How to build and manage your talent pipeline

Last updated:
March 30, 2023
March 30, 2023
min read
Brendan McConnell
talent pipeline
Table of contents

Picture this: You have a constant supply of highly qualified talent on hand to select from whenever a vacancy opens up in your company. Isn't that something? No rush to fill positions, sort through a ton of resumes to identify the best candidates, or hold a ton of interviews. Sounds like recruitment heaven, doesn't it? It's supposed to!

This endless supply of high-quality talent is known as a "talent pipeline," and it's becoming a popular method for firms that want to find and keep the top individuals before anybody else. But what does it entail?

In this article, we will explore it in depth, outline its differences with a talent pool, and discuss the benefits it brings to your organization. We will also highlight tips you can use to create an efficient talent pipeline model and how to manage one effectively. Let's dive in.

What is a talent pipeline?

A talent pipeline is an ever-evolving group of candidates your organization may wish to recruit in the future, either to fill new positions or to replace important positions already open.

Candidates with desirable skills should ideally make up your talent pool. As a result, having a talent pipeline drives the demand for the ongoing development of top people.

A talent pipeline will typically include two categories of applicants:

  • Internal applicants: Employees already employed by your company who have the potential for positions in various management or departmental positions.
  • External Applicants: Candidates who have previously interacted with your company and have been determined to possess critical abilities for upcoming or present tasks.

From an appeal and acquisition standpoint, it is much more sensible for your recruiting staff to prioritize external applicants over internal candidates. Internal candidates are more likely to emerge due to your performance or learning and development activities.

Nonetheless, a talent pipeline depends on your company's capacity to quickly 'activate' a combination of both active and passive candidates. When it comes to your personnel planning, it provides a higher level of adaptability and durability.

What is the difference between a talent pipeline and a talent pool?

Most people will often use the phrase "talent pipeline" and "talent pool" interchangeably. However, they are two different things. If you are creating a robust and effective talent pipeline model, it is essential to know the differences between the two. 

A talent pool comprises potential employees who could fill open jobs in your company. These applicants need to be thoroughly screened and may not be a good fit for the business. There will always be turnover in a talent pool. Therefore building up a large talent pool will speed up the hiring process for the talent acquisition (TA) team.

On the other hand, a talent pipeline comprises applicants previously found to be qualified for a specific post. It includes all the procedures and mechanisms required to find talent and establish connections.

A talent pipeline necessitates getting to know them over time, allowing you to understand the applicant fully. It allows more time to learn about someone's interests, objectives, and desires. This gives the applicant more time to determine whether the company's culture fits them.

What are the benefits of a talent pipeline?

There are many upsides to having a talent pipeline, all aimed at helping reduce the time, effort, and effort it will take your HR Department to recruit for open positions. Below are five reasons why you need to start developing your talent pool today:

1. Decreased time to hire

In most cases, your hiring team and the entire company suffer greatly when recruiters cannot fill open positions quickly. Research shows that the average time to hire for most positions is 41 days. Your time to employ is significantly shortened when you have a strong talent pipeline. You'll better position yourself to hire more rapidly by cultivating relationships with qualified prospects.

2. Improved talent quality

When pressured to fill a vacancy, you're more likely to make rash and maybe bad hiring judgments. A talent pipeline enables you to keep a pool of qualified applicants for open positions or future openings inside the business. This shortens the recruitment process and keeps you from making rash or bad hiring choices and bearing the high expense of a poor selection.

3. Better candidate experience

The conventional hiring process may only partially engage candidates. A talent pipeline requires a hands-on strategy since candidates must be developed and nurtured before hiring. Compared to the conventional tactic of publishing job postings and waiting for applications, this approach is far more candidate-friendly and will allow a better candidate experience.

4. Lower hiring costs

The days of spending money on job adverts are long gone. Now you can choose from a pool of approachable individuals who are qualified for the position. A talent pipeline can lower advertising expenses. More crucially, it can do away with the preliminary interviewing of applicants as you already did when you added individuals to the talent pool.

5. Engaging passive candidates

Having a talent pipeline enables you to keep in touch with potential candidates who might be re-approachable in the future. Also, the connection at the initial encounter will work to your advantage as there's a better chance that the applicant will reply and possibly join your organization.

Where can I find people to put into my talent pipeline?

Talent pipeline candidates can be employed elsewhere, passively looking for new work, a current employee, or even a student who shows potential. If you’ve talked to them, and you both have agreed that they would be a good fit for your company at some point in the future, you can add them into your pipeline.

Then, when a hiring manager tells you that a position has become available, all you have to do is pick up the phone and start calling!

How do you create a talent pipeline?

Unlike a talent pool, which typically involves collecting unknown candidates through job advertisements, talent pipelines require a bit more strategic thought and hustle.

The goal of a candidate pipeline is to have pre-screened candidates for a variety of roles that may become available in the future. As such, you need to consider your future workforce needs, not just your current ones.

This means that you should be meeting with your executive team and your hiring managers to get an overview of where the company will be in 1-2 years.

You should also get to know your company’s turnover rates, succession plans, and any other factors that may lead to talent gaps. From there, you can determine where your future talent gaps will likely be, and what types of candidates you’ll need to fill them. You can’t fill future gaps without having an indication for what lies in store later down the line.

Once you know who you will need to hire in the future, you can start to build out your talent pipeline. Like all networking, there are a variety of ways to meet like-minded people in your industry to add to your talent pipeline.

Some common techniques to build your talent pipeline include:

  • Joining and participating in industry groups on LinkedIn. Connect with users who show potential and interest in your company.
  • Attending industry events, and discussing your company with fellow attendees.
  • Connecting with future job seekers at college job fairs. For some of the most competitive positions, this is a great way to make contact with the future workforce early.
  • Offering internships to recent graduates. You can either develop them within your company or stay in touch with them afterward while they gain more experience.
  • Ask the hiring managers in your company who to talk to. They will undoubtedly have deep networks in their chosen fields.
  • Any other networking technique you can think of to meet and connect with professionals in your industry.

Now that you’ve filled your pipeline with new potential candidates, the final step is maintaining your connections so that you can reach out to them easily when needed.

Managing your talent pipeline  

The last thing you want to do is build your pipeline only lose track of your candidates when it’s time to fill a position.

Similar to talent pools, the best way to manage contacts in a candidate pipeline is by using an Applicant Tracking System, or ATS.

Once you’ve made a connection with a pipeline candidate, input that person’s contact information into your ATS for safekeeping. When a position becomes available, you can look back into your ATS to see if any pre-screened candidates are qualified, and reach out to them first.

It’s also important to remember that, as with any connection, you should maintain some sort of relationship with your pipeline candidates. This will ensure that, when you do contact them, it hasn’t been a couple of years since they last heard from you.

Plus, keeping your candidates warm ensures a higher chance of interest when a job does come up. It makes the candidate feel valued and recognized pre-interview, meaning they’ll get a glimpse into how your company treats their staff.

Sending your connections a quick message, sharing industry-relevant content, or even just checking in to see if they’ve decided to start looking for a new gig are all great ways to keep your company at the top of their mind.

What comes next is up to you

The talent pipeline model changes the traditional hiring procedure into one that is natural, ongoing, and advantageous to both employers and prospects. Building a talent pipeline is a lot of work in the beginning. However, regardless of your company's size or qualities, it is a valuable investment.

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