Candidate Pipelining is Dead

Doug Horn on February 25, 2015 9:33:00 AM EST

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The dream of a never-ending pool of candidates that can be constantly replenished is obviously alluring. In this ideal scenario, a new job would open up, and it could be filled almost immediately by just dipping one’s hand into that pool and plucking out a candidate who is qualified, vetted, and known to be interested in the company.

While it sounds all well and good, the act of candidate pipelining is, in fact, dead. Rest in peace, CP - I’ll pour one out for you.

Maintaining a pool of pre-screened candidates is difficult in today’s world. Managers set unrealistic expectations regarding these pipelines, and it’s important to know why they’re actually not achievable.

If the candidates who are supposed to fill this pipeline are interested in your organization, then they’re probably active jobseekers. With that in mind, what is the likelihood that they would actually stay interested enough and, more importantly, available to join your company? Answer: not very likely at all. If they’re a strong candidate, they’ll probably be snatched up within ten days, and if they’re a weak candidate, they probably won’t be in the pipeline to begin with.

As Dr. John Sullivan also points out in the aforementioned article, your average quality of hire drops the longer your engagement process takes, as the best candidates typically find other jobs while they're waiting.  You end up paying incoming hires more because they've had time to shop for other competing offers.  Extended pipelining and hiring cycles upset candidates and damage your hiring brand.

Additionally, as ERE pointed out, if you have a “50% attrition of this pipeline on a monthly basis (i.e., 50% take another position and/or lose interest in your position/organization), the amount of time required to keep the pipeline stocked with candidates would be very inefficient and most likely be cost-prohibitive. This would be comparable to a grocer acquiring perishable food, only to lose 50% of it before they can sell it.”

Establishing relationships with these candidates is a time-consuming, resource intensive process. First, a recruiter must find the applicants to fill the pool or pipeline. Before you go thinking this is as easy as finding an aspiring actor in an L.A. restaurant, it should be noted that this is not a simple search. Performing research and subsequent phone screens takes time, and good recruiters will take that time in order to acquaint themselves with their candidates.

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Once contact is initiated, that relationship needs to be nurtured in order to ensure that the candidate will trust the recruiter moving forward. By staying in touch and maintaining that connection, a recruiter will boost the odds that he is able to place that candidate in a new position in the future.

But we no longer live in that world.  The world has no future, only a present.  It's an iPhone, push-button, instant gratification society.  Uber gives you the power to push a button and get a ride.  Airbnb allows you to push a button and book a villa on the Italian Riviera.  Sick of living in a pigsty of an apartment? Push a button and Handy will send a cleaning service right over to you.

The point is that things happen fast these days.  Candidates aren't interested in sitting in an ATS waiting for jobs that aren't even going to be available for 9 months.  In every other facet of their lives, they get immediate gratification.  They don't want to be strung along, they want action.

Recruiters need to educate hiring managers and let them know that thriving candidate pipelines are not the norm anymore. In today’s world, where every candidate is easily accessible and discoverable, interest one day may mean nothing by the following morning. The classic notion of the candidate pipeline is a fallacy in the modern world and hiring managers must alter their expectations as a result.

If hiring managers expect each of their recruiters to have these ready-made pools of candidates, they need to understand that the time and effort it takes to identify talent, vet that talent, and maintain relationships with that talent is a huge drain on the company.  And to top it all off, it's actually hurting the quality of their hires.  Maybe it's time that hiring managers put some of that info in their pipeline and smoke it.