How to build a strong candidate communication strategy

Last updated:
July 29, 2021
November 17, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

Let me put a scenario in your head: you’ve spent hours creating the perfect recruitment ad, screening and interviewing candidates, and you’ve come down to one ideal candidate you’d like to hire. It’s been a lengthy process, but you’re finally here. You go to extend an offer to the candidate, only to find out that they’ve already been scooped up by a competitor. What went wrong? Well, if you’re like many companies, it might be a problem with your candidate communication strategy.

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that the competition for top talent is fierce. Because of this, it’s more critical than ever that you have a rock-solid candidate communication strategy: one that emphasizes speed, experience, thoroughness, and professionalism.

In this article, we’re going to dig deeper into why candidate communication is important, and strategies for building your own internal processes.

Why is a strong candidate communication strategy important?

The importance of candidate communication really comes down to a few telling statistics. Did you know that 84% of applicants expect some type of email response early in the hiring process? How about that 72% of applicants publicly share their application experience with friends, colleagues, or online? Or, perhaps most tellingly, that 84% of candidates agree that a negative interview experience can damage a company’s reputation?

To summarize, that means that candidates expect timely and consistent communication when they apply and will tell their friends and network if they don’t have a good experience. Worse still, that bad experience can and will hurt your employer brand and reputation.

According to Software Advice, job seekers expect that they will be consistently kept in the loop, and will have the opportunity to communicate with the company. In addition to those, here are some of the top requests from job seekers:

  • More communication
  • Timely notifications if they are chosen or rejected
  • A timeline of the hiring process
  • Direct, human contact after the application is filed
  • An overview of when they can expect replies

Together, these simple acts of communication help to create a better candidate experience for all applicants. Better candidate experiences mean a better employer brand and a higher likelihood of landing top talent.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. Recruiters around the globe know that there are internal limitations to how often and consistently they can communicate with candidates.

The three main factors that make consistent candidate communication difficult are:

  • Time. There simply isn’t enough of it in the day to reach out to hundreds of applicants.
  • Volume. The number of applicants for a single requisition can be in the hundreds, and recruiters regularly juggle many separate job openings.
  • Task Overload. Because of a lack of time, and the volume of applicants, recruiters regularly face task overload that makes it difficult to stay on top of candidate communication.

These are all natural barriers that recruiters face. Luckily, there are actions and strategies you can use to make this process more consistent and easier to manage. Before we jump into those, let’s take a look at some tips for providing a strong candidate communication experience.

4 tips for building a strong candidate communication strategy

Building a strong candidate communication strategy comes down to understanding what your applicants want to know, and when they want to know it. It’s always important to step out of your own role and think about the application experience from the candidate’s perspective. Keep that in mind, and communicating with them will become much easier.

With that being said, here are some tips for building a candidate communication strategy.

Establish key candidate touchpoints

Before developing a content strategy for what you’re going to communicate to applicants, it’s important to fully grasp when you should be contacting them. That means establishing a list of key touchpoints with your applicants.

Generally speaking, these touchpoints should look something like this:

  • Pre-application. Ensure that you’re sending email replies when job seekers subscribe to your notifications. Likewise, try to make a point to reply to candidates who reach out to you and your team for more information about the company.
  • Application. It’s critical that you send at least one email immediately after an application is sent in. It may also be prudent to send a follow-up email one week later to let them know that their application is being processed. This will give the candidates peace of mind knowing that their application got to the right person.
  • Change of status. Candidates will also appreciate being kept in the loop if their application status changes. Say, for example, they have moved beyond the pre-screening phase and are now being considered for an interview. Automated emails to notify them of this create a nice candidate experience.
  • Interviews. Of course, having strong two-way communication when scheduling interviews (and sending follow-ups) is an integral part of candidate communication. This can either be done manually or with the help of automated emails and scheduling platforms.
  • Post-application. Lastly, always ensure that you’re notifying candidates when a decision has been made. Closing the loop is key to staying on good terms with all candidates.

Treat candidates like customers

An overarching mindset you should keep in mind when communicating with candidates is to treat them like customers. They deserve the same respect and diligence as you would give to a paying client, and that means being consistent, expedient, and personal with your communications.

Giving all candidates the respect they deserve will help to ensure that your company and brand are seen favorably among job seekers.

Be available

This may seem obvious, but it’s tough to overstate how important it is for your recruitment team to be available to respond to candidates. Remember, candidates want and expect to be acknowledged and kept in the loop when they apply for a position. Part of that involves being able to ask questions to the recruiters throughout the hiring process.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be at the ready for every email and phone call that comes in. But it does mean that your team should have a process or tool in place to make sure that candidates receive answers to their questions in a timely fashion. Remember, it’s important to treat your candidates like they’re customers. And that means making yourself available.

Watch your language

Lastly, it’s important that you use the appropriate language and tone in each communications piece you send to candidates. Using the right language and level of detail will help you establish a rapport with your candidates, and develop a unique brand and identify for your company.

While the specific language you use in your communications will obviously vary according to your internal policies, brand messaging, and industry, here are some general tips for how to craft your notifications and responses:

  • Get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush, or write too much filler information. Candidates will want to know the most pertinent information quickly.
  • Always be sincere and professional. It’s important that your communications don’t come across as too robotic, but they should also remain professional at all times.
  • Get personal. Not too personal, of course. Just enough to make your candidates feel that the message was created for them. Avoid generic messages where possible.
  • Provide constructive feedback. When sending rejection letters, it’s good practice to provide some insight into why a candidate wasn’t successful. Take the time to add a paragraph or two of constructive feedback.
  • Always encourage that they stay in touch. Regardless of whether a candidate accepts or rejects your offer, or is rejected by you, it’s important to extend an invitation to stay in touch. Keeping candidates interested in your company is a good way to fill future positions that may be more up their alley and a good strategy for filling your talent pipeline.

As mentioned, creating a solid candidate communication strategy is not a one size fits all exercise. Your strategy should be created based on the needs and personality of your company. Once developed, however, it’s important that you remain consistent with your strategy.

How to maintain consistent candidate communication

Maintaining a consistent candidate communication strategy comes down to good planning, the right tools, and a goal to constantly improve your process. Here are some ways that you can ensure your application communication process starts off (and stays) on the right foot.

  • Audit and improve your candidate experience. Investigate what’s working and what isn’t working in your candidate experience and hiring pipeline. Identify areas of improvement, and establish whether the problem can be fixed with better communication. If it can, then add a new process to fill that communications gap.
  • Build an end-to-end communication strategy. Once you’ve audited your candidate experience, you can begin to build an end-to-end communication strategy that ticks off all of the touchpoints outlined in the previous section. Map out where, when, and what you need to communicate, and create the processes and content to make the strategy and reality.
  • Ask for feedback. It’s good practice to create an avenue where candidates can provide feedback on their candidate experience. This can be a simple question in a final email that asks for feedback on the experience, and the quality of communication. Regularly gather this feedback, and tweak your strategy accordingly.
  • Use templated communications. To ensure consistency, and a common tone to your communications, it’s good practice to create templates for your major touchpoints. For example, you can create email templates for application confirmations, interview requests, and acceptance/rejection emails. Ensure that you have spots in the email template where your team can fill in personal details or comments about the candidate.
  • Leverage automation. Lastly, nobody is able to consistently hit all communication touchpoints for every candidate that comes through the door. Leverage the plethora of recruitment automation tools available to you like chatbots, Applicant Tracking Systems, Candidate Relationship management platforms, and scheduling tools.

Communication is key to ensuring that the best talent doesn’t fall through the cracks or get swooped but by the competition. Taking the time to establish the right strategy, the right content, and the right tools for your candidate communications process will certainly pay dividends for you and your company in the future.

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