Creating and Managing Your Talent Relationship Pipeline

One of the primary reasons a “recruiting black hole” exists is because many recruiting teams don’t realize where technology is supposed to stop and where they’re supposed to begin. But with all of the automation inherent in recruiting, it’s important not to lose sight of what the goal of all this technology is: to enable people to do their jobs more effectively. And recruiting, at its core, is a highly personal endeavor built on relationships. So how can technology be utilized to enhance rather than detract from these relationships? To start at the beginning, the “black hole” is a reference to what happens when a good candidate submits her information to your company, yet is never contacted. Here are two common scenarios:

  • A good executive search firm or headhunter would call or email this individual immediately and begin establishing a long-term relationship in the hopes that they could fill a future opening.
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  • Most in-house recruiting teams would never pick up the phone or send an email to this candidate if the opening was already filled.

Some would point to technology as the reason for the failure of the in-house recruiting team above. That is, due to the fact that the Internet makes it so easy for candidates to submit their resumes, the volume of resumes is almost unmanageable. Others would say that technology has solved this with the applicant tracking system, which allows companies to sort through and prioritize candidates on a massive scale. But what is often lost, however, is the relationship. If you’re about to fill an opening and a good candidate submits a resume, are you building a relationship with this candidate, even though he might not be a fit for anything you have open today? If not, a good lead for a future opening has likely been lost, leaving the headhunters to succeed where you have failed. Building an Effective Communications Strategy Given the depressed economy, this is an ideal time to begin a communications strategy that will establish a talent relationship pipeline that you can readily tap into when the rebound hits. There are three high-level steps that need to be accomplished in the preparation for an effective communications strategy. Step 1: Segment your audience. Different audiences will have different information needs, and the ways in which you communicate will likely be varied. And your recruiting team’s time is best spent building relationships with the “cream of the crop,” meaning that you need to find a way to separate out the best candidates from hundreds, perhaps thousands of others. Start by examining what you already have, i.e. the candidate data in your ATS. This is one area where automation really works to your advantage, as the data you extract (names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.) can often be highly segmented and prioritized by types of position, experience level and more. This may be as simple as running a search for all the candidates that have made it to the interview stage, or as complicated as finding candidates who have listed specific skills on their resumes or scored highly on certain pre-screening questions. Next, determine where there are gaps in your existing talent pool, and the sources most likely to fill them. Ideally, this will be based on historical data of what has worked best for your team in the past, by position. There may also be other viable, untapped sources that exist like targeted email lists. Step 2: Identify the most appropriate communication vehicles. Contacting the very best candidates should be a function of your recruiting team, over the phone or in person. Depending on how large the communication task is, technology can be used to enhance this strategy. Some ATSs and more advanced email systems can process thousands or even hundreds of millions of emails a month! The relationship building process will typically start with your employment website, as this is the first impression of your company as an employer for most candidates. Taking a user-focused approach to building your site will ensure that you are providing relevant information that will convince candidates they want to start building a relationship with you. Once they’re on the site, you can provide a place for more passive candidates to submit their information (not their resume) to keep in touch with your company. Step 3: Create relevant messages. Providing relevant information that candidates want to receive is the real key to a successful communications strategy. Even if you send out emails on a massive scale, your messages should be personalized (addressed only to the sender) and customized (providing information that the recipients want to hear). The ultimate goal of all of this relationship building is to convince these top candidates that you are the right employer for them, or get them to refer their highly qualified friends to you. It’s important to recognize that each audience will have distinct information needs. A top accountant, for example, will have different criteria in choosing an employer than a top programmer, and you should adjust your messaging accordingly. Recruiting is still a relationship-driven industry. The best recruiters and search firms have established relationships with top candidates that reap rewards over time. When phone or in-person contact is not a reality, as it so often is not when dealing with hundreds or thousands of candidates, technology can be leveraged to fill this gap. A strong communications strategy will help you build and maintain a strong talent relationship pipeline, preparing your company for the coming economic rebound.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


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