Why recruiters want to ditch the recruitment funnel

Written by: Sanne van Baar Sanne van Baar

Read in: Nederlands

The idea of applying a recruitment funnel on your activities to hire new employees, is wrong.

Ok, hear us out.

Let’s nuance this bold statement a bit. Yes, it has probably served you for a long time and still does (!) in high volume recruiting. But let’s be honest: if you want to hire talent for the future, it is not the way to go.

Why not? The traditional recruitment funnel is based on Lewis’ advertising model AIDA, which is now already 100 years old. The fact that it is still in use, is worth an applause. But did you hire scarce techies like developers, engineers and data analysts by ‘pushing’ them your funnel?

We guess not.

So how dó we hire them? This was the main question to be answered at the third boardroom session of Recruiters United and Endouble.

Recruiting Brainfood’s Hung Lee, initiator and curator of this well known newsletter, hosted the event. Over twenty industry leaders joined him at the KPMG head quarters in Amstelveen to discuss this current theme.

What have we done so far?

Let’s look at what we do today to beat the competition in finding the best tech talent.

1. We hire more recruiters

Here’s a problem: good - and specialized - recruiters are hard to find and very expensive. Salaries for tech recruiters in Silicon Valley show a range from 46 to 123.000 dollars, with an average salary of 88.000 a year. (We’ve heard of spikes in salaries upto 600.000 dollars. Jikes.)

2. We improve our employer brand

In our effort to beat the competition to show the job market how great we are, we build on our employer brand.

IMG-20190523-WA0001 (1)

3. We buy more HR Tech tools

Investments in tools to improve our recruiting practices are going North West. We buy technology to improve our engagement with candidates, to personalize the candidate experience and to ‘target’ candidates at exactly the right moment.

4. We upskill our talent acquisition teams

The best investment to beat the competition, if you ask Hung. “We have neglected ourselves as a function, but I see a shift in our field. We are trying to find ways to get ‘our guys’ to become better at their job."

Here’s the thing: most of these activities have not given companies a headstart in the competition of tying scarce talent.

Why does the funnel not work?

Hung sees that many companies solve their recruitment issues in the same way: they use the recruitment funnel to standardize the recruitment process. Which makes sense for companies that operate in multiple countries or aim to recruit a vast amount of candidates.

The funnel makes us work in 5 ways:

  1. Uni-directional
  2. Sequential
  3. Contingent
  4. Slow to change
  5. Rigid

For many talent acquisition teams, this recruitment funnel has become a locked-in system: ‘this is how we recruit’, process over people. And let’s be honest: for highly motivated candidates it still works quite well.

For software engineers, developers and other scarce profiles however, it doesn’t. They often have a low motivation to change jobs. And in contrary to our rigid recruitment processes, they are trained to reject this way of thinking in developing products.

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 12.55.06

In other words: recruiters and engineers each work with different operating models and often don’t understand each other. This has some serious impact on the candidate experience.

How do we change this?

If companies want to beat the competition, they need to hire differently, Hung explained at the boardroom session. More flexible, to be specific.

Hung: “Internally companies use agile methods to innovate and stay ahead. But even when they do, they stop at the door. They don’t use this agile approach in their interactions with candidates.”

What happened if talent acquisition teams would adopt a developers ‘operating system’? If  employers approached recruitment like developers and engineers approach the design of a product?

1. Prioritize interactions over process

The police might have ‘the right to kettle’, we don’t.

The standard recruitment funnel is designed to reduce interactions - it is there to 'funnel' candidates efficiently through the hiring process. Whilst this may be useful in certain contexts, it is not effective for highly skilled, in demand candidates.

A good alternative would be to create the social space to have high frequency of interactions with the community you care about.

We see that effective tech recruiters have built communities around a topic, a specific work field or programming language. (Without bombarding the members with job offers.)

2.  Customer (candidate) first approach to interaction

Interactions with candidates preferably take place on an equal footing. This is the 'normal way' in which people meet and get to know each other. This is emphatically not the case when you approach the candidate with a standardised recruiting funnel, with fixed stages.

source: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/reply-id

The candidate needs to be in control of the pace, have agency to decide whether to escalate or not or leave or not with no prejudice.

As an employer you want to be sensitive to this, and provide different paths to employment for job candidates.

3. Collaborate over assessment

The agile way of working also sometimes means saying you don’t have the answer. A minimum viable product is never perfect either.

Hung described a company for whom this meant asking the community to help fill in the job description for Tech Product Manager. Great results: they received over hundred reactions and were in immediate contact with a group of potential candidates.

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