large, diverse talent pool, the first thing you’ll need to do is decide on the skills you’re looking for.

Whilst your first instinct may be to start jotting down specific education and experience requirements - this won’t help you find the best possible people for the job. 

Although education and experience are typically at the core of the hiring process, they don’t actually tell us much about someone’s real-life skills and future performance.

If we look at this landmark meta-study on the predictivity of assessment methods, we can see that this background information isn’t actually very helpful.

Predictive validity of assessment methods chart


Not only are these kinds of requirements poor predictors of performance, but they also overlook talented people who come from either underprivileged or unconventional backgrounds.  

Instead of looking for people with a specific number of years experience in your industry or a degree from a redbrick university, simply list 6-8 core skills that are essential to succeed in the role.

These can be both technical skills (like SEO) or soft skills/working characteristics (like communication).

It's these skills that matter, not how or where someone gained them.

Casting a wider net like this isn’t ‘lowering the bar’ if your assessment process is predictive - you can read our guide on testing for skills upfront, without CVs here.

Key takeaway: list 6-8 skills needed for a job - these can be a mix of soft and technical skills


Attract a bigger candidate pool with inclusive job descriptions 

Whilst active sourcing and headhunting may well be necessary, your job descriptions could be working harder to attract and convert potential candidates.

One of the most common mistakes organizations tend to make is listing an extensive list of requirements.

Listing too many requirements will decrease applications, usually from women.

Research has shown that generally speaking, women tend not to apply for roles unless they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men who will apply meet only 60% of the requirements.

The more requirements, the more it may seem like a risk to apply. 

It’s not that women don’t think they can do the job, it’s that they’re more likely to perceive your requirements as strict rules for who can and can’t apply.

Keeping your requirements below 10 would be a good place to start as well as ditching any nice-to-haves to clear up any ambiguity.

'Why didn't you apply for the job?' survey


The other major faux pas that could potentially deter candidates from is excessive use of masculine-coded language.

The words and phrases you use in your job descriptions can carry subconscious meaning as well as an association with a particular gender.

If you use terms characteristically associated with men, for example, this will signal that a man would be a better fit for the job.

A study conducted by the University of Waterloo and Duke University found people are less likely to apply to job adverts that had words biased in favour of the opposite gender.

If you write either feminine or neutral-coded job descriptions, you’ll attract an even gender split.

We even tested this out with our own job descriptions - you can see the results below.

Gender coding effect on diversity chart


Key takeaway: Keep below 10 requirements and avoid gendered language (we built our Job Description Tool to make inclusive job descriptions a piece of cake!)


Reach out to past candidates 

Past candidates are an often overlooked source of talent.

If a candidate narrowly missed out on a role with a similar skills profile, invite them to apply for the role you’re hiring for.

We decided to put this to the test ourselves and found that relative tourist of the pool, referred candidates were:

  • Almost twice as likely to be ethnically diverse (44% were from a minority heritage, relative to 26% across the board)
  • Slightly more gender balanced (59% female vs 64% female)
  • Scored hire across our assessment process

If you trust that your process is predictive (if not, you can read our go-to guide here), then these candidates will have already been pre-qualified.

We’ve found the best time to recommend other open roles is immediately following a rejection. Candidates who applied to your jobs last year or even last month are all going to be off the market. 

So, if a candidate came close but was unsuccessful, simply suggest other roles they could be suited to. 

Key takeaway: recommend similar roles to unsuccessful candidates

Give feedback to boost your employer brand 

Whilst you should be having team members write blogs about what it's like to work at your organization and using social media to give a look behind the scenes, one of the easiest and most effective ways to skyrocket your employer brand is to give candidates feedback.

Typically, candidates are lucky to get a “sorry, you were unsuccessful” email, never mind personalized, useful feedback.

Talent is 4x more likely to consider your company for a future role when you offer them constructive feedback, yet only 41% of candidates have ever received feedback.

We started giving feedback to Applied candidates - the chart shows the candidate experience scores given by unsuccessful candidates.

Candidate feedback chart


Since every step of our hiring process has been debiased and scored against criteria, we’re able to map candidates’ skills and give them an idea of the skills/areas they could improve in.

Applied Platform feedback


By taking the time to share feedback, we achieved a 9/10 average candidate experience rating.

Key takeaway: Give candidates feedback on the skills that could be improved to have even rejected candidates talking about your organization.


Track your job boards

Job boards are expensive - so make sure you’re maximizing your ROI.

Not all job boards are going to bring you the same degree quality or diversity.

This is why we recommend using UTM links (your Marketing Team should be able to help set these up) to track your job boards.

Once you know which ones are bringing the best candidates, you can double down on these and save budget on any underperforming job boards.

 If you’re looking to plug specific diversity gaps in your team, you can also use specialist job boards such as BYP, Women in Tech, Ada’s List etc.

Key takeaway: use UTMs to see where the best candidates come from

Use Boolean to search Google and Twitter

Put simply, Boolean is a set of commands that you can use to get more precise in your searches.

Boolean search allows you to combine keywords with operators like AND, NOT and OR to narrow (or broaden) your search.

Here are a few of the basics:

  • AND - use this to narrow your search. The AND command essentially adds another layer of criteria. For example, ‘Marketing AND social media’.
  • OR - use this to expand your search. For example, ‘Android developer OR iOS developer’.
  • NOT - use this to exclude terms from your search. For example ‘Developer NOT frontend’.
  • () - use brackets to group keywords together and get specific with your search. For example, ‘(Account management OR customer success) AND SaaS’.
Key takeaway: pinpoint your search with Boolean commands


Use employee referrals wisely 

Employee referrals can be a quick and cheap means of filling roles - and so you should be making use of them.

However, they do come with a caveat…

Referred candidates tend to reflect the employee who referred them.

According to PayScale’s report, female and minority applicants were significantly less likely to receive a referral than their white male peers - with a compounding effect for women of colour.

Example or an employee referral process


To offset this negative impact on diversity, make sure the employees your asking for referrals are a diverse group.

Pinterest saw a 55% increase in candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds from doing exactly this.

Key takeaway: make sure that employees from minority backgrounds are part of the referrer group to avoid perpetuating diversity gaps.


Follow up with candidates who don’t get back to you

A salesperson wouldn’t give up on a prospect after a single email…

And the same goes for talent sourcing.

50% of sales happen after the 5th contact, but most salespeople give up after just 2.

The best talent will naturally be busy and likely inundated with messages from recruiters.

To have your message seen, you’ll need to take a multi-channel approach.

Outreach process example


Here are a few handy tools for automating your headhunting:

  • Dux Soup - automatically adds lists of people on LinkedIn
  • GEM - creates automatic followups and email sequencing
  • LeadIQ - find the numbers and emails for people on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator - is great for searching and InMailing
Key takeaway: treat your headhunting like sales outreach - be persistent!



Applied is the essential platform for debiased hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring empirical and ethical, our platform uses anonymized applications and skill-based assessments to identify talent that would otherwise have been overlooked.

Push back against conventional hiring wisdom with a smarter solution: book in a demo