Boost Conversion Percentages in Every Stage of the Hiring Funnel for Stronger ROI

To build a business case, understand how investments in any hiring stage creates ROI.



If you’ve ever tried to hire someone at your company, then you’ve probably heard of the hiring funnel. Traditionally, it’s broken up into multiple stages which comprise two distinct halves. Here’s how the Talent function typically thinks about and defines each stage of the hiring funnel:

  • Awareness: Garner name recognition for the company brand so potential candidates know who the company is and what they do.
  • Consideration: Someone is almost ready to take action and apply.  
  • Interest: This person wants to learn more about the company and will explore many avenues to do so.


This top half of the funnel is considered the Recruitment Marketing & Prospecting stage.
The bottom half is the Recruiting stage:

Assessment: This is the interview.

This is where a candidate is ready to take action and participate in the interview process. 1:1 or panel interviews (candidate meets with multiple hiring stakeholders). This is where the Recruiter becomes an active owner of the process, balancing between acting as an advisor to hiring managers/stakeholders while maintaining a high quality candidate experience.

Selection: This is the process by which all stakeholders decide on whether or not a candidate is selected for hire.

Hiring Managers/stakeholders are the ultimate decision makers for hire/no hire.

Most companies focus on solving for the top of the funnel: get more people in the pipeline in order to increase hiring speed. What’s missing in that formula is QUALITY. Quality is meant to be addressed further down in the middle of the funnel at the “Assessment” Stage—or at least that’s the goal. The truth is, it’s a mystery. Everybody wants to hire quality candidates, but nobody knows how to assess for quality.

The quality of a hire encompasses the candidate’s whole self. Here’s a helpful equation:

Candidate’s whole self = technical and functional expertise + behavioral attributes and motivations

Right now, most companies focus on the first part of that equation (technical and functional expertise) because those areas are more concrete. You can ascertain the level of expertise from actual data and there generally seems to be a right or wrong answer. 

The second part of that equation (behavioral attributes and motivations) has traditionally not been so scientific. That’s because data has never been attributed to those factors. Companies have tried to add some science around it by using platforms that include behavioral assessments. Typically, behavioral assessment platforms produce data-driven charts and graphs that closely describe a candidate’s behavioral tendencies. The potential employer uses that data to predict how the candidate will perform at the company. This added piece of data is supremely helpful and has made decision makers/hiring stakeholders much more confident in the selection process and identifying a candidate for hire. 

But if we take a closer look at some of these behavioral assessment platforms, the inputs are self-identifiable, self-described and self-proclaimed. Simply put, the report that will be generated is based on how the candidate perceives themselves. This is certainly not a knock on behavioral assessments—it’s purely a segmentation of the data source. What’s missing is a data-driven solution to evaluate how they are perceived by others, and how that information reliably assists you in your hiring decision. 

Every Talent Leader's goal is to increase the expediency of hiring with the highest quality of candidates. So, they want conversion rates to be their KPI for hiring quality candidates faster. But filling the top of the funnel with a high quantity of candidates isn’t going to yield the optimal level of quality hires. Consider this scenario, assessing candidate conversion rates from the top of the funnel to the middle of the funnel:

Step 1 - Top of Funnel: Recruitment Marketing and Prospecting

Quantity of Candidates 

Action Taken: Sourcing/prospecting

Methods Used: Sourcing platforms (i.e., LinkedIn, Gem)

Goal: Convert candidates from awareness, consideration and interest to the middle of the funnel.

Benchmark conversion rate for Startup and SMB companies from top of funnel to middle is only 20% (source: Gem 2020 benchmark report). This is largely due to lack of employer brand/recognition.

Only 17% of your filled Top of Funnel then make it to the Middle of Funnel:

Step 2 - Middle of Funnel: Assessment and Selection

Quality of Candidates

Action Taken: 1:1 or panel interviews (candidate meets with multiple hiring stakeholders)

Methods Used: Interviewer asks questions; candidate answers 

Goal: Assess the quality of the candidate; how do we know this is the best person for the job?

Benchmark conversion rate for Startup and SMB companies from middle of funnel to lower funnel is ~30% (source: Gem 2020 benchmark report). 

This means that of the 17% that made it to the middle of the funnel, only 30% converted from assessment (being interviewed) to selection (being selected for hire). This debunks the original theory that if we fill the top of the funnel with a quantity of candidates, then hiring should be faster. However, if quality is factored in sooner, it means you source fewer people, more convert to assessment, and more get to offer.

Not only will your speed of hiring increase, but quality of hire will as well.

So how do we define the quality of a hire? It starts from the very beginning, once the company decides that there is a gap on the team. Additional team members need to be hired, and the search begins. Once it’s launched, the Recruiter needs to know what to hire so they will set up a kickoff meeting also known as an intake meeting. The purpose of an intake meeting is to establish the ICP (Ideal Candidate Profile). As concrete as this sounds, this is where the confusion often begins. And all the sudden, many questions arise: 

How do we know what the right profile is, beyond what school someone went to and where they’ve worked? 

Sure, we can list a bunch of values and characteristics, but how do we know that a candidate really has those qualities? 

When we get to the assessment (or interviewing stage), do behavioral assessments give us an accurate picture? 

Do endorsements or feedback from people who know this candidate and have first-hand experience working with them give us more insightful information?

If we receive feedback from references, how can we totally trust that information?  

At this point, you might be thinking, “I wish there was a data-driven platform that create the right success profile for me and assess candidates against it!” Thankfully, there is.  

With Searchlight, you can compare the data that comes back from the references side-by-side with the success profile that was established at the search kickoff. The intake meeting is the source of truth, and along with the reference information, you have the ability to link candidate attributes with the “soft skills” of the role—which will ultimately lead to a confident decision of hire versus not hire.

Ready to increase hiring conversion by focusing on quality over quantity? Learn more about how we can help grow your team the right way. Schedule a demo today and subscribe to receive more info on hiring and onboarding solutions.


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