Chris Russell

5 min read


What are the 7 stages of recruitment?

The different stages of recruitment comprise a workflow familiar to even the most entry level recruiter. They include prep, sourcing, applicant conversion, selection process, the interview, reference checks, and onboarding/hire. Employers that want to attract the best and brightest need to ensure their process is running at peak efficiency. To do that, you need to break down the different recruitment stages and optimize for each.

There are several options based on your level of need, frequency of hiring, complexity of process, etc…  You can outsource the process to a consultant, you can hire an experienced Talent Acquisition leader, or you can just implement some basic internal structures on your own with your current team.

If you’re keen to give it a go on your own because you don’t have the budget or the hiring volume to support the cost of adding headcount, here are some of the things they would likely implement or advise you to implement.

stages of recruitment1) Prepping for Your Ideal Candidate

Just as important as getting applicants to your job by posting it, is getting the RIGHT candidates to apply. Volume without quality equals a lot of time spent on unproductive administrative work, and either no hire or the wrong hire.  Spend some time sharpening your axe before you start chopping at a tree.  Develop an ideal candidate profile first.  Otherwise you’ll be doing what is called “post and pray.”

Ask yourself what makes up an ideal candidate profile?  This is the person who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to achieve the goals of the position.  In other words, based on those KSAs, process, how do you write the job description?  What niche sites or organizations will you market and network in?  Where do they hang out (virtually or in person)?  Who/what are they likely to follow?  What are they most likely to be interested in and respond to?  How can you best attract them with outreach and marketing messaging?  Once you define what those are, you can use that candidate profile for effective targeting, outreach and attraction.  

2) Sourcing and Attracting Talent

This stage is about being resourceful and focusing on the candidate experience.  Don’t frustrate candidates by not responding to and communicating with them, by taking too long to make a decision, by creating too many hoops to jump through, or by having unrealistic expectations.  Develop a process that is efficient, communicative, standardized, and reportable by investing in a modern Applicant Tracking System (ATS)  There are several basic low-cost ones out there to choose from, and you can work with one of their representatives to set it up and configure a workflow.  At the very least you should leverage automated screening to knock out unqualified applicants and automated emails to communicate application status and let them know where they stand.  You’ll also have the ability to disposition and communicate with people in bulk using pre-written email templates. 

You’ll also need a sourcing strategy that allows you to proactively find talent through various online sources. If you have the budget perhaps a LinkedIn recruiter seat is in order. Or you could go with a lower package and augment it with a sourcing tool such as Hiretual or Seekout. Sourcing is a time consuming function however so having a dedicated sourcer on staff to uncover names will certainly improve your chances of filling roles faster.

3) Converting Applicants

On a very basic reporting level, you can evaluate your process by looking at what are called conversion rates, or click through rates.  This is the number or percentage of people that move from one step to the next.  If you have a step that has high fallout or no fallout, you may be getting too few or too many out the back end.  If a step has high fallout, you can re-evaluate if the step is screening out too many people unnecessarily.  If a step has little to no fallout, what value is it providing?  Maybe get rid of it.  You can also evaluate your process by looking at the overall time to fill (from position opened to filled) and also time in each individual step.  If your hiring process is taking too long, which step is the bottleneck and why? 

All of this process management will help ensure a quality candidate experience, which will help get the good candidates all the way through the process to hire. Some of the best metrics to track are the number of clicks your job postings get vs the number of people who apply. If your conversion rate is 10% or less your apply process needs a lot of work. A good ATS will convert applicants between 30%-40% based on my experience.

4) Selecting and Screening Candidates

When it comes to the selection process its important to be diverse and set expectations.  Explain the full hiring process to each candidates you speak with, so they know what to expect, what the steps are, who they will speak with, how long it will take, and how to prepare.  Be as respectful of their time as you’ll expect them to be of yours.

Additional note on position requirements (KSAs) and screening:  Define your must-haves and your nice-to-haves.  Your must-haves are the bare minimum requirements or qualifications to be able to perform the job.  Nice-to-haves are the extra over-and-above qualifications that would be ideal to have.  An automated pre-screen with a recruiting chatbot is a great tool that can knock out or disqualify all who don’t have the must-haves.  If you also add the nice-to-haves in your prescreen (without knocking anyone out on these), you can quickly get to your short list.  

5) The Interview Process

Focus  on efficient convenient scheduling.  Speed really counts in this step. Eliminate the time and effort of going back and forth to coordinate phone screen or interview dates and times by using a calendaring app like Calendly or go a step further and purchase an interview scheduling tool.  You set aside blocks of time that you or your team can be available and allow candidates to self-schedule into into any of the slots that work with their schedule.  It’s a good idea to offer slots during lunch time or outside of normal working hours to accommodate those who are currently employed.  

job interview stage6) Reference Check

Don’t dismiss top contenders until you have an accepted offer with all conditions met and a start date (salary/schedule accepted, references checked, background check/drug screen complete).  Know that anything can happen and often will.  Candidates will change their mind, accept a counter-offer, or fail pre-employment testing.  When that happens, you’ll want to have your backup candidates warm and ready to go.  Keep in touch with them, even just to let them know you don’t have any updates yet, but they are still actively under consideration.  Once you reject them, it’s harder to bring them back.

7) Onboarding

Lastly, onboarding!  This area is frequently overlooked and your best opportunity for all that hard work to go to waste.  It’s kind of like a murky grey area that is the handoff between Recruiting and Operations.  If you don’t make sure that you have a strong onboarding program that involves training, mentorship, information, and necessary resources, you will wind up with hires that feel not welcomed, not trained, and in a job that is not what they were sold. I recommend digitizing all parts of onboarding especially now that most of us are working remotely. Let candidates receive and sign their HR paperwork electronically. They will certainly thank you for it.

Having a recruitment process that is well thought out to meet the specific needs of your organization and structured in a measurable platform can help you evaluate and continually improve your hiring plans, and eliminate or revise non-value-added steps that eat up time and may eliminate good candidates needlessly.  It will also ensure you cover all important steps, creating a standardized experience for all candidates, and reducing the opportunity for bias.

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Emissary is a candidate engagement platform built to empower recruiters with efficient, modern communication tools that work in harmony with other recruiting solutions.

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