Every company wants to hire stronger talent faster and provide a better candidate experience. Executing these goals, however, is easier said than done. Although there is one recruitment strategy that will not only help you hire faster, it will yield more engaged candidates who are a better fit for your open roles: candidate nurturing.
We’ll take a closer look at the practice of candidate nurturing and share seven ways to implement it in your recruiting efforts.
What is Candidate Nurturing?
Candidate nurturing is the process of staying actively engaged with applicants throughout their candidacy. Practicing candidate nurturing reduces drop-offs in your candidate journey and helps maintain an engaged, up-to-date talent pipeline, reducing hiring time.
Candidate nurturing also continues past the point of hire and includes applicants who were not ultimately selected for a particular role. Why keep in touch with candidates even after they’ve been rejected? Just because an applicant wasn’t deemed the number one choice for one role doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for a different role in the future, especially if they made it into the final stages of your selection process. Employees are changing jobs more frequently than ever, so nurturing helps ensure your organization is at the top of the list when they’re in the market for their next role, which could be sooner than you think.
To better visualize the candidate journey, it can be helpful to think of the applicant as a customer and their candidate experience like the buyer’s journey. Just as your customer goes through different stages when shopping with you, the candidate goes through different stages when considering working for you. Thus, you’ll need to tailor your nurturing tactics to each stage of your candidate journey.
Even when you’re not actively hiring, nurturing candidates benefits you by bolstering your employer brand and keeping you top-of-mind among great talent, which is a key strategy for being able to hire fast when you need to in the future.
The Importance of Candidate Nurturing
Candidate nurturing can benefit your organization in numerous ways. Here are a few of the top reasons to deploy a candidate nurturing strategy:
Boost candidate engagement
One of the number one frustrations candidates cite with the job search process is filling out an application and receiving silent treatment.
Employers often take for granted that candidates will be interested in a position for as long as it takes them to hire. But think of it from the candidate’s point of view: Would you really still have a high level of enthusiasm for a company if you submitted an application months ago and hadn’t heard a word? Of course not. When you stop communicating, candidates lose interest, assume they’ve been passed over, and move on.
On the other hand, candidate nurturing maintains a steady line of communication with candidates, keeping their interest strong and building interest in the company even when there’s no hiring news to report. This reduces candidate drop-off and can contribute to higher offer acceptance rates.
Increase hiring speed
It’s much faster to hire a candidate with whom you have an established relationship than starting from scratch with someone who knows nothing about your company. Not only does this contribute to lower hiring costs, but it can be a big help if a position becomes available unexpectedly or you suddenly need to augment your team to meet an urgent demand.
Improve hiring accuracy
Developing relationships over time gives you a better chance to get to know candidates and their unique skill sets. Sometimes, you may nurture a candidate for multiple years before hiring, which means you’ll have acquired a pretty good data set on them before making a decision. This contributes to all-around better hires, which minimizes the costs of hiring mistakes and contributes to a cohesive company culture.
Support employee retention
A strong candidate nurturing strategy lays the groundwork for an equally effective employee retention program. Ideally, your efforts should transition seamlessly into employee retention once a hire has been made, and the two initiatives should work hand in hand to reduce turnover and promote employee loyalty.
Strengthen employer brand
One of the primary aspects of candidate nurturing is that its recipients include people who aren’t actively looking for a job. This builds brand recognition and ensures that when that person does decide to job search–or if they know someone who is–your company will be at the top of the list. The same concept prompts the biggest brands in the world to spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads when only a fraction of viewers are actually in the market to buy their products.
Step-by-Step Guide to Candidate Nurturing
1. Build candidate personas
A candidate persona is a fictional characterization of the ideal candidate for a given role. It’s a detailed breakdown of what your target candidate is like—their education, their work history, and even their personal and professional goals. Recruiting teams should work together with the hiring manager to build these profiles.
Creating a candidate persona before you begin advertising an open role gives you a much more thorough understanding of what that department is looking for and, in turn, what type of nurturing strategy will resonate best with the ideal candidate. Tailoring your efforts specifically to the type of applicant you’re looking for will help you attract higher-quality candidates and make it easier to weed out ill-fitting ones, preventing hiring mistakes.
2. Use nurture sequences
Sent via email, a nurture sequence is an automatically delivered series of messages meant to continuously engage the candidates as they move along in your hiring funnel. These messages can be triggered by different actions, like the submission of an application, advancement to the next round of interviews, and so on.
Nurture sequences help you keep an active line of communication with applicants, which top candidates say is very important to them. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 82% of applicants expect employers to provide a clear timeline for the hiring process and keep them updated throughout it. 55% said they’d give up and move on to other opportunities if they hadn’t heard from an employer in two weeks.
In addition to keeping your top prospects engaged, using automation to send nurture sequences saves you time and takes some follow-up tasks off your plate. Consider working with your marketing team or a professional copywriter to craft the perfect messaging for your nurture sequences.
3. Track the results of your messaging
Your communication with candidates should be recorded, and the communication results should be tracked. This is easily done through most applicant tracking systems and candidate messaging platforms and should cover emails, LinkedIn InMail, and social media messages.
A/B tests different messages at each stage of the applicant journey and tracks their open, click, and response rates. When one message is a clear winner in terms of engagement, clone it and use it as a default with other candidates during the hiring process. This is just one more step in automating and optimizing your candidate communications, which accelerates your hiring process and improves applicant engagement at the same time.
4. Leverage social media
Social media is an incredible nurturing tool because it’s a platform where candidates already spend time. What could be a more natural place to build a genuine relationship than in a newsfeed alongside a person’s family and friends? What’s more, social media puts images and videos at your disposal.
Use social media to communicate open positions, spotlight company benefits, share your values, tell employee success stories, and give a glimpse of what it’s like to work for your organization.
5. Engage in the Slack communities
If you’re not using Slack as a sourcing channel, you’re missing out on a diverse and highly skilled pool of workers. You can nurture prospective candidates on Slack by sharing your open roles and other resources you’ve created for prospective applicants, like behind-the-scenes videos and team member profiles.
Slack will be more useful in certain fields, like IT and development, than others that aren’t as tech-centric. Still, you can find candidates from nearly any industry in communities tailored to job seekers.
6. Set up alerts for your top candidates
Most recruiters have the best of intentions when it comes to staying in contact with talent. Still, candidate follow-up can fall by the wayside between screening, scheduling, interviewing, and other labor-intensive activities. Use calendar alerts, or reminders set up through your ATS to prompt you when it’s time to touch base with one of your top candidates so they don’t slip through the cracks.
JobScore, for example, sends a daily digest of follow-up tasks you’re due to complete, while RecruiterBox lets you customize the type of reminders you want to receive for each candidate. If you don’t hire many candidates, you could even set alerts through the calendar app on your smartphone.
7. Stay Active on Sites Like Glassdoor
Love it or hate it, candidates use sites like Glassdoor to make decisions about where to apply and ultimately work. In a study on employee retention, Glassdoor found that 74% of its users read at least four reviews on a company before forming an opinion about it. This means third-party channels like Glassdoor deserve your attention as a means to nurture candidates.
Regularly read and respond to your company’s positive and negative reviews on employer review sites. Doing this helps you stay in the driver’s seat about your employer brand and take an active role in what future candidates see when they scroll through your feedback.
It pays to engage with candidates who use employer review sites and not just to benefit your brand. Those candidates may be more likely to stick around for the long haul. The study we mentioned above found that companies saw 30% more retention when they hired talent that applied through Glassdoor over other platforms.
8. Host industry events
Industry events are a great forum for networking amidst a highly niche group of individuals. When you organize and run the event yourself, you enjoy the added benefit of gaining access to the contact information of dozens or even hundreds of attendees who are likely to be interested in your work.
For an industry event to be successful, it should have a strong educational component, giving participants a valid reason to attend rather than merely being a vehicle for advertising your company. Once you have a solid topic to build your event around, you can strategize creative ways to incorporate candidate nurturing into the mix, like featuring a short video highlighting your company culture, offering on-site conversations with recruiters, or sending a post-event email encouraging attendees to browse your open positions.
9. Tailor rejection messages
Thus far, we’ve focused on the benefits of cloning high-performing messages and automation. One place where you don’t want to rely too heavily on automation, however, is with your rejection messages.
You work hard throughout the hiring funnel to earn a candidate’s trust and respect; don’t throw it all away at the end by using a form letter to reject candidates who won’t be receiving an offer. This specifically applies to candidates who’ve made it into the later stages of the application process. Remember—just because they’re not fit for this role doesn’t mean they won’t be perfect for another opening you have six weeks or six months down the road, so preserving the relationship is important.
Instead of using a canned rejection message for top candidates, customize it with a personal touch. Send it one-to-one from the hiring manager’s email address rather than from a generic message box like email@example.com. For candidates who were finalists, like those within your top three, consider a phone call over an email.
Applicants widely believe that how you treat your candidates indicates how you treat your employees, so tact matters, even with applicants who don’t get the job. The strong reputation that will result from treating candidates with respect will ultimately help you hire faster and more effectively in the future.
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