Inbound vs. Outbound Recruiting: What You Need to Know

Dylan Weiss

Dylan Weiss

9 min read

This past year, the recruiting world has seen it all, from mass layoffs to labor shortages caused by The Great Resignation. The sudden economic crisis has forced large tech companies to lay off candidates they hired post-pandemic.

Moreover, employees have been voluntarily resigning as they no longer wish to work in organizations that fail to reward their efforts.  With chaos ensuing in the job market, hiring managers are facing immense challenges in finding the right talent for their teams.

Unfortunately, implementing basic recruitment strategies that worked in the past will not suffice in today’s economic scenario.

When it comes to recruiting, the two most commonly used hiring tactics include:

  • Inbound recruiting
  • Outbound recruiting

Inbound and outbound recruitment are very different but equally essential hiring strategies that recruiters can enact to fulfill their hiring needs. But when you want to compare inbound vs. outbound recruiting, one question will undoubtedly pop into your head: “Which one is better?”

This blog will give you the clarity you need by outlining the key elements of inbound and outbound recruitment, how they differ, and what makes each of them stand out. Let’s dive in!

What is Inbound and Outbound Recruiting?

Inbound and outbound recruiting are vastly different recruiting philosophies, each having different approaches and employing different tactics. However, both have the same goal: hiring the perfect candidate.

Inbound recruiting is a strategy where recruiters aim to continually attract top candidates and encourage them to select your organization as their next employer.

Your main mission in inbound recruiting is leading the candidates through the three stages of the candidates’ journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Action.

You bring awareness to the candidates through numerous ways, such as showcasing employee brand on social media, putting job postings on multiple platforms, and having your recruiters openly state they are hiring so candidates are incentivized to apply.

You drive consideration by highlighting the perks of working with you and positioning your authority in the industry. All this is usually mentioned in the job descriptions, so interested candidates are inclined to apply.

The final stage is where the candidates take action, i.e., fill in the application form or send emails with their resumes and portfolios.

This is where recruiters can enjoy having their pick out of several applicants and can shortlist the ones they find to be suitable for the role.

Outbound recruiting is a recruitment strategy that involves recruiters proactively searching for and contacting candidates when a new position you need to fill opens.

Your aim in outbound recruiting is to skip the application stage and directly offer your job opening to the desired candidates.

Outbound hiring primarily involves cold emailing or cold DMing prospective candidates persuading them to consider a role at your company. Instead of receiving job applications, you are the one on the lookout for the ideal candidate.

Inbound vs. Outbound Recruiting: What is the difference?

Although inbound recruiting has become a more conventional talent acquisition method, outbound recruitment is also on the rise. Here are 3 ways they differ:

1) Solution type

Inbound:

Many consider inbound recruiting a long-term solution and outbound recruiting a short-term solution. Inbound recruiting is a solid long-term solution since it enables you to build an employer brand that will work in your company's favor, attracting prospective talent and growing your pool of applicants. While this method requires a lot of patience, it is very cost-effective and demonstrates a pool of better-quality candidates over time.

Outbound

In comparison, outbound recruiting is seen as an ideal short-term solution. It is usually applied when a company has an immediate hiring need and want results right away. However, leveraging it as your only hiring strategy is difficult. It's crucial to understand that most top talent might be employed elsewhere. Hence you must be strategic when reaching out to these candidates.

2) Method of attracting candidates

Inbound

To put it simply, think of inbound recruiting as similar to inbound marketing, where candidates are already aware of their pain points before embarking on the job hunt. Companies posting relevant content and building their brand help these candidates analyze their expectations and compare them to what the company offers. For instance, if they find that a particular company is not offering their expected salary or realize the company has a poor work culture, it will deter them from considering the job.

Outbound

When you draw parallels between Outbound recruitment and outbound sales, there are many similarities found. Just like outbound sales, the main focus of outbound hiring is actively searching for candidates who may be a good fit. After that, hiring managers initiate the conversation to understand whether the selected candidates are happy with their current employers or if they have any "pain points" that can be resolved by your organization.

3) Role of the recruiter

Inbound

If you have a job opening and choose the inbound strategy, you've already provided a lot of helpful information about your company. Candidates would already know their professional goals, and if they find the role aligns with them, they will reach out to you.

Your role as a recruiter here is to advertise your company through job postings and social media, shortlisting from the sea of applicants, and interviewing the preferred candidates for the role.

Outbound

Now, outbound recruitment is a different ball game. If you choose to go with the outbound approach, you will have to make an effort to search for the candidates instead of them coming to you. Moreover, you have to explicitly explain the benefits of working in your organization since they might not have much of an idea about the same.

The recruiter's role is to conduct thorough research and conduct effective outreach, thus convincing the prospective candidate to join the organization. Covey offers a One-Click outreach feature that can simplify your candidate sourcing efforts.

Schedule a Demo with us to find out more.

How to apply Inbound and Outbound recruiting strategies?

Regardless of their differences, it is hard to imagine a successful recruiting strategy solely relying on one of these two methods. Both inbound and outbound strategies have different methods of implementation as well. Let’s look at how to apply inbound and outbound recruitment strategies practically.

Inbound recruiting strategy

With inbound hiring, your mission is to attract candidates and to have them consider you as their future employer. Here are the steps you should follow when outlining an inbound recruitment strategy:

Draft a candidate persona.

First, you must consider the type of candidates you want for the role. Let's say you are hiring for a software developer role. It means they must be proficient with specific coding languages such as Java, Python, etc. Create a candidate persona based on your hiring needs.

Make a job description.

Now that you know what you need in a candidate, the next step is to write a job description detailing your requirements for the role. A good job description is an essential step in finding qualified candidates. Ensure you clearly specify the candidate's responsibilities in the job description.

Showcase the benefits of working with you.

As you map out your job description, don't forget to highlight the perks of working with your organization. Mention perks such as flexible working hours, health insurance, if the role is remote, etc. Top candidates know their worth and would prefer to work in organizations that also value their contribution.

Promote the role on multiple job platforms.

Now that you have your job description ready, it's time to get it out into the world. Advertise the role on websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and  Ziprecruiter to broaden your search. You can also post on niche-specific job sites like Dribble for designers.

Shape your employer brand.

To attract quality candidates, you must give them a reason to motivate them to join your team. Create compelling social media posts, videos, and website content where you would introduce your team and showcase your company culture and employee value proposition.

Provide Seamless Candidate Experience.

Once you pique their interest, make it easy for them to reach out to you and apply for your positions. Include an application form where they can fill out their details and any specific points they want to mention.

Outbound recruiting strategy

Your goal in outbound recruitment is to skip to the application stage and offer your job opening almost immediately. Since the competition for talent is intense, it takes much more to attract talented people than just promoting your job opening. Here are a few steps you can follow:

Research candidates.

Conduct in-depth research on the type of candidate you want for the role. Typically, there are specific attributes that you’re looking for, such as the number of years of experience in a domain, previous companies, etc. It also includes assessing their values, professional goals, etc., and determining the candidates' wants and needs.

Find ways to connect with candidates.

Attending industry-centric conferences, educational seminars, and similar events is a smart way to meet potential candidates. Otherwise, outreaches on Linkedin are a great way of connecting with prospective candidates. l.

Write a personalized email.

Reach out to the candidate via email explaining why you think they are the right fit for the role while emphasizing the benefit they would get from your organization. Identify an employee value proposition you can offer them and entice them to join your team.

Leverage an AI Sourcing tool to simplify the process.

In cases when outbound hiring gets too tedious and time-consuming, AI sourcing tools are the way to go! A powerful sourcing tool can help you find perfect-fit candidates by scanning databases and niche sites and personalizing candidate outreach.

Covey is one of the best tools trusted by top brands like Clubhouse, Miro, and Clockwise to streamline hiring processes and hire quality talent faster. See Covey in action by scheduling a demo with us!

When comparing both recruitment strategies, candidates sourced through inbound means are more likely to accept the job offer.

They research your company by checking out your website and reading employee reviews on platforms like Glassdoor. These candidates want to learn about the company culture and find reasons to work in your organization. With inbound hiring, you will have all these touchpoints covered; hence it is easier to attract top talent.

Inbound hiring is a long-term strategy. You will attract more and better candidates over time, but it is a massive investment of time and money.

Outbound hiring is relatively more complex. Although you get to engage and network with the top candidates, there is no guarantee that they will choose to work with your company. To make outbound hiring work, you'll typically need to have an automated recruiting tool, know the specific candidate type that you want for the role, and know where and how to find them.

Advantages of Outbound Recruiting and Inbound Recruiting

As you can see, both strategies are very different, but they both have certain benefits that make them stand out. The following section will highlight in depth the benefits of inbound vs. outbound recruitment.

Advantages of Inbound Recruiting

Inbound hiring is one of the most traditional ways of recruitment seen in companies. Here are a few reasons why inbound recruiting is a good choice:

Lesser effort on the recruiter's end.

Inbound recruiting doesn't involve hiring teams spending time conducting outreach and communicating with all candidates. The focus is primarily on developing and improving employer brand messaging, placing job advertisements, and updating the careers page. You also wouldn't need strong scouting practice. However, it still implies a specific long-term investment. This especially applies to recruiters engaged in long-term campaigns.

A larger talent pool.

Inbound recruiting enables recruiters to have a much larger pool of candidates. If your brand becomes well-known among candidates, hundreds or thousands of people will be interested in your company and want to become your employees. Therefore, you get a broader range and more opportunities to find the best final candidate.

Long-lasting impact.

As soon as your recruiting strategy is set up and works perfectly; it will attract quality candidates in the long run. You have a steady talent pipeline with new people constantly applying to roles. Hence, when you have an opening at the company, there will always be people ready to work with you. There's no need to repeat your process for every new hire.

Advantages of Outbound Recruiting

Although inbound recruiting has been the standard operating procedure for most hiring teams, outbound hiring is almost a necessary strategy in today’s competition for top talent.. Here are a few ways outbound recruitment takes the lead over inbound hiring:

Easier screening of talent.

While inbound recruiting doesn't involve much of the recruiters' effort in sourcing, things are different when shortlisting the candidates for the role. Given the vast pool of applicants, a good percentage might not be qualified, so you must ensure the selected candidates are the right fit.

However, during outbound recruitment, this task is completed at the very beginning. Therefore you wouldn't have to spend much time vetting multiple candidates.

Better clarity in candidate selection.

Outbound recruiting is undoubtedly a wiser choice when hiring for positions that require a specific skill set or need a candidate with outstanding experience or talent. Outbound recruiting gives you a chance to find the perfect fit easily since you clearly understand the requirements for the role and the criteria needed to be fulfilled by the candidates.

It would be much harder to accomplish this if you had to screen through multiple applications until the right candidate appears among dozens of others who passed the application process.

A more personalized approach.

Many recruiters prefer outbound recruiting because it creates opportunities to interact with candidates rather than just perusing new resumes or cover letters. The outbound method also allows you to build good relationships with your potential employees from the very beginning. When the company initiates the conversation, it looks friendlier.

Higher Pass-Through Rate.

Given the impact of the pandemic on the recruitment industry, there was a significant drop in job applications compared to the pre-pandemic scenario. In such cases, recruiters had to resort to sourcing passive candidates for their open positions.

However, pass-through rates for outbound candidates are much higher at the top of the funnel. This trend continues throughout the funnel, i.e., the pass-through rate is 1% for inbound candidates and 6% for outbound ones.

What is the Right Option for Your Hiring Team?

Recruiters who have been in the game long enough know that mixing both inbound and outbound recruiting would get you the best results. By combining both approaches, you get a big pool of qualified candidates.

Outbound recruiting is the way to go if your startup or company is younger and has lower brand awareness, and you need to fill key roles. You can employ great candidates through networking and cold emails. On the other hand, outbound recruiting will not work if you need to hire a large number of candidates for multiple roles. Inbound recruiting can get you many interested candidates with unique skill sets.

Inbound recruiting is an excellent long-term solution, and that's why large companies with complex hiring needs prefer it. many of these same companies also use outbound recruitment, especially when it comes to helping them find people with particular skills or experience among several existing candidates.

Each hiring team has different priorities, so it is best to understand your needs before finalizing your recruitment strategy.

Improve your Recruitment Strategy with Covey

Whether you employ an inbound or outbound recruitment strategy, Covey perfectly integrates everything a recruiter needs. What happens if you need an outbound strategy but can't find the capacity to the source?

Covey’s augmented sourcing feature helps you source, send drip campaigns, gather referrals, and provide candidate pipeline reporting. Plus, you can provide your recruiting team complete visibility into candidate pipeline progress, recruiting team performance, and diversity goals.

Want to make better hires faster? Schedule a demo with us to enhance your recruitment game!

Built for endless use cases
across all talent teams.

Ready to see Covey in action?