Crafting a narrow recruitment funnel

March 2, 2023

Garbage in delivers garbage out!

I was recently inspired by a post by Nate Guggia about the value and necessity of crafting a narrow top of funnel when recruiting. This, he stated, helps to create a structured hiring motion and maintain a sane recruitment function. This is even more the case when dealing with technical hiring or complex role types. 

The main challenge to this is that it is counter to expectations from hiring managers, recruiters and many other stakeholders who value activity and volume at early recruitment stages. 

Companies need to recognize that the best way to meet their hiring targets is to highly qualify candidates who enter a hiring funnel so they have a much higher chance of success through the interviews rather than talking to many unqualified candidates and hoping to come across a good one. 

A narrow top of funnel will lead to reduced effort from interviewers and hiring managers, improved overall candidate experience and employer brand, and fully leverages the abilities of the recruitment function. 


Changing the culture 

As mentioned, there is work to be done to convince all the relevant internal stakeholders that it is not about the number of candidates going into a hiring funnel but rather the match and relevance of them. 

Recruiters need to bring these internal stakeholders together and educate them that more does not always mean better and instead they should focus on conversion rates at each stage of the interview process as a marker of success rather than pure volume into a process. 

Recruiters and recruitment managers can start to drive this internal change in a few ways:


Position yourself as a talent advisor 

Demonstrate your expertise to stakeholders and you will gain their trust. Leverage data and insights and guide them on market conditions, hiring plans and strategies so they recognize you as the expert to best meet hiring targets. Once you have got initial buy-in it’s time to deliver and so recruiters need to meet their targets with smaller funnels and create internal champions for future hiring. 

Champion candidate experience 

In modern times, candidates demand more from companies with whom they engage. A narrow top of funnel allows recruitment functions and other stakeholders to meet these expectations and deliver a great candidate experience to both successful and unsuccessful candidates which brings both short and long term benefits rather than being spread too thin across a wide top of funnel. Demonstrate how this strategy can lead to improved conversion and avoid branding disasters with disgruntled candidates.

Demonstrate the efficiencies 

Hiring managers and other interviewers ultimately want the recruitment process to run as smoothly as possible where they get great candidates without too much time investment. You should look to demonstrate how this strategy will leverage the recruitment team’s core competencies and reduce the burden on other stakeholders. Track core metrics across total candidates, interview success rates, dropouts, conversion rates and more as well as tracking both the time invested by recruiters and interviewers and use this data to show what efficiencies this change could bring. 

These tactics are just a start but can help open the door. Recruitment functions may need to accept that the change is a gradual one but once they have started to achieve buy-in, the next step is understanding how best to create a narrow top of funnel that will still allow them to meet hiring targets. 


How to design your top of funnel filter:


Building a narrow top of funnel starts with crafting a well-defined and researched ideal candidate profile (to borrow and slightly alter terminology from marketing). Investing time up front to truly understand what your ideal profile of hire looks like allows you to most effectively source, build content, screen and engage with best fit candidates. 

Recruiters should look to build this ideal candidate profile in a few ways:

Firstly, you need to talk to the hiring manager for this role and understand what they are looking for. Seek to understand what are the hard skills that are needed in this role, what type of character are they seeking, what soft skills will be valued, what sort of previous working experience will be most relevant, what is the working style and leadership style for this role and more. 

Secondly, try to talk to peers in the role and other team members to understand what they like about their team, their day to day work, how they would describe their own work and what they would look for in a colleague. 

Finally, you should conduct some analysis of past hiring to this role both locally and across the organization. Can you uncover the most prevalent skills of those hired, typical company backgrounds, paths to the role, experience ranges and more. This is where some recruiting tools or recruitment enablement solutions may come in handy. 

Taking all of this information you can now look to craft an Ideal Candidate Profile that captures the typical background and work experience, hard and soft skills and working style that would best match with this opening. 

Research and insights 

Once you have your ICP recruiters can turn to the market and begin to plan sourcing strategies and paths to market. They should use their ICP to try and identify talent pools for the relevant skill sets as well as top competitors. 

This should be targeted work and don’t just consider those companies with the largest talent pools but rather consider the type of companies that you have hired from before and the relative pull of your brand. 

By identifying competitors you can start to plan how to position your company and roles best to attract those candidates who will be interested in your offering. 

Finally, you should begin looking to monitor your relevant market on a higher level in order to understand the total talent pool, level of competition, and level of activity as well as monitoring market events. This can give you an indication of the best times to go to market and empower you to react to market events that may provide opportunities to approach talent. You will be turning to candidate databases as a core resource but should be leveraging other recruitment software and recruitment enablement and intelligence tools to guide this work. 

Recruitment Marketing and Engagement 

Finally, to attract the right talent for your company and roles it is essential to have the right messaging and content to sell your opportunity. This is equally an opportunity to filter those who won’t be a match for your environment and role. 

You should look to take the information gathered at the previous stages across how current employees describe their work and what attracted them as well as the competitors in your market to craft a message that shows your differences and highlights your EVP. Use different mediums to give potential candidates as much information as possible from basic job specs, through videos, podcasts, interviews and more.

You should look to be as transparent as possible at the earliest stages in your messaging and use these early stage collateral and touchpoints as opportunities for people to qualify themselves in and out of opportunities so they are not misaligned later in a hiring process while equally drawing in those with real desire and fit. 

The aim should be to talk to your ICP and pull them into your hiring process based on their very targeted match both with skills, interest and ambition and exclude those candidates who may have some overlap but ultimately would not be a match for the role. You want this content to be impactful and truly represent your company and this role rather than just appealing to the masses or follow some cookie cutter methodology. 



A narrow top of funnel in recruitment has a multitude of benefits. 

For recruiters it allows them to leverage some of their core competencies and use their intuition, expertise and experience to find and engage with the best candidates. For internal stakeholders, it reduces time commitments and frustrations as candidates enter interviews and hiring processes with greater probability of success and a more aligned match and desire for the role. Finally for candidates, it contributes to an improved candidate experience as there is greater time and attention given to those who enter into the process and many are able qualify themselves out of a process or away from a role that would not be aligned with their aims. 

I agree with Nate in saying that recruiters are key to this process. No doubt, they will leverage an array of tools and tactics from AI, recruitment enablement, content, marketing, and beyond but ultimately it will be those recruiters who can bring this all together to holistically assess candidates and find the best way to connect with those best fit ones that will drive success. That is why those recruiting tools that work with recruiters rather than look to replace them will be the real value adds as we move forward. 

Recruiters are ready for this role; they just need to be empowered to take it on! 

Share article


Latest articles and Talent Acquisition Insights