8 Essential Steps To Build a Talent Pipeline

8 Essential Steps To Build a Talent Pipeline

People are critical to an organization’s success. Having an effective strategy in place to identify and engage qualified workers is essential. Given today’s competitive hiring market and evolving in-demand skills, solely focusing your recruitment efforts on roles that are currently open no longer works.

Forward-thinking companies prioritize building talent pipelines to address both existing and future hiring needs. A talent pipeline is a pool of potential candidates who are qualified to fill relevant positions when the opportunity arises. While building a long-term talent pipeline may seem daunting, following a list of proactive steps can help simplify the process.

If your team currently has an immediate need to fill critical skills gaps or grow your talent pool, consider partnering with an independent talent acquisition and recruiting specialist on Upwork. Through Project Catalog™, access fixed-priced projects and one-on-one consultations that align with your specific talent pipeline needs and get started right away. Search available talent acquisition and recruiting projects now.

How to build a talent pipeline:

  1. Define your talent needs
  2. Develop an appealing employer brand
  3. Engage with potential talent
  4. Implement a referral program
  5. Create internship and trainee programs
  6. Support a memorable candidate experience
  7. Maintain consistent communication
  8. Utilize a candidate relationship management system

1. Define your talent needs

Understanding your overall talent needs can help ensure you build a talent pipeline with workers who can support your strategic business goals.

As in-demand skills continue to evolve, defining both your short- and long-term talent needs is essential to adapting to shifting business priorities. A survey of 800 executives and 800 knowledge workers published by edX found that executives estimate nearly half (49%) of the skills that existed in their workforce in  2023 won’t be relevant in 2025. Additionally, the executives surveyed feel 47% of their workforce is unprepared for the future of work.

As you define your talent needs, consider the following questions:

  • What are the short- and long-term business objectives?
  • Which roles or soft and hard skills are needed to achieve key business outcomes?
  • How may your talent needs evolve as your organization grows, adds new offerings, or incorporates new technology?
  • What does the job market and competition look like for positions you need to fill?  
  • Where do workers with the skills you need look for open roles?
  • Are remote workers or freelance talent a fit for certain roles?
  • Do you have effective succession planning in place to backfill roles when team members leave or transition internally?
  • Does your team conduct regular talent reviews to measure workers’ skills and potential, as well as skills gaps across the organization?
  • How does the business currently track or measure the talent pipeline?
  • What’s currently working with your recruiting, talent acquisition, and talent pipelining strategy and what can be improved?

2. Develop an appealing employer brand

Your employer brand is the perception prospective candidates and other individuals outside your organization have about what working for your team is like. An appealing employer brand can help you attract motivated workers for your open positions and build a pipeline of passive candidates eager to join your team when the right opportunity is available.

A survey of 600 candidates conducted by iHire found that 76% of respondents research potential employers always or most of the time before applying. The research also found that about 65% of respondents believe employee reviews and testimonials are the most important information when considering applying to an open role. Building a strong employer brand and creating a positive work environment can help increase the likelihood of positive team member reviews and testimonials.

Here are some best practices to develop an engaging employer brand:

  • Clearly define your organization’s mission, vision, and core values and promote this information on your careers page and across recruitment materials
  • Write a concise employee value proposition (EVP), which outlines what your organization has to offer workers
  • Outline potential career paths on your company website
  • Highlight team members success stories and testimonials on your careers page and social media channels
  • Share other engaging content on your social media channels, such as office tour videos, Q&As with members of your leadership team, details about your company culture, and recaps of team events
  • Encourage existing workers to leave reviews on Glassdoor and similar employee review sites
  • Apply for local and industry-specific best place to work awards

3. Engage with potential talent

An essential step in building an effective talent pipeline is identifying, reaching, and engaging with potential talent. However, according to a survey of more than 450 HR and talent acquisition leaders conducted by Symphony Talent, while 48% of respondents say building a talent pipeline is their top priority in 2024, 68% find reaching the right target audience challenging.

The following tips can help you reach and engage with both passive and active talent as you grow your talent pipeline:

  • Leverage talent sourcing tools to identify and send personalized communication to qualified talent
  • Promote your open positions and employer brand on social media networks including LinkedIn, X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
  • Interact with prospective candidates on LinkedIn or other professional networks
  • Host virtual or in-person career fairs, networking events, or office tours
  • Create a talent community for interested job seekers and add an option to join the community on your careers page if a role isn’t immediately available
  • Develop alumni groups for former team members on LinkedIn or another platform and encourage individuals to return if the right opportunity is available

4. Implement a referral program

While sourcing tools and networking can help you identify and attract workers for your talent pipeline, one of your best sources of talent may be referrals from your existing team members. Referrals are often among the most qualified candidates because current individuals on your team want to work with others who will help drive positive business outcomes.

Other benefits of referrals include cost savings compared to traditional job boards and reduced hiring time, as referred individuals can bypass initial candidate screening steps.

Consider implementing a formal employee referral program to ensure the process is efficient and user-friendly for current team members. Steps you can take to create and launch a referral program include:

  • Developing a simple process and channel for team members to submit referrals
  • Communicating your referral program across the organization, such as on the company intranet, through email communications, and during team and company meetings
  • Including a field on job applications for candidates to indicate whether they were referred by an existing worker
  • Defining standardized incentives, such as referral bonuses, gift cards, and other rewards
  • Including additional incentives for leadership or hard-to-fill positions
  • Offering non-monetary recognition, including shoutouts in team meetings and thank you notes
  • Leveraging a referral software solution to centralize referral details and track key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the success of your program

5. Create internship and trainee programs

While building a talent pipeline for leadership roles and other more senior-level positions is important, engaging early career professionals can help your team develop eager, motivated workers to grow into future leaders at your organization. Many companies offer internship, apprenticeship, or trainee opportunities to college students, recent graduates, and other individuals in the early stages of their career journey or in the process of a career transition.

Internships are short-term, professional learning experiences, often completed during a semester or over the summer. During this time, individuals gain real-world work experience and build professional connections in exchange for resume experience or course credit. Some companies also offer interns a stipend or hourly rate.

Offering internships is mutually beneficial to both workers and organizations. These opportunities enable workers and employers to collaborate during a trial period and determine whether a long-term relationship may be the right fit. Depending on your specific budget and talent needs, you can transition high-performing interns into full-time, entry-level positions.

Engaging interns for long-term roles can help save time and resources spent on hiring and decrease the learning curve, as interns will already have experience working with your organization. If your team doesn’t have immediate hiring needs, you can add interns’ contact information to your broader talent community or pipeline and consider them for future talent needs.

6. Support a memorable candidate experience

The candidate experience can make or break the first impression prospective team members have about working for your organization. A memorable, positive candidate experience will excite top talent about joining your team, while a negative recruitment or hiring process may turn workers away.

CareerPlug surveyed 500 individuals who applied to a job in the previous year. According to the results, 76% of respondents said that a positive experience impacted their decision to accept an offer from a current or recent employer. Additionally, 52% of respondents have declined a job offer due to a poor experience.
Some ways to support a memorable and engaging candidate experience include:

  • Creating a user-friendly job application to keep talent engaged and increase application completion rates
  • Including a step-by-step overview of the hiring process and expected timeline on your careers page and in job descriptions
  • Offering flexible options for interview scheduling
  • Training team members to conduct effective, engaging, and respectful interviews
  • Streamlining the total number of interviews to be respectful of individuals’ time  
  • Holding recruiters, hiring managers, and others involved in the interview process accountable for starting and ending interviews on time
  • Reaching out to prospective workers with advanced notice if interviews or other recruitment process steps need to be rescheduled
  • Allowing time at the end of interviews for candidates to ask questions
  • Updating candidates on potential next steps and timing following each step of the process
  • Supporting an engaging experience for all talent—including closing the loop and sharing feedback with individuals who don’t receive an offer
  • Asking candidates for feedback at the conclusion of the hiring process to drive improvements over time

7. Maintain consistent communication

An important part of supporting a memorable, engaging candidate experience is maintaining consistent communication. Some job seekers apply to open roles or complete several steps in the hiring process, only to wait weeks for follow-up communication—or never receive a response. In fact, the CareerPlug survey cited above found that 53% of respondents have been ghosted by an employer, meaning they never heard back from an employer about the status of their application.

Maintaining consistent communication can help your organization support a positive experience for current candidates, drive engagement among individuals in your talent pipeline, and build a reputation as an employer of choice to attract qualified workers for your talent pipeline.

Consider the following tips to drive consistent communication:

  • Including a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the hiring process on your careers page
  • Sending automated emails to candidates as soon as you receive applications highlighting next steps
  • Administering automated talent assessments to quickly move forward with the hiring process
  • Following an agile recruiting process, which breaks hiring stages into sprints and ensures the process moves forward efficiently
  • Drafting templated emails to follow up with candidates after each recruitment step
  • Adding an AI-powered recruitment assistant or chatbot to your careers page to answer common candidate questions
  • Following up with all candidates with respectful communication, even if they aren’t moving forward
  • Distributing email newsletters and similar communications to individuals in your talent pipeline featuring company updates such as job openings, workplace awards, and team member success stories
  • Reaching out to members of your talent network or community when new opportunities that align with your skills become available

8. Utilize a candidate relationship management system

Traditionally, many steps in the recruitment and hiring process were completed manually, which requires significant time and resources and can lead to candidate disengagement. This approach can also present challenges with building a talent pipeline, as hiring teams have to manually search through email or paper applications to identify quality candidates for current and future roles.

In recent years, recruitment technology has advanced significantly and many solutions are available to streamline hiring. One solution is a candidate relationship management (CRM) system, which helps organizations streamline all stages of the hiring process, including identifying, attracting, engaging, nurturing, evaluating, and hiring candidates.

With a CRM system, all critical information about prospective team members is centralized in a user-friendly database, enabling teams to improve recruitment effectiveness and build talent pipelines.

A few examples of candidate relationship management systems include:

  • Beamery. An AI-powered talent lifecycle platform, Beamery empowers organizations to attract, retain, develop, and transition talent. The platform includes capabilities to build talent pipelines of engaged candidates by attracting individuals across the company careers page, events, campus recruiting, and other channels. Organizations can then drive candidate engagement with personalized campaigns and messaging across email, WhatsApp, and text messaging.
  • Fetcher. As a sourcing automation solution, Fetcher makes the candidate sourcing and outreach process more efficient for both recruiters and talent acquisition leaders. The solution offers email communication features that combine automation and personalization to drive candidate engagement. Integrated recruitment analytics also offer insight into talent pipeline data, such as candidate engagement, qualifications, and diversity metrics.
  • Gem. This talent engagement and candidate management software enables organizations to cultivate strong relationships and improve hiring. Gem helps talent acquisition teams improve talent sourcing and candidate outreach, along with providing insights to improve over time. The software solution also includes features to build talent communities and nurture relationships to more easily re-engage qualified individuals when the time is right.  

Keep in mind, while leveraging a CRM system can help drive hiring efficiencies and candidate engagement, building personal relationships with candidates and ensuring a member of your team makes final hiring decisions is critical. The right technology frees up time typically spent on manual, routine tasks so recruiting and talent acquisition teams can focus on forging connections with talent and making data-driven hiring decisions.

Build a talent pipeline with Upwork

Taking a proactive approach to building a talent pipeline can help you identify and attract qualified individuals for immediate hiring needs and quickly fill future skills gaps—especially as business priorities and in-demand skills continue to evolve.  

For additional support building a talent pipeline, consider engaging a skilled independent recruiting specialist on Upwork. Independent recruitment professionals have diverse backgrounds and experience and can share their expertise on how to effectively build a pipeline of talent with the skills you need to support strategic business objectives.

Through Talent Marketplace™, you can also engage independent professionals for your talent pipeline with more than 10,000 skills across specialties, including marketing, artificial intelligence, design, accounting, and more. Upwork’s end-to-end full-time hiring solution also offers the option to initiate contract-to-hire working relationships. This solution can help your team quickly fill skill gaps, access qualified professionals for a trial period, and decide whether to transition to a full-time engagement.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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Author Spotlight

8 Essential Steps To Build a Talent Pipeline
Beth Kempton
Content Writer

Beth Kempton is a B2B writer with a passion for storytelling and more than a decade of content marketing experience. She specializes in writing engaging long-form content, including blog posts, thought leadership pieces, SEO articles, case studies, ebooks and guides, for HR technology and B2B SaaS companies. In her free time, you can find Beth reading or running.

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