Recruitment marketing: How to bring top talent into your hiring funnel

Recruitment marketing:

How to bring top talent into your hiring funnel


  • Introduction

  • The funnel framework

  • The awareness stage

  • The interest stage

  • The consideration stage

  • Measuring success

  • Conclusion


It’s a job seeker’s market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.1 million openings were available in February 2019, but only 5.7 million hires were made.

In addition to this surplus of openings, job seekers are also empowered with easily accessible information about employers. Candidates can research company ratings from former and current employees online, watch company culture videos, research benefits packages, and more to assess an employer before they even click ‘Apply.’ This wealth of knowledge coupled with a surplus of job openings naturally makes job seekers choosy — they know what each employer offers, so they can feel confident in being selective.

This means that recruiters have to be proactive, innovative, deliberate, and organized in their efforts to attract and nurture applicants who are skilled and passionate. In other words, they need to think like marketers.

It’s no longer enough to push out job postings and hope the right candidate applies. Recruitment marketing means proactively pulling qualified applicants in with creative messaging, personalization, and targeting. In this e-book, we’ll walk you through recruitment marketing tactics to help you strategically attract qualified candidates and motivate them to apply to your open jobs.

What is recruitment marketing?

Recruitment marketing is the process of strategically sourcing, attracting, and nurturing passive candidates in order to successfully recruit top talent. Whether it’s through strong employer branding, a compelling career page, or targeted messaging, HR teams use recruitment marketing to engage the most talented and passionate candidates and encourage them to apply for their open positions.

Marketing strategies have become a necessity for recruiters given specific changes in the hiring landscape:

  1. The job market is more competitive. Given the market’s surplus of openings, companies need to use marketing strategies to stand out to job seekers and effectively communicate their employer branding.

  2. Job seekers expect proactive outreach from companies. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 31% of applicants expect employers to contact them about job opportunities. With this demand, companies need to craft personalized marketing campaigns that impress job seekers and build their interest.

  3. Job seekers want to research companies before they apply. 75% percent of job seekers evaluate an employer’s brand before they apply for a job, according to a LinkedIn study. People expect that they’ll be able to research an employer and understand their values, work environment, and even benefits before they click ‘Apply.’ To compete, recruiters must provide informational marketing content about their company, and make it easy to find for passive and active job seekers alike.

Given these changes, promotion can’t be an afterthought — recruitment marketing has to be strategic. Promotion has to fit each touchpoint of the application journey to be compelling to potential candidates.

Luckily, there is an existing framework from traditional marketing, known as the funnel, that recruiters can use to craft their own recruitment marketing strategy. In this ebook we’ll explain how this funnel framework can make your recruiting more competitive, give you actionable tips for improving your candidate outreach, and show you how to measure the success of your recruitment marketing efforts.

Chapter 1

The funnel framework

Recruitment marketing involves many moving pieces — developing an employer brand, creating job ads, designing career pages, and more. Without a guiding philosophy and clear process, it can become overwhelming for any business to handle. To make your recruitment marketing systematic and ultimately more efficient, we recommend that recruiters use the funnel concept from traditional marketing as a fundamental framework.

How marketers use the funnel framework

The marketing funnel visually represents a prospect’s journey. With defined stages, the model highlights the different perspectives potential buyers have as they move towards purchasing a product or service.

Marketing funnel

By understanding what leads know and how they feel at each stage, marketers can plan what information should be presented at each decision point. The flow of content starts with building general awareness and trust in the company. From there, the company provides information that is more specific and detailed to grow leads’ interest even further and guide them towards converting.

Without this framework, marketers aren’t able to provide leads with the right information at the right time. If marketers don’t understand what information should be shared at each decision point, their campaigns will be wasted on people who can’t appreciate them. For example, a social media ad highlighting competitor pricing might be shown to a person who has never heard of the brand before.

Following the funnel framework makes it easy for marketers to strategically plan their campaigns to target the right consumers. It whittles down their base of leads to the most valuable potential customers who are genuinely interested in the brand and its products.

How recruiters can use the funnel framework

Recruiters can use the same funnel framework to increase the number of qualified candidates who apply to their company.

Recruitment funnel

Recruitment marketing is focused on the first three stages of the funnel:

  • Awareness: You’re helping job seekers who have never heard of your company to learn about your brand.

  • Interest: Job seekers are aware of your brand, so now they’re ready to learn about your company as an employer and understand what it would be like to work there.

  • Consideration: The job seeker is almost ready to take action and apply. Recruiters need to provide detailed information about each open role so job seekers can see if there is a position that would be a good fit for them.

This framework pushes recruiters to think about the information potential applicants need at each decision point to assess a company and decide whether they should apply. With this strategic targeting, recruiters are able to maximize the value of their marketing spend. They’re providing job seekers with the right messaging at the right time, so their budget goes a long way towards attracting applications.

Recruiters also save time by not needing to promote their brand later in the funnel. The candidates who decide to apply were already educated about the company earlier in the funnel, so recruiters don’t need to build their interest much further. This frees recruiters up to spend less time selling applicants and more time on creating a stellar candidate experience.

Chris Marty, a Senior Recruiting Manager at the investment service firm Wealthfront, uses the funnel framework to narrow down the talent pool to brand advocates: “We really talk a lot about identifying the candidates who love Wealthfront and then spending time with them, versus trying to sell somebody who might not be that interested."

Without a strategy, recruiters risk lowering their talent pool quality:

  • Applications come from a mixed bag of candidates — some who are a good match and some who are a poor fit. Recruiters then have to spend a good chunk of time sifting through resumes and cover letters to find the skilled candidates who show a passion for the company’s work. They may even mistakenly move candidates through the hiring process who aren’t actually interested in their employer brand and lose time evaluating them.

  • Recruiters may miss passive candidates who are a good fit. If there aren’t any campaigns to build top-of-funnel brand awareness, passive candidates won’t be motivated to pursue your company’s job opportunities.

By using the marketing funnel as a framework to guide your recruitment marketing strategy, you’ll ultimately spend less time sifting through applications and get to your great hires faster.

Chapter 2

The awareness stage

It’s unusual for people to purchase from companies that they know little to nothing about. Marketers have to gain leads’ trust by gently introducing their brand to them at the top of the funnel.

Likewise, the Awareness stage in recruiting is an opportunity to build brand awareness and trust in potential applicants. People are more likely to research job opportunities and apply for openings from familiar companies. According to a LinkedIn study, 52% of candidates explore a company’s site and social media accounts to learn more about them before applying.

Marketing is focused on promoting our product. Through their efforts, we’re able to find people who are delighted by our brand and could potentially be great applicants.

Chris Marty, Wealthfront

Find and create ways for job seekers who have never heard of your company to learn about your brand with the tactics in this section. By providing general company information and making it easily discoverable, you’ll be able to capture individuals who align with your brand that you want to nurture down your recruiting funnel.

Piggyback off of content marketing

Your company’s marketing team is likely already promoting your brand through content and nurturing a community of supporters. This community is full of people who are already aligned with your brand and could be interested in your job opportunities. Tap into this group of brand allies by working with content marketers at your company to target these potential applicants.

Recruiters can align with their company’s content marketing initiatives in a number of ways:

  • Include a call-to-action or postscript in marketing emails to announce that you’re hiring. Put information about your open roles in emails like a content marketing newsletter or a webinar follow-up email. The message should link to your career page so readers can explore your openings. Zapier, for example, includes a hiring call-to-action in their content marketing newsletter. Potential applicants learn about Zapier through the newsletter’s content, so they’re prepared to explore the brand’s hiring opportunities once they reach the call-to-action.

  • Keep an eye on the marketing department’s editorial calendar, and take note of content ideas that could spark job seekers’ interest in your brand. Highlight this content for your employees and encourage them to share it on their social networks to build brand awareness. There are likely more passive candidates following your employees than your company on social media, so make sure your team feels empowered to be brand ambassadors.

Wealthfront's Chris Marty says their recruiters often partner with the company’s marketing department to find potential applicants. For example, they might discuss existing marketing content that could be of interest to job seekers. The recruiters can then brainstorm how they can share that content with potential applicants to build their brand awareness.

“Marketing is focused on promoting our product,” said Marty. “Through their efforts, we’re able to find people who are delighted by our brand and could potentially be great applicants.”

Open the top of your funnel with creative outreach

Many skilled job seekers may be less likely to encounter your brand because their background is underrepresented at your company. For example, they may be coming from another industry, or they might have studied a subject outside of your company’s field.

Make it easy for these communities to find and engage with your brand by using creative promotion tactics. Instead of only relying on traditional sourcing, like industry job fairs and employee referrals, tap into different, less common channels where skilled potential applicants are spending their time. You’ll expand the top of your recruiting funnel by opening it up to skilled candidates from unique, non-traditional backgrounds.

Really strong candidates will have a billion people reaching out to them, all within LinkedIn or by email. Reach them through a unique lens in order to stand out.

Christina Nguyen, Google

“If you’re using the same strategies, you’re probably hiring the same person over and over again and minimizing diversity of thought,” said Christina Nguyen, a Staffing Channels Specialist at Google. “By using creative recruitment channels, you can bring outside perspectives into the organization.”

Plus, building brand awareness in innovative ways gives you a shot at reaching valuable top talent. "Really strong candidates will have a billion people reaching out to them, all within LinkedIn or by email. Reach them through a unique lens in order to stand out," said Nguyen.

Open your talent pipeline to all skilled applicants by brainstorming unique channels where you can build brand awareness. A few examples of creative outreach include:

  • Engaging with potential applicants on social media. Visit industry-specific pages and groups, and be mindful in choosing your engagement channels. For example, LinkedIn would be better for targeting applicants in management positions, while Pinterest might be better for connecting with designers.

  • Visit online forums that potential applicants might frequent. GitHub is a popular channel for developers, while Reddit caters to many different interests in the site’s subreddit folders.

Nguyen, for example, will dive into YouTube, GitHub, Reddit, and other unlikely recruitment channels to find potential engineering applicants.

“Let’s say I’m watching a YouTube video about a coding issue and I see a really well-thought-out comment with a great explanation,” said Nguyen. “I can tell that the user knows the material, and is able to help a layperson like me, who’s not an engineer, understand the problem. I’m apt to reach out to someone like that and share information about Google with them.”

Chapter 3

The interest stage

At the second stage of the marketing funnel, leads are considered qualified. They’ve taken the time to learn about the company and they have brand awareness. At this point, marketers need to nurture them with more company and product-specific information to push them to a point where they are seriously considering purchasing.

For recruiters, the Interest stage is the time to send potential applicants information about your company as an employer. These individuals already know and trust your brand from the Awareness stage, so they’re ready to assess your company as a potential employee would. Make it easy for candidates to learn about what working at your company is like with a standout website and targeted messaging.

Engage through targeted social marketing

You can’t expect potential applicants to proactively start looking for career opportunities at your company right after the Awareness stage. Passive candidates in particular need more of a push to start seeing your brand as a future employer.

Engage these individuals who have shown interest in your brand with targeted marketing — specifically, promotion that is aimed at job seekers who are past the Awareness stage. Whether it’s an ad or a promotional email, targeted marketing encourages valuable potential applicants to consider your company as an employer, not just generally as a brand.

On LinkedIn and Facebook, recruiters can target potential applicants who have engaged with their brand before and encourage them to explore their career page. Here is an overview of how these channels work:

  • LinkedIn Recruiter: This tool will highlight which individuals that meet your search criteria have also engaged with your brand before. Recruiters can send customized InMail messages to these users about their company’s career opportunities.

  • LinkedIn contact targeting: Recruiters who post job ads on LinkedIn can target them towards an imported list of contacts. This feature is useful if you collected contact information from people who showed interest in your brand in the Awareness stage.

  • Facebook job ads : Recruiters who publish job ads on Facebook are able to target the promotion towards users who are connected to their company’s page, app, and/or events.

“LinkedIn Recruiter allows our team to see which potential applicants have engaged with our company in the past,” said Wealthfront’s Chris Marty. “For example, in a search of 2,000 potential applicants, we might see that 80 of those people have interacted with our brand before.”

With this list, Marty is able to send messages to these users who have shown prior interest and encourage them to explore Wealthfront’s career opportunities.

Create a standout career page

When savvy job seekers start considering a brand as a potential employer, they don’t sit and wait for more information. They do their own research to evaluate what the company is really like as an employer.

Your career page makes this research easier for job seekers. All of your job-related content is in one place so potential candidates can learn about your employer brand without having to look very far.

What makes a great career page? It leaves a strong, positive impression with powerful messaging and engaging visuals. Job seekers can learn about your company’s values and work environment from the page in order to assess whether they would thrive there as an employee.

Use these simple tactics to build a career page that showcases your company’s work culture and principles:

  • Show proof of your employer reputation. Highlight employee testimonials and news articles about your company. Learning about your brand from outside perspectives builds job seekers’ trust in your company.

  • Outline your benefits and perks. If a potential applicant understands the full value proposition of working at your company, beyond just the role’s base salary, they’re more likely to favor your employer brand over competitors.

  • Offer a “drop your resume” option. With this choice, job seekers who align with your company culture can still join your applicant pool, even if their skills aren’t a match for any current openings. The clothing company Everlane, for example, includes a “Drop a resume” call-to-action on their career page to connect with all job seekers who are interested in joining their company.

  • Take a multimedia approach. Fill your career page with images of your office and employees so job seekers can visualize working there. You can also make your career page especially engaging by adding a culture video that features employees describing their jobs and what they appreciate about the company.

With a balance of visuals and content, Stripe’s career page is both informative and engaging for job seekers.

As an example, the career page for payment technology company Stripe is a comprehensive and helpful resource for job seekers. From the main page, potential applicants can learn about Stripe’s mission and identify areas where they could make an impact. They can also navigate to additional pages, like “Life at Stripe” to learn about people and culture, and “University,” to learn about intern and new graduate programs. With a balance of visuals, text and creative multimedia, Stripe’s career page gives job seekers a 360 degree view of what it’s really like to work at Stripe.

Chapter 4

The consideration stage

By the Consideration stage, leads are seriously thinking about making a purchase. They’re scrutinizing product details — pricing, features, and more — to decide whether they should buy from your company or from competitors. If you’re a marketer at this stage, you must provide leads with the information they need to understand why your product is the best option for them.

Just as these Consideration stage leads are almost ready to purchase, potential applicants at this point are almost ready to apply. They’re comparing the details of your job opportunities against competitors to see which opening is the best match for their skill set and values. Recruiters need to provide these potential candidates with detailed content about the role itself to help them make an informed decision about whether or not they would be a good fit.

The candidates who are as informed about your company as any member of your team are the ones who are going to be really excited to join.

Chris Marty, Wealthfront

The goal at this stage is not to “sell” the potential applicant. If you nurtured job seekers with information at the Awareness and Interest stages, you won’t need to push them too hard at this phase to apply.

“The candidates who are as informed about your company as any member of your team are the ones who are going to be really excited to join,” said Wealthfront’s Chris Marty. They’ve been exposed to content about your brand and work environment, so they should feel good about what your company offers at this point. Your goal at this stage should be to provide potential candidates detailed, accurate information about your open roles so that they feel confident in their decision to apply.

Craft an engaging job description

Potential applicants who have made it to this stage in the funnel have already learned about your company’s values and work environment, and they feel like they could see themselves working there. At this point, job seekers are ready to dive into the details of the job description and take the time to assess whether their skill set is a good fit.

A well-crafted job description is informative, yet still builds excitement. It sets clear expectations about the responsibilities of the role, so that job seekers can evaluate whether they would be successful in the position. At the same time, the description highlights the perks of a role to remind potential applicants why the job is appealing. These benefits can be both concrete — wellness stipends, training opportunities — and abstract, such as being able to impact the direction of the company.

Create an informative, engaging job description with these simple tips:

  • Include keywords that your target candidates would use. Use a keyword tool, like Google AdWords, to check the popularity of industry-specific phrases that you want to include. If they have low search volumes, you can substitute these phrases with AdWords’ related keyword suggestions with higher volume. With keyword optimization, the job description will resonate more with applicants who are a great fit, and it will be more likely to appear in their job search results.

  • Write a balanced description that both inspires and informs the candidate. Include content about role requirements and skills, as well as information about the position’s perks and benefits.

  • Run your job description through an augmented text product, such as Ongig. It highlights biased language in job descriptions so recruiters can edit the text to be more inclusive.

Formlabs listing
Formlabs balances important information about the role with exciting perks in their job descriptions.

The 3-D printer developer Formlabs balances logistical role information with exciting perks in their job descriptions. Their Integration Engineer posting, for example, describes the role’s tasks and required skills in the “The Job” and “You” sections, so job seekers have a clear sense of expectations for the position. To leave potential applicants feeling excited about the opportunity, the description closes with an “Our Perks” section that covers the role’s benefits.

The final paragraph of the posting encourages applicants who don’t “check every box, but see [themselves] contributing” to apply. With this phrase, Formlabs avoids missing qualified candidates who have nontraditional backgrounds.

Monitor your Glassdoor page

Potential candidates who are nearly ready to apply to a company have likely already heard from the company itself about its values, expectations, and benefits. Now, they want to hear about what actual employees have to say about working for the company.

The most popular online resource for checking employee testimonials is Glassdoor. To impress job seekers at the Consideration stage, recruiters must monitor their Glassdoor page frequently and cultivate as high of a rating as possible. A few strategies for maintaining a strong Glassdoor rating include:

  • Set a regular reminder to check your company’s Glassdoor page. If negative reviews pop up, you can act quickly to make improvements in your workplace to avoid more negative feedback.

  • Invite employees to leave reviews. Don’t ask everyone all at once — when company Glassdoor pages all have positive reviews from the same time period, the reviews feel less authentic to job seekers.

  • Improve your workplace as needed. If interviewees and employees leave negative feedback, take it seriously. Your Glassdoor page should be an authentic reflection of your workplace. Work with your HR team to make improvements when needed.

Zuora’s page motivates candidates to apply by providing third-party proof of what it’s like to work there

The subscription management platform Zuora has managed to maintain a high Glassdoor rating of 4.5. Knowing that potential applicants are interested in this feedback, Zuora links to their Glassdoor page and showcases their average on their company career page for potential applicants to review.

Chapter 5

Measuring success

A good marketer finds innovative ways to promote their company’s products and nurtures leads down the funnel towards making a purchase. A great marketer checks their methods with data to ensure that their promotion efforts are worth their cost.

The same is true for recruitment marketing. Building brand awareness and encouraging potential candidates to apply takes significant time and money. You have to measure whether your marketing efforts are attracting great applicants who are both qualified and a good match for your company’s culture. Measure your results with these four essential metrics, and you’ll be able to increase the value of your recruitment marketing over time by attracting more great hires.

On-sites to hire

In-person interviews are a time investment. Recruiters and employees who are interviewing must spend a chunk of their day meeting with the applicant and guiding them through the office space.

Because these interviews can be time-consuming, recruiters want to make sure that on-site visits are reserved for candidates who are a great fit. Through the recruitment marketing funnel, the talent pool should be organically narrowed down to job seekers who are aligned with the company’s values.

Tracking your on-sites to hire ratio is a straightforward way to assess how well you vetted candidates throughout the Awareness, Interest, and Consideration phases of the funnel.

Onsite to hire ratio

A high on-site to hire ratio is a sign that recruiters did a poor job of evaluating job seekers and applicants in these stages, while a low ratio reflects a successful vetting process.

“The highest indication of a well-run search is the lowest possible ratio of on-sites to hire,” said Wealthfront’s Chris Marty. “It means that the recruiting team and the hiring managers involved did a really good job vetting people up front who weren’t going to eventually be the right choice.”

There is no benchmark for this ratio since some companies prefer to set up more on-site interviews than others. With that said, recruiters should note when the ratio increases and if it is consistently higher than normal. In this case, it is best to evaluate how job descriptions and your career page can be revised to better cater to your ideal candidate.


Time-to-hire measures how much time passes between the start and end of the hiring process. These points can be defined differently across recruiters:

  • Start: posting the job, receiving the first application, or identifying the hiring need

  • End: applicant’s start date or offer acceptance date

This metric is most valuable when recruiters separate the full timeline into distinct periods.

“The key to making TTH actionable is to break it down into its components, examining those for hints on where to optimize your hiring process for speed,” said Jeff Moore, Director of Staffing for Google Consumer Hardware.

Hiring process

If there is a long period of time between identifying the hiring need and receiving applications, recruitment marketing is most likely slowing down the hiring process. You’ll have to break down the time-to-hire even further to determine which aspects of recruitment marketing need improvement:

  • If your career page and job descriptions are receiving low traffic, focus on creating greater brand awareness with the marketing department.

  • If your career page and job descriptions receive high traffic, brainstorm ways to drive these site visitors to apply. For example, you might make your “Apply” call-to-action button more bold, or you might emphasize role perks more in your job descriptions.

Source quality

Job seekers can come from any number of channels, like job boards, social media, or your career page. Measuring the source quality — the ratio of applicants to hires for each recruitment channel — allows you to determine the value of each channel in your recruitment marketing.

Source quality

An important distinction with this metric is that you’re measuring the number of hires from each source, not just the number of applications. If you receive 200 applications from Facebook and 100 from your career page, it may initially seem like Facebook is the more valuable source. However, if Facebook generated 25 hires and your career page led to 50 hires, your career page is actually the more valuable source. Evaluating each channel from this angle prioritizes the outcome that matters most to you as a recruiter: making new hires.

Once you’ve identified channels with low source quality ratios, you can plan to invest more in them throughout recruitment marketing. Likewise, the spend for channels with high source quality ratios should be reduced to maximize the value of your recruitment marketing.

Cost to fill

The expenses of filling a job opening go beyond job board fees. Companies face a number of additional costs, including recruiter salaries, referral incentives, background check fees, and more.

Recruiters must track this cost-to-fill, or the total expenses associated with making a hire, for budget planning. Reviewing the costs associated with recruitment marketing is the starting point for assessing how much should be allocated for these expenses in the future. To determine how the marketing section of the budget should be adjusted, recruiters must factor in source quality. Comparing the costs of recruitment marketing efforts, like job board fees or LinkedIn ads, to the number of hires allows you to evaluate each campaign’s value and whether more or less money should be invested in it.

Drive applications through strategic recruitment marketing

Job seekers are in the driver’s seat. It’s a crowded job market with more available openings than hires, so potential applicants have more options. At the same time, job seekers today are actively researching employers through online resources, so they are able to be more selective, armed with knowledge of each competing company’s strengths.

In this environment, recruitment marketing is essential. The funnel framework — building awareness, interest, and consideration — enables recruiters to capture the right candidates before they submit an application and the hiring process is in full swing. Marketing efforts are curated for each decision point of job searching, so qualified candidates who are a great match for the company are gently guided towards applying.

Use the marketing funnel framework to guide your recruitment marketing and find your great hires faster. Then use data to track the performance of your marketing efforts, and you’ll be able to make adjustments and improve your ability to attract and nurture job seekers over time.