Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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We’ve all had the experience of applying for a job and never hearing any response. It doesn’t feel respectful, does it? How you communicate with job applicants can make or break a great candidate experience. Read on for tips to improve your correspondence and increase candidate engagement.

What Is Candidate Correspondence?

Detailed and individualized communication with candidates is a necessity and something that job applicants have come to expect. Studies have shown different preferences between phone calls and text/messaging, but one thing we all can agree on is the fact that candidates expect and deserve some form of communication following a job application.

Why Is Proper Candidate Correspondence Important?

Regardless of how easy and automated you may have made your hiring practices, all job applicants put in some level of work and share a piece of themselves when they apply for an open role. Social convention is that this be acknowledged in some way (at the very least). If you asked someone for help or advice on a subject and they put any thought into crafting a response, you would thank them for taking the time to do so. It’s no different for job applicants. Showing acknowledgement and appreciation for a resume and cover letter submission is no different. And in today’s world of technological advances, there are no acceptable excuses for lack of solid candidate correspondence practices.

Tips for Effective Candidate Correspondence

Job applicants look at employer branding and candidate experience. It’s important that you not miss an opportunity to engage and interact. Great correspondence can set you apart from the competition, while lack of communication can drag down your employer reputation.

Consider these factors when writing effective candidate correspondence.

Tip 1: Know the Key Touchpoints

Look through your application process and select key milestones at which candidates should hear from you. In today’s world of constant communication, job applicants expect confirmations and updates. There are at least five key points of contact.  By the end of the process, every candidate has been told when they have fallen out of the running and thanked.

  • Confirmation of application receipt. Include information about whether they will hear from you whether or not they are selected to move on.
  • Invitation to next steps (typically screening interview). Provide a status update on whether they are being moved forward or not, and respond personally to any thank you letters received.
  • Invitation to each additional interview. Provide a status update on whether they are being moved forward or not, and respond personally to any thank you letters.
  • Offer. Call with the offer first and then follow up with an email.
  • Final candidate disposition. Once the offer has been made, accepted, and the new hire has started, it’s important to close the loop with candidates as you formally close a position. This is an opportunity to simply thank those with whom you haven’t connected. Consider a bulk email to those still active in the requisition, thank them for their time applying, and mention that it was a competitive process but you moved forward with someone who is the best match for the position.

Tip 2: Personalize Your Templates

This sounds like a conflicting idea, but it’s really not. Companies (especially when hiring remotely) see hundreds of applications for a single position. It’s important to reach out to these candidates on an individual, human level, but it’s impossible to write a personal message to each one every time. Have a handful of templates that you use for various communications. When writing these templates, think more about how you would communicate with a good friend or colleague and less about being corporate and rigid. It’s possible to put in some personal touches even when standardizing communications.

Tip 3: Set Clear Expectations

Make sure all communications clearly lay out what they can expect next. If you are moving them forward, include some sort of timeline so they can expect when to hear back. Candidates are likely to have a better experience and view of the company if they understand hiring timelines and know what to expect.

Tip 4: Stroking Egos Doesn’t Hurt

Candidates often work hard scheduling time for interviews, researching the organization, and crafting thank you messages. Make sure you recognize that when corresponding with them. Useful elements to include:

  • Thank them for their time and efforts.
  • Let them know they have an impressive background and experience.
  • Share that the application process is extremely competitive.
  • Acknowledge that while their application did stand out, the company ultimately moved forward with other applicants whose backgrounds more closely aligned with the needs of the organization.

How to Create a Candidate Correspondence Strategy

Now that you know some of the do’s and don’t’s of candidate communication, it’s time to develop a solid strategy and process.

Step 1: Maintain the Voice of the Brand

When developing a correspondence strategy, make sure you stay true to the brand and organizational vision and voice. If your company is all about professionalism and being buttoned up, communications should sound more professional and concise. If you’re in a more casual environment, then candidate correspondence should come across in a more relaxed, breezy manner. It’s important that your candidate communication style resembles your customer communication and marketing style. Maintain the voice of the brand consistently throughout all external touchpoints.

Step 2: Be Transparent

Make sure that your communication strategy with candidates is as transparent as possible. Don’t shy away from admitting to challenges in the process. If your team is in rapid growth mode, you may not be able to personally communicate with each candidate; you can admit that in an auto-generated message. Just make sure you do it in a way that recognizes that it’s not the ideal situation, but it’s what you need to do right now. If you can’t send disposition emails for several months because your ATS doesn’t auto-generate these until a requisition is filled and closed, make sure you address that in your confirmation email.

Step 3: Add Phone Calls

Most communication today is done via email, text, or instant messaging apps, but there are certain times in the application process that candidates appreciate a phone call. Determine points in the process where candidates may have additional questions that could better be answered with a phone call. It’s ideal to make the initial job offer over the phone; this way you can handle any negotiations right away.

Step 4: Make It Scalable

As companies grow, adapt your correspondence strategy to match the size and needs of the company. Just like internal operations processes, a candidate communication strategy should be one that can be scaled up and down. Finding balance between over- and under-communication is critical as you grow and adapt.

Step 5: Collect and Use Feedback

Plan annual or mid-year reviews to adjust and change the strategy. Use feedback you’ve received throughout the year from applicants and new hires to determine where to improve, add, or eliminate candidate touchpoints. It may even be helpful to include a pulse survey to applicants questioning their satisfaction level with your communication practices.

Candidate Correspondence Mistakes to Avoid

Now that you know what you should do when communicating with candidates, let’s review a few of the techniques to steer clear of.

Spam Filters

It’s easy for spam filters to capture emails that come from applicant tracking systems or inboxes that see heavy traffic. Find a place in the application process where you can specifically state that candidates need to unblock your domain, or use warm-up tactics to help your outgoing mail steer clear of the various inbox filters.

Overly Canned” Content

Candidates will have a better experience if they feel like the communication comes from a human vs. an auto-generated email response. Include general statements with human characteristics. It’s important that these emails sound more like a conversation than something that is fully auto-generated.

Do This Not That
Thank you for the time and effort taken to apply for this position here at _______. We recognize that it can be tedious to complete job applications.  Thanks for taking the time to apply. 
We’ve had a number of qualified applicants for this role and have decided to proceed with an applicant who closely matches the requirements of the position.  This position has been filled by someone who better fits our needs. 
While we aren’t a match this time, there may be opportunities for the future. Please check back at _______ . We welcome you to apply again.  For future interest, please visit our careers site here ______.
Thank you again for applying. We wish you the best of luck in the future as you grow and develop your career. Thanks

It just doesn’t feel good to receive a clearly auto-generated impersonal message after taking time and energy preparing for and completing an application or interview.

Limited Contact

Today’s candidates prefer over-communication. A quick browse through LinkedIn topics like job applications, hiring, and open to work quickly convey the sentiment that job applicants want follow up and feedback. Don’t set yourself up for failure and poor Glassdoor reviews by ignoring the opportunity to build and establish good relationships with candidates. It’s possible to win positive sentiment from candidates even when you don’t hire them.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Candidate Correspondence

Be personally professional. Don’t shy away from compliments. Lean into the human connection. Consider these two texts. “Thanks so much for taking all the time you have spent preparing for and speaking with us. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you a bit and learn about your experience. We have a very competitive process here, and while we feel you have an impressive background, at this time we have decided to move forward with applicants who more closely align with the specific needs of this role. It is always difficult to share a message like this when I’ve made great connections with candidates like you. I’d love to keep in touch via LinkedIn and follow your journey. I wish you the absolute best of luck as you continue your job search. I’m certain you will find the organization that is a perfect fit for you.” “Thank you for the time you’ve spent interviewing with us. While we appreciate your time, we’ve decided to move forward with other applicants. Best of luck on your job search!” Both of these options are polite, but one will leave candidates feeling as though you care while the other is clearly a basic template without a “human” touch.
This is a recruiter’s worst nightmare. You’ve done the work to find a great candidate who you know is a fit for the role, they’ve interviewed and “clicked” with the hiring team, but now you have to keep them warm and interested despite delays in the process. Establish good relationships with your candidates early on in the process. Candidates are more likely to wait for answers if they have some sort of good interpersonal connection to the recruiter or hiring manager. Include the hiring manager in the process to keep the candidate warm. Tag-team with the hiring manager so the candidates hear directly from them that decisions haven’t yet been made and they are still “in the running.” The reality is that as HR, your voice and opinion only goes so far. Candidates want to hear from their potential boss that there’s still a possibility for a match. Remain transparent throughout the process. It’s a very bad candidate experience when they are just left “hanging” after multiple rounds of interviews. Make sure you stay in communication, tell them why they’re in a holding pattern, and admit that not everything works as perfectly as we would like. Showing a bit of humanity goes a long way!

Joy is passionate about matching People and Operations strategy in a way that causes a win-win-win relationship for everyone. In addition to her experience in HR and People Operations, Joy served as Chief of Staff to the CEO at TekBrands from 2019-2022, and during that time was involved on the sell-side of the Private Equity transaction process. Having the additional insight into business operations and strategy, she returned to her specialty of People Operations where she is passionate about partnering closely with entrepreneurial leaders to grow businesses from the ground up by truly operating in a people-first environment.

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