New Research Reveals Current Struggles of Candidate Pipeline Management

What recruiting leaders are saying about cultivating the candidates they need today.

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Dec 7, 2023

When the CandE Benchmark Research Program (now part of ERE Media) embarked on its first independent research project inspired by the needs of talent acquisition leaders today, we created a research advisory board and asked TA leaders directly about their recruiting and hiring priorities and which topics they would like to cover.

The first topic the research advisory board chose was pipeline management: the process of tracking and managing the flow of candidates across job types throughout the hiring process, from employer branding to application and from interview to offer.

However, before we even drafted the first survey question, one of our board members, Cathy Henesey, VP of talent acquisition from AdventHealth, wanted us to ensure we addressed what pipeline management means to employers today. How do employers of varying sizes across industries define it? And do they define it?

For Cathy, pipeline management is all about cultivating a group of candidates ready to be hired when you need them. If an employer did this 100% perfectly, they’d have a one-day time-to-fill metric.

Of course, Cathy, just like all of us, knows that no employer is doing this 100% perfectly. Yet they strive to, and that’s what this research report is all about — examining the challenges, solutions, and measures of success when it comes to candidate pipeline management.

When we asked TA leaders and recruiters how they characterized their current job applicant pipeline management, over 200 responded in August 2023. Twenty-seven percent of responding employers stated that they have candidates always ready to apply now, versus nearly another 25% that stated they have candidates ready in three to 12+ months to apply. And 14% said they don’t have a specific definition.

This begs the question of why in this hiring market.

On a related note, only 31% of responding employers said they converted more than 16% of possible applicants into actual applicants from interest to application. This is an uphill battle for most employers of any hiring volume, and the application itself is the most limiting of experiences for all job candidates.

Recruiting and hiring has been in an economic and labor market frenetic flux since the pandemic. Before recruiting teams can nurture job candidates and keep them engaged, they must be found and their interest activated, externally and internally.

But sourcing candidates for open positions has never been more challenging. Too many employers just aren’t satisfied with their results, nor do they understand if their sourcing investments are paying off. According to Aptitude Research’s “The State of Sourcing” report, “75% of companies are not happy with their sourcing strategy, and 65% of companies don’t measure the ROI of their sourcing investments.”

Meanwhile, some of the key takeaways from the CandE Benchmark Research Program’s first report, “New Talent Acquisition Research: Pipeline Management 2023,” include:

  • Pipeline management challenges include engaging passive talent, having adequate employee referrals, and lack of candidate diversity
  • Only a third of employers said they were very satisfied with their recruiting team’s overall ability to effectively source, attract, and manage qualified candidates in their candidate pipelines.
  • Key candidate pipeline management measurements include candidate core skill sets, candidate job readiness, and candidate interest and willingness to apply.
  • Key technologies employers currently use to attract and engage candidates and manage their pipelines include the ATS, candidate matching and sourcing platforms/software, and job distribution platforms/ software.

The report, which you may view here, delves into the processes and technologies TA teams use to draw high-quality candidates into their talent pipelines, manage pipeline strength for hiring managers, and keep candidates engaged until they’re hired or rejected.

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