How to measure, improve and boost candidate engagement

Last updated:
July 28, 2021
February 15, 2022
min read
Sim Samra
improve company's candidate engagement
Table of contents

Creating interest in your business, your brand, the opportunities on offer, and the open roles and positions you need to fill, is an important part of your recruitment process.

Engaging with candidates builds trust and relationships. With many organizations receiving thousands of applications for each role, the old methods of staying in touch are no longer viable, but that doesn't mean you can't keep your candidates engaged.

We're going to look at what it takes to create strong candidate engagement, how you can use new technologies to make life easier on yourself, and the attributes your candidates expect from you.

What is candidate engagement?

We don't want to confuse anyone by assuming candidate experience and candidate engagement are the same things. They're not.

Candidate experience is how each candidate feels about each organization or company's recruiting and hiring journey.

Candidate engagement is an ongoing process of staying in touch with all potential candidates, providing them with information about your business, its roles, what you're looking for, and what candidates can expect from you.

It’s part of the recruiting process that doesn’t end just because you filled the role they initially applied for.

Imagine that 1,000 people applied for a job that was awarded to one successful applicant.

Strong candidate engagement leads you toward earning 999 possible individuals for the other positions in your company.

A strong candidate experience creates an attitude where applicants will apply to your company again; they'll engage with your services and promote you by word of mouth, instead of encouraging their friends, colleagues, and family to avoid you like the plague.

Why is candidate engagement important?

The feeling of being mismanaged or badly treated impacts business. There are so many points of the hiring process where you applicants or candidates can feel ignored, mistreated, undervalued, and neglected; they'll only add to their distrust of your brand.

To prevent poor word of mouth, terrible reviews, and worse still, closing up or narrowing your recruiting funnel, HR departments need to make sure they don't leave any of their candidates feeling ignored.

How is candidate engagement measured?

Measuring candidate engagement is a tricky business. You could have defined goals, such as promoting candidates higher up your funnel, if it's segmented in such a way that makes it possible.

Alternatively, it could be as simple as recording when they engage with your communication to consider that they're still active and available in your process.

As a recruiter, you might want to see more specific results, such as placing candidates in alternative positions to those they initially applied for or redeploying them into submitting applications for further interviews.

Whether it's recording when they open your emails, reply to your texts, or consult your chatbot for the answers they need, we have technology that can track almost everything, so we need to align it and its data to our needs.

How can I improve my candidate engagement?

It's really simple—give your candidates what they want.

The harder part of this is understanding precisely what they do want.

Fortunately, there has been a lot of interest and investigation into candidate engagement. Here are some of the leading factors where candidates feel disappointed and choose to disengage from suppliers and recruiters.

  • Needlessly long application processes.
  • Lack of communication.
  • The hiring process is too long.
  • No confirmation emails.
  • No means to contact the recruiter.

What your job seekers want then is:

  • Better and more communication.
  • Notifications of successful and unsuccessful applications and stage progression.
  • A timeline of the hiring process.
  • Human contact after application.
  • A timeline relating to communication replies.

With these two lists, it's time to investigate your process to see where you fall short and which areas are those where you do well.

Speed and communication are vital in every area and at every stage. Make sure your software, automation, and personal interactions fall in line with expectations, and if they can't, let your candidates know why, and as soon as possible.

Feedback is your best tool for fact-driven focus

Ultimately, the best tool you have to improve your candidate engagement is their feedback. They expect feedback at each stage of their recruitment process, so why not ask them for feedback on how you're doing, too?

It could be a simple questionnaire that can be filed and interpreted by your applicant tracking system, or when it's further down the recruitment funnel, you could push for more specific data.

Tips to boost candidate engagement

For smaller businesses with far fewer applicants, it's easier to engage with them. Writing personal emails, making phone calls, discussing each other's needs are all simple enough to manage.

With online applications for positions in corporations and organizations reaching the thousands, how do you engage candidates virtually?

1. Create excitement in your company, roles, and culture

Even before your candidates turn into applicants, you can build strength into your brand, leading to a better kick-start into those new relationships.

To encourage candidates to engage with your organization means feeding them everything they need to know about why they'll want to work for you over anyone else.

Draw candidates towards the careers pages and social media posts that show how much your existing employees love working for you. Show them how much you give back to the community, how exciting every day at the office will be, and how much they stand to gain.

Videos, VR, live feeds, and online-mixers with your teams, can help to answer all of their questions and give them a true taste of what they're missing in advance.

2. Confirm and notify at every opportunity

You would be amazed at how many hirers don't send a simple response to their first-stage applications. It's one of the easiest errors to rectify with applicant tracking systems taking care of the job automatically.

Staying in touch should be easy, so why do so many recruiters fail to follow up? Especially when we know that it's one of the biggest frustrations of their candidates.

Automate a 'Thank you' reply to all applications and every communication sent to you.

Automate a 'Sorry; you were unsuccessful this time' response after the first and subsequent sweeps.

Automate a 'Congratulations; you've made it to the next stage' for every stage.

Your candidates want to know what's going on throughout the process—so engage with them. You have the technology to do it without lifting a finger, so what's stopping so many of you?

You should use these notifications as opportunities to build better relationships. If you can provide information about why your candidates failed to get to the next stage, let them know what it was. If your ATS provides you with those details, can you automate responses to include them in your replies?

It's also an opportunity to encourage unsuccessful candidates to follow you on social media to stay up to date with new positions and practices.

3. Create a definitive timeline and stick to it

Candidates want to know where they stand and not to be left in the dark. Given you already know how fast you'd like to fill your roles and how efficiently your system should allow you to stick to a schedule, let your candidates know it too.

Automate updates at every stage, tied to your successful and unsuccessful applicant emails.

It isn't necessary to deliver an exact set of times and dates at the beginning of the process, but letting your candidates know what they can expect by suggesting your expected timeframes will buy you trust and their faith in your communications.

Relevant: Your guide to the job interview process

4. Use chatbots and technology to fill impossible gaps

It would be impossible to reply personally to every question each candidate has about your positions, processes, and opportunities, but a lot of those questions will be repeated.

We live in a society that's receptive to automated systems and seeking out our own answers. Most Gen Xers and Millennials seem to prefer it, so a chatbot will be able to fulfill many of the gaps you're likely to anticipate while adding to your engagement.

A chatbot, or automated question and answer system, could be the difference between your candidates losing interest and walking away and sticking with your process to the end.

5. Build engaging processes

Assessing your candidates in a virtual space doesn't have to be long-winded and dull. One of the big turn-offs, remember, is lengthy applications, especially now we've been told we should tailor every application to each specific job due to ATS keyword searches and automated selections.

Make it easy for your applicants to provide the information you need.

Narrowing down your applicants doesn't have to be stuffy and typical. If your candidates feel as though you're genuinely interested in them by the way you ask for information, it's another step in strengthening those relationships.

6. Feedback, feedback, feedback

For them:

Feedback is vital. Your applicants will always want to know why they didn't get further down the funnel and will appreciate any information that helps them acknowledge their shortcomings and put them straight.

Can you share your data with them? Does your ATS allow you to attach the data they need from its system?

And, where possible, it's been shown that same-day feedback is one of the most revered and respected follow-ups a recruiter can supply. If your tech allows, you should really consider this to boost your engagement positivity.

For you:

Just in the same way as your applicants crave information so they can do better, so should you. Having your shortcomings laid before you in black and white is the best data you can have.

With thousands of unsuccessful applicants, you might have to gather your data in a way that's easy to quantify in the early stages. As you get further down the funnel, more open-ended suggestions, gripes, and recommendations are easier to process.

Use them. When you send your notifications, send a 'how did we do?' questionnaire with them.


Hiring in vast numbers is tough to get right. Candidate engagement can be the first thing to suffer, and associatively, so will your business.

Remember, your candidates aren't just numbers in a huge list—they're people. If you set up a system that you'd be happy with as an applicant, you're going to get somewhere fairly close. Show your candidates respect and take care of them as much as possible, even when that means finding the best ways for your technology to deliver your actions for you.

Keeping candidates interested in your company, your culture, and every new possibility you offer could mean picking up an existing application for a brand new role instead of starting the whole process from step one, time and time again.

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