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Recruitment Funnel: How to Optimize the Job Applicant Experience

Technology is now an essential part of recruitment, transforming the way that companies and job applicants interact throughout the hiring process. Programmatic recruitment, for example, lays the foundation for competitive candidate sourcing, while analytics platforms stream real-time insights about the application process.

These are just several pieces of a much bigger hiring picture – one that functions as a unit to define how a job seeker behaves while exploring or seizing an employment opportunity. The touchpoints during an application process are known as the recruitment funnel.

The importance of a seamless recruitment funnel

Optimizing the candidate journey should be an area of focus for any advanced employer in 2019. From the very moment a job seeker comes in contact with an employer brand, all the way up until the actual onboarding process and beyond, they follow a unique path consisting of various touchpoints. The recruitment funnel model gives an advanced and comprehensive overview of all touchpoints, making it easier for employers to identify areas of potential friction. 

The recruitment funnel is much like the purchase funnel concept in sales and marketing, which helps specialists better understand their customers’ behavior. The only difference is that employers seek to understand candidate behaviors and obtain insights that inform high-performing, data-driven hiring campaigns.

An intuitive job application process also puts any hiring company in a good light. It communicates an understanding and care for potential new hires. Today’s job seekers don’t have endless time to spend on the job search or application process, nor do they expect any hiccups or friction in association with a potential new employment opportunity. It is therefore an employer’s job to optimize the job seeker experience from beginning to end to ensure that candidates remain interested.

The recruitment funnel in four stages

A standard recruitment funnel model is typically broken down into four parts – each of which can be optimized individually.  


Branding, or the overall messaging used to create awareness among talent, is the first touchpoint between job seeker and company. Good employment branding clearly highlights what makes a company special to work for (i.e. winning combination of quality brand identity, ambitious vision and solid benefits). 


Recruitment comprises the various ways in which job seekers are sourced to enter the application process. An employer’s sourcing methods can be divided into active and passive –  active meaning sources such as job boards and social media, and passive meaning candidate referrals or past candidates who were never hired. Selecting candidate sourcing channels depends significantly on a company’s hiring goals. 


Hiring is the general methods and tools used for assessment of applicants. Companies shape their selection criteria based on hiring goals with the hopes of turning a sufficiently high percentage of applications and candidates into offers and new hires. In this step applicants go through the various stages of the application funnel/process.


Onboarding is a company’s effort to ramp-up newly hired team members to full productivity.

General optimization vectors and areas of focus

Job seeker behaviors are evolving faster than ever, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear trends in place that can help employers optimize their funnels. For example, the increasing reliance of applicants on social media, connected devices and responsive design is now ubiquitous.

Employers should consider channel usability across various devices and screen sizes in order to maximize job seeker experience. Components such as single input fields on applications, step-by-step forms, progress bars and notifications can go a long way to engage applicants and keep them moving through the funnel. 

Similarly, eliminating unnecessary or redundant steps helps to minimize risk of candidate drop-off. It’s wise to create priorities in information flow in case users do leave the funnel; this means gathering the most important information early on (such as contact details) so that employers can bring back any candidates who leave. 

Every change can and should be tested using previous versions of pages, elements, calls to action, design and more. employers should A/B test by keeping tabs on data-driven insights and applying them to new iterations. 

Identifying and eliminating friction points

With a system in place for general process optimization, employers can better identify common issues. They might first want to ask questions such as: Which touchpoints cause bottlenecks? Where are candidates getting stuck or dropping off? How are friction points affecting other areas of the funnel?

Poor employer branding, a lack of quality sourcing channels, ineffective sourcing techniques, usability issues, clunky application processes and unattractive offers are some of the most common challenges employers face when it comes to their funnels. In order for the entire recruitment process to function at its highest level, each part must be easy – if not delightful – to experience. 

Bottomline: Improving the candidate journey is a necessary and ongoing process for employers. They should therefore utilize the recruitment funnel model to better identify and implement changes.

To get ahead in recruiting, employers must get into the minds of candidates – a process that’s most easily achieved with a clear model of the candidate journey. 

The recruitment funnel as an optimization tool promotes an insight-driven approach to hiring endeavors. Although employers must keep track of all stages of the funnel, the great news is that much can be automated with programmatic and analytics software (such as Demand-Side Platforms). 

An optimized recruitment funnel is one of the greatest assets for any hiring organization in 2019. With this high-functioning model in place, employers can supercharge each stage of their campaigns, streamline their hiring processes and win the competition for talent.

About Spencer Parra

Spencer Parra is the VP of Product Management for advertising and data products at Radancy. In that capacity, Spencer and his team of product managers, program managers, data scientists, and data analysts work to develop products in a data driven mindset. As the leader of Advertising products, he works to bring a holistic full funnel approach to Radancy’s advertising technology stack with Programmatic Jobs at its foundation. Through data products, he tells the story of media performance via Radancy’s Metrics Gateway and helps ensure data is democratized through Radancy’s unified platform. Spencer came to Radancy from the Perengo acquisition in mid 2019 where he served as Lead Product Manager and a member of the founding team. With Perengo, he worked towards the vision of leveraging the same rigor and concepts from ecommerce advertising technology to the recruitment advertising space. Prior to Perengo, Spencer launched and supported in-app advertising products at Criteo as a solutions engineer. Spencer holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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