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Pipelines & Unicorns

Just this morning I got in a new search for an Analyst so I grabbed my thick folder of resumes and, lo and behold, the first person I called was qualified and interested in the job! Only we didn’t get to talk for very long because then George Clooney beeped in wanting to know if I could go to Cannes with him, and a family of unicorns came to nibble on grass outside my office.

The point is, there are things you wish would happen and what occurs in reality.

Like the candidate pipeline: the idea of assembling and qualifying a cast of incredible candidates so that when a job becomes available, you can fill it quickly. Could such an amazing thing be true? I decided to ask my recruiting colleagues. Here’s what we came up with:

1. Effective pipelining can occur when job needs are highly-specialized.

My colleague in Silicon Valley says, “here there are recruiters at big shops like Google and Facebook who only recruit a small handful of roles. At Google, a friend of mine spent a year focused 100% on Site Reliability Engineers. In those cases, pipelining is all you do. If the person isn’t ready to move for  6 months, no problem!”

And my NYC creative recruiter friend agrees: “My recruiting business model and philosophy is to be fairly niched. Currently we work pretty much solely in UX and UI, in New York only. So if I meet an excellent UX person at almost any level in NYC, chances are we’ll have something for them now, or will have something soon. So it makes sense for me to lay the groundwork and establish a relationship, and gain an understanding of what they’d be looking for.”

2. As diversity and volume of searches goes up, the less pipelining is likely to be helpful. 

“If you are working in an environment where you have 50-100 reqs open, talking to exploratory candidates means you’re taking time away from pressing and immediate hiring needs.” You need to establish priorities to achieve results.

3. Unless you have a research team.

Larger and more technical recruiting environments may afford the luxury of a research team, who’s only job is to source qualified candidates then hand them off to the recruiters. This frees up the recruiters to meet candidates, pitch jobs and develop relationships. Success lies in the ability of the research team to get up to speed on candidate profiles and sleuth out top talent versus the usual and already-known suspects. Also, just because candidates can be identified doesn’t mean they’re available or responsive.

OK, so are you telling me that in our diverse industry — where we need Community Managers one day, Account Sups with pharma the next, and Analysts (always Analysts!) — that pipelines are a fantasy? Is there nothing that can be done?!

While you, me and your internal recruiting team may be too busy to build pipelines of exploratory candidates, we are always developing new contacts as we work on the high-priority searches. It’s helpful to know who you might need in the future, so we’re prepared to ask for referrals. For example, while we’re talking to Account people with eCommerce experience, they might be able to turn us on to Planners with the same.

One recruiter puts it this way, “although I’m usually too busy to take on exploratory searches, I greatly appreciate knowing who my clients may need in the future.  I can then ask current candidates additional questions related to the exploratory search so that I’m prepared should that search become active.”

The final reality to bear in mind about pipelines is they are living, breathing things that don’t stay still for very long. As active jobseekers approach me, or I get outstanding referrals, or my research uncovers awesome candidates, I put them in our database. We score them A thru D, and in many cases, we tag them for clients where there’s a strong skills and culture match. And when a job comes up, hopefully they’re still available. But sometimes not. Sometimes they’re feeding the unicorns, or in Cannes with George Clooney.

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