Improve the Quality of Your Candidate Pool in 5 Steps

And set your recruitment strategy up for success

Written by Bailey Reiners
Published on Nov. 20, 2019
Improve the Quality of Your Candidate Pool in 5 Steps

Nearly three out of four recruiters struggle to find qualified candidates for open roles. Not only that, but highly-skilled candidates are only on the job market for 10 days on average, meaning hiring teams need to be precise and strategic with their candidate sourcing and qualification tactics.

You understand how difficult it is to not only attract top candidates, but to identify the most qualified individuals out of the entire applicant pool. With every job post, you receive a swarm of applications that your team has to spend hours or even days sorting through. However, it doesn't have to be such a time and resource drain.

We’re going to walk you through five steps to improve the quality of your candidate pool and build a robust sourcing and qualification strategy that will benefit your team for years to come. 


Step 1: Identify your ideal candidate

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In order to identify a quality candidate, you need to create a candidate persona for each open role. These personas are fictional profiles that are detailed, data driven and ultimately define the characteristics of an ideal candidate.

This information will help your team in every subsequent step. Your candidate persona will enable you to source candidates from scratch, create a targeted job description, tailor recruitment marketing materials and ultimately identify your top candidate early in the recruitment process.

It’s also important to share information about the candidate persona and expectations for the role with everyone involved in the hiring process — recruiters, HR professionals, recruitment marketers and hiring managers. But don’t stop there; you also need to share your candidate persona with everyone in your company and encourage employees to recommend qualified candidates through your employee referral program. Referrals are one of the best quality hires a recruiter can get, boasting 25% higher profit than candidates sourced from other platforms — making it well worth the cost of referral bonuses. 

Before you get too idealistic with your candidate persona, envisioning candidates you’ve never met, take a look inside your company to identify current, qualified employees who you can promote from within. Internal employees are often your best candidates because they already know your business and company culture and will be eager to stay with a company that values the work they’ve already contributed. 


Step 2: Utilize job descriptions to weed out unqualified candidates

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No matter how or where you source candidates, it's important to create unique job descriptions for each open role that reflect the candidate persona you created. Your job description will act as a checklist for both the recruiter to identify qualified candidates as well as for job seekers to determine whether or not their skills and experiences will set them up for success in the role. 

Now, before you go creating job descriptions that contain every single skill you want the future employee to have, consider this; men apply to roles they meet 60% of the job description requirements whereas women apply to roles they meet 100% of the job description requirements. By including a laundry list of skills and experiences you want, you unintentionally weed out perfectly qualified candidates. Instead, narrow down a few very specific and critical requirements for the role.

On a similar note, a large number of job descriptions still include education requirements when the majority of candidates don’t actually need a bachelor’s degree to be successful in the role. When less than one-third of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, including education as a requirement on your job description significantly restricts your candidate pool. And when only 37.7% of software developers — the most in-demand candidates —have a bachelor’s degree, it’s to your benefit to focus on critical skills (both soft and hard) to identify top candidates.  

As you narrow your job description, ensure candidates who do meet your qualifications don’t abandon the process due to something as corrigible as simplifying your application process. Nearly half of candidates leave an application process because it’s too long or complicated, so don’t inadvertently narrow your candidate pool by not providing a stellar candidate experience.

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Step 3: Understand & Screen for immediate disqualifiers 

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Especially when you are hiring for highly technical roles, it’s important to screen for critical skills early in the recruitment process to save your team time while focusing on the candidates you are really serious about.

As we mentioned earlier, the job description should include only the necessary skills for the role. These skills will quickly help your team make initial cuts based on applications. From there, you will need to continue to disqualify candidates as they move through the talent pipeline

For technical roles, you should implement technical skills assessments. These tools help your team identify the strongest candidates even if your recruiting team isn’t trained to screen for and qualify an individual's technical skills. 

If you’re partnered with a staffing agency, work with one that is well-versed in the skills you are hiring for. And if you’re looking to reduce your reliance on staffing agencies and focus your time and resources on a long-term recruitment strategy, it may be worth your while to invest in these tools and resources in-house. Doing so will improve the efficiency of your recruitment process and ultimately yield higher quality candidates. 


Step 4: Attract top candidates with recruitment marketing

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Implementing a stellar recruitment marketing strategy is one of the quickest ways to improve the quality of your candidate pool as well as attract, engage and nurture relationships with qualified talent. Wait, what exactly is a recruitment marketing strategy? Recruitment marketing is where a company promotes its employer brand through the use of marketing tactics at every stage in the recruitment life cycle

For starters, with 80% of both active and passive candidates looking for their next job on social platforms, it’s no longer optional to include social media recruiting as part of your recruitment strategy. Again, how and who you target will be largely dictated by your employer branding social media strategy

While most candidates search for jobs online, it’s also important to market your company and roles in-person through recruitment events. Events are one of the best ways to attract quality candidates before they even apply. They offer a unique opportunity by allowing candidates to speak to their skills and experiences — details that would have otherwise been limited to bullet points on their resumes. If you’re not sure how to get started hosting or attending industry events, check out these 12 recruitment event ideas.  

Lastly, your careers page is not something to overlook. No matter where or how a candidate learns about your company, they will come to your careers page to learn more about your culture, open roles and benefits, so continuously update your careers page with the most recent information.

Step 5: Reduce unconscious bias in sourcing

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Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, refers to the underlying attitudes and stereotypes people unconsciously ascribe to an individual or group of people that affects how they understand and interact with them. Here are a few facts about how unconscious biases affect diverse candidates:

  • Resumes with African American-sounding names are called back for an interview 14% less often than those with white-sounding names.
  • Caucasian candidates receive 50% more callbacks for jobs than African American candidates. 
  • Men are two times more likely to be hired than women, regardless of the hiring manager’s gender.
  • The likelihood of a woman getting a job increases by 25-46% when the applications are blind.

When it comes to hiring, unconscious biases can hinder exceptional candidates from advancing — and prevent companies from building an exceptional team of diverse employees. The first step to combating biases at your workplace is to educate your team, especially your management team, about the different types of diversity as well as the common forms of unconscious biases. 

Some simple tips on reducing unconscious biases and improving the quality of your candidate pool include removing gendered pronouns from job descriptions, making your application process blind of factors that inform a candidate’s demographics and consciously creating a diverse hiring team for each open role.

As you build out your candidate pool, keep unconscious bias top of mind so your team is able to catch and correct tendencies, beliefs and behaviors early in the hiring process.



When it comes down to it, there are a number of ways for your team to improve the quality of your candidate pool. Every team is unique and has to determine where its time, money and additional resources are best spent. Establishing recruitment metrics that you can track as your team implements changes and evolves your strategy will help your team determine which tactics are actually improving your candidate pool. 

Continue to build your talent pipeline by encouraging high quality candidates you don’t hire to join your talent community — a group of people who could be exceptional employees at your company, but present circumstances inhibit them from joining your team. You can find additional tech recruiter resources to improve your strategy here

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