Creating a talent pipeline – the ultimate checklist
Having a good talent pipeline is like having a well-stocked fishing lake. If you build it right, then you’ll enjoy fast access to a pool of highly talented candidates – and you can simply grab your fishing rod anytime you need to fill a vacancy.
A good talent pipeline will push the right people into the right positions – either by helping you find the people best poised for internal promotion, or by giving you the very best external job seekers on speed dial. But building an effective talent pipeline can be difficult, and there are dozens of details to consider! Which is why we’ve decided to produce the ultimate talent pipeline checklist.
So, as you start building your own talent pipeline, make sure to bookmark this page and come back often, to check your progress against this ultimate checklist!
Part 1: Your employer brand
Google, Apple, Salesforce… they all have one thing in common: people are desperate to get a job there! And maybe that’s because they’re prestigious tech companies… but then again, so is Oracle – and they’re not even hitting 4 out of 5 stars on Glassdoor! No, the big thing these companies have in common is that they’ve built a super strong employer brand – the foundation of any good talent pipeline! So before you start building career websites or hitting the job fairs, your first task is to make sure your workplace is known for being… well, the place to be!
1. Understand what an employer brand is
So, what do we mean when we talk about an employer brand? Well, just like your company brand is all about what you want your customers to think and feel when they see your company logo, an employer brand is all about what you want your employees to think and feel when they see your company logo. And if you’re thinking that this sounds like HR wish-wash, then you might like to know that according to Hosseini et al, 2022, positive employer branding results in better performance against competitors, by retaining talent and increasing levels of employee engagement.
2. Define your own employer brand
An employer brand isn’t a simple HR policy – so you can’t copy and paste it from a starter pack of business documents. However, you can define your employer brand through something HR professionals call “the employer value proposition”. This is all about tying together everything that your company stands for as an employer, and everything that you offer to people who work for you – with the most important parts being your culture, your values and your mission statements. You can think of your employer brand as a cousin of your commercial brand – it should have some of the same characteristics, but be unique in its own special way. And a good way to practice defining it, is by condensing it all down into a nice succinct elevator pitch – which means you should be able to explain your employer brand to somebody in the time it takes to travel a couple of floors by elevator.
3. Spread the word internally
Your employer value proposition is no good gathering dust on your office desk, or rattling around your busy brain. If you want it to really stick, then you need to start from the inside and work your way out – and that means getting employee buy-in as your first step! You can do this by working your core employer brand messaging into your internal documents, such as your employee handbook – Valve did an incredible job of this here, if you want some inspiration! But most importantly, you should live and breathe your employer value proposition – because if you don’t act on the lovely mission statement you’ve put together, then we promise you it won’t get you anywhere.
4. Spread the word on review sites like Glassdoor
If employees really do buy into your employer brand, then the good news is that word of mouth will spread pretty quickly – and you’ll be able to test whether your efforts are being rewarded or not, by whether or not employees are asking about jobs for their friends and family. But you can also give that word a helping hand in being spread – by encouraging your employees to leave your company a review on job websites like Glassdoor.com. These are normally the first places savvy job seekers will go to find out about your company – and you want to hire savvy job seekers, right? In the same way that you want customers to leave positive reviews online about your products, you want your employees to do the same for your reputation as an employer.
5. Create a public-facing mission statement
You may not be able to directly control the content that gets posted anonymously to websites like Glassdoor, but you can certainly help the external promotion of your employer brand by creating a public-facing mission statement. Don’t worry about where to publish it just yet – we’ll talk more about that further down the page. But for now, the goal is to simply make sure you have this statement to hand, so that anybody who asks “why should I get a job working for your company?” can be given a swift, well-crafted response. Your public-facing mission statement should briefly explain your company’s vision, your values as an employer, and some of the unique benefits of working for your company.
Part 2: Your career website
A talent pipeline is all about creating a well-oiled recruitment machine. One where potential employees can show up, review vacancies, and park their personal details – ready for you to invite them to an interview. But in order to feed this machine with talented candidates, you’re going to need an entry point to help them through the door – and this will be your career website.
6. Build your career website (or page)
Not all companies are big enough to warrant a full-blown multi-page “careers.yourcompany.com” subdomain. But as a bare minimum, you should have a single webpage on your company website, dedicated to talking about the opportunities available at your company, and the reasons people might want to work there. This is your chance to really go to town on expressing your employer value proposition – and is a great place for publishing your public-facing mission statement. So go ahead and build it – and make sure all roads lead to Rome (i.e. all external job adverts have a link back to your career website).
7. Create profiles on all the major job sites
As tough as it is to admit, hot talent isn’t going to simply stumble on your company’s career page – unless, of course, you’re Apple, Google or Salesforce. No, the reality is that job seekers use job boards to find opportunities. For example, studies suggest that in the UK, 63% of jobseekers will end up on leading job website Indeed at some point during their job search. And 79% of job seekers use social media, such as LinkedIn, as part of their search! So you need to make sure you have a presence in all of these places, where you can lead people back to your career website if possible. If you like fishing metaphors, then this is the equivalent of casting your lines into a few different ponds, to maximize your chances of getting a nibble. Remember that your profiles should have your employer brand in mind – don’t be shy to talk about what makes your company a great place to work!
8. Create templates for common job openings
Your career website is going to be where you post your job vacancies whenever they appear. So if you have certain roles that are more common than others – such as “customer service advisor” or “sales assistant” – then it pays to have templates for these, ready and raring to go. There are thousands of pre-written templates available if you need a bit of inspiration, but remember to make your job vacancies uniquely “you”.
9. Create a blank template that is always active
This is possible the most important tool in your passive talent acquisition arsenal. And it’s driven by the theory that you should be collecting resumes 100% of the time! Forget about whether or not you actually have any vacancies right now – if you’ve done the rest of the steps above correctly, then by now, chances are high that you’ll have people who are genuinely interested in working for your company, even if they’re not actively job seeking. So what you need to do, is create a permanent job vacancy that allows people to submit their CV, resume, cover letter… be clear and honest about it. Title the vacancy “Send your resume”, or something similar – and in the job description, explain that you have no active vacancies right now, but that you’re always on the hunt for talented individuals, and that you’d love to hear from them. This is the cornerstone of getting a constant trickle of passive, highly-talented candidates into your talent pipeline – and when you’re ready to hire, it will often end up being the first place you look.
Part 3: Your applicant tracking system
Having your mission statement printed, your website set up and your job vacancies ready to go, is only half of the battle. And none of these things are any good if you have nowhere to keep your prospective candidates’ details safe. So whether you want to interview and on-board them right away, or whether you’re building up a passive talent pool for the future, you’re going to need some form of applicant tracking system where you can store, organize and access talented candidates on-demand.
10. Buy an off-the-shelf ATS
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is an electronic system for handling the records of potential new recruits. Basically, if you’re storing details in filing cabinets or on spreadsheets, you probably need to upgrade. You can buy dedicated off-the-shelf applicant tracking systems, or if you use a digital HR system then you may find you already have one included. The best applicant tracking systems will give you a place to store candidate details, a way to score their abilities, and a way to track their progress through your talent pipeline – e.g. whether they’re at the interview stage, the rejection stage, the onboarding stage, or the awaiting opportunity stage.
11. Keep notes for quick reference
With every candidate in your ATS, no matter what stage they’re at, you should make sure you’re keeping notes for quick reference. For example, if you learned something during an interview that wasn’t on their resume? Jot it down – it might come in handy in the future. You can even use quick notes to provide a summary of the important points from their CV – trust us, we know how much of a headache it can be to have to re-download attachments and go through dozens of Microsoft Word documents just to double-check what somebody majored in at University!
12. Check your country’s data protection laws
Whenever you’re storing personal data about an individual, you’re likely going to be subject to a bunch of data protection laws that tell you exactly how you can – or can’t – store their data. Think about what data you’re storing, how long you’re going to be storing it for, and for what purposes you’re going to be using it. In most cases, getting consent from the individual to store their data should give you plenty of protection – but in all cases, make sure to seek legal advice if you’re unsure. After all, while all EU countries are governed by the GDPR (General Data Protection Legislation), other countries have more complex systems – such as the USA, which devolves many of its data protection laws to a State level.
13. Store unsuccessful candidates for future roles
If you’re tempted to delete all unsuccessful candidates from your ATS once you hit the “reject” button for the vacancy they applied for, then stop! As long as data protection laws permit it, you should be saving talented candidates in case other roles come up in the future. For example, that mega charismatic superstar you interviewed last week, but who didn’t quite have the right coding expertise to take the development job? You may have an opening in the future for a customer-facing role that they’d be great at – wouldn’t you want to invite them back? The way you build a strong talent pipeline is not by looking at things from an individual vacancy perspective – rather, you should be looking to build your own “waiting room” of candidates. So when you reject that shining star? Remember to tell them how much you liked them, and ask if they mind you keeping their details on record for future vacancies – it might save your bacon down the line.
Part 4: Spreading the word
Now that you have a good place to collect and track people’s details, you need to start stacking it with talented people. There are a few ways to spread the good word about your workplace – some of them are better suited to specific recruitment drives, when you have a number of similar openings that you need to fill. But many of these steps can be done even when you’re not actively recruiting – remember that your passive talent attraction strategy will form a key part of building a highly-effective talent pipeline.
14. Attend career-focused events
Job fairs, career expos, talent shows… wait, scrap that last one, that’s something else. But whatever you want to call them, career-focused networking events are a great place to hang out and represent yourself, if you want to attract both active and passive talent into your talent pipeline. Whilst not as common as online job boards, job fairs are still a big part of many job seekers’ journey – especially those who have recently graduated college, or who are looking for a career in a particular industry. Career expos are great places to meet talented and enthusiastic job seekers, as well as great places to generally get your name and your brand out there. If you’re based in the UK, here’s a list of great job fairs that are run all over the country – you can contact the organizers to find out how to get a stand.
15. Run adverts
Remember those profiles you set up on all those job boards? It’s time to make them sing for their supper – you need to start running adverts for vacant positions, if you want candidates to start sending in their CVs. If you’re trying to recruit for a highly specialist set of positions, you could even consider running paid adverts that point candidates back to your job website – or ask a recruitment specialist to help you connect with the right networks.
16. Post in social media groups
Do you remember that stat we mentioned earlier, about how 79% of job seekers use social media, in some form or another, during their job search? You should make sure you have a presence on all the most popular social media platforms. LinkedIn is the most obvious, but don’t be shy about joining specialist groups on the other platforms, either. And make sure to contribute with plenty of valuable posts that people are interested in reading – it’s how you’ll draw the right sort of attention to yourself.
17. Run career days
If you have a large recruitment drive incoming – or a constant need to attract talent for a specific type of role – then running a career day, or even a schedule of regular career days, could be a great idea. Open up your office, lay out some tasty refreshments, and put on an interesting agenda about the industry your organization works in. Depending on the types of people you would like to hire, you could consider extending the invite to local schools and universities – in fact, career days are indeed most often geared towards younger people who want to find out what it could be like to start a career in a particular field. The Portland Workforce Alliance published their own successful career day agendas from 2015-2016 – take a look if you need a little inspiration.
18. Implement refer-a-friend bonuses
If you’re willing to pay a recruiter to find you top talent, then why not keep the profits within your organization and pay your existing employees, instead? Handing out referral bonuses for employees who refer friends or family members for jobs within your organization is a great way to stack your talent pipeline full of highly-motivated people who will fit right in with the rest of your team. And because you’re rewarding existing employees, you’re more likely to increase existing employee satisfaction and reduce employee turnover! The way most organizations do this, is by giving out a predetermined referral payment to the referrer, after their referee has completed their probation period – which ensures you’re only paying for talented candidates who make the cut.
Part 5: Post-recruitment nurturing
You have the best chance of hiring from within your talent pool if you leave a good and lasting impression on candidates – even those who didn’t quite make the cut. After all, while they may not have been suitable this time around, they may be perfect for a future position. And besides, even if they were the worst possible person, you still want people talking about you to their friends and family in a positive light – because you never know who else they might recommend to your company. So this section is all about ensuring you let people down the right way – and making sure you treat them right in the weeks and months that follow.
19. Tell them why you turned them down
No matter who you turn down, reply with a polite and personal note to explain why they were unsuccessful. Nobody likes being ghosted by a potential employer, especially after they have spent many hours going through the recruitment post – being kept waiting indefinitely can be agony. And generic “sorry you were unsuccessful” emails are not much better, either. Sure, they give closure – but they can also leave a bad and impersonal taste in the prospect’s mouth. The best way to approach each unsuccessful candidate, is to give them a smattering of friendly feedback about the process – in 99% of cases, they’ll really appreciate it, helping you both part on a positive note.
20. Ask permission to add them to your talent pool
For candidates who left a good impression – or who may be suitable for other roles within your organization – you should ask if they mind you adding them to your talent pool. They’re highly unlikely to refuse, and in most cases – as long as you’re sincere – they’ll walk away feeling pleased that they left a good impression. Building bridges like this is a great way to ensure that the next time you have a vacancy that they may be able to fill, they remember you for the right reasons – and are eager to please.
21. Check in periodically to remind them you exist
For everyone in your talent pool who you may wish to recruit in the future, you should send a periodic check-in message to remind them you exist. The contents of this message will depend on the nature of your interest in the person – if you’re a large employer who frequently needs to fill vacancies, you may wish to simply schedule a periodic template that reminds them to check your vacancy page for new vacancies, and thanks them for their previous interest. Or, if appropriate and if you can manage it, you may wish to keep your check-ins personal – ask how their job search is going, share any developments that may be of interest to them, etc. This is all about staying on their radar, and making sure you come to mind the next time you’re recruiting – or the next time they’re job seeking. It may be that data protection laws require you to re-seek permission to hold their records every few months anyway – so if you’re stuck with what to write, this could be a great excuse to drop them a note.
22. Pro-actively reach out when a good match is available
Your talent pipeline won’t be half as effective if you don’t interact with it proactively. So whenever you have a vacancy that a passive candidate could fill, don’t be afraid to reach out and let them know! If you wait for them to come back to your career page naturally, you may be waiting a long time. On the other hand, a quick note may be just the prompt they need to reconsider your company. “Hey, we’re recruiting for a new customer service position – we loved how friendly you were the last time you applied for a job, and think this would be right up your street. Are you currently open to opportunities? Let’s chat.”
Part 6: Internal recruitment
All too often, employers get so fixated on bringing external talent in to fill a role, that they forget the part that their existing workforce can play within their talent pipeline. But hiring from within can be a great move – especially when it comes to more senior roles such as management. According to Forbes, managers promoted internally command better respect and results from their teams:
- 56% of employees said promoting from within improved morale
- 66% of employees said they would prefer to be managed by somebody promoted internally
- Managers from internal promotions are 10% more likely to report a highly-productive team
But even if it’s not a direct linear promotion, you’ll often make the best hires by moving people up, down or sideways internally. Not only does it look great to people considering your company – you offer real career opportunities – but it’s easier to bring new senior roles up to speed when they already know your business.
23. Have a contingency plan for each key role
Contingency planning is an important part of any business – and it forms an important part of your talent pipeline, too. In a nutshell, this is all about being prepared in case a key employee leaves – and who might be ready to take their spot. As a minimum, your contingency plan should detail their roles and responsibilities, the systems they have access to, and the people they work with – but in an ideal world, they’ll already have one or two named “successors” within the business, who are best-equipped to step into their shoes if the worst were to happen. If this strikes you as reminiscent of how kings and queens ascend the throne, then don’t worry – regicide is very rare within most organizations. MaRS publishes a good guide to help you with contingency planning – both for senior executive roles, and general key roles.
24. Maintain an internal job board
Did you know that most of your existing employees would probably like to know about new opportunities within your organization? As well as your external career website, you should make sure there’s a way for existing employees to browse vacancies. Some employers even give internal candidates priority access to vacancies as they come up – which can feel nice, like preferential treatment. Think about it this way… if an employee is thinking of leaving, then seeing a job vacancy come up that they like the look of, could be the very thing that stops them from joining a competitor.
25. Listen to career ambitions and goals
You may never find out that an existing employee is perfect for a vacancy, if you never let them express their career ambitions or goals. It’s therefore good practice to work career discussions into your periodic performance reviews. Not only could this help you fill roles better and form an important part of your talent pipeline, but it helps employees feel listened to, understood, and cared about.