Inbound vs Outbound Recruiting: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Everything you ever wanted to know about inbound and outbound recruiting as a guide for developing your own recruitment strategy.

When I started recruiting employees for my first company, I didn’t know the difference between outbound and inbound recruiting. Now I know that I’ve been practicing outbound recruiting, and I also know that the world of recruitment has changed and continues to evolve.

New positions emerge all the time, and technologies used for recruiting don’t lag behind. In addition, candidates have different motivations and drivers than a few years ago. Many companies have to work hard to improve their employee experience. Candidates no longer focus on a salary and nice offices only. Their main priorities are personal and professional growth, as well as flexibility, and many other factors.

The evolution of hiring needs and recruitment not always benefits recruiters and HRs. Quite often, the side effects of such an evolution include a temporary inability to attract enough talent. Thus, companies start to realize that they need to change their approach to make their recruiting strategies more effective. For example, reaching out to candidates and trying to hire them may turn out to be a somewhat outdated method. Instead of putting a lot of effort into attracting talent, it makes sense to make your company itself attractive, so that candidates would gravitate to it being driven by their own choice.

There was a time when companies had a full control over the hiring process but the situation has changed. According to statistics, the majority of job seekers start looking for a job on Google. Everyone can find any necessary information about any company in just a few clicks: what positions are available, what the workplace looks like, or even what is the salary.

Thus, creating your employer brand becomes especially important, and recruiters have to think like marketers to attract more candidates and to create the best experience for them.

Outbound and Inbound Recruiting

Outbound recruiting is a traditional approach. It involves posting jobs on your website or job boards. Recruiters who stick with outbound recruiting fight for new talent. They search for promising candidates and use any means possible (emails, cold-calling, ads, events) to present them to the company. If recruiters didn’t reach out to the candidates, the latter wouldn’t otherwise think about working in the company or know about it at all. Outbound recruiting implies the company to initiate the contact.

Inbound recruiting is about creating an opportunity for your candidates to find your company. Inbound recruiting is aimed at creating engagement and raising awareness for the candidates to make them want to come to the company. Many companies that have become successful don’t need to search for talent. Their main goal is to select the best out of a big pool of candidates that are willing to work for them. However, inbound recruiting is not only for successful companies — it’s just an approach aimed at making your company attractive for the candidates. It often involves using email campaigns and social media in order to provide potential candidates with engaging content.

85% of the workforce want to hear from you
85% of the workforce want to hear from you | Source: LinkedIn Business

LinkedIn has conducted a survey that revealed some interesting facts about candidates looking for a job. It turns out that only 25% of them are actively seeking a job, while others remain out of the market. Thus, the success of a recruiter to a large extent depends on their ability to recruit passive talent. 15% of such candidates are not ready to change their job yet but prepare to do it in the future. 80% of them are not looking for a new job but want to know about all the available opportunities and are willing to talk to hiring managers.

”Approachable” professionals by country: the outliers
”Approachable” professionals by country: the outliers | Source: LinkedIn Business

Candidates who want to learn more about available positions and who are open for a dialogue with hiring managers are the main target of outbound recruiting strategies. These strategies involve creating a talent pool and reaching out. Recruiters analyze the requirements and specifics of a job and compose a perfect candidate persona. Sometimes, creating a proper talent pool takes years of hard work. In addition, this task requires a recruiter to have well-developed social sourcing skills. Recruiters also use various online platforms for experts in specific industries: Github for programmers, ProductHunt for product managers, Medium for content writers, etc., as well as social media.

Inbound recruiters use many methods popular among digital marketers. Digital marketers create the “buyer journey:” They attract strangers, convert them into leads, and then turn them into customers or even promoters. Inbound recruiters do the same thing, the only difference is that they work not with buyers but with candidates. They use SEO-optimized landing pages, social media, employer branding content, referral channels, and PPC campaigns — these are tools that help inbound recruiters attract candidates. In addition, there are Applicant Tracking Systems and other types of software that reduce cumbersome paperwork and simplify the whole application process. However, many candidates are not ready to apply for a job immediately yet interested in connecting with your brand and learning about the opportunities it offers. That’s when hiring managers focus on email marketing, social recruiting, and calls-to-action in talent networks, as well as job alerts.

Main Differences Between Outbound and Inbound Recruiting

As you can see, outbound and inbound recruiting are two completely different approaches. Although inbound recruiting becomes more and more popular method of talent acquisition, it’s hard to imagine a successful recruiting strategy that would rely on one of these two methods solely. Both inbound and outbound strategies have their advantages and drawbacks, so let’s consider these approaches in more detail.

Many people consider inbound and outbound recruiting as long-term and short-term solutions. Inbound recruiting is a good long-term solution because it allows you to build an employer brand which will work for you, attracting potential employees and growing your pool of applicants. Although this method requires patience, it is very cost-effective and demonstrates a better quality of hire. In contrast, outbound recruiting is a perfect short-term solution. It is often used when a company has an urgent need for fresh talent and it shows results quickly. However, it’s hard to use it as the only hiring strategy. It’s important to understand that many of your competitors may share a lot of information about themselves with candidates so if you don’t do the same, it may be a big mistake.

It makes sense to compare out- and inbound recruiting to outbound sales and inbound marketing. Just like outbound sales, outbound recruiting is focused on searching for candidates that may be a good fit. After that, hiring managers initiate the conversation in order to understand whether the selected candidates have any “pain points.” In this context, inbound recruiting is similar to inbound marketing, where customers can understand what are their pain points at the very beginning. Relevant content helps candidates assess their expectations and compare them to what a company offers. It may turn out that they don’t receive the desired salary or don’t like the corporate culture in their current company so your company is a better solution.

Let’s illustrate both recruiting methods with examples. If you have a job opening and you choose the inbound method, it means that you’ve already provided a lot of useful information about your company so candidates already know what they are looking for and contact you. In other words, when using the inbound approach, if you have a need for talent, you already have candidates who are familiar with your employer brand. On the other hand, if you stick with the outbound approach, you will have to search for the candidates.

Advantages of Inbound Recruiting

Although the two approaches to recruiting are different, each one of them offers certain benefits for a hiring manager or recruiter. Here’s why inbound recruiting is a good choice:

1. Less upfront effort

Unlike the outbound approach, inbound recruiting doesn’t require you to spend many hours communicating with all candidates. You also don’t need strong scouting practice. However, it still implies a certain investment. This especially applies to the recruiters engaged in long-term campaigns. You must develop and improve your brand messaging, you have to place advertisements, and to create an application platform.

2. A wider range of applicants

Inbound recruiting allows you to have a much bigger pool of candidates. If your brand becomes well-known among candidates, there are hundreds or even thousands of people who are interested in your company and want to become your employees. Therefore, you get a wider range to choose from and have more opportunity to find the best final candidate.

3. Lasting effect

Emily Grogan, a recruiting manager at Masterra, explains what is the main advantage of inbound recruiting: “Once your recruiting strategy is set up and works, it will bring you candidates as long as it exists. You have a pool of applicants with new people coming all the time. When you have an open position, there are always many people who are ready to start working. There’s no need to start all over again every time there’s a new opening waiting for a candidate.”

Advantages of Outbound Recruiting

Although inbound recruiting has a lot to offer and shows the best results in the modern talent market, outbound recruiting isn’t something obsolete or useless. Moreover, it still has certain benefits over inbound recruiting, which is a reason why hiring managers and recruiters shouldn’t forget about outbound strategies.

1. Easier vetting

Inbound recruiting requires less upfront effort, however, it also requires you to be more serious about the vetting stage of recruiting. There are too many candidates so you need to make sure people you choose are worthy of the position. Outbound recruiting includes this process at the very beginning so you already know who can or cannot be a good fit for the position.

2. More specific targets

If you have a clear understanding of what candidate you need and what their strong sides should be, outbound recruiting allows you to find the perfect fit. It would be much harder to do if you had to wait until your candidate appears among dozens of other people who passed the application process. Outbound recruiting is certainly better when you deal with positions that require very specific skills or need a candidate who has an outstanding level of experience or talent.

3. It’s more personal

The whole process of outbound recruiting is more personal. When your brand initiates conversation, it looks friendlier. The outbound method also gives you an opportunity to build good relationships with your employees from the very beginning. There are many recruiters who prefer outbound recruiting because it creates more opportunity to engage with candidates, instead of just checking new resumes or cover letters.

What to Choose?

Savvy recruiters use both outbound and inbound recruiting, mixing these methods. A combination of these approaches gives you a big pool of candidates and is targeted at the same time. If you’re dealing with a new business and need quick results, outbound recruiting is what can help you. Networking and cold calls will always work, providing you with candidates right now. On the other hand, outbound recruiting will not help if you need a continuous source of candidates. Inbound recruiting allows you to get many candidates, each of which is interested in your company and wants to talk to you.

The majority of modern companies consider outbound recruiting their plan B, which can help when they cannot find people with the necessary skills or experience among many existing candidates. On the other hand, when using inbound strategies, you always attract new talent and it gets easier to fill an open position. Inbound recruiting is a good long-term solution, and that’s how it should be used.


The world of recruitment constantly evolves and changes. Some companies that used to reach out to their candidates directly, targeting people who can be a perfect fit, often face difficulties attracting enough talent.

Outbound recruitment is no longer the only way to look for candidates. Inbound recruitment enables hiring managers to choose from among hundreds of candidates who have already made their choice. They can get familiar with your employer brand and figure out what are their expectations and your company’s features. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that outbound recruiting becomes something unnecessary or useless. Quite the opposite, recruiters still need it when inbound tactics cannot bring candidates with specific qualities.

The outbound approach is more personal and more engaging. Effective recruiting should include elements of both these methods, being fast, targeted, and reliable in the long-term perspective.

Berta Melder is an experienced brand manager, creative writer and enthusiastic blogger. Currently associated with Masterra as a content marketing strategist. She cooperates with different education courses covering a broad range of digital topics as a guest lecturer. Follow her on Twitter.

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