“Only 25% of the workforce is actively looking at any given time, but 85% is willing to talk.” - Eric Feng

At SourceCon last year, we heard Mimi Turner former Marketer who turned Recruitment Marketer and Brett Coin Director of Global TA from Intuit on stage to share their story about their battle to outbrand and beat the attractive brands of San Francisco goliaths like Google, Uber and Facebook. Fascinating. Their talk was titled “Shift Left.” Meaning they shifted of their way of thinking about recruitment from traditional to relationships and marketing.

We agree. There needs to be a shift in recruitment away from the old mindset around marketing and relationships. From posting and praying to branding and engaging.

Believing this, 3 members of our team went out to the market and read through 137 articles, talked to 32 experts and came together to bring you the “The Biggest Guide to Talent Pipelining Ever Written.”

Our Definition of a Talent Pipeline after 32 Conversations

The first 3 conversations we had with directors were plagued with different definitions of talent pipelining. From just 3 conversations 3 definitions came out. The first definition of pipelining meant the candidate was already in the interview process. The second definition defined candidates in the top of the funnel who have an interest in your company.  The last one, sounded more like talent pooling than pipelining.

We didn’t necessarily think that one was right or the other was wrong, but we wanted to create one definition to be able to write something meaningful for you all.

Here’s what we concluded.

    1. Talent Pools
      1. The list of people that have great potential to be a part of your organization. A few key criteria for it to be a talent pool:
        1. A large database of potential candidates that match any current or future role
        2. Well tagged and organized ready to be activated
        3. When you compare it to sales and marketing, it is a list of people that match an ideal customer profile, but it’s not the right time to go after them.
    2. Talent Pipelines
      1. When you activate the talent pool, you start pipelining.
        1. Most often used when you have an open position or you know a position will open soon.
        2. You are working to move the candidate forward.
        3. In sales terms, it’s the profiles that you’re going after and nurturing to close the deal.

We also want to add one of our favorite definitions from the 137 articles that we read.

      1. Talent pipelining – or as I like to call it, “relationship recruiting” – is building long-term professional relationships with passive talent for future opportunities. This means getting to know the talent landscape, the actual people, regardless of whether or not they are looking to make a career change immediately.
        1. https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/2013/06/5-ways-talent-pipelining-is-a-win-for-you-and-your-company

Once we had the definitions aligned, we were able to get a lot more information in regards to the process of what, how and why a company needs to build talent pipeline in 2019.

The 5 Powerful talent pipelines you need in 2019

We found 5 types of pipelines were more frequently created than others. To keep this as practical as possible, we will focus on those 5.

  1. Diversity Event - Make the most of your diversity initiatives.

It’s hard to hit diversity metrics with the little bit of information you can ask for to make sure the interview process is not biased, but you still need a way to measure and increase diversity.

That’s where we heard talent pipelines can help the easiest way to tag for diversity and it was by tagging candidates at events by the event name.

  1. Best ideas or practices we heard:  

    1. I.e. if you attend, “Indian Scientist and Engineers Association” event by tagging candidates that came from that event, you’re able to help organize and sort in a manner that is fair and compliant. Also, you can ask when they’re at your booth if they would like to share their ethnicity.

    2. After the pipelines are created for diversity, teams would create specific candidate journeys and campaigns to share more facts about the companies diversity metrics and facts to increase engagement.

  1. Evergreen Roles - There’s never enough candidates to fill these roles ever, “Evergreen.”

Companies consistently look for certain key skill sets throughout the whole year. These “evergreen roles” need to be continuously pipelined to make sure the vacancies are filled throughout the year. The two most common evergreen pipelines we’ve seen were for engineering and experienced sales. Finance came up a lot too, but not as much.

    1. Best ideas or practices we heard:  

      1. Engineering is a role that always requires pipelining because it’s hard to fill the role today particularly in software and construction.

      2. Sales is notorious for high turnover, and we’re always looking to recruit the best sales members from other organizations, but often they are waiting to make a move once they’ve received their commission or bonus check. Timing it right means everything with this group. So, we need to build the relationships early to grab them at the right time.

  1. Executives - Executive vacancies can cost up to 4-10x their salary each month!

Key executive roles often take a lot of time to fill. It’s important to have a backlog for some of the key roles. A vacancy within the executive suite is usually 4-10x loss to the company’s growth. Keep them backed up and ready to fill to make sure the company hits the goals.

  1. Best ideas or practices we heard:  

    1. Executive pipelines were a lot more specific and required much higher involvement from the recruitment team.

    2. No automations were used and a white glove experience was given.

  1. Silver Medalists - Easy wins!

2nd place candidates require a different nurturing campaign process because it’s important to give them a warmer experience and approach. But if you organize and engage these candidates correctly, it can be a huge win as you can receive up 60-70% response rates.

    1. Best ideas or practices we heard:  

      1. We consider silver medalists as low-hanging fruit that is ripe for interviewing. Always source first from the ATS.

      2. Train users on how to search in your ATS.

      3. Use a separate tool that can help search your ATS if the current one doesn’t allow for it.

  1. Campus Events - Save the campus funds and recycle the candidates

You spend hundreds of thousands on campus recruitment and if you’re not storing the candidates as a future hiring source, you’re letting the faucet leak and missing the opportunity to nurture a pool of some of the best candidates that will fit your experienced roles in just a few years.

    1. Best ideas or practices we heard:  

      1. Think long-term relationships with candidates. These hires will make great experienced hires in no time. If you’re struggling to fill a certain role, a great strategy is to build talent pipelines from universities and nurture them into experienced hires. This has been a huge trend for forward thinking enterprises and SMBs. It may take a bit of effort, but is worth the reward.  

      2. The math is clear that a career fair may cost $15k. If you add up the costs of travel, time, marketing materials and booth rentals and multiply that by 20 or more campus events per year, that’s not a small amount. Store them and recycle them to nurture and hire them for future positions.

By no means is this an all inclusive list of the different type of pipelines you can create today. For instance, if you have seasonal hiring, it’s a must to recycle seasonal employees rather than rebuilding a list and starting from scratch each year. If you’re creative with it, it’s great for referral, high turnover roles and many others as well. But listing it out as 5 simple pipelines, makes it a simple starting point. 

How to make Effective Pipeline Strategies that actually work 

The following steps explain how to keep a pipeline warm. This step is the combination of art and science and it’s key to iterate and improve the nurturing process. 

It’s a top down approach.  

  1. Forecast

    1. During annual planning it’s key to forecast and know the numbers and what the most important roles are going to be to pool and pipeline for. This allows the whole team from executives to talent acquisition to be in sync.

    2. Also, by knowing these goals the talent acquisition team can be positioned to be advisors rather than order takers. I’m sure you’ve all read the hype around the transformation of the role from recruiter to talent advisors. If not, you can read more here.

  2. Profile

    1. Create profiles based off of the key requirements and opportunities for the company.

    2. If you’re not sure how to create candidate profiles it’s a really simple process. You can either, ask your marketing team for a one hour meeting to get started or make it yourself. If you decide on the ladder, start by understanding the job requisition.Take the key skills and requirements, then list the attributes of your best employees in that role. That’s step one.

    3. Next look at your existing employees that fill the same job role and add more information around soft skills and personal interests. The picture below will show basic outline of a persona. It’s easy to overthink this. Don’t. It’ll get better over time. Just take action and keep moving forward.  

    4. That’s it. If your company is fortunate enough to have recruitment marketers, a quick conversation with them will help a lot as well.

  1. Campaigns - we got a lot of mixed reviews here. This is an art. Not a science. Unfortunately, there was not a company that had this down to a science, but here’s some practices that are working.

    1. A good campaign had a few similar patterns. It was a combination of company information and personalization.

      1. Drip Emails

      2. Corporate Newsletters

      3. Landing pages

      4. Text messages

    2. Communicate by adding value

      1. One director in a very large software industry enterprise complained about the dropoff of candidate engagement due to “spamming” the candidates with “relevant” information. They tried to add value, it didn’t work.

      2. We also heard that simply messaging only when new jobs were opened worked.

      3. We’re not sure what worked better, but we know for sure that having a system and process in place worked better than having none.

  2. Measure

    1. The top directors backed it up with data. Whether it was through their ATS, CRM or something else, they had KPIs (key performance indicators) or OKR (objective key results) they were going after.

    2. Here are the 5 common metrics that we saw that were being measured:

        1. New prospects added

        2. Emails Open

        3. Emails Replied to

        4. Prospects converted candidate / applicant

        5. Success by source of prospects  

Pipeline Case Studies

We wanted to share two successes of creating pipelines. Here’s a quick overview of their metrics and how they doubled engagement rates. 

Pipeline type: Silver Medalist

Company - Supply Chain Software Enterprise - $5B, 5,000 people

With over 50,000 applicants within their enterprise ATS  (Workday), this company decided to re-engage candidates and create pipelines.

Within Workday there are 3 main ways to find old applicants:

1. Search functionality to do booleans 

2.  Search by reqs

We quickly identified over 5,000 engineers and narrowed it down into distinct groups. Out of the 5,000 candidates 100 of them were a great fit for a new roles that were coming up. Here's the approximate rounded numbers that we measured. 

Having this as a starting point significantly decreases the time to submit and increases the offer acceptance rate. 

Pipeline type: Campus

Company - B2C Fortune 100


Before having a method to pipeline candidates this enterprise kept prospects for internships and entry level university roles within folders and outlook. They created pdf files that were hundreds of students long and waste a lot of time managing this process. 


Over two semesters, the IT division of this enterprise saved over 5,000 candidates and accomplished over 30 hires without visiting any campuses. These pipelines were created via a university talent network landing page to capture and create filtering options for the candidate. When a student decided to join the talent pool, it would ask for their school, gpa, degree and many other key filters to make it really easy for them to select the right students.  

The first semester the enterprise hired 14 candidates and again 14 interns and even more full time the second time around. By recycling the candidates the enterprise decreased time to fill and didn't have to visit any campuses saving thousands of dollars. 

Summary - Why you want talent pipelines? 

To wrap up, top 5 reasons we heard to build talent pipelines over and over again were the following. 

Better quality talent

More diversity and inclusion

Predictable hiring processes  

Faster time to fills

Less staffing fees

Long term relationships with candidates has always been important and today it is more critical to winning talent in 2019. To learn more about pipelining and winning, please subscribe to our newsletter. 

Bonus - Q&A - My ATS isn’t built for pipelining.

What can I use to start building pipelines? 

Your ATS is a great tool and if it’s a modern ATS it may have some light CRM and pipelining functionalities, but if it is built for enterprises or a bit newer, it’ll be difficult to really make your ATS work like a CRM. 

Here’s two quick solutions:

  1. Home brew a solution

    1. This is usually great if you need to figure out a decent method to build and manage a list of prospects and to test out that the model works.

  2. Invest in a CRM. We made TopPick to help recruiters solve this challenge of pipelining with minimal time and effort, but this article was made for reading and learning. So if you are interested, get in touch here as we’re happy to chat.

If you’re just now hearing about CRMs and what the wonderful world of recruitment marketing is evolving into, here are a few more articles to help you explore and brainstorm.