Here’s Why Your Recruiting Funnel Is Broken

The typical funnel has some major breakdowns at the top, the middle and the bottom.
By: | November 2, 2018 • 4 min read

First of all, if you’re in talent acquisition and you’re not already thinking of your hiring process as a funnel—similar to how your sales and marketing teams view their workflows—then I implore you to start thinking and measuring it in this way. Starting immediately. And here’s why: Recruiting is broken, and it’s not getting fixed until you take heed of this advice.

Successful talent acquisition teams are realizing that, in order to capture more candidates and hire better talent, they must play (and compete) in multiple layers of the recruiting funnel, including layers they may not have previously played in at all. This might include recruitment marketing and employer branding, both of which play a critical role at the top of the funnel. It might also include conducting pre-screens and interviews in ways you haven’t tried before.


But even for those organizations that are already competing in all layers, there are some major breakdowns in the funnel, namely at the top (converting traffic into applies), in the middle (converting applies to interviews) and at the bottom (converting interviews to offers). Let’s start with a look at the top.

The Top of the Funnel Sets the Stage

If you make mistakes at the top of the funnel, it’s going to be hard to recover later on. If you don’t bring in enough candidates, you’re a hamster on a wheel, with nowhere to go. And if you don’t bring in the right candidates, it’ll waste significant time and money in later stages (think unhappy hiring managers whose time is wasted by unproductive interviews and expensive pre-hire assessment tests administered to candidates who were never right for the req. in the first place).

Because of this, the top of the funnel has a dominant impact on your major key performance indicators like time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and quality-of-hire.

So, how effective is the top of the funnel progression at bringing in candidates? Well, when we put it under the microscope, not too great.

According to Jobvite, which analyzed millions of career-site visitors and completed applications, only 9 percent of career-site visitors turned into applicants. Similarly, Appcast found in its 2017 Recruitment Media Benchmark Report that only 7.5 percent of those that click on job ads complete an application. And the conversion story gets even worse on mobile, where only 4.5 percent of clicks on job ads are resulting in a completed application. That means more than 95 out of 100 people who come to your career site via this channel are bouncing from your site! And that’s a lot of wasted effort and a big recruiting problem. But why?

Application Nightmares

There are many reasons for these poor results, but most have to do with the apply process. At Brazen, we’ve dubbed the reaction that most candidates have to online applications as “application nightmares.” It’s anything but a favorable candidate experience: the applications are long—some take as long as an hour to complete—cumbersome and sometimes, downright insipid. They aren’t user friendly. They do nothing to advance your employer brand. And they aren’t mobile optimized.

So, should we rid recruiting of the online application altogether? Well, not necessarily. But unlike in years past, the application—like the resume—is playing a smaller part in the recruiting process.

It also should come without surprise that qualified candidates are dropping out in droves at the top of the funnel because many employers are only offering their candidates the option to apply when they hit their career site from a desktop. And, if you’ve been watching the numbers, desktop usage is down and mobile usage is up.

Fortunately, more and more organizations are giving their candidates options to connect; thereby increasing conversions at the top of the funnel. This could include top-of-the-funnel options like video testimonials and employee stories that encourage candidates to stick around on your career page while you build brand equity. And LinkedIn found that strong employer brands are leading to 50 percent more qualified candidates!

We did an analysis of the top 25 companies on Glassdoor’s best places work (under the assumption that great places to work have great people; thus, great hiring processes). This included companies like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Salesforce. We found that 56 percent are offering candidates the ability to engage with them through video content and 64 percent through employee stories.

It also includes the talent community where candidates are exchanging an email and their name for valuable content such as articles on how to nail an interview.

And lastly, options may also include more personal ways of interacting with candidates other than through one-way communication channels like the application. Look no further than online chat communication platforms (this list includes scheduled chats, live chat, chatbots and A.I.) which give talent acquisition teams the ability to offer their candidates the option to chat with their recruiters either during a scheduled time or directly on their career site.

Top candidates want this attention, and they want the process streamlined. Moving them straight to a conversation with your recruiters accomplishes both.

All of these options, in a way, give you a safety net so that fewer candidates fall through the cracks. But your efforts certainly can’t stop there.

Unqualified Candidates are Eating Up Your Time

The middle of the funnel certainly is dependent on what happens at the top of the funnel, so if you’re bringing in unqualified candidates at the top, you’re naturally going to have to spend an inordinate amount of time wading through unworthy resumes. In fact, according to Glassdoor Top HR Statistics, only 2 percent of applicants get moved to interviews.

Of course, there are ways you can more efficiently screen out poor candidates in the middle of the funnel (pre-screening questionnaires, assessments, cognitive tests) but my reason for even addressing the middle of the funnel is because I know that the only way you can have any significant impact on the middle is by fixing the top.

But the bottom of the funnel presents its own unique challenges and opportunities.

Predicting Employee Performance at the Bottom of the Funnel

There’s also a breakdown at the bottom of the funnel during the interview because too many companies are using the wrong techniques to assess candidates.

According to Schmidt, Oh and Shafer’s 2016 paper on predicting employee performance, experience and references explain only 3 percent and 7 percent, respectively, of employee performance. So why do employers continue to ask for this type of information in the interview and the application?

Those numbers are significantly lower than the top predictors of employee performance, which are cognitive tests (26 percent), structured interviews (26 percent) and work samples (29 percent). However, these techniques are less-commonly used.

By implementing the latter strategies, employers are able to identify top talent more quickly and make better hires. This also reduces the chances of making a poor hire, which is packed with additional unneeded costs.

Combining the Two

Up until now, we’ve looked at ways of fixing specific layers of the funnel. And if you follow the recommendations above, you’ll significantly improve your hiring results. But what if you could blend layers together, thereby speeding up the process? The key would be to collect the same information that’s gathered in, for example, structured interviews sooner in the process.


This is possible only by engaging with candidates earlier in the process through tools that allow you to have actual conversations with candidates at the top of the funnel. It’s the best of both worlds.

In the end, these recommendations should help you fill your funnel with more qualified candidates and identify the best performers to hire. The results? A more efficient, optimized recruiting funnel.

Ryan Healy is president and founder of Brazen, which provides chat software for recruiting.