The Recruitment Funnel: A Comprehensive Guide

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The Recruitment Funnel: A Comprehensive Guide

A recruitment funnel helps talent managers attract, evaluate and hire talented employees. When done well, a hiring funnel can simplify a time-consuming recruitment process for your organization.

This article will explain what a recruitment funnel is, the stages in a funnel, and the steps you can follow to create your hiring funnel.

Let’s dive in.

What is the recruitment funnel? 
Recruitment funnel stages
1. Awareness
2. Attraction
3. Interest
4. Interest
5. Evaluating
6. Interviewing
7. Hiring

What is the recruitment funnel? 

A recruitment funnel is a framework that defines the recruiting process. The funnel covers the talent acquisition process from the time you post your job description to when your candidate signs an offer letter. The process begins with attracting as many potential candidates as possible at the top of the funnel and narrowing candidates down until you’re left with only the top applicants.

The hiring funnel has different stages, each with its own objectives and outcomes. This helps a recruitment specialist understand the performance of the organization’s hiring process and know where to improve.

Why is a hiring funnel important?

The goal of a hiring funnel is to build a scalable, systematic, and effective process for attracting and hiring top talent. It helps HR and the business to break down the hiring process into stages that help in gathering data to help the organization understand where they are in the recruitment process.

According to Matthew Ramirez, CEO at Rephrasely, data from the recruitment funnel  has proved to be invaluable: “We used data to identify bottlenecks in our hiring process and made changes accordingly. We discovered that our application process was too long and that’s why we had high dropout rates. We shortened the amount of time candidates had to apply to five minutes. And this helped us fill open positions.”

By analyzing each stage of your recruitment funnel, you will be able to determine areas you need to focus more on in order to attract top talent, successfully move them through the hiring process and increase job offer acceptance rates. 

Recruitment funnel stages

A hiring funnel has different stages, each with its own set of goals and outcomes. While each organization may have its unique recruitment funnel, here are common stages:

Recruitment Funnel Stages

1. Awareness

The top of the funnel begins with building your organization’s brand awareness. At this stage, potential candidates may not be aware of your company and the services you offer. By building your brand’s recognition, potential candidates will immediately know of your business and may be more interested in working for you. In fact, 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job.

What HR can do:

  • Audit your current employer brand: Do research to understand what people are saying about your organization.
  • Create campaigns: Team up with your marketing department to create brand awareness campaigns. 
  • Choose the right channels: Audit your social media presence to understand where your candidates are most likely to be active.

2. Attraction

The next step in your hiring funnel is all about attracting job seekers and candidates to the specific open roles.

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At this stage, potential candidates already know about your brand but have not applied for a position at your company yet. The main activities at this stage are:

  • Writing recruitment ads and job descriptions
  • Advertising job openings in different places, including job boards, social media, and your careers page
  • Finding creative ways to attract candidates, such as outreach campaigns

What HR can do:

  • Develop well-crafted job descriptions: Avoid jargon and ensure your ideal candidate can quickly understand the responsibilities and roles of the position in your job description. Optimize your title and job descriptions your candidates will search for online.
  • Adopt programmatic advertising: This enables you to target your ideal candidate based on demographics. 
  • Create referral bonuses for your employees: Employee referrals are a great way to expand your reach to potential candidates, particularly as the employee will probably only refer people within their network who they believe are a good fit.  Create a referral bonus program and inform your employees about it. 
  • Get hiring managers to reach out: A LinkedIn report found that 56% of candidates are more likely to respond if a hiring manager reaches out.

3. Interest

Now that you have attracted candidates to your organization, the next steps lie with the potential candidates. In the Interest phase of the recruitment funnel, potential candidates are actively researching your company by visiting your website or your social media channels to understand more about what you offer.  

According to LinkedIn, 53% of candidates get information about the organization from their website, 38% from LinkedIn, and 32% from contacts at the company. 

At this stage, your role will be to:

  • Optimize your digital presence, particularly on your own website and social media platforms
  • Ensure that information is available to inform the potential candidates
  • Provide candidates with any requested information.

What HR can do:

  • Boost your employer branding: Conduct a brand audit to understand how the market perceives your brand. Review Google search results about your business. Read comments on your social media pages to gauge the responses on your audience and review what information you, as a company, are providing on your website and social media channels.
  • Make information accessible: Make it easy for potential candidates to access information by adding a FAQ section on your website. Create videos that answer commonly asked questions about your recruitment process or shares hiring success stories. Update your About Us and Careers pages to showcase the best of your business.

4. Applying

Finally, your potential candidates have begun applying to your available positions. It’s interesting to note that it generally takes two to three months for most companies to move candidates from the application stage to hire. So ensuring that the right candidates are successfully applying is an important milestone to achieve. 

Research from found that most job applications have a completion rate of only 10.6% due to the complexity of the application process, which indicates that it is crucial to get the application stage right.  

Building a good candidate experience is critical at this stage. Recruiters need to focus on: 

  1. Ensuring that the application process is not too complex to reduce drop-off
  2. Keeping candidates informed of the process
  3. Continuously assessing areas of improvement within your application process.

What HR can do:

  • Keep it simple: Make the application process easy by using simple language, asking fewer questions, and making the process more engaging for the applicant. 
  • Communicate often and early: Communicate early on about what candidates can expect during the process. 
  • Send a personalized confirmation email: Let candidates know about the next steps and when they will hear from you again.

Google simplifies its hiring process 

Google provides an easily navigable page on their Careers page to help candidates understand the hiring process
Source: Google provides an easily navigable page on their Careers page to help candidates understand the hiring process

5. Evaluating

The goal at this stage as a recruitment specialist is to evaluate your potential candidates’ skills, experience, and knowledge in detail. This is a challenging stage because you may receive hundreds of applications and don’t have the time or resources to manage all of them. 

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To help you successfully evaluate applicants, you may want to consider setting tests to gauge candidates’ skill levels, competencies or even personality tests. 

Additionally, a quality ATS will help automatically check, sort, and shortlist potential applications at scale.

What HR can do:

  • Test for soft and technical skills: Testing for both of these skills will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate.
  • Conduct pre-screening: Use both your ATS and manual screening to identify candidates that match your job requirements.
  • Select candidates for interviewing: Select the stand-out candidates that will move to the interviewing phase of your process. 

Jack Underwood, CEO at Circuit, recommends assigning some “homework” to evaluate an issue and brainstorm solutions before the interview. 

“You can [then] get a feel for how the candidate may perform on the job. Let them set their own deadline to see their time management skills. Some excellent candidates don’t interview well, this activity is a good equalizer.”

6. Interviewing

After creating a shortlist of your potential candidates, the next step of your funnel is to conduct interviews

This stage is usually the most time-consuming, a LinkedIn survey reports that interviewing candidates can take up to 7 hours a week for small businesses, and the more interview rounds, the more hours will be spent on interviewing applicants. 

It is recommended to have 3 interview rounds as your benchmark. This will, of course, be impacted by factors such as whether you are hiring for a senior or more technical position. However, too many interviews might leave your candidates feeling drained and less likely to accept an offer later on, or worse, drop out of the interview process.  

The work at this stage as a recruiter is:

  • Providing the interviewee with information about the interview and the process.
  • Organizing a hiring team to conduct tier-based interviews.
  • Preparing the hiring team to ask the right questions and avoid unconscious bias. 

Also, your interview focus should factor in the candidate’s expectations, needs, and wants.

What HR can do:

  • Set your candidates up for success: Provide your candidates with information to help them succeed in the interview rounds. For example, provide them with information about the company, expectations and sample questions they can expect.
  • Efficiently structure the interviews: Divide the questions across the interviewers so that more topics can be covered efficiently. Ensure that the interview time is managed well, without leaving important questions till the very end when candidates may feel rushed. 
  • Provide prompt feedback: Post interviews provide your candidates with feedback on how the interview went and what the next steps will be.

McKinsey sets up candidates for success

McKinsey provides additional information on how to prepare for interviews and what they look for in their candidates
Source: McKinsey provides additional information on how to prepare for interviews and what they look for in their candidates 

7. Hiring

Congratulations. You’re now at the end of the hiring funnel, ready to make a formal job offer to the ideal candidate. At this stage, top candidates are evaluating offers from other companies and recruiters.

To increase your chances of the candidate accepting your offer, do this:

  • Take time to learn about the candidate’s objectives and motivations
  • Understand what they are looking for in a position
  • Know their career goals in the coming years
  • Ask about the benefits they want in a new job.

Once your candidate has accepted the offer and signed, communicate the next steps in your onboarding process. 

What HR can do:

  • Bring more to the table than compensation: Compensation is important to candidates, but that won’t always be enough. Showcase why your company is a better fit for the candidate and how you can advance their career.
  • Tell a riveting company story: Candidates want to feel that they are a part of something greater. Explain your core values and company goals and describe how the role will make an impact within the organization. 
  • Describe skill growth opportunities: Candidates want to know that their roles will be challenging and can lead to additional growth. 

Key takeaways

  • A streamlined hiring process: A hiring funnel gives your company the opportunity to create an efficient hiring process step by step.
  • Create your recruitment funnel: Follow our seven-step checklist to know how to build your company’s hiring funnel. 
  • Keep track of your hiring funnel metrics: Measure and optimize every step of your hiring funnel to know where you need to improve.
  • Prioritize candidate experience: All the steps in a recruitment funnel enable your organization to give candidates a smooth applying experience.


What is a recruitment funnel? 

A recruitment funnel is a framework that is followed in a talent acquisition process. The funnel covers the hiring process from the time you advertise for a role vacancy to when you hire a qualified candidate. 

How is the recruitment funnel calculated?

You can measure and optimize your recruitment funnel by analyzing recruitment metrics such as source of hire, conversion rate, and cost per hire.

What are the 7 stages of recruitment?

There are 7 stages of the recruitment funnel: awareness, interest, application, evaluation, interviewing and hiring. 

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