9 Steps to Building a Great Candidate Pipeline

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In the past, recruiting was always, by and large, a reactive game. Circumstances changed, roles opened up, and recruiters were tasked with filling the gaps. 

But that’s changed a lot in recent years. Today, forward-thinking teams are adopting a more proactive approach to recruiting — thinking actively about their company’s future hiring needs and what they can do to help support them. And a crucial aspect of this approach is pipelining. 

Candidate pipelining helps talent professionals think beyond the current req alone — putting them in a better position to be strategic advisors to their company. It also makes it easier to fill hard-to-fill roles, boost your team’s productivity, and reduce your cost and time to hire. 

Whether you plan to try pipelining for the very first time or need some tips to refine your approach, here are 9 simple steps that will help you build out your candidate pipeline and measure its success.

1. Build a stand-out employer brand that attracts the kind of candidates you want

Before you start building out your pipeline, it’s worth taking a second look at your employer brand. This can help draw the right candidates into your pipeline, doing a lot of the hard work for you. And as you start building and nurturing relationships with candidates, your employer brand may be the thing that keeps them interested and invested in your company — or turns them away. 

Think beyond your career site alone (though of course, this is also important). Everything from your company’s social media accounts to the way your existing employees talk about your company online can have a major impact on the way candidates view you. Look for ways to make your brand meaningful and memorable, as this will make candidates much more receptive to invitations to connect. 

2. Focus on skills your business recruits for repeatedly and roles that are hard to fill 

The key to good pipelining is thinking strategically about which roles actually need a pipeline. This will help you avoid wasting time or resources on roles that don’t really demand a long-term strategy. 

You’re likely to get the greatest return on investment from talent pipelines focused on hard-to-fill roles or positions you hire for frequently, like those with high turnover. Having engaged and interested candidates already in mind for these roles can significantly cut down your time to hire and ensure the roles don’t stay vacant for long. 

LinkedIn Talent Insights can help you gain a better understanding of which roles would benefit most from having pipelines. Using Talent Insights, you can quickly gauge hiring and departure trends at your company, learn what skills your company will need for the future, and assess the availability of local talent. From there, you can easily create a company report to share with your leaders, helping you get stakeholder buy-in and plan more effectively. 

3. Set clear and realistic targets for your team, based on real data

Without firm targets in place, it can be hard to measure how successful your pipelining efforts have been. Setting targets also allows you to make a more compelling case for the resources you need — and helps business leaders grasp the true value of your efforts. 

Hiring expert Glen Cathey recommends turning to data to calculate your team’s capacity, understand what’s realistic, and discover where your bottlenecks lie before you set your targets. Using his handy calculator, you can quickly figure out the size of team you’d need to meet a target of, say, 20 hires per month. 

Knowing this, you can set ambitious but attainable goals that inspire and motivate your team, rather than leaving them scrambling to keep up. You can also help leaders understand what’s realistic and what isn’t. 

If quantity isn’t your number one priority, your targets might relate to metrics like the number of candidates engaged, the ratio of submittals to interviews, or your offer acceptance rate. As you get more experienced with pipelining and gather more data around it, you can tweak your targets to more closely reflect your capacity and your company’s evolving needs. But having some targets in place from day one keeps everyone accountable and working toward a common goal.

4. Source great candidates to fill your pipeline using LinkedIn, networking events, and referrals

To ensure you’re able to consistently fill your pipeline with great talent, your team needs a diversified strategy for sourcing candidates. Here are a few channels to focus on: 

LinkedIn 

When you’re looking to build out a long-term pipeline, LinkedIn Recruiter’s advanced search capabilities can help you quickly identify candidates with tons of potential and start building those connections. 

When you reach out to candidates over InMail, be honest about your intentions. Let them know why they caught your eye, referencing specific skills or experience from their profile, and note that while you might not have a role open right now, you’d like to stay in touch. Keep the focus on helping them discover the right move for their career. Many candidates will be flattered to know you’re considering them and interested in learning more about your company. 

Events

Meeting a candidate in person is a fast way to start building a relationship that can pay off down the line. Encourage your team to regularly attend industry events where they can make valuable connections to fill your pipeline. If you have the resources, you can also host your own events, giving candidates the chance to find out more about what it’s like to work at your company, while letting your recruiters and hiring managers scout for talent. 

Be sure to connect with these candidates on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going and find out a little more about them, like their specific career goals and interests. Check in every now and then to keep them invested (more on that later).

Previous applicants

Your applicant tracking system (ATS) is an invaluable resource for building out your pipeline. Your database is probably already full of applicants that weren’t a great fit for one role but might be perfect for future jobs. By digging into this historical data, you can save yourself a lot of time and show candidates you’re really paying attention to them. 

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