Talent Acquisition

How to Build the Perfect Applicant Funnel

Recruitment marketing is still in its infancy when compared to either its older sibling HR Recruiting, or its first cousin Marketing. There are plenty of ways you can streamline and improve your recruitment marketing tactics by borrowing from both of these related practices.

Today we’re going to go over building the perfect applicant funnel, pulling when necessary from the marketing world for explanations. Think of this as a How-To Guide for building your applicant funnel.

Applicant Funnel

This is one of those ideas borrowed from the wider marketing world. There, they use something called the “buyer journey” to track incoming clients from first contact all the way through to the happy customer. The stages in this journey map to different stages in the marketing funnel:

  • Awareness—Top of the Funnel. At this stage, the buyer knows they need a solution to their problem, and they begin looking for it.
  • Consideration—Middle of the Funnel. Here, the buyer knows exactly what their problem is, can articulate it clearly, and is searching for a specific type of solution.
  • Decision—Bottom of the Funnel. And finally, the buyer has a firm hold on the solution they need and is considering several potential vendors.

Now let’s look at the funnel model as it applies to recruitment marketing, in terms of what’s called the “candidate journey”:

  • Awareness—Top of the Funnel. At this stage, the candidate is in one of two situations. They are either ready to apply and will go straight into your pipeline as an active applicant, or they may be passive job seekers who will stay in this stage for months or more. How you handle the two will obviously differ, however, this is your first touchpoint (we’ll have more to say on touchpoints shortly).
  • Consideration—Middle of the Funnel. Perhaps the most pivotal step in the candidate journey, this is where the potential candidate decides to become an active applicant. They’ve done their research, they like what they see in your content relating to employer brand and employee value proposition, and they’re ready to come onboard.
  • Decision—Bottom of the Funnel. This is the final, and most stressful stage for the candidate. Don’t drop the ball by keeping them OUT of the loop here. Constant updates, check-in emails, etc will show your engagement and remind the new applicant of why they love your employer brand and company culture in the first place.

Putting your applicant funnel into action

The name of the game here is respect. Applicant experience matters, so you need to demonstrate that you respect your applicant’s time, energy, and abilities. In doing so, you’ll not only increase your stock in their eyes, but you’ll also see returns in higher quality of applicants, the dedication of employees, and in turn, ROI on your hiring process as a whole. And how do you demonstrate this respect? With touchpoints all the way through the process.


The respect starts even before your applicant is an applicant, while they’re still a passive job seeker. At this stage you need to be aware of your presence on social media, interacting with your followers, responding to blog comments, and generally being alert and aware of these folks.

Be sure your content is on point, describing your employer brand in detail, without getting bombastic or hype-y. This content will draw your potential applicants in, leaving comments, reposting, liking, and sharing it with their friends. How you respond to these interactions is your first touchpoint. Be respectful, thanking them for the shares, replying to the comments, and answering the questions.

Be authentic in your voice. Don’t just say “thanks for the comment,” and leave it at that. Call out something constructive they said, or turn it around and ask them a question. Do this in a conversational tone and your audience is likely to respond in kind. This is also an opportunity to show people where your strengths are, and even some possible weaknesses where they can be of assistance if they come to work for you.


As we mentioned above, this is perhaps the most important stage in the applicant funnel. At this point, your applicant has decided they like what you have to offer and is looking at openings, reading your company LinkedIn reviews, and pulling the trigger on applying.

The key here is to stay in touch. These touchpoints ensure that these folks know what’s going on behind the scenes. As candidates, they deserve to know where their application stands. If there are delays, tell them what’s up. Set expectations early, that way the applicant will know what to expect. This also gives you the opportunity to alert them to any changes in those expectations should a problem arise, letting them know that you respect their time and won’t jerk them around.


There’s nothing worse in the application process than thinking an interview went well, only to not hear a single peep from the company for…ever. This continues the touchpoints from the middle of the funnel and lets applicants know that they still matter and that you respect the stress this process puts on them.

The touchpoints are nearly duplicates of the last ones, if there are delays in a decision being made, tell them so. If it’s going to take an extra few days because someone is out of town, let them know that. If someone else wants to meet them, fill them in ASAP so they can get it on their calendar. Treat your applicants like the priority they are, and they’ll get a good feeling for how you’ll treat them once they are hired.

As you can see, the funnel model is a great way to map your candidate journey from the first contact via your content marketing efforts, all the way through a happy new hire. The key is to respect your candidates time, energy, and abilities by staying in touch throughout the process. These touchpoints demonstrate that respect and let your applicants know that they will continue to be respected once they come on board with your company.

About the author: Adrian Cernat is CEO and co-founder of SmartDreamers, a Recruitment Marketing Automation platform that empowers recruitment teams to smartly advertise jobs across the web. Integrated with Facebook, Google Ads, YouTube, Snap, Instagram, publishers, and niche websites, SmartDreamers streamlines the recruitment marketing processes.

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