How to build a successful talent pipeline

Andy Agouridis Talent acquisition

Developing a talent pipeline revolves around assembling a pool of potential candidates that meet the organization's requirements and needs in both the short and long term. Building a talent pipeline strategy is one of the best ways to place yourself in the pole position to hire top talent. 

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What is a talent pipeline?

Talent Pipelining is a strategic process of proactively sourcing and nurturing a pool of promising candidates for future job opportunities within the organization. This process entails establishing and maintaining relationships with individuals who possess the desired qualifications, skills, and cultural compatibility even though there are no vacancies at the moment. The strategy includes both internal talents within the company but also external candidates from career-web pages or job portals. 

The main purpose of talent pipelining is to have a pool of potential candidates ready when a new position needs to be filled. This proactive method assists in minimizing the time, energy, and expenses associated with traditional reactive hiring practices.

Benefits of building a talent pipeline

The benefits of talent pipeline management are many. Let us present to you some of the key benefits that you can expect from this process, which we believe can provide a great return on investment for most organizations.

1. Reduced time to hire

The time to hire is a crucial recruitment success metric, representing the time an employer needs to fill a vacancy. According to SHRM, the average position takes 36 days to fill, while challenging roles including executives or technical talent usually require significantly more time. Naturally, this can be an issue when there is an urgent business need for external talent. Having a talent pipeline with warm candidates gives the ability to employers to tap into relevant talent on demand. Assuming the recruitment team keeps this pipeline engaged, the business will have a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring these candidates, which can reduce the time to hire significantly.

2. More candidates

Posting a job ad when there is a hiring need can be a great, well-tested way to attract active candidates, i.e. professionals who are actively looking for a new challenge. However, if you only rely on advertising your roles when they come up, you are likely to miss out on all passive talent, who are not actively looking for work but may be open to discussion. Considering that active candidates represent 30% of the workforce, while passive candidates represent a whopping 70%, this can make a massive difference especially when it comes to hard-to-fill roles. Building a talent pipeline is an excellent way to tap into passive talent, as it allows employers to convert them progressively into brand advocates. If your recruitment team nurtures talent in your pipeline, you can expect a fair amount of candidates to be open for a conversation when the time comes.

3. Better candidates

We all know that selecting someone who can do the job is insufficient. A successful hire is someone who will do the job, which depends a lot on cultural fit. With 46% of hires considered unsuccessful within 18 months, hiring the right candidate has a huge business impact. However, recruiters and hiring managers are not always able to gauge cultural fit. What if candidates themselves could help? Pipelined talent can self-screen for cultural fit before applying based on their experience interacting with an employer. For example, if the recruitment team shares valuable content aligned with the employer brand, you can expect candidates to engage with it and be able to self-assess on cultural fit through this process.

4. Improve candidate experience 

The talent pipeline encompasses continuous communication and relationship cultivation with prospective candidates, regardless of the availability of immediate job opportunities. This showcases a dedicated investment in candidates' career growth and fosters a favorable perception of the company, thereby augmenting the overall candidate experience.

How to build your talent pipeline

If you’ve decided to build or improve your talent pipelines, congratulations. However, the dream of having warm candidates ready to fill all challenging vacancies requires strong implementation. This section includes all key components to consider when building your pipeline of talents.

1. Understand your recruitment needs

We recommend starting by defining the gaps you are looking to fill through your talent pipeline. What is your biggest pain point? How can you solve this issue? How can a talent pipeline help you achieve this solution? Then, consider your desires based on the organizational strategy. Is the company planning to expand in the short term? Are you in the process of penetrating a new geography? Is there a new business segment? This assessment can provide you with clarity around how your talent pipeline will serve you. Use this analysis to pull together a business case for your talent pipeline, documenting why it is an idea worth pursuing. This can be used to initiate conversations with leadership to secure the required budget, which brings us to the next step.

2. Get buy-in from key stakeholders

When you finalize your business case, it is time to present it to key stakeholders. Depending on the size of a business, this can be the recruitment leader, the HR leader, or the executive. Since your project is still in its infancy, it is natural that your recommendations will lack detail at this stage. Thus, we suggest keeping conversations at a high level and focusing on communicating the expected benefits. Focus on presenting the benefits of building a recruitment pipeline and how they align with the needs of the business. Then, request approval to pull together a more specific plan.

3. Profile your ideal candidate

Before thinking of what is the best way to build a talent pipeline, start with understanding your target audience. If you already have a candidate persona, this is a great starting point. If you don’t, we suggest creating one by documenting all common characteristics of existing successful employees into one imaginary persona. If you need to get more granular, create multiple personas for different departments, roles, and seniority levels. Then, focus on understanding where you can find these people, how you can attract them, and what would turn them into brand advocates. This exercise can be invaluable to making decisions on running your pipeline.

4. Find your talent

Now is the time to select the channels you will use to connect with your target audience. Use the candidate profiles you have pulled together to understand where you can find the talent you are looking for. Then, craft a plan to join them where they hang out and connect with them.

Here are some ideas on how you may be able to connect with your target audience:
  • Social media such as LinkedIn
  • Portfolio sites, like Behance
  • Industry events relevant to your vacancies
  • Tools like Reddit and Quora
  • Through referrals from current employees
  • In your Applicant Tracking System as silver medalists from past vacancies

Before pulling your sleeves up and getting to work, make sure you do it with a professional presence aligned with your employer brand.

5. Attract your future hires

Time to think about your outreach. Again, try to understand how your ideal candidate would prefer to be approached or even better run interviews with future employees and ask them. Then, create your message on this basis. However, not matter what content, language, and tone of voice is suitable, we suggest you keep in mind the following:

  • Show interest: research your target candidates and make your outreach personal
  • Be clear: make it easy for them to understand your intentions
  • Keep it brief: make it fast for talent to connect with you

6. Engage your audience

After connecting with your audience, you may feel that you have already won their attention, but actually this is when the game starts. With so many stimuli fighting for our attention, one can only maintain focus on a finite number of things and people. If you want to win a place in the minds and hearts of your ideal candidate, you will have to continuously try to be visible.

From posting on social media to publishing relevant blog posts to sending valuable emails, we recommend adopting several ways to ensure you maximise your visibility. Having said that, if you spread too thin, this is likely to affect quality negatively, so make a decision on the number of channels you will use based on your capacity. Ideally, design a process flow tying everything together that will lead talent in your pipeline to turn to applicants.

7. Measure, evaluate, and refine

As with any process, it is unlikely you will be able to get everything right even if your planning is impeccable. Thus, you need a system to measure success, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes. Remember that success is not about achieving any change, it is about achieving your desired outcomes. Use the benefits you defined in your business case to identify how to measure success. Put an emphasis on quantifying results to remove subjectivity, but make sure you account for qualitative data too. Then, once you come across an issue during the talent identification, attraction or engagement stages, take action to refine your process and resolve it.

Hear our integration partner Alva Labs on how to build a successful talent pipeline:

“When we are building a talent pipeline (even when we have done our homework on the upcoming hiring plan) we know things might change. In this fast-moving world, we can’t be certain that what we are looking for today will be the same thing tomorrow. We need to understand that candidates have the potential for versatile roles. Pipelined talent can be screened for this, by for instance having them taking psychometric tests (such as personality tests or logic tests). 

Another important aspect of good candidates is the cultural fit. Make sure your talent pipeline gets a good understanding of what type of culture you will offer. For example, if the recruitment team shares valuable content aligned with the employer brand, you can expect candidates to engage with it and be able to self-assess on cultural fit through this process. “



As we head towards the end of the pandemic, the war for talent is back. Creating a strong talent pipeline can be an excellent way to hit those recruitment KPIs by hiring top talent. However, building a pipeline is a long-term process, which requires solid planning and execution. We recommend starting with identifying your needs, understanding your target audience, and taking the required action to find, attract, and engage them.

Happy talent pipelining!

Last updated:

Andy Agouridis

Andy helps candidates and employers connect faster and better. Apart from being a Jobylon contributing writer and a Careers content creator. He has a background in HR with Fortune 100 businesses, holds an MSc in HRM, and is a Chartered member of the CIPD.

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