What Talent Acquisition Learns From the Marketing Funnel

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Talent acquisition nearly mirrors marketing and the sales journey. It’s taken a while for HR and recruiters to see the parallels, but now the funnel concept is quickly becoming the go-to model that hiring teams monitor, adapt, tweak and use for a stronger, healthier talent pipeline.

People go through similar steps, whether making a decision to buy a car or accept a job offer. Examine what makes the sales journey work, and you’ll find a wealth of resources for getting the best possible hires every time.

RELATED: Top of Funnel Talent Acquisition Engagement Strategies

Shift the Talent Acquisition Mindset to Marketing

Up close, talent and marketing processes look different. But at a distance, they’re not. In fact, JobVite says, “Recruiting is marketing.”

The same funnel architecture that works for one also works for the other.

Both departments need to guide the right people into taking a bite out of an offer. Marketing’s offer is a product or service; your product is a job.

According to JobVite, the funnel is “a framework for the entire recruiting process to create a never-ending pipeline of candidates so you can find the right people for the right jobs in your company.” The funnel feeds the pipeline, and that gives you a stronger pool of qualified candidates when you need them.

Sourcing every candidate independently drives recruiting costs up. Consistently working the talent funnel makes hiring more efficient.

Depending on who you ask, there might be several layers in the talent acquisition funnel. But Kathleen Booth, Quintain Marketing CEO, writes at HubSpot that the marketing industry distils them to three:

  • Top of Funnel: TOFU
  • Middle of Funnel: MOFU
  • Bottom of Funnel: BOFU

That works for the talent industry, too.

Job candidates make their way to the top of the funnel. They come from recruitment advertising, passive candidate sourcing, referrals and active recruiting.

The mid-point is for nurturing candidates. It’s a hazier area, according to Hip B2B, but it’s also flexible. Candidates are lost in the middle, but you’ve got loads of opportunity to keep the right ones in.

The bottom of the funnel is where hiring happens. If you’ve ushered the best quality candidates into the TOFU level and nurtured them through the MOFU level, BOFU gives you a few exceptional candidates, fewer surprises and ultimately less churn.

But there’s more at the bottom than just hiring. Kathleen Booth says:

“It’s important not to forget that the bottom of the funnel is about more than simply closing deals. It’s also the jumping-off point for closed-loop analytics. The best inbound marketers are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of their campaigns and adjusting their strategies to maximize results.”

Dig a Little Deeper Into the Funnel Layers

Several fine-tuned or sub talent acquisition layers live within the top, middle and bottom. Specifically, JobVite mentions these five:

  • Employment branding
  • Sourcing
  • Candidate experience
  • Candidate selection
  • Insight

It doesn’t matter how you source candidates, they explain. You might use any combination of social recruiting, job boards, referrals and other recruitment tools. A solid employment branding strategy improves every message so it reaches the best candidates. In such a competitive talent market, branding makes a tangible difference.

According to the 2014 LinkedIn Talent Trends report, 56 percent of responders said employer brand – whether a company is “a great place to work” – matters more than anything else when considering a new job.

LinkedIn’s 2015 Talent Trends report said the more passive the candidate pool, the more brand matters. However you build your brand, there’s a direct correlation between brand and conversions.

A positive candidate experience also holds good people in the pipeline. The application process can obviously make or break it, as can communication or lack thereof. But great content helps fill out this complex middle ground and keep prospects engaged and in the funnel.

Relevant content comes in different forms, including:

  • Social media posts
  • e-Books
  • Whitepapers
  • Industry news
  • Surveys
  • Reports

If it’s relevant, it keeps candidates engaged. And it further builds a positive employer brand.

The application process makes another layer of the funnel, and it’s a bold one. According to a 2015 Appcast report, there’s a 356 percent drop-off rate in applications that take longer than 15 minutes to complete.

They also uncovered some stunning data from more than 400,000 job seekers.

  • Eight out of 100 candidates finish a job application
  • Mobile optimization can boost conversion by as much as 2,000 percent
  • Job ad titles with 50-60 characters hit the “ROI hot spot”
  • Job descriptions between 250 and 2,000 words get five times more click through than shorter or longer ads
  • Half of job ad traffic comes from mobile, but only 1.5 percent of mobile users complete an application

Although JobVite places insights at the bottom of the funnel, the data you pick up comes from every level. The more you know about the intricacies of TOFU, MOFU and BOFU, the more you can experiment for better performance, top to bottom.

Weed out Noise at the Top of the Funnel

Every major and smaller layer of the talent acquisition funnel plays an important role in building an enviable talent pipeline. But the top layer is arguably the most important. The “more is better” approach doesn’t work because it muddies the waters. What you need are more high-quality candidates.

Think of it like baking a cake: the better the ingredients, the better the result.

Certainly, bottom-of-funnel conversions carry a lot of weight. And mid-funnel engagement and experience keep the best talent interested. But the better the candidate quality in the top layer, the more likely mid- and bottom-of-funnel processes will work like they should.

Higher quality candidates help keep the noise out of the funnel, which gives you a better quality of hire. And it starts with qualifying leads.

You can’t pre-qualify every candidate because not everyone follows the same path into the funnel. But qualify enough of them at the top level and you’ll have fewer leaks along the way. Problem is, screening individual candidates with human eyes isn’t scalable, repeatable or intuitive. That’s according to Predictive Analytics World.

They also say:

“Candidate screening is a process better handled by algorithms that can effortlessly, accurately, respectfully and predictively screen thousands or millions of candidates per day (or hour) for business success. All a predictive algorithm cares about is predicting success.”

Algorithms interpret data from all levels of the funnel, not just the top, and take action accordingly. Some recruiters might think that dehumanizes the talent acquisition process, but the result is actually the opposite. For example, when algorithms manage high-level screening, valuable recruiter time can shift to brand building, content creation, candidate experience and final hiring decisions.

Watch how RealMatch uses AI for a better quality candidate and ultimately a better hiring match:

With precision candidate screening, every layer of the funnel gets better. You’ll have less irrelevant data to analyze, fewer funnel leaks to plug, more conversions and a better quality of hire.

Identify Funnel Transition Points

What keeps a fantastic job candidate in the funnel every step of the way? Better process and engagement at strategic times. Depending on a candidate’s location in the funnel, you might focus on better job ads, social media engagement, industry news offers, e-Books and more. The possibilities are really only limited by your imagination.

Kathleen Booth says people jump ship at every level of the funnel. Candidates have expectations at each step of the recruitment process, whether they’re vocalized or not. How well you meet them determines how likely they are to move on to the next level.

At the top of the funnel, she identifies a problem/solution angle. Active candidates are obviously looking for work, which is how they find the funnel. But what do passive candidates want? Value in exchange for time.

According to Booth, that means “answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.” Blog posts, whitepapers and other value-intensive content hit the mark.

Mid-funnel, candidates might bail out if they’re neglected or they hit an annoying roadblock. Social engagement, brand building efforts and improved hiring processes help keep them in the funnel.

Talent Culture says the “candidate journey is not linear.” So although you think about people as moving from the top to the bottom, the reality is they might skip the middle altogether. Or they might spend a lot of time cycling around the middle.

Not everyone in the middle of the funnel is ready to apply for a job. And not everyone in the middle meets the criteria for a job at hand. In that respect, the middle of the funnel is really the bulk of your pipeline.

The longer candidates stay in the middle, the more you’ll learn about them. And that gives you more information to hand pick the top three or four for an interview.

At the bottom of the funnel, content and engagement strategies get tighter and more focused on the individual. That’s when you’re ready to make a hire. Candidates who make it that far have typically fulfilled their part of the bargain by applying. The rest is up to the hiring team.

Job candidate experience makes every level and sub-level of the talent acquisition funnel tick. As with marketing and sales, the higher quality of prospects you welcome into the funnel, the better the outcome.

Content marketing works at every level, helping you build your brand and offer a better value proposition than the next hiring team. And process analytics help you fine-tune candidate selection to bring the best to the interview level and improve all of your processes from the top down on an ongoing basis.

Programmatic job advertising and predictive analytics help your job ads find the best job boards. Great technology improves the likelihood that highly qualified candidates will apply. And RealMatch has the tools to maximize results.

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Carole Oldroyd

Carole Oldroyd is a writer and graphic artist living in East Tennessee. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, LegalZoom, and numerous other magazines, websites and blogs. When she isn’t writing, she can be found restoring her historic Victorian home piece by piece.

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About Carole Oldroyd

Carole Oldroyd is a writer and graphic artist living in East Tennessee. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, LegalZoom, and numerous other magazines, websites and blogs. When she isn’t writing, she can be found restoring her historic Victorian home piece by piece.

One Thought on “What Talent Acquisition Learns From the Marketing Funnel

  1. I love this article. This is very well written. You have truly enriched me with some excellent knowledge.

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