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What is a Recruiting Pipeline?

A recruiting pipeline refers to a pool of qualified candidates that recruiters accumulate over time to tap into when they need to fill positions—whether right away or far into the future. Maintaining a strong recruiting pipeline helps take the pressure off hiring managers when staffing needs arise because they have already vetted a group of potential candidates. This is a long-term process that must be handled diligently and thoughtfully in order to ensure there’s a steady flow of talent available to choose from at any given time.

Recruiting Pipeline Diagram
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Benefits of Creating a Recruitment Pipeline

There are numerous benefits of creating a recruitment pipeline:

Steady stream of candidates

Creating a recruitment pipeline helps to ensure there is a steady stream of candidates for various positions, so recruiters aren’t slowed down when people drop out of the hiring funnel for a specific job. Even after a position has been filled, it's helpful to have a strong recruitment pipeline of candidates waiting in the wings because companies never know when turnover will occur.

Quality of candidates 

Since recruiters cultivate the candidates in their pipeline, they’re already familiar with their qualifications when a position opens up. This can ensure that the quality of candidates is higher than it might be if recruiters are left scrambling to find someone through job ads. 

Increased efficiency 

If recruiters keep track of their recruitment metrics, they know exactly how long it generally takes to fill a position. When companies have established a recruiting pipeline, it can significantly reduce the time it takes to hire because a lot of the legwork in finding qualified candidates has already been done in advance.

More diversity

Since recruiters are sourcing the people in their pipeline, it can help increase the diversity at their organization because they know the talent demographics that aren't represented well, and can specifically look for candidates from those underrepresented backgrounds. This makes building a hiring pipeline a useful strategy for a successful diversity recruitment plan.

Improved candidate experience 

In order to bring candidates into the pipeline, and keep them there, it's imperative for recruiters to build strong relationships with potential applicants. This communication over time makes people feel valued, which creates a better candidate experience than they would have if they were treated like a minnow in a sea of applicants.

Higher acceptance rate 

Since recruiters spend a lot of time interacting with the candidates in their pipeline, they establish connections that make it more likely this talent will accept a position at the company. As a result, a recruiting pipeline can significantly boost the acceptance rate, thus contributing to an efficient and cost-effective hiring process.

Improved retention 

Creating and maintaining a hiring pipeline can help to improve retention because instead of hiring someone from a job advertisement who may not be the right fit, recruiters can be confident that the talent they’ve nurtured will become successful hires. As a result, the investment recruiters make in their pipeline can significantly reduce turnover in the organization.

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How to Create a Recruitment Pipeline

It can take time and energy to create a recruitment pipeline, but it’s well worth the effort. The following are steps companies can take to build a strong pipeline that yields results.

Identify hiring goals 

Whether a company is planning an overall expansion or will be restructuring a department, the plans of the organization will impact staffing needs. To keep up with these needs, companies should identify their hiring goals and keep recruiters abreast of them.

Source candidates

When building a pipeline, sourcing talent is a must. Recruiters need to go out and find people they think will be the best fit for their organization, which requires reaching out to talent they find on social media platforms, job boards, and recruiting databases.

Contact potential candidates 

After identifying talent, recruiters go on to make the initial contact to get the ball rolling on putting candidates into their pipeline. During these exchanges, recruiters get to know people better by learning about their career experiences and goals, which allows them to determine if they would be the right fit for the company. This process should be talent-focused so recruiters can build trust with everyone they’ve sourced.

Get referrals 

Recruiters don't have to be the only ones contributing to a hiring pipeline. All employees can get into the act when companies establish a referral program that incentivizes them to bring in their own contacts for consideration. Since great workers most likely have a network of other great talent, an employee referral program can boost the quality of the pipeline and ultimately the quality of hires.

Monitor outcomes and adjust accordingly 

Recruiters should regularly assess their pipeline successes, as well as their shortfalls. This will help determine which approaches for sourcing are the most successful and which should be replaced with something that provides better results. If recruiters find that people are not staying in the pipeline because they've lost interest in the company, it’s a sign that either sourcing or outreach needs an adjustment.

How to Nurture Your Hiring Pipeline

When companies create a strong pipeline, it goes a long way toward meeting their hiring goals. However, that's only the beginning. Recruiters must nurture the pipeline they've built to ensure they always have vetted talent interested in applying for positions. The following are some strategies for how to nurture a hiring pipeline over time.

Develop relationships

To keep people in a recruiting pipeline, companies need to engage with this talent regularly. However, recruiters need to walk a tightrope because although it's important to keep their company top of mind among talent, they also need to be mindful of potentially irritating people with too many messages. 

Use a personal touch 

No one wants to feel like they're just a number, so if recruiters are sending canned messages to people in their pipeline, they're doing themselves a disservice and possibly sabotaging their efforts. Whenever recruiters communicate with talent in their pipeline, they need to add as much of a personal touch to each message as possible. As recruiters get to know candidates, they can send messages specifically tailored to their experiences and interests, which keep them engaged and increase the chances of them applying for a position.

Continue sourcing

Sourcing is a continuous activity, so even if recruiters feel like they have a good amount of people in their hiring pipeline, they shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Companies can never have too many qualified candidates, so the more talent recruiters source, the more chances they have of finding the perfect hires.

Always be aware of hiring needs. If recruiters don't know at all times what kind of talent their company needs, the time they spend building and maintaining a pipeline may be in vain. To avoid this, they should always keep abreast of what the hiring needs will be at any given time, so recruiters are always sourcing and communicating with the right types of candidates.

Recruiting Pipeline Metrics

Recruiting pipeline metrics allow companies to monitor their strategies to determine if they've been effective. There are several key metrics that let recruiters know whether or not their pipeline process is working.

Source of candidates 

Whether candidates are coming in through a referral program, job boards, or social media, tracking the source of candidates metric helps recruiters understand which avenues are the most effective for building a pipeline. If a lot of candidates drop out of the pipeline along the way, it may be a sign that sourcing channels need to be changed.

Diversity of hires 

Companies that have implemented a diversity recruitment plan should pay attention to the diversity of hires metric to ensure they're hitting their targets. This data may be measured across demographics, so recruiters can determine which communities are represented in their hiring, and which ones need more attention. Once recruiters discover who is being hired and who isn’t, they can adjust their pipeline strategies to successfully hire talent from underrepresented backgrounds.

Acceptance rate

The offer acceptance rate metric reveals whether or not recruiters are choosing the right people for their pipeline, or doing enough to nurture the connections. If the offer acceptance rate is low, it can also be an indication that there’s a disconnect between what recruiters are telling candidates and what the reality is—such as if compensation packages don’t match up to candidates’ expectations.

Quality of hire 

Recruiting metrics don’t end when new employees are hired. The quality of hire metric tells companies whether or not recruiters have been on target when choosing new hires because it’s all about how well employees have performed within their first year of working at an organization. If talent from the recruiting pipeline is not getting through the probationary period, for example, it means recruiters aren’t vetting candidates well enough to find successful hires. Similarly, if there is low retention among pipeline hires, recruiters should pay attention and determine what they can do to find better quality candidates.

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