With the unemployment rate falling to a new low of 3.9 percent in July, the job market is growing increasingly competitive. That’s good news for job hunters, but it has made it more difficult than ever for HR professionals and recruiters to attract the right employees.
So instead of working harder, work smarter: Build a sturdy talent pipeline that keeps potential candidates ready and waiting.
Your talent pipeline is your candidate pool — your collection of future employees on the bench, ready to work when your business has an opening. Talent pipelines are built through proactive recruiting strategies that set up your company to quickly hire candidates who have already been vetted and expressed interest before the recruiting process has even begun in earnest.
You never know when you’ll need to make a hire, and a strong talent pipeline will save you the trouble of sifting through thousands of resumes when a job suddenly opens up. As such, talent pipelines are essential to an organization’s long-term success.
Practice Proactive Recruitment
Establishing relationships with potential candidates in advance helps you avoid scrambling at the last minute — which usually leads to bad hires.
Keep organized, and create a list of each pipelined candidate’s unique strengths. This strategy is especially helpful when hiring from within. For example, GE carefully tracks its employees’ preparedness for promotion. Maintaining detailed records not only helps build your talent pipeline, but it also ensure you’re ready to place the best candidate in the right role when the time comes.
Talent pipelines also help new hires make smooth, efficient transitions into your company. While in your pipeline, candidates should already be getting acclimated to your culture. As a result, they will have stronger understandings of their roles than candidates you pull in from a generic job board would have.
I used this recruitment model when I was managing underwriters in the mortgage industry. I realized that all my top performers were former teachers, so I narrowed the pipeline search to teachers and hired several in part-time roles to teach them the insurance industry. This way, when those teachers were ready to transition to full-time positions, they were already prepped, used to our culture, and ready to jump in with both feet.
Creating the Best Pipelines
There’s no one way to assemble the perfect talent pipeline, because every company’s culture and hiring practices are different. That said, the following tips can help most organizations create the kinds of pipelines that keep them supplied with a steady stream of dream talent:
1. Think Ahead
Hiring to fill open positions should not be reactive; you should always be preparing to hire. Go through “what if” scenarios for top-performing employees: If they were to leave the company, what skill sets and talents would you need to look for in a replacement?
Apply a similar strategy when hiring from within. Like GE, keep notes on which employees are ripe for promotions so you’ll be ready when a position opens up.
2. Define and Refine the Roles
You can’t narrow your search if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Each role’s responsibilities could change at any time, and if you’re not privy to those changes, you might hire the wrong person for the job. Don’t be afraid to seek feedback in order to keep job descriptions up to date, even if the position isn’t currently open.
3. Attract the Right Crowd With Your Employer Brand
Cultivate an employer brand that speaks to the people you want to catch in your pipeline. Consider the culture you’ve been working toward, and zero in on the most important aspects. Your employer brand won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s a good thing! You’ll attract people who have the same values, and you won’t waste time onboarding candidates who are ultimately not great fits.
4. Network More Creatively
Be smart about your recruiting sources. Reach out to professional organizations and honor societies that have similar values as your employer brand and build relationships with them as soon as possible. Leverage your network to get recommendations from people you know and trust, then connect with those potential candidates. Be honest about your intentions throughout the conversation.
In the meantime, don’t neglect the candidates who aren’t ultimately selected for a position. In situations where you have a few great candidates and can hire only one person, stay in touch with those who don’t land the role. If you created a positive overall experience for those individuals, they might be available for similar positions in the future.
Building a talent pipeline isn’t as hard as it sounds; you’re simply front-loading the recruiting process. Use these tips and think outside the box, and you’ll have everything you need to make fast hiring decisions when the need arises.