In a changing labor market, status-quo recruitment processes may no longer attract high-quality candidates. Employers may need to update their hiring practices or seek new technology, resources and workflows to help them compete for talent. One workflow that often proves successful is full-cycle recruiting.

What is full-cycle recruiting?

Also known as full life cycle recruiting or end-to-end recruiting, full-cycle recruiting is the complete process by which employers source and acquire talent. Depending on the organization's size, this responsibility may be fulfilled by one person or several. At large companies, specific teams are sometimes assigned to each phase of full-cycle recruiting, beginning with needs assessments and ending with onboarding.

The full-cycle recruiting process

Full-cycle recruiting encompasses six phases. If any of them are overlooked or mismanaged, it can hurt an employer’s chances of acquiring top talent quickly. Conversely, those who excel at each of the following steps may find it easier to weather labor market disruptions.


A vacancy or the creation of a new position sparks the preparation phase of full-cycle recruiting, during which employers craft an original job description or revise an existing one. But before sitting down to write, it may help to envision the ideal candidate. What role will this person play in the business? Which qualifications are necessary? Answering questions like these can help recruiters create more effective job ads.


Once the job description is complete, employers must meet their target candidates where they’re most likely to be found. For instance, an entry-level candidate might search for a job differently than someone with extensive experience in a niche field. Some recruitment mediums to consider include:

  • Online networks – Posting an opportunity on career sites can reach a broad audience.
  • Staffing agencies – Employers seeking a highly specialized position or temporary employees might rely on a recruitment agency.
  • Career fairs – Meeting people in person can help recruiters determine if someone has a personality that fits the workplace culture.
  • Employee referrals – Employees may know high-quality candidates who they think can meet expectations.


Employers might narrow their list of candidates by reviewing resumes and applications and asking job-related, prescreening questions over the phone. When tailored to a specific role, such questions can help recruiters determine if someone has the minimum qualifications to perform the job. Candidates who excel during preliminary conversations may be invited to an in-person interview.


Evaluating all applicants against the same requirements helps employers assess each of them fairly. Criteria to consider include the candidate’s skills, experience, interview responses and any other job-related information that may help with the final decision.


After choosing a candidate, recruiters make a conditional offer that includes key employment details, such as the job title, compensation and start date. If the candidate accepts the offer and provides written authorization, employers may contact references or conduct background screenings. Background checks must also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and all state and local laws.


Onboarding is more than just an administrative formality. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of new employees. Employers with an onboarding program that drives retention and productivity focus on the three “C’s” – connection, comfort and culture. During this process, the following may take place:

  • All tools and materials needed for the employee to work are provided ahead of time.
  • New hires complete as much paperwork as possible before their first day.
  • Managers introduce new hires to the team and give a tour of the workplace.
  • Managers and employees discuss expectations, company culture and success factors.
  • Employees are assigned any required orientation or training courses.

Benefits of full-cycle recruiting

Employers who effectively deploy full-cycle recruiting may be able to:

  • Enhance candidate experiences
  • Decrease time to hire
  • Improve talent acquisition rates
  • Reduce hiring costs

Cons of full-cycle recruiting

As hiring volume grows, full-cycle recruiting can become challenging for small companies with only one recruiter. A single person cannot meet the demand; consequently, time-to-hire and talent acquisition rates diminish. That’s why large companies usually have teams of hiring managers, each with a dedicated role in the end-to-end recruitment process. For instance, one group may focus entirely on sourcing candidates, and another may handle onboarding.

Frequently asked questions about full-cycle recruiting

Who is full-cycle recruiting applicable to?

Full-cycle recruiting applies to employers who follow the six talent acquisition stages – preparation, sourcing, screening, selection, hiring and onboarding.

How do you know if you are a full-cycle recruiter?

An HR professional is a full-cycle recruiter if the individual manages every aspect of the candidate journey, from posting job ads and conducting interviews to extending offers and onboarding new hires.

Who uses full life cycle recruiting?

Any business may use full-cycle recruiting, though the concept differs slightly based on the organization's size. Smaller companies may have a single full-cycle recruiter, whereas large enterprises tend to have teams of specialists for each stage of the talent acquisition process.

How long is a recruiting cycle?

Many variables influence time-to-hire, including the industry, the nature of the position and the employer's needs. For example, a temporary employee for a seasonal business may be hired in a day, whereas finding a qualified candidate for a senior executive position could take weeks or months.

Is full-cycle recruiting hard?

Full-cycle recruiting, especially for a single HR professional, can be challenging because it requires many skills. The individual must know how to communicate and build relationships, use the latest HR technology, negotiate competitive compensation packages, create engaging onboarding programs and more.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in answering the questions: what is full life cycle recruiting and what does full-cycle recruiting mean? It is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.