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How to Build a Talent Pipeline? 5 Steps to Manage Your Hiring Process


Updated on Apr 12, 2024
Published on Feb 23, 2023
build talent pipeline

The world is full of talented people. What makes it troublesome for companies is that not just any talent will do. Businesses need certain professionals at particular time frames. And they have to beat the competition and get the best ones from the available talent pool.

Prudent HR representatives turn to their talent pipeline when positions need to be filled quickly with the best-fit talent. A robust talent pipeline, however, requires time and effort to build. Below are some tips worth keeping in mind whether you are building your first pipeline or looking to expand your methodological toolkit.

What is a talent pipeline?

A talent pipeline is a strategic pool of potential candidates prepared in advance to fill future job openings within an organization. It comprises both high-potential internal employees and external prospects that have been engaged early through referrals and professional networks. Pipelining talent speeds up the hiring process and ensures a better candidate match and readiness.

A good example of a talent pipeline in use is when your employee holding a key position suddenly decides to quit. With a talent pipeline, you can already see which of your veteran team leads are ready for the promotion and which external candidates looking for a job are readily available. Additionally, employee data can reveal which competitor employees have been working for multiple years without a promotion.

talent pipeline

Top 4 benefits of a talent pipeline

Such a talent pipeline, as described above, is not easy to build and maintain. It does, however, have multiple advantages that make it all worthwhile. Let’s look at the main benefits.

1. Better hires

Talent pipelining enables companies to build relationships with top talent and get to know them better. Naturally, this leads to identifying suitable candidates for pipeline positions even before they open.

Candidates in the pipeline are already selected based on meeting multiple criteria and having the qualifications needed for the job. This gives organizations consistent access to these professionals, allowing HR to nurture and prepare them once the pipeline position opens and it’s time to hire. Because of these reasons, the newly hired candidate will most likely be the best available option.

2. Reduced time to hire

Once a key position in an organization becomes vacant, it is, in a way, already too late to start hiring. Critical pipeline positions are critical precisely because leaving them open even for a short period of time is costly to the business.

A candidate pipeline is filled with the right talent for the job that can step in as soon as needed. Hiring a replacement even before the previous employee has left is the best-case scenario all companies aim for.

3. Improved candidate experience

An unpleasant hiring process will, among other things, decrease the likelihood of candidates recommending the company to other prospects.

Conversely, constant engagement with the candidate in the pipeline, as well as reduced time to fill an open position, will lead to positive candidate feedback. This can also lead to more candidates getting referred to your company by top employees.

4. Building strong relationships with the best talent

When we are good at something, we want to connect with others in our field and share our knowledge. An effective talent pipeline allows your company to become the center of its talent community, which is filled with high-quality candidates for future roles.

Even when some candidates end up working elsewhere, staying connected often proves worthwhile. After all, long-term relationships lead to beneficial business partnerships.

How to build a talent pipeline: step-by-step guide

The 5 steps below provide a framework for creating a talent pipeline for your HR executives to work with.

1. Consider your company’s future plans

Finding better candidates starts with knowing your company’s needs and future goals. The extent of your pipeline and candidate sourcing strategy will depend on whether your company plans to grow in the next few years or expand specific departments.

Additionally, to fill your talent pipeline with suitable candidates, you need to analyze your company’s business objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). Keep in mind, however, that the best fit depends on the candidate's qualifications and how well they will adjust to the company culture.

2. Identify your target audience

Once you know yourself, you are ready to define what you are looking for. Create candidate personas for the key pipeline positions you must fill shortly. An informative candidate persona for your ideal candidate should define both their skills and expertise. Don’t forget to evaluate soft skills and current availability.

Thus, demographic data should be combined with data on their skills, interests, and previous experience. When you have a clear image of your ideal candidate, you can think of how best to contact them, leading us to candidate sourcing.

3. Create a sourcing strategy

Decide on how you would want to start pipelining the talent. There are many ways to source active and passive candidates. Firstly, it is essential not to forget the current employees who might wish to switch jobs or go for a higher position. Providing diverse future opportunities is crucial to reducing turnover rates among the best employees.

When it comes to external candidates, portfolio sites and career-oriented social media platforms could be the backbone of your talent acquisition strategy. Many candidates today, however, are passive candidates who do not actively look for a new job. One way to find and start engaging with passive talent is through networking events.

4. Enact well-balanced engagement strategies

Maintaining the talent pipeline requires constant and appropriate engagement. It requires a delicate balance between communicating enough to keep potential job candidates interested and not being overwhelming.

Thus, it is better to ask the candidate what media they wish to use to stay in contact. Communicate with them clearly and honestly to avoid creating false expectations. Show interest in the candidate’s career aspirations and the challenges that they face.

5. Re-evaluate as often as possible

Nothing stays the same for long, and your talent pipeline should reflect that. Keep reassessing the candidates in light of their changing qualities and your business goals. 

Your candidates' resumes might have changed since the last time you extracted data from them; thus, it’s important to keep adding fresh data to your candidate database.

building your talent pipeline

Talent pipeline vs talent pool

Talent pipeline is sometimes used synonymously with another term - talent pool. There are, however, significant differences that make these two concepts distinct from each other.

Talent pipelines or HR pipelines, as described above, are talent acquisition funnels filled with candidates who qualify to fill particular positions in your firms. On the other hand, talent pools are made up of potential hires to be considered in the recruitment process. You would look at the pools to find qualified talent to fill your talent pipeline.

Another term often used in this concept is talent communities. These refer to either talent pools or talent pipelines where candidates can communicate with each other and network. Your talent pipeline can lead to the creation of talent communities, thus providing additional value to the candidates as well as an incentive to stay in the pipeline.

Data for talent pipelining

A 2019 quality of hire trends report has shown that using data to drive decisions is among the top characteristics shared by companies that improve the quality of hire. The success of data-driven decisions in HR could have only grown with AI’s increasing capacity to extract actionable insights from data.

The most important data, such as information about previous experience, can be found in employee data.

Additionally, it is worth looking at company employee review data. Insights about what employees say about their working conditions will help nurture the talent in the pipeline and set the course for creating a good candidate experience.

Various public web sources contain data that can be useful for talent pipelining, such as online job posting platforms or networking platforms for professionals. Professionally collected data from these sources organized into extensive datasets is what you need to transform your recruitment efforts and create a successful talent pipeline.

Talent pipeline management

Supervising a talent pipeline means creatively and efficiently managing lots of crucial data. Having the help of software appears to be pivotal for success. In fact, companies that excel at talent acquisition are 4 times more likely to use software for talent pipeline management than those that don’t show such excellent results.

Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) and Application Tracking Systems (ATS) are still the pillars of software-assisted HR pipeline management. With the constant development of such tools, automation in HR data management can be expected to grow. 

Such talent pipeline management automation should be balanced out with sincere human communication with the candidates. As mentioned, when it comes to engaging candidates, the apps and tools should be discussed with the talent in the pipeline for their convenience.

Wrapping up

A strong talent pipeline provides an organization with potential candidates for crucial positions. To have an efficient talent pipeline strategy, an HR executive needs to have extensive knowledge of their company’s goals and labor market conditions.

Leveraging various types of employee data and technological solutions for data management and analysis allows for an efficient recruitment process and the best results.