Thoughtful communication is what holds employers and candidates together during the hiring process. People don’t want to talk to companies. They want to talk to the people at those companies. Getting your candidate communication right can ensure this happens and should apply from your very first hire.
So why are so many employers still getting it wrong?
Almost two thirds of candidates say they’re unhappy with the low levels of communication they receive from employers after applying for a job. And more than half say they’re not kept updated with the progress of their application.
Does this actually matter? (Spoiler alert: yes)
And how can you get your candidate communication right?
Glassdoor reported that companies that took the time to develop a positive candidate hiring experience reported a 70% improvement in the quality of hires.
Maybe you only have one vacancy right now. You’re only going to hire one of these candidates. That’s the only one that matters, right?
Hmm. Not quite.
That mindset overlooks three key things.
1. You don’t know which one you’re going to hire yet.
Let’s say you get 50 applications for your vacancy. You figure you’ll shortlist and interview ten to find the ‘one’. But at this stage you don’t know which one of the original fifty is your ‘one’.
Somewhere in that pile of 50 CVs could be your golden nugget employee. The person who you want to make feel so positive by the end of this process that it’s a no-brainer to accept your offer.
You don’t know which one they are yet. But they all have the potential to be that person. And the last thing you want is for that person to feel frustrated, disappointed, or let down by you. So treat them all like golden nuggets.
2. You don’t know who you’ll need again in the future.
You may only have one vacancy now. But who knows what the future holds? This process may throw up multiple talented people. The kind you know in your bones you’ll have a place for in the near future.
When the time’s right you’ll have another role they’d be perfect for. If your communication’s been off the first time around, they’re much less likely to apply for a role with you in the future.
In fact, 8 out of 10 candidates say they’d be discouraged from applying for a role if they didn’t receive feedback about a previous application.
3. Your candidates are your customers.
Don’t underestimate how your employer brand can impact your company brand – and your bottom line.
In the late 2010s, Virgin Media uncovered the impact of a poor candidate experience on its bottom line.
Thanks to a poor candidate experience, literally thousands of disgruntled would-be candidates chose to cancel their subscriptions. The blunder was costing the company £4.4 million a year.
And 72% of candidates who have a bad experience will tell their friends, family, and colleagues about it.
So remember – your candidate experience is a PR and branding exercise. So treat it like one.
All application processes can be roughly divided into four phases:
Each phase gives you an opportunity to show your candidates who you are. An opportunity to be open, honest, and clear about their next steps.
It’s important to think of how your candidates will be feeling at each stage. Really empathising with their emotions will help you communicate in a way that feels authentic.
Before you list a vacancy, think carefully about:
Preparing a candidate communications approach ahead of time will help you make meaningful connections. Let’s dive into
At this stage: You’ve identified a vacancy and crafted a job description.
How candidates are feeling: Job hunting can be stressful. Anyone in the market for a job could well have seen hundreds of job ads already. They may even be applying for multiple jobs a day. They could still be working full-time, and juggling life’s responsibilities alongside job hunting. (Which as we know, is basically a full-time job in itself).
What you need to do: You have to get your vacancy noticed by the right people and stand out among the scores of other ads. Plus you need to convince people it’s worth putting the effort into an application. Remember, before any potential candidates apply for your role, they’re probably going to Google you. A huge 82% of people consider your employer brand before they apply for a job.
Tips for employers
At this stage: Candidates are starting to spot your ads, fill in an application and hit ‘apply.’
How candidates are feeling: There’s nothing worse than being really drawn to a job ad then finding the application process itself is over-complicated. (Most of us have probably filled in applications that ask you for every detail in your CV – and then ask you to attach your CV). Candidates time is valuable and they don’t want to waste it.
Remember, once they’ve made their application, it’s probably one among many. Once they’re in the market to move companies, most people apply for multiple jobs at a time.
What you need to do: For starters, once someone’s made a decision to apply, don’t give them a reason to change their mind. Make sure your application process is as efficient as possible. Don’t ask unnecessary questions and regularly test and monitor your systems and platforms to continually improve the candidate experience.
Once they’ve hit ‘apply’ you have your opportunity for a two-way conversation. Make the most of it. They may be applying for roles at multiple places but you can make yourself memorable. Make a good first impression by being timely, and giving them clarity straight away. It’s typical to rely on email at this stage. If you’re using an applicant tracking system then the chances are you already have the right tools to automate this but if you’re not, most job boards also provide the option.
Tips for employers
At this stage: you’ve narrowed down the candidates you want to take forward for an interview.
At this stage: you’ve narrowed down the candidates you want to take forward. This might be an interview, an assessment centre or any number of wonderful methods we use to assess.
What you need to do: When it comes to communicating with your successful candidates remember you’re inviting them – not summoning them. The interview is your opportunity to figure out who is the best fit for your company. But it’s also your candidates’ chance to work out whether you’re a good fit for them.
When it comes to letting down the candidates who didn’t make it past application, don’t be tempted to ghost them or put off letting them know. Show them you value their time and are grateful for their effort; it’ll do wonders for your employer brand. At this stage, an email rejection is usually fine, as you won’t have spoken to the candidates directly yet. But always be polite, professional and empathetic. More and more applicant tracking systems can be used for texting candidates which when combined with the year-on-year increases in texting popularity in the hiring process and the much higher text message open rates, makes texting a no-brainer if you have the option.
Tips for employers
At this stage: you’ve held your interviews and decided who you want to offer a job to.
How candidates are feeling: They’ve met you and done their best to blow you away. They took time out of their busy life to prep and meet you. Hopefully, they left the interview feeling positive about your company and still wanting to work for you. Now they’re anxiously waiting to hear back.
What you need to do: It’s super important to keep everyone informed at this point. Making your decision can take time. And you may have to wait a while for your first choice to accept your offer. Don’t make the mistake of going completely silent during this time. Prep some holding emails to keep everyone informed of when they’ll hear from you
Most applicants who’ve reached the interview stage deserve (and expect) a phone call rather than an email. First up, contact your successful candidate.
Tips for employers
And what about the candidates who didn’t quite make the cut this time?
So there you have it. A rough guide to getting candidate communications right throughout the hiring process. If you are ever in doubt, ask yourself, what would I be feeling if the roles were reversed and what would I want to be communicated to feel confident? Keep it human.
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