Building candidate pipelines is essential in cleared recruiting when you have a passive market of candidates. In addition, candidate pipelines help to fuel your proposal efforts or turnover on fully funded contracts.

A candidate pipeline is a group of qualified talent outside of your current employee list that a recruiters should contact when a position opens up that the talent is qualified for. Having a talent pipeline is easier and cheaper to onboard than sourcing and cold calling new candidates every time you need to staff a role.

Building and cultivating a robust candidate pipeline takes a few key tasks and traits within TA teams. First and foremost, recruiters should be organized within their ATS, have timely communication with their contacts, and employ recruitment marketing software that helps with employer branding and touch points to reach a passive audience.

7 Tips to Building a Candidate Pipeline

Here are seven tips to help you build a robust candidate pipeline.

1. Optimize your job titles or position descriptions for search engines.

Whether you are a small contractor or large business, improving your titles and descriptions for search engines like Google will increase your incoming applications, building on candidate lists within your ATS.

2. Enhance your employer brand.

Employer branding has become increasingly important year by year in this industry. It may take require a few sightings online, a few reach outs, and a few conversations before a candidate will send you their resume. This includes educating candidates about your jobs and company and perhaps leaving the hard sell for a future conversation.

3. Read the room.

Ensure your recruiters can recognize social cues and not scare off a reluctant candidate, and on the flip side, not lose the sale if a candidate may be interested. Heck, maybe enroll your recruiter in a sales course to help them understand these signals.

4. Do an audit on your application process.

The candidate drop-off rate for people who click ‘Apply’ but don’t finish a job application is 92%. That could be a large group of candidates contact information that you are not receiving. If your application process is too long and arduous, make it easier on the candidate viewing your careers page.

5. Keep tabs on key talent in your field.

Communication is key and if you don’t have set reminders or go too long without touching base with a candidate, they may be inclined to ignore your email two years later (or maybe their best way of contact has changed).

6. Have an organized resume database.

If you have a garbage ATS – a recruiter’s best friend and digital filing cabinet – your pipeline processes are likely going to be trash as well. Get buy in from leadership that this is a tool you need to work, and remain organized when tagging pipelined candidates in your system (especially if you have a large team that is tagging one candidate multiple times for programs).

7. Manage your VIP list of candidates closely.

Every recruiter should have a handful of VIPs that they can reach out to for a quick turn (i.e., an imminent proposal effort). Even if you are not currently hiring for a specific skillset, continue to have networking conversations and pipeline for your future efforts.



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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸