It’s best to think of the recruiting process like a funnel. At the top, a pool of applicants floods in. The flow is narrowed over time as applicants are screened and rejected until, at the end, one candidate emerges from the funnel to receive a job offer.

But the recruiting funnel doesn’t always work at maximum efficiency. Stoppages can arise at any point in the funnel, and it can be hard to tell where and what the problem is. Knowing how to diagnose and fix a broken recruiting funnel is the only way to ensure your talent strategy yields the results you want.

The 5 Stages of the Recruiting Funnel

According to Jobvite, there are five distinct stages of any recruiting funnel:

  1. Employment Brand: Everything starts with building the right brand and sending the right messages. To encourage passive familiarity with your company as an employer, your messaging should be consistent in everything from your ads to your job descriptions. The whole point of your employment branding is to draw candidates into the top of your funnel.
  2. Sourcing: Next, you need to choose the right sources to find candidates. Candidates can come from a variety of places, including networking events, social media sites, and job boards. The right sources will depend on the kinds of roles you have open and the kinds of candidates you’re looking for.
  3. Candidate Experience: At this stage, you’ll be reviewing applications and evaluating candidates. This is where the funnel really begins to narrow, as your main goal here is to filter out bad fits while shepherding the possible matches on through.
  4. Candidate Selection: As the name suggests, this is the stage at which you use information gained from resumes, interviews, and other assessments to select the perfect candidate for the role.
  5. Insight: After selecting a candidate for a given position, you have time to review the process, looking for weak points that may need fixing and strengths that may need amplifying.

Every company has its own approach to recruiting, but the fundamentals will remain the same. Make sure you have formalized the structure of your own funnel before trying to address any problems that may arise in it!

Diagnosis and Repair

Is your recruiting funnel failing to yield the desired results? Follow these steps to zero in on the problem:

  1. Gather Data: It’s impossible to make improvements if you don’t have a clear picture of your results. At a minimum, you should know the number of active candidates at each stage of the funnel, how those numbers change over time, and the quality of the candidates at each stage of the funnel.
  2. Look for Glaring Drop-Offs: As you review the data, keep an eye out for any glaring drop-offs in your number of candidates. For example, do you tend to have low numbers during the sourcing stage of the funnel? Do you do quite well until the candidate selection process, where most of your qualified candidates end up leaving? Narrowing the problem to one (or more) specific funnel stages can help you zero in on what’s wrong.
  3. Research Other Strategies: Take some time to see what your competitors are doing in their funnels. Do they have more robust mobile interfaces for accepting applications? Are they tapping sources of candidates that you haven’t considered? Seeing how other companies do things can help you pinpoint both flaws in your own tunnel and the possible fixes for those flaws.

Once you’ve diagnosed your problem, you can start looking for ways to repair the funnel:

  1. Get All Hands on Deck: Get your entire HR/recruiting team together to brainstorm new processes and approaches for problematic stages of the funnel. Try to bring together a diverse set of opinions, as this is likely to generate the most innovative solutions. Employees from different segments of the team will see things from different angles, and all those perspectives combined can lead to a solution no one could come up with alone.
  2. Experiment: You can’t fix a broken funnel by keeping things the same. Make it a point to try new tactics in every stage of the funnel where you’ve detected a problem, then measure the results of your new approaches. One by one, you’ll be able to replace the tactics that aren’t working with tactics that are.

Don’t expect to see a miraculous turnaround in the quality or quantity of your candidates overnight. If you apply these practices consistently and make a concerted effort to improve each stage of your recruiting funnel, you’ll make significant progress, but it takes time. Keep moving forward, get the whole team involved, and never stop striving to improve your recruiting funnel.

Anna Johansson is the founder and CEO of Johansson Consulting. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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