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recruiter or sourcer?

What Are You? A Recruiter? A Sourcer? Or Both?

In conversations with our customers, many of them raised an interesting question: what’s the real difference between a “recruiter” and a “sourcer”? These titles are sometimes used interchangeably, but it can be confusing to what each of these roles does. So what’s the difference?

  • You might think the difference is around seniority or experience: a sourcer grows in their role to become a recruiter, and a recruiter is a senior member of the team.
  • Or, you could think the difference is in the way they do the same job: a sourcer hunts for candidates anywhere, while a recruiter hunts for them solely online.
  • Or, you would differentiate the two by having the sourcer hunt for outbound candidates and a recruiter only works with candidates that have already applied.

But what’s the real definition? How does a company define a recruiter and a sourcer when it comes to the job description?

The real difference lies between where the sourcer and recruiter start in the hiring process: to hire the best, you need to choose from the best.

A sourcer’s responsibility is to master the details of the company, qualify candidates according to those details, and build a talent pool. A senior sourcer would also prioritize the candidates in the talent pool in the order of who should be contacted first. This prioritized list of candidates is then handed off to the recruiter.

The recruiter’s responsibility is to get the candidates interested, conduct effective interviews, negotiate hiring terms, and work jointly with hiring managers to close candidates.

Depending on your company’s needs, you may need to combine this role into one person, or you could separate this role into many employees. Often times company size determines this. Smaller companies with a headcount limitation may have one person successfully play the role of both the recruiter and the sourcer.

But sometimes you need them to be separated. For example, tech companies (even smaller start-ups) often prefer having separate people or teams for sourcing and recruiting. In tech, the demand for engineering talent is high, and a shortage of engineers creates the need to have a dedicated team that actively sources engineers.

Another example is when sourcing for strategic positions, the recruiter could also wear a “sourcer” hat, essentially doing two roles in one. This is because strategic hiring or executive hiring mostly focuses on outbound sourcing. Companies prefer to post these jobs discretely, as the weight of the job position can change the public and private perception of a company.

To put it simply, think of the sourcer’s role as an “assist” in basketball. The sourcer passes the ball to the recruiter in a way that leads to a slam dunk candidate. The player that “assists” will be evaluated on how many of those passes they made successfully, and the player that scores is evaluated on how many baskets they’ve made.

Finally, a sourcer and recruiter have a difference in success metrics:

  • A sourcer is typically evaluated on metrics such as candidate to interview and application to interview.
  • A recruiter, on the other hand, is evaluated on metrics that come after the search, like time to hire or quality of hire.

When you’re building your recruiting team, think about how you assign work to sourcers and recruiters. With the right metrics and the right tasks in their hands, you’ll have the data and candidates to achieve hiring success.


  • Outbound Hunting: Actively looks for passive candidates.
  • Evaluation Metrics: Candidate to interview, application to interview.
  • Typically seen in companies with employee sizes greater than 500.


  • Inbound Recruiting: Recruits active candidates that have applied to jobs.
  • Evaluation metrics: Time to fill, quality of hire.
  • Seen in companies with employee sizes less than 500.

Nupur Vilas