March 26, 2024

The Candidate Pipeline: What is it and how to optimize it

Megan Ferris
Director of Client Solutions
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The term 'candidate pipeline' pops up a lot when it comes to hiring. But what exactly does it mean? 

Simply put, it is a pool of potential candidates that a company has engaged with and considers promising enough to fit future job openings. Think of it as your go-to list of pre-vetted professionals who are already familiar with your company and whom you can tap into when the right role opens up, making the hiring process smoother and quicker. 

In this post, we’ll discuss how this strategy can show potential hires that you value their skills and are serious about considering them for future opportunities. 

Understanding the talent pipeline spectrum

In hiring, we’ve got three main ways to keep track of potential hires. Let's explore what each of these means and how they're different from each other.

Resume database

Resume databases are like filling a big filing cabinet with job seekers' CVs. You’ll have a broad mix, with everything from recent grads to seasoned pros, and it’s not specifically sorted for any particular job opening. This gives you a wide range of options to start with, but you might have to dig through to find the exact fit for a job.

Talent pool

Now, if we refine that big mix a bit, we get what’s called a talent pool. This is where you’ve started to sort through that filing cabinet and picked out CVs that match the kinds of roles you often need to fill. The pool is more specific than the resume database and contains potential candidates who have the skills and experience that align with your recurring job requirements. 

Candidate pipeline

These are folks you keep in touch with, maybe sending updates about your company or industry news, keeping them engaged and interested in working with you. The pipeline is focused on nurturing these relationships so when a job opens up, you’ve got a list of engaged candidates who are already warmed up to your company’s culture and goals.

So, while a resume database is your go-to for a wide search, a pool narrows down your options to more fitting candidates. Meanwhile, the pipeline is your cream of the crop, with top candidates ready for potential opportunities at your company.

The benefits of a talent pipeline 

Creating a pipeline could be a game-changer for your hiring process. Here's why it matters:

✓ Easing the recruiting journey

By developing a pipeline, you're spreading out the recruiting efforts over time, allowing you to cultivate relationships with potential hires gradually. This way, candidates feel more valued, leading to a smoother recruitment process for both parties.

✓ Boosting your brand 

When candidates have ongoing, positive interactions with your brand, they're more likely to view your company favourably. This not only makes them more interested in working for you but also helps attract other top talent. 

✓ Hiring the best fit 

With a pipeline, you have the luxury of engaging with more candidates over time, increasing your chances of finding the perfect fit for your company. This ongoing engagement means you can assess candidates more thoroughly and understand their strengths and potential. After all, in the competitive job market, a company’s reputation can be a decisive factor for many candidates.

How to build a candidate pipeline 

Building a pipeline can seem daunting, but it's all about being methodical and proactive. Here’s how you can start. 

Step 1: Organize applicant profiles

Use your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to its full potential by categorizing and accessing candidate information efficiently. Then, group CVs by qualifications or job types to streamline the process of identifying potential candidates for different roles. This organization will save you time and headaches when you’re looking to fill a position.

Step 2: Connect with schools and associations

Don’t just rely on applicants who come to you; go out and find potential candidates where they are by forging connections with educational institutions and professional associations. 

These sources are goldmines for fresh talent and experienced professionals looking for new opportunities. Attend career fairs, give talks, or host workshops to get your company’s name out there and attract a diverse range of candidates.

Step 3: Maintain a strong communications campaign

Regular communication is key to keeping potential candidates interested in your company. Utilize various channels like emails, newsletters, social media, and even mass texts to stay in touch. 

But remember, it’s the relevance and timing of your messages that count. Provide updates that are meaningful, such as news about your company or industry insights. This not only keeps candidates informed but also engaged with your brand over time.

Tips to improve the candidate pipeline process

Enhancing your process can significantly impact your recruitment success. Here are some straightforward tips to make your strategy more effective:

Start with the right standards

For each role or team, define your essential qualifications—these are your deal-breakers. Then, separate out the nice-to-have qualifications. This clarity helps you quickly identify candidates who meet your core requirements and allows for flexibility on the less critical skills. 

Set timeline expectations

Be up front about the recruitment timeline and manage expectations from the get-go. This honesty helps build trust with potential candidates. Also, aim to under-promise and over-deliver. If you exceed expectations, you'll leave candidates with a positive impression of your company. 

It's never too late to start

Begin the process as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the more time you have to cultivate relationships with potential candidates. Emphasizing the long-term benefits of investing in a pipeline can motivate your team to prioritize your efforts.

Talent pipeline takeaways  

In this post, we’ve answered the question “what is a candidate pipeline?” and its pivotal role in modern recruitment strategies. Here’s a recap of the key points we covered:

✓ The basics

A resume database is a broad collection of potential candidates, while a pool is more refined, and a pipeline involves a closer, more engaged relationship with potential hires.

✓ The value of a pipeline

Building a pipeline streamlines the recruiting process, enhances candidate experience, and ultimately attracts higher-quality talent.

✓ Steps to build your pipeline

Organizing applicant profiles effectively, connecting with broader networks like schools and associations, and maintaining strong communication are key strategies for developing a robust pipeline.

✓ Practical tips for improvement 

Starting with clear standards, setting realistic timeline expectations, and recognising the importance of early pipeline development are essential tips for refining your candidate pool process.

Now, you know why and how organizing a pipeline can significantly impact your company's growth and success in the long run. By investing time and resources in building these relationships, you're setting up your company to attract and retain the best talent in the industry.