Talent Pipeline: Definition, Benefits and How To Build One

Updated February 3, 2023

While it was previously common for companies to rely on organic applications, many are shifting to more proactive strategies. Approaches like talent pipelining involve organizations building relationships with potential candidates before they even consider working for the company. Implementing this approach can help an organization fill open positions faster and attract talented professionals that allow them to remain competitive in their industries.

In this article, we explain what talent pipelining is, discuss the practice’s benefits and share steps for building a pool of qualified candidates.

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What is talent pipelining?

Talent pipelining is the process of identifying and developing relationships with individuals who have the potential to benefit your organization in the future. This recruiting strategy is largely proactive, meaning you look for potential hires and connect with them before they’re even considering looking for a different job than the one they currently have. Many recruiters and human resources professionals compile potential future recruits in a talent pool that they can use if and when jobs open up in their organization. Most recruiting professionals who use talent pipelining emphasize the relationship they develop with potential future candidates.

Related: Guide to Talent Acquisition

Benefits of a talent pipeline

Talent pipelining is a popular recruiting strategy with many perks for individuals and organizations. To help you decide if talent pipelining is right for your organization, here are some potential benefits to consider:

Integrated recruiter role

Using a talent pipeline helps your recruiters fill a role that can integrate with the company's industry. Recruiters in a talent pipeline scenario often act as consultants and career guides, so they must learn as much as they can about the roles their hires will fill. This can be a fulfilling experience for recruiting professionals. Close business integration can also help recruiters find the best fit hires for each role.

Related: Recruiter Roles: 12 Responsibilities of Recruiters

More meaningful contacts

Talent pipelining involves developing relationships with talented industry professionals, often long before they’re on the market for a new role. These often deeper and more meaningful connections can be rewarding for both recruiters and prospective hires. This can also boost hiring quality because talented professionals might be more interested in working for companies that invest time and interest in their careers.

Related: What Is Contingency Recruiting? (Plus How It Works)

Quicker hiring

Maintaining a talent pipeline can expedite the recruiting and hiring process. When a position becomes available, a recruiter can immediately begin exploring potential new hires within their established pipeline. Though some professionals in the pipeline might be happy in their current role, others might also be interested in a career change. It may be faster to attract and hire these individuals because they already have a positive professional relationship with the recruiter and the company.

Related: What Does a Technical Recruiter Do?

Good company fit

Talent pipelining can help recruiters gauge how well their contacts will fit in different teams long before hiring them. For example, in developing professional relationships with possible new hires, recruiters can find out more about a prospective hire's preferred work style and environment. They can also learn about their potential hires' collaborative skills and social preferences, which can support the goal of well-rounded and productive teams.

Related: 18 Effective Recruiting Sourcing Strategies To Use

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How to build a talent pipeline

If you’re considering developing a talent pipeline in your business, here are some steps you can use:

1. Establish recruiting goals

When you’re developing a new process for the first time, it’s important to establish clear goals. This is true when developing a talent pipeline. Consider what you'd like your talent pipeline to accomplish, how you'd like to establish contacts and the extent to which you'd like to maintain relationships with potential candidates. Consider using your organization's mission or KPIs (key performance indicators) to help shape your goals. Try using the SMART goal framework to structure your objectives, developing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

Related: How To Write a SMART Goal (And How They Work)

2. Identify potential hires

Next, develop a strategy for finding potential new hires. Consider using online resources such as professional social media sites. You might also host or attend functions such as job fairs to make connections with individuals who might be curious about the job market in your industry. Try using creative strategies such as providing referral incentives as well, because word-of-mouth can help build your network of potential new hires.

Related: A Guide to Recruiting Methods: Benefits and When To Use

3. Initiate a dialogue

When you have identified potential hires, begin a dialogue with each of them. Leverage in-person networking when possible to help support personal professional relationships. Try connecting with possible future hires at industry events such as conferences or other gatherings. You might also develop a well-articulated email to send to new contacts in which you introduce yourself, explain your company and open a friendly dialogue.

Related: 10 Types of Networking Events

4. Develop relationships

Continue nurturing your connections with the professionals in your pipeline. Early in your relationship with each possible future hire, perform a soft vetting process to learn more about their skills, background and personality. When you know they might be a good fit for your company in some capacity in the future, stay connected by making periodic contact. You might use phone calls, emails or in-person conversations to ensure you’re still aware of one another's circumstances and professional needs.

Related: Data-Driven Recruiting: Definition, Benefits and How To Use It

5. Interview prospective hires

When you have an opening on your team, you can turn to your roster of pipeline connections to begin filling the role. Consider the individuals you've connected with and determine which might be a good fit for a particular job. You can reach out to multiple candidates in case some are uninterested in making a career change at that time.

Related: Interviewing an Employee: How To Successfully Conduct an Interview

6. Maintain connections

It’s possible that a candidate won't be available for a certain position. They might also be available but perhaps a better fit for a different role. Maintain connections with potential hires who you have considered previously because they might be a good candidate for a future position. These long-term relationships can also help build your pipeline further by way of referrals and network connections.

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