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How Employers and Applicants Should Approach the Recruitment Funnel Part I

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Recruitment is Tough!

Recruitment is a complex process of meeting individuals, understanding their skill set, taking a shot on their personality, and making a decision whether you believe they would fit within your company. As the individual going through the process, it is equally as nerve-racking remaining calm, boasting about your experience, and attempting to reveal enough about yourself that you strike a chord with the interviewers.

Recruitment Agencies vs In-house Recruitment

For many companies, they decide to outsource the work to professional recruitment companies because of the ease of use which allows them to focus on what they do best. In my experience as the CEO of Portlight, I found that recruitment was best handled in-house as we grew our startup and had a deep focus on the evolving culture that we were attempting to build.

What I Discovered while Recruiting Hundreds of Individuals

As I read resume after resume, I came to a better understanding of the recruitment process and how companies and individuals can best approach the process to ensure that their ultimate goal is achieved.

For a company, I conclude that they want to make the best possible hire that will quickly make a difference within the desired role while avoiding quick turnover. On the other hand, the applicant wants to find a company where they are passionate about what they are doing, there is room for growth, they are respected, and they are monetarily appreciated for their skill set.

In this column, I will present a rendition of the recruitment funnel that I tested and utilized while running Portlight. The visual map and explanation of each step will give you a better understanding of how you can begin to structure your recruitment process as you grow your company.

For those in the application process, the visual and explanation of the recruitment funnel will provide you with a glimpse of what you may find yourself involved in. It may also give you a better idea of what employers are thinking as you experience their recruitment and interview process.

For those of you familiar with a traditional sales funnel, this visual map will resemble the process of pulling potential customers into your funnel to eventually sell them your product or service. In this case, there are similarities in that a company wants to attract as many qualified applicants as possible similar to a sales funnel where you want to bring as many potential customers to your company.

Where the two funnels differ is as you get deeper into the recruitment funnel, the employer wants to eliminate leads leaving them with one perfect candidate for the position. In a traditional sales funnel, the goal is to take as many leads through to the end as possible.

While the goal of the traditional sales funnel and the recruitment funnel differ as you progress through the stages, the depiction will strike a familiar note.

The Recruitment Funnel

Recruitment Funnel

As can be seen from the recruitment funnel above, there are 6 stages that an employer has to select the optimal candidate for the position that they are hiring for. For employers, it is intelligent to reflect on the ideal candidate at the beginning of the process so that they are always seeking that person and not being led astray by other attractive applicants.

Through the stages, the number of applicants typically become smaller and smaller as the employer hones in on potential hires who have shown signs of promise. Once the full recruitment funnel flow has occurred, it is time for the employer to hand the ultimate applicant an official letter of offer and negotiate the terms of the working relationship.

You’ll be able to learn more about what to expect from your job offer contract and how to negotiate each aspect in your favor by reading “Negotiation Tactics to Best your Offer” set to release in November 2015.

Let’s walk through the first three stages of the recruitment funnel to get a better idea of what each looks like from both the employer and applicants’ point of view. On Thursday, I’ll dive deeper into stages 4 through 6 to provide you with a full understanding of the recruitment funnel.

Stage 1: Advertising the Job Posting

The first stage of the recruitment funnel is when the employer is advertising their new job posting through a number of different channels to reach their ideal candidate.

For the Employer

As the employer with a new job posting, the first thing that you have to do is create the job posting so that it accurately depicts the candidate that you are seeking. While recruiting at Portlight, I researched other companies who had a deep focus on their culture to understand how I could craft the job posting to not only attract the right skills, but also a similar mindset.

Next, the employer must research and decide where they will have the greatest chance of finding their ideal applicant. Once the employer has decided where, they are able to formulate an advertising strategy around that idea. Depending upon the ideal candidate, employers can find applicants through a laundry list of resources. I’ve provided a list below for your reference.

  • University job boards
  • Local events
  • Word of mouth
  • LinkedIn targeted recruiting
  • Social Media
  • Online job boards, i.e. Indeed, Monster, etc.
  • Company website
  • Email letters
  • Blogs
  • Job forums

In this stage, the employer’s goal should be to get as many qualified applicants as possible. While leading recruitment efforts at Portlight, my favorite resources for advertising were word of mouth, local events, and LinkedIn targeted recruiting. As a company focused on cultural fit as much as skills, we found most success receiving recommendations from our seasoned team members who fully understood the mindset we cultivated.

For the Applicant

As the applicant seeking a new job, it is important to identify the position and type of company that you want to work for. Then, you want to determine where you may find these types of jobs. Similar to the employer, one of the best ways to get your foot in the door at your desired company is through direct networking, word of mouth, and company introductions.

If you don’t know anyone currently working for your company of choice, head onto LinkedIn and reach out to people working there or ask one of your connections for an introduction. While identifying jobs and simply applying should be a part of your strategy, I highly encourage you to put yourself out there to someone currently working at the company. This can demonstrate your passion for the position and place you ahead of other candidates who simply filled out the application online.

When team members came to me at Portlight to let me know that someone had reached out to them via LinkedIn to learn more about the culture and position, I was quick to set up a conversation with the individual because of the extra effort they went through. It turned out that this type of applicant tended to be some of the stronger individuals that we spoke with.

Stage 2: Resumes, Cover Letters, and Questionnaires

Stage 2 marks the time when soft introductions are made between the employer and the applicant. Information is exchanged via email or web form for hundreds of applicants to learn more information and it becomes a waiting game to see who will be asked to proceed to a phone interview.

For the Employer

As the employer, Stage 2 is the opportunity to review as many potential applicants as desired until you have a couple of handfuls of applicants you deem desirable and able to fill the job. The employer’s recruitment team receives and reads through cover letters and resumes looking to match their criteria with potential candidates.

For some employers, they will also have a short questionnaire that allows them to collect even more initial information. At Portlight, we utilized a 10 piece questionnaire to gain a better understanding of the individuals’ ability to use a computer and navigate a web browser – both key components we were seeking in all job applicants.

The goal of the employer in this part of the recruitment funnel is to eliminate applicants who do not meet the minimum criteria and save ones that they are interested in learning more about.

For the Applicant

As the applicant, Stage 2 is all about honing your cover letter and resume to stand out from the rest of the pack by demonstrating your interest in the position and your qualifications for the skills required.

As the applicant, it’s important to put your mind in the shoes of the employer to envision exactly who they are seeking in an ideal candidate. Once you have that vision, it is your job to craft your information to portray that message through your resume and cover letter.

For advice on utilizing a cover letter to demonstrate your voice and passion for the position, refer to What is a Cover Letter and Why Do I Need One? In the post, I outline the purpose of the cover letter and provide you with a sample of what yours should look like.

Stage 3: Introductory Phone Calls

In Stage 3, decisions are made by both the employer and the applicant. The introductory phone call is the first opportunity for both parties to ask questions and glean more information about whether the working relationship would be an ideal fit. Unlike the first two stages of the recruitment funnel, the applicant now has more of a say in the process.

For the Employer

After sifting through tens if not hundreds of resumes and cover letters, it is time for the employer to make decisions with regards to their applicant pool. In this stage, the employer will set up short phone calls – usually with a hiring manager – to ask questions to learn more about the candidates’ skills, expectations, and past experience.

While the employer is usually in the driver’s seat during the recruitment process, it is still their job to further attract the talent to wanting to work for their company. With the increase of competition for specific skill sets, it is important that employers take the suiting process as seriously as the candidate.

Once the employer has had the opportunity to speak with the applicant on the phone, they should have a good understanding as to whether they would like to invite them into the office for an in-depth interview.

For the Applicant

As the applicant, making it to Stage 3 indicates that their skills and experiences communicated via their resume and cover letter were satisfactory to the employer.

For the phone calls, the applicant should prepare to answer simple questions such as:

  • Why are you interested in our company and this position?
  • We saw that you worked for Company XYZ. Tell us more about your experience and why you decided to leave.
  • What ideas do you have to grow the position? What makes you qualified to do this?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • When are you able to start working?

In this stage, the applicant also gains the power to ask questions about the company and position. As an applicant, you should never pass on this opportunity.

Common questions to ask may entail:

  • When are you looking to fill this position?
  • What are my opportunities for growth within this position?
  • Who is the ideal candidate for this position?
  • Can you tell me more about the mission, vision, and values of the company?
  • What does the rest of the interview process look like?

Continue Reading about the Recruitment Funnel on Thursday!

Thanks for reading about the first three stages of the recruitment funnel. Given that we all have time constraints on how much we can read on the Internet in one given day, I’ve broken this column up into a two day series.

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About Connor Gillivan

He is the co-founder of EcomBalance and Outsource School. His writing has appeared in Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications online. He has scaled multiple companies to 7 and 8 figures per year. He was the co-founder of FreeUp, which was acquired in 2019 by The HOTH. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Hey, I’m Connor Gillivan. I’m on a mission to scale my business to 9 figures. Want to join me?

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Article Comments

  1. Eleonore Brodowski

    March 1, 2016 4:55 am Reply

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