Recruiting Funnel: The 7 Stages Of Recruiting Talent

May 02, 2023

recruiting funnel the seven stages of recruiting talent

In this article, we’ll introduce the concept of the recruiting funnel, explore its 7 stages and how to measure them effectively, as well as offer our top tips for implementing each stage. This article will be useful for employers, recruiters and HR professionals who are looking to optimize their recruitment strategy to create a robust hiring process for acquiring top new talent.

What is a recruiting funnel?

A recruiting funnel is a tool to visualize the hiring process. It breaks down recruitment into clear stages, to assist hiring teams in organizing their operations for each phase. The metaphor of the funnel itself describes the ideal streamlining of talent - a process that casts a wide net at the outset to capture a range of high-qualified individuals, and then effectively streamlines the candidate pool so the best-suited applicants for the role proceed until your final selection of candidate(s) is made.

Why is the recruiting funnel important?

The recruiting funnel is important as it separates out the stages of recruitment, helping to effectively review and optimize practices in each stage. For example, using the recruitment funnel approach enables you to see where the most time, money or effort is being spent, and whether this needs shifting or balancing.

Conversely, thinking of your recruitment process (with its composite stages) in its entirety helps hone strategy and ensure your recruitment pipeline is delivering - placing high-quality talent into the right places in your business.

The 7 stages of the recruiting funnel

There are seven key stages of the recruiting funnel - to ensure a streamlined and effective process, each of these needs to be considered individually as well as part of a whole. Below we explore these seven stages and how to measure and optimise them for your needs.

Stage 1: Brand awareness

The first stage of the recruiting funnel is brand awareness. This refers to positioning your company so potential hires are aware of its existence and cultivate an interest in joining the workforce. It's possible that your company is already well-known for its products or services, but not as an employer - this requires strengthening your employer branding.

At this point, this recruitment marketing should be high-level. Brand recognition in the context of the recruitment funnel is about gaining general exposure for your brand amongst your target talent pools. Recognition of your logo, for example, will help your job listings to stand out and receive greater interest.

Whilst you need to ensure pools of potential talent are aware of your brand, to be effective this stage must move beyond simple awareness to convey the impression that your company is a desirable and fulfilling place to work.

Measuring the brand awareness stage

Establishing a robust method of measuring each stage of the recruiting funnel is important for tracking progress and ensuring your hiring activity is performing as required.

For the brand awareness stage, work with your marketing department to explore the current understanding of your brand and whether this could be improved in certain areas or audience groups. This can be achieved through surveys or focus groups. Repeating the process after a campaign will enable you to see if there’s been a tangible change in brand awareness and understanding.

For digital metrics, track hits on your website’s career page and social media engagements so you’ll know if your online marketing is reaching the volume of potential candidates needed.

Tips for the brand awareness stage

  • Identify your strengths as an employer - once you know what sets you apart, use these benefits or values in your recruitment marketing.

  • Ensure you have an engaging and up-to-date careers page on your website - feature testimonials and short videos to convey why individuals should consider applying for a role at your company.

  • Strengthen your social media presence on the channels where your target candidates are active.

  • Utilise word-of-mouth - get your employees to advocate for your brand and the benefits of working for the company.

Stage 2: Attraction

recruiting funnel the seven stages of recruiting talent

The next stage of the funnel is attraction - the process of attracting talent to apply for your specific job opportunities. This stage is vital as the greater number of applicants you can attract to a role, the higher the chance of finding the ideal candidate - one with the skills, abilities, values and attitude to be successful on the job.

One of the first steps you can take to improve attraction is to ensure your role job descriptions are clear and engaging. Job descriptions are so often dull, misleading or incomplete - leaving candidates unsure of what the role entails and on the fence as to whether they should apply. Invest time in constructing concise job descriptions that stand out and clearly convey benefits.

The right exposure is also essential. Seek out your target candidate pools and advertise to them where they are - whether this is through devising a new communications campaign, creating targeted adverts on social media, or having a physical presence at a university recruitment fair or job seekers event.

Measuring the attraction stage

You can start to measure the attraction stage of the funnel by looking at the number of applicants that apply for each position you advertise, but this alone won’t provide the insight you need. Also, different levels of job will likely receive different numbers of applications - senior positions, for example, tend to receive fewer submissions than entry-level ones. This means that tracking applicant numbers alone is insufficient.

For greater insight, look at the ratio of internal versus external applicants and the number of employee referrals, to see where the majority of your applicants are coming from. Track the visits to your careers page and/or job board listings along with the conversion rate to applications.

It’s also recommended to take stock of the number of potential applicants who begin to complete an application form but never submit it. These features can provide data to suggest the adjustments needed to increase the effectiveness of your job marketing strategy.

Tips for the attraction stage

  • Review your job descriptions to ensure they are clear, concise and engaging - they need to hook potential applicants and inspire applications!

  • Include the salary bracket in your job description. Omitting any information on remuneration can deter candidates from taking the time to apply.

  • Identify your ideal candidate audience and target them specifically through campaigns and outreach.

  • Rather than just text, use videos to introduce and describe particular roles - these can be uploaded onto your careers site and featured in your job listings too.

Stage 3: Interest

As part of the recruiting funnel, the interest stage refers to the point at which candidates express interest in a job opportunity. The previous focus was on raising awareness and triggering attraction and, if this has been successful, potential applicants will be considering applying for the role - researching your organization and perhaps formulating questions, as they want to know more.

To capitalize on the interest stage, employers need to ensure they have a strong and interactive digital presence. It is important that your active presence and digital footprint reflect well upon the company. An up-to-date website, complete with comprehensive information on careers, is essential. Make sure potential applicants can access the information they need about your recruitment process, either via an FAQs section on your careers website or through a chatbot window.

An outdated, neglected website will not encourage individuals to enter into the hiring process and may deter them. Social media accounts should also be regularly active, so there is interesting content for potential applicants to absorb.

Measuring the interest stage

Tracking the interest stage will help ensure that interested individuals are entering the recruitment funnel in earnest and being converted to applicants. To make sure your performance in the interest stage is optimal, keep track of visits to your FAQs page, record response times to requests for further information, update your FAQs with any common queries and take regular audits of the content on your website to ensure it is up-to-date and reflects the best of the organization and its current activities.

Tips for the interest stage

  • Make sure potential candidates can access the information they need. If possible, ensure you provide the option of an active communication channel - either through a chatbot or by providing an email address or phone number to contact for more information.

  • Review your current digital presence from the perspective of a prospective employee - identify aspects of the company that could be conveyed in a stronger or more appealing way.

  • Ensure your employer LinkedIn page is up-to-date, as potential applicants often seek information from LinkedIn, as well as visiting company websites.

Stage 4: Application

You’re now at the application stage, with individuals impressed enough by your company and available information that they’ve decided to begin an application form. It is, however, another hurdle - as application completion rates can be low. This means many companies miss out on talented individuals, losing their hard-earned interest at the application stage.

At this stage, you need to make sure that as many candidates as possible are submitting their applications. The likelihood of this can be increased by designing a simple, logical and intuitive application form. Long and complicated application forms will fail to lead to high completion rates. The need to create an account, asking too many questions, the requirement for multiple uploads (such as a CV, cover letter and qualification certificates) and having to type out the information contained on a CV can all cause applicants to drop out of the process.

Measuring the application stage

Measuring the application stage is the best way to ensure that you’re not unnecessarily losing the opportunity to secure top talent in the proceeding stages of your hiring process. Monitor application completion levels, paying attention to at which section of the application form candidates abandon the endeavor. This insight can be used to review and adjust the requirements.

It is also important to track how many of the applications you are receiving meet your criteria for the role. If you’re getting lots of applications that aren’t meeting your requirements, it may be that activity in the earlier stages of the recruitment funnel needs reconsidering, so that you are reaching the right audience.

Tips for the application stage

  • User tests your application form. It shouldn’t be overly complex to complete, the interface should be intuitive, and the time commitment required should ideally be between 10 and 15 minutes (including thinking time about answers to your carefully designed questions).

  • Optimize your application portal for both web and mobile, so an application can be completed flexibly on the go.

  • Send candidates confirmation that their application has been received and be clear about the next steps - it’s important to value the effort a candidate has made to complete your application, so make sure you are communicating and keeping the process clear and transparent.

Stage 5: Screening

recruiting funnel the seven stages of recruiting talent

Once you’ve received a suitable number of applications or the deadline has passed, the next stage in the recruitment funnel is to screen them to identify the most suitable talent. The screening stage is important as it represents a narrowing of the funnel - only applicants who fulfill the sought criteria will continue in the process. It can also be time-consuming and challenging, particularly when high volumes of applications are received.

Having a well-designed and effective screening stage is essential, as without a robust filtering system talent will not be streamlined appropriately - leading to inefficiencies in terms of time and cost, as well as compromising the ability to recruit the best person for the role.

The screening stage often involves reviewing application forms or submitted CVs, to assess them against the essential and desirable criteria in the job description. This can be coupled with pre-employment assessments, in the form of online aptitude, soft skill and personality tests, to great effect. These assessments provide objective insight into candidate skills, abilities and potential.

Measuring the screening stage

As with the other stages, the screening stage should be monitored to ensure your recruitment process is operating optimally. Take note of the number of candidates that meet your criteria and proceed in the process versus those who are asked to exit the process at this stage. This can give an indication of how well your attraction stage is operating. If you’re receiving high numbers of applications from candidates who are not suitable, it may be that your job description needs reviewing or that you're advertising to the wrong audience (or failing to reach the right one).

Tips for the screening stage

  • Use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) alongside manual screening to help filter candidates who do not meet job description criteria - but don’t use it alone, couple this with pre-employment testing to ensure you’re left with the strongest candidates.

  • Utilize soft skills, technical skills and software skills tests alongside aptitude tests to effectively streamline your candidate pool. These can be easily administered to large groups and quickly provide objective, easy-to-interpret data for decision-making.

  • Ensure a good candidate experience during your evaluation by using online testing with a simple user-friendly format and setting assessments at the correct level. Make sure your candidates know what to expect from the tests and have time to prepare accordingly. If not managed correctly, pre-employment testing can cause applicants to drop out of the hiring process.

  • Ensure your candidate pool is kept well-informed and continue to answer any queries.

Stage 6: Interviewing

Once you’ve streamlined your candidate pool and selected the top applicants, you’ll proceed to explore their suitability through the interview stage. The first 5 recruitment stages have resulted in a small cohort of top talent, but a strong interview process is needed to ensure that the right candidate is ultimately selected for the role.

Interviews may be conducted one-to-one or in a panel style. If circumstance allows, they may be in person but tend now to more regularly be held virtually via video call. The focus of the interview depends upon the nature of the job role - technical interviews are useful for validating necessary technical ability, whilst behavioral interviews provide a good indication of fit into the company culture and ways of working. The interview stage may consist of multiple interviews with a combination of approaches.

Measuring the interviewing stage

The interview stage is the culmination of the effort of the first stages of the process. Top candidates have been secured and this is the time to determine which candidate is most suited to the role. Measurement of the interview stage is essential to ensure the interview process is resulting in the correct hiring choices.

To assist in the measurement of the interview stage, keep track of the number of candidates who accept and attend their interviews. Consider gathering feedback on the process through a short survey, as candidate satisfaction is vital for your employer reputation and attracting future talent to your vacant roles.

If you conduct multiple interviews, cross-check your interviewer’s findings to see if impressions and answers seem to correlate. Also, ensure you aren’t duplicating effort - if you have the insight you need from pre-employment testing, there’s no need to retest at the interview.

Tips for the interviewing stage

  • Review skills test results and ask tailored questions to further explore the strengths and weaknesses highlighted.

  • Continue to communicate effectively with candidates - provide enough information on the interview process and what to expect. Reach out after the interview to confirm the timeline for a final decision.

  • Always let candidates know if they’ve been unsuccessful and, if at all possible, provide (or be available to provide) feedback. This will, in turn, help to improve your reputation in job-seeking circles as a respectful and appealing employer.

Stage 7: Job offer

The final stage of the recruiting funnel is to offer your chosen candidate the role. Be aware, though, that your selected individual is likely receiving multiple offers. This means that conducting the job offer stage correctly is important for securing the best talent.

A job offer should be made formally and clearly outline the benefits of accepting. Displaying knowledge of your selected candidate’s motivation and career goals in your communication will help to show that you value your employees as individuals and are committed to investing in their development and satisfaction.

Chosen candidates are more likely to say yes to a company they feel is investing in their growth and will provide fulfilling opportunities and challenges.

Measuring the job offer stage

Evaluating the job offer stage is important, as you don’t want your top talent slipping through the net so close to the close of your process. To measure this stage, take a look at the number of offers accepted on first presentation, the number accepted after negotiation and the number that are rejected. This can provide insight into whether remuneration packages are set at the right level.

Tips for the job offer stage

  • Continue to sell your company to prospective employees at the job offer stage - they may well be in demand, so make sure you clearly illustrate the benefits of choosing to join your workforce.

  • If you haven’t been upfront about salary or working logistics, this may cause candidates to reject your offer. Make sure there are no surprises at this stage by being open and honest about your ultimate offer and expectations throughout the hiring process.

  • Reach out to ask your successful and unsuccessful candidates to provide their feedback on your recruitment process. The insight those who have been through your hiring stage can provide is invaluable and can highlight areas of weakness as well as what is resonating with applicants.

Final thoughts

The recruiting funnel is a beneficial way to examine each of the key stages in the recruitment process, to ensure it is a streamlined and effective whole. It is vital that each stage is operating optimally to avoid low interest, unsuitable applicants, high dropout rates and job offer rejections. A robust recruitment funnel will result in the efficient placement of high-quality talent into your vacant roles.

Using appropriate evaluation metrics for the seven stages will help to ensure that you are aware of any existing or emerging weaknesses in the process and can make the necessary adjustments to improve. A well-designed and executed recruitment funnel will enable the recruitment of top talent - ensuring that you attract, retain and secure the right candidates through the hiring process.