By: Katt Silver on August 30th, 2023

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Ease Your Recruitment Woes by Building a Candidate Pipeline

Recruitment outsourcing

It's every leader's worst nightmare. You get a message from a department head saying that one of your mission-critical employees has unexpectedly quit. You'll need to find a replacement with the right skills and experience to fill the void on the team. And you need to hire them yesterday. 

The problem is, of course, that recruitment takes time. You need to consider job design, to source suitable talent, and to screen potential applicants. All of this needs to happen before even interviewing the first candidate.

The good news is that you can get ahead of these crucial tasks before your hiring needs arise—by building a talent pipeline.

What is a candidate pipeline?

A candidate pipeline is a pre-screened list of suitable applicants, providing you with a steady flow of talent. Pipeline candidates have already expressed an interest, so you know they're eager to hear about any upcoming vacancies.

Candidates in your pipeline might include:

  • Past candidates: A candidate who was unsuccessful in the past but who might be a good fit in the future
  • Passive recruits: Professionals who have engaged with the company through passive recruitment channels such as social media
  • Pipeline applicants: People who have expressed an interest in future vacancies or those who have responded to pipeline requisitions (see below)

Having a pipeline of quality candidates can make hiring much easier—especially when recruiting for a hard-to-fill position.

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What is a pipeline requisition?

Companies often advertise for new recruits, even when they don't have any current vacancies. Such companies will place adverts asking for people to apply, and these applicants are added to the talent pipeline.

Job adverts such as these are known as pipeline requisitions or evergreen requisitions. It can be a great way to build your candidate pipeline, although you should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep it updated: It's best practice to close pipeline requisitions after 1 to 3 months. You can then repost them with updated information.
  • Make it easy: Create a template text that can be reused on each pipeline requisition. Make sure to include a disclaimer about the nature of the requisition.
  • Set clear expectations: Always give candidates as much information as possible about when and how you'll contact them.

Here is an example disclaimer that you can use in your communications:

"We appreciate your interest in becoming part of our team. Although we don't have an immediate opening, we value proactive candidates like yourself who are looking to build a meaningful career with [Company Name]. We will keep your application on file and contact you when suitable opportunities arise. (Applying for the future openings posting does not guarantee employment)."

When should I build a talent pipeline?

Building a talent pipeline requires time and resources, which means you don't need to do it for every position. Here are some of the jobs that benefit from a talent pipeline:

  • High-volume hiring: If you routinely hire for a specific role, then it's worth building a talent pipeline. Your pipeline will make it easy to scale up or down at any time, depending on your current staffing needs.
  • Positions with limited available talent: Sometimes, the local talent pool doesn't have enough people with the right qualifications for a specific job. If that might affect you, then it's good to have a pipeline of qualified candidates.
  • Positions with special requirements: You might need people who meet very specific criteria. For example, government contractors often need people with security clearance. A talent pipeline can help you find people that meet your criteria.
  • Mission-critical positions: Strategically important roles need to be filled as quickly as possible. If you're worried about losing a key person, it might be worth creating a pipeline of potential replacements.

Talent pipelines can also help you get through certain business challenges, such as when you need to scale up suddenly.

7 ways to build a candidate pipeline

How do you go about buildling a reliable pipeline of talent? Here are a few techniques that will help you find the right people at the right time:

1. Identify pipeline positions

The first priority is to anticipate your recruitment bottlenecks. Some things to focus on include:

  • Positions with the highest attrition or turnover
  • Positions with longest lead-time-to-hire
  • Positions requiring security clearance, licenses, or other qualifications
  • Anticipated internal churn
  • Pending contract proposal efforts

Building an effective talent pipeline requires a company-wide effort. Be sure to consult business development, HR, and all hiring managers.

2. Create accurate job descriptions

You'll also need accurate job descriptions for each role so that your team can screen appropriate candidates. Job descriptions should include clear guidelines on candidate requirements, including notes about which attributes are must-have and which are nice-to-have.

Job descriptions can change over time, so it's good to have a regular review process. Make sure that all stakeholders have a chance to discuss what's required (and what's not required) for each role.

3. Monitor internal candidates

Your current team are also part of your talent pipeline! It's a good idea to monitor your team's career paths and professional development objectives. If they're on course to become a good fit for a hard-to-fill position, then you can add them to your pipeline.

4. Use your Applicant Tracking System

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) make recruitment much easier. Your ATS also probably has some tools for building a talent pipeline, which makes it easier to automate some of the processes.

Technology doesn't solve every problem by itself, though, so you will also need a documented talent pipeline process. Make sure that your team understand how to store and tag applications and when to consult the ATS for potential applicants.

5. Maintain good relationships with ex-employees and candidates

Hiring managers often say "no" to good candidates simply because the timing was wrong. However, these candidates might be perfect the next time you have a vacancy. That's why it's important always to provide a great candidate experience and keep in touch after the interviews.

Former employees are also potential candidates. It's a good idea to create an "alumnus network" by email or social media, allowing your former team members to hear about the latest vacancies.

6. Leverage your referral network

Referrals are an incredibly powerful recruitment tool, often producing highly qualified candidates at a much lower cost-to-hire.

You can also use your referral network for pipeline requisitions. Just let your team know that you're interested in hearing about people who might be a good fit, and keep those applications on file for when you need them.

7. Work with experienced recruitment consultants

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) consultants can help with some of the more difficult aspects of building a talent pipeline. An RPO consultant can help you prioritize key roles, write detailed job descriptions, optimize your ATS, and access a wider talent pool.

Another option is to work with a staffing agency. A staffing firm has its own talent pipeline, so they can help you reduce the time you spend finding candidates.

Need help building your talent pipeline?

Helios HR has been helping businesses to build their teams for over 20 years. Whether you need help with your pipeline or some other part of your recruitment process, our consultants can help.

Book a call with a Helios HR consultant and let's talk about how you can find the right people to deliver your strategy!

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