Your Candidate-Centered Recruiting Funnel

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A candidate-centered recruiting funnel can help you communicate better, answer timely questions, and guide potential employees through your hiring process.

A recruiting funnel

A recruiting funnel is a planning tool to help you guide job candidates towards the desired action.


Every stage of the funnel represents a different decision the candidates must make on their journey to employment with your company. As they progress through the stages, more and more candidates opt out or are screened out.

Now, there are many recruiting funnel models out there. Many are very detailed, and frankly, quite complicated. Typically, they’re meant to visualize an efficient recruiting process. You know, squeezing maximum benefit from your pipelines.

Fantastic stuff. But a funnel holds so much more potential.

Because chances are, you’re not a mind reader. You can’t read your candidate’s thoughts to know what questions they want answers to. Guess What? A well-designed recruiting funnel can help you make an informed guess at what they’re thinking. And that informed guess can help you determine how to interact with the candidate at each step they take, at every decision they make, on their journey towards becoming an employee.

A recruiting funnel helps you meet candidates where they are – empathizing – and guiding them with the information and answers they need, right when they need it.

A recruiting funnel for non-mind readers

Here is a simple recruiting funnel:


Two features to note:

  1. This funnel was designed around clear, candidate-centered communication and candidate experience (that’s my bias).
  2. It extends past the point of hire. Most funnel models don’t, but they should: the candidate-turned-employee should still be part of your recruiting process, through retention and referral.

Let’s go over each of the stages in more detail:

Six stages of a recruiting funnel


1. Awareness

Awareness is about making target candidates aware that your company exists and employs people just like them. It’s their first impression of you.

At this point in their journey, potential candidates might:

Questions potential candidates might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • What is this company?
  • What do they do?
  • What makes them different?
  • What are their values?


2. Acquisition

Acquisition is drawing candidates to your employer brand specifically for the purpose of joining your team. It’s about getting them interested in working with you.

At this point in their journey, candidates might:

  • Investigate your Glassdoor rating and reviews
  • Watch your culture video on YouTube
  • Email a recruiter with a question
  • Follow your company on LinkedIn
  • Sign up for your talent community
  • Check out current openings on your job board

Questions potential candidates might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • Who works at this company?
  • Are they like me? Would I fit in?
  • Why do they do what they do?
  • Would I want to work at this company?
  • Do I have anything to lose if I pursue a job at this company?


3. Conversion

Conversion is about convincing candidates to pursue a role in your company. You evaluate each other to see if it’s a good fit.

At this point in their journey, candidates might:

  • Submit an application
  • Say “yes” to a recruiter who’s asked to put them forward for a role
  • Visit your office and meet members of your team
  • Interview with the hiring manager
  • Allow you to contact their references
  • Email you or the manager with detailed questions

Questions potential candidates might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • Have they received my application?
  • What would I be doing in the job?
  • Who would I report to? Work with?
  • Would I get along with the manager?
  • What would I get out of it?
  • What are the compensation and benefits?
  • Are there logistical considerations for my taking this job? Commute? Hours? Overtime? Relocation? Disruption to my life?
  • What challenges would I face on the job?
  • How would working at this company compare to my current job, or other jobs I could get?


4. Closing

Closing is about making an offer to the potential employee, negotiating it, and getting them to say “yes”.

At this point in their journey, finalists might:

  • Compare your offer to those they’ve received from other employers
  • Ask for increased compensation or improved benefits
  • Accept the offer
  • Decline the offer

Questions prospective employees might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • Can the company and I agree on my value as an employee?
  • Do I really, actually want this job?


5. Retention

Retention is extending the length of an employee’s time working for you. Retaining employees is much more efficient and cost-effective than recruiting new ones!

At this point in their journey, employees might:

  • Excel in their role
  • Perform just to expectation
  • Under-perform
  • Participate in learning and development programming, company social activities, or volunteer initiatives
  • Ask for a raise
  • Apply internally for a different role
  • Receive and return emails from recruiters at other companies
  • Casually browse job opportunities elsewhere

Questions employees might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • Do I (still) like working here?
  • Do I like my manager? My colleagues?
  • Do I like and believe in the company’s work?
  • Am I moving towards my career goals?
  • Do I believe in the work I’m doing?
  • Am I getting what I want out of working here?
  • Am I happy working here?
  • Are there other, better opportunities out there for me?


6. Referral

Referral is about increasing employee brand advocacy and getting employees to identify candidates from their own social networks.

At this point in their journey, employees might:

  • Share corporate and employer brand content on through their social media accounts
  • Share their own photos and video from the workplace through their social media accounts
  • Share the company career site or job postings to their social media accounts
  • Write a Glassdoor review
  • Nominate their manager or a peer for a work-related award
  • Attend professional or industry events and tell other attendees about working for you
  • Tell their friends about what it’s like to work for you
  • Invite their friends to apply to work for you

Questions employees might be wondering – and you should be helping answer:

  • Can I openly share my work life with friends and contacts?
  • What is OK to share? What isn’t OK to share?
  • Could my friends work here?
  • Do I know someone who fit in here?
  • Can I help fill our openings?
  • What can I tell people about working here?
  • How do I invite my network to consider working for us?
  • Is there an incentive for me to refer people I know?
  • How else can I help my company succeed?

Not every decision-making journey is the same

Not everyone progresses through the recruiting funnel from top to bottom. For example, if you are considered the “No. 1 best company to work for,” chances are pretty good awareness is not going to be a big problem for you – you’ll be focusing more on the end of the funnel.

On the other hand, if you are a company in a traditional industry – let’s say, piano manufacturing – and you’re looking to hire people with new-fangled technology skills – say, developers to build your new piano-tuning app – then you’ll probably need to spend a lot more effort building awareness.

Or maybe, in a very competitive market for talent, you need to really focus on closing.

It all depends on your company, and the people you need to hire.

Model your own recruiting funnel

The funnel outlined above is just a template. Feel free to adapt it to whatever your own company’s candidate decision journey looks like. Because the most effective recruiting funnel for communicating with your potential employees is the one you build yourself.

Christian De Pape, Head of Brand and Operations at Recruiting Social; employer branding and recruitment marketing expert; design thinking and service designer.
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand and operations at Recruiting Social. He is an expert in user-centered branding, communications, and content for recruitment. Connect with Christian on LinkedIn.

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