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Recruiters, are you making this (expensive) mistake?

Marv and Mei are tech recruiters at a unicorn startup.

As tech-savvy talent acquisition professionals, they both utilize modern tools and tactics to fill their talent acquisition funnels. They spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, searching for potential candidates that match their search keywords and sending cold InMails with a hope to catch their attention.

It’s a time-consuming process. It’s riddled with flaws. But Mei closes 2x more hires than Marv. Why’s that?

They both have their sourcing game down, optimized to the fullest, but Mei has a major advantage. She cracked the code on how to make her inbound channel work for her. Instead of investing all her efforts chasing people down on LinkedIn, she figured out how to attract job candidates to her company and effectively comb through the applicants to identify qualified talent among them.

Why you need inbound recruiting

Marv and Mei aren’t real, but the effectiveness of inbound recruiting is far from fiction. When your organization is expected to scale rapidly, the pressure is on. You need both quantity and quality when it comes to new hires.

As a result, it’s natural to want to take a more “active” approach by focusing exclusively on outbound recruiting, whether in a form of sourcing or through agencies and headhunters. It gives you a sense of “control”, because the more people you chase down on LinkedIn the more candidates you could bring in. 

But focusing on the outbound channel for candidates before assessing the biggest opportunity across all your channels can be an expensive mistake. Any experienced marketer will tell you that the inbound channel is much less expensive and far more repeatable than the outbound channel when it comes to customer acquisition. 

And this lesson applies directly to the world of talent acquisition as well. 

When you tap into your inbound channel, you can unlock a new source of potential employees at a fraction of the time and cost you spend on your outbound candidates. Furthermore, you will quickly learn that the inbound candidates, so called “applicants”, will outshine the “sourced” candidates in every recruiting metrics – from time to hire, offer-to-hire conversion rate, and more. 

Inbound channel is cheaper and faster

If you do it for no other reason, do it for this one: inbound is far less expensive than traditional recruiting. Posting on job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster often costs in the mere tens or hundreds of dollars, compared to the fees you pay agencies and headhunters (which often equate to 25-35% of the new hire’s annual salary as a commission).

But there are hidden cost savings, as well. For starters, applicants, unlike sourced candidates, are ready to go through the interview process quickly. There’s no convincing them to consider the opportunity, which takes patience and time from your recruiters.

And don’t forget that inbound applicants are more likely to accept your offer. When you first interact with an inbound applicant, you know that they’re actively searching for a new opportunity. This is compared to those candidates that you’re headhunting — your outbound contacts may not be looking for an opportunity like yours, or they may be so happy in their current role that they would require a significant raise or benefits to even consider switching. 

Plus, the candidates you source through your outbound recruiting are often being approached by 20 other recruiters, igniting a bidding war on compensation when that candidate interviews at all 20 companies. Your chance in closing that candidate is just 1 out of 20. On the other hand, your inbound applicants move fast. They’re ready and waiting to start their new role. In other words, from the start, your inbound leads’ objectives are aligned with yours.

How to make inbound work for you

1. Open up the top of the funnel

When you’re using a laser-focused outbound approach to recruiting, your candidate pool tends to be narrow. Your focus might be on candidates with a strong LinkedIn presence, or who have done work for similar companies in the past.

But what about the candidates whose resumes don’t reflect their current level of experience? What about those who aren’t active on LinkedIn, or haven’t had much traditional employment experience?

You can use inbound to attract a diverse pool of highly-qualified future employees who may not seem (on the surface) like ideal candidates. 

Try it: 

  • Incorporate multichannel employer branding into your recruiting strategy. Borrow the best ideas from the content marketing world and apply them to your inbound recruiting, like using “personas” to identify your ideal candidates and sharing valuable, branded content to your target audience through email and social.
  • Go wide with job posting. Publicize your job openings on the usual platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster, but try less conventional (or more niche) sites as well.
  • Partner with a variety of colleges and other educational organizations such as bootcamps rather than handpicking a select few schools.
  • Update your “team” and “about” pages to help applicants learn more about your company and team culture.

2. Use skill data to screen applicants objectively and at scale

Your outbound channel starts with screening and then you state your “intent.” Inbound is the opposite. You start with people, with the intent to connect and resonate with them, and then you screen your incoming applicants.

Want to know one of the biggest mistakes recruiters make when it’s time to screen your inbound applicants? It’s this: using resume-driven screening. When you do this, you end up drastically reducing your funnel with only people who have the right resume, but not necessarily the right skills.

It’s essential to have a system for quickly and accurately assessing a large number of candidates’ skills before you commit to an interview.

Try it:

Use automated tests to assess candidates’ skills upfront. For example, if you are hiring for technical roles such as software engineers and data scientists, a tool like CodeSignal offers you the ability to directly measure developer skills instead of trying to decipher the skill levels from their resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Further, by using a centralized assessment platform, you can quickly compare candidates’ scores, strengths, and opportunities.

3. Automation is your best friend

Just like in marketing, one of the major benefits of using inbound recruiting strategies is the ability to handle a large volume of applicants using automation. When you set it up thoughtfully, your inbound recruiting can work for you around the clock when you’re busy conversing with candidates, doing market research, or taking time off.

Try it:

Test out different automation tools to incorporate into your inbound strategy. Applicant tracking systems (ATS), technical interview automation, and email marketing platforms are all a great place to start. Many of these tools offer automated workflow features or you can use automation tools like Zapier to create your own custom automation. For example, when an applicant submits his/her application, you can automatically invite them to take a test by sending the test link in an email.


Inbound marketing is a relatively new concept in the sales world, and it’s similarly new in the recruiting world. But inbound presents an exciting opportunity to establish and benefit from a scalable source of applicants while increasing awareness of your employer brand.  It shares both who you are as an employer and what you’re looking for in the perfect candidate. When done well, it works day and night to attract future employees who will shape your organization into a competitive player and sustain it for years to come.

Amanda Layman is the founder of Tigris Content Marketing, a B2B SEO agency serving software and tech companies.