In today’s job market, life is relatively sweet for the job seeker.

A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the unemployment rate in the United States significantly dropped to 3.5% in December last year, which was well below market expectations of 3.7%, making it one of the lowest rates recorded in the last twenty years.

Unemployment rate chart
Bureau of Labor Statistics

With the readily available talent pool rapidly shrinking, survey after survey is hinting that even the companies that were once most desired are now struggling to fill open positions. “If the labor market today is a golden age for workers, it is a lump of coal for recruiters not able to adapt to the new world we live in,” says Pete Lamson, CEO of Employ, a recruiting enterprise.

So then, how does an employer or HR leader stand out amongst all the noise and convince candidates that their organization is the perfect workplace for them?

The answer lies with increasing candidate engagement!

As many as 78% of candidates today say that the overall hiring experience they receive from a potential employer is an indicator of how much the company values its people.

The employers that are succeeding in this tough talent market already know that optimizing candidate engagement needs to become a vital part of their overall hiring strategy.

What Is Candidate Engagement?

Now that you have a brief idea of why candidate engagement can be the game-changer you’re looking for, chances are you’re wondering what it exactly means.

We’ve got you covered!

Candidate engagement is the process where an HR leader or employer strives to enhance overall candidate experience by looking at ways they can stay in touch with potential recruits. This encompasses everything from providing candidates with information about your hiring timeline, your organization-wide and specific goals, their role in the company if they’re chosen, what you’re looking for, and what they can expect from you.

Optimizing candidate engagement doesn’t simply end with you filling an open position. It leads you toward earning the trust of all the applicants or potential hires you might have interacted with during the recruiting process, which in turn ensures they’ll engage with your services and promote you by word of mouth.

Why Is Candidate Engagement Important for Any Business?

Improved candidate engagement can have numerous benefits for your business, more so when you’re trying to scale your team quickly or aiming to recruit for hyper growth.

Let’s dive deeper into how that happens.

It Strengthens Your Employer Brand

How well-designed a company’s overall candidate engagement strategy is has a strong impact on its brand reputation. This is true because the way your existing and potential hires perceive your brand largely depends on how you treat them.

Job seekers that face a negative engagement experience with your organization most likely won’t keep quiet about it, more so if you’re part of an industry that has a tight professional network and where word travels fast. If numbers are to be believed, nearly 7 in 10 candidates who have a poor engagement experience share it with their friends, acquaintances, and even on online job forums.

Jörgen Sundberg, CEO of Link Humans, in one of his recent articles writes: “A good candidate experience drives referrals and enhances the employer brand even when candidates are not hired. It affords a type of loyalty that cannot be achieved via other interactions.”

It’s pretty clear then that the stronger your candidate engagement strategy, the higher your brand reputation on career sites and in the job market.

It Reduces Your Business’ Time-to-Hire and Cost-Per-Hire

One recent report published by the Top Echelon Network highlights that nearly 40% of candidates reject offers because another hiring manager gave them one faster.

Imagine how many good candidates drop out of your hiring funnel only because there was a slight delay in communication at your end.

A well-defined candidate engagement strategy that focuses on optimizing communication will greatly help you make an exceptional first impression on top talent, which can then increase their desire to work for you. This can significantly reduce the time-to-hire for each new recruit, and as a result, mitigate your overall cost-per-hire.

One recent article published by ThriveMap highlights how candidate engagement and hiring are interrelated:

“Candidates need to be engaged throughout the whole recruiting process. If your candidate experience is poor, they’ll jump out of it and many will bad-mouth you to the peers in your industry. Think about how each stage works for candidates and make sure it’s an experience that highlights the engaging nature of your company.”

When you have an understanding of exactly what the majority of candidates expect at every stage of your recruiting process, you won’t have to start all over again every time a new vacancy comes out.

Therefore, improving candidate engagement is an excellent strategy to reduce your time-to-hire and cost-per-hire.

It Improves Your Company’s Acceptance Rates and Helps You Scale Faster

One research whitepaper published by IBM titled “The Far-Reaching Impact of Candidate Experience” found that job seekers who are satisfied with their candidate engagement experiences have around 38% greater probability of accepting a job offer.

When candidates are satisfied with their own experiences, they are more than twice as likely to recommend the company to others as compared with those who were not satisfied (62% vs. 28% as seen in the image below).

Candidate experience statistics
IBM

As hiring managers, we all know that candidates who are interviewing with us are, more often than not, also considering other job offers. Therefore, they are evaluating you just as they’re evaluating your counterpart companies.

So when they see how much you value the candidate interviewing and selection process, it won’t take longer for them to realize that you value your people too. That will directly lead to improved post-offer conversion rates and help you scale your team faster.

Who Should Be Involved in the Candidate Engagement Process?

We know, this looks pretty straightforward, but it does beg to be explored. The primary people required to make a candidate engagement strategy work seamlessly are:

Internal Staff

It’s best to have someone with prior marketing experience who understands the candidate journey work on optimizing your candidate engagement engine because it’s similar to most marketing functions.

Candidates receive automated text messages or email depending on the stage they’re in within the recruiting funnel.

Recruiters

Ideally, recruiters don’t necessarily have to operate the candidate engagement process but they simply receive alerts or notifications when potential recruits exhibit certain behaviors.

For example, if a candidate opens an email specifically triggered to make them fulfill a desired action, the concerned recruiter will receive a notification about the same. They can then reach out to the candidate or focus on next steps.

Similarly, if a candidate hasn’t responded to follow-up emails for a long period of time, the recruiter receives automated responses with the help of which they can then decide if they want to move ahead with another candidate.

Candidates

This one’s a no-brainer!

However, what’s important to note is that candidates can fall in different buckets and the best practice here would be for hiring managers to segregate them on the basis of categories or interests. This helps you target them in a better way and enhance overall engagement levels.

For instance, software engineers should only receive messages containing technical jobs, while accountants receive CPA openings. It may sound simple, but nailing these segments helps build the bigger plan down the road.

Tips to Improve Candidate Engagement at Your Company

Now that you know how candidate engagement plays a crucial role in deciding how successful your hiring strategy will be and who are the people within your organization that need to be involved, let us look at a few ways you can improve candidate engagement.

Tip 1: Be Where Your Ideal Candidates Are

To get your ideal candidates engaging with your brand, you need to explore channels where they spend the majority of their time and mold your hiring strategy in a way that you can target them right there.

For example, if you’re planning to fill an entry-level position at your company and know that a student fresh out of college would be the best fit for this role, you should definitely be looking at on-campus recruitment and optimize your engagement program in a way that it appeals to fresh pass-outs.

Similarly, if you’re looking at hiring for a more senior position, one best practice would be to join various industry-specific associations and attend their hiring events. Experienced candidates usually have strong networks, and there is a higher chance of finding such individuals at corporate events.

When you speak your target candidate group’s language and meet them where they are, it will not only help you identify the right engagement channels quickly, but it will also help shorten the span of your hiring process and make your dedicated budget last for a longer period.

Tip 2: Ensure a Hassle-Free Application Process

One survey found that the majority of candidates don’t want to complete a job application process that’s going to take longer than 20 minutes. The same CareerBuilder survey also highlighted that a whopping 76% of candidates want to know how long it’ll take to fill out an application before they start.

As an HR manager trying to boost engagement, it is important that you avoid making candidates jump through hoops just so they can apply for an opening at your company. Your goal should be to make things as hassle-free for them as possible.

For example, since a lot of job seekers have now started using their mobile phones to search for and apply to jobs from their phones, try making your job ad mobile-friendly. Studies have found that making your job opening mobile-friendly can also increase the number of candidates applying for it by as much as 11%.

Another best practice would be to ask candidates who go through your hiring process for areas where you can improve and implement commonly suggested changes.

Tip 3: Set Clear Expectations by Defining the Interview Process Early On

The interviewing phase lasts 23.8 days on average in the US, and in certain industries it can take even longer. And that’s problematic for a number of reasons.

Maurie Backman, a seasoned personal finance writer, in one of her recent articles, explains why longer interviews do more damage to your company’s reputation than good:

“First, a lengthy interview process costs companies more money. Secondly, it increases the risk of losing out on strong candidates who get frustrated with the notion of having to wait so long for a job offer, or who get snatched up by other companies that are willing to bust a move,” Backman writes.

If you’re trying to formulate a robust engagement strategy, it is important to let your candidates know what they can expect early on so they don’t lose their cool at a later stage.

One best practice would be to give them a heads up if you’re planning to use recorded audio responses, and/or that the next step will be a virtual interview. Another would be to inform them that there will be a second face-to-face round with the team if they clear the virtual interview.

Because poor communication is one of the prime reasons for candidate frustration, this is a key area to reflect upon and improve when it comes to improving candidate engagement.

Tip 4: Keep Candidates Within the Hiring Funnel Updated About Their Recent Status

One infographic published by Careerarc states that as many as 69% of candidates want to see the HR department’s response time improved. Another survey found that nearly 63% of candidates feel the majority of HR teams do not communicate adequately.

Communicating timelines is a more widespread issue in the human resource management landscape than it appears, and it can negatively impact candidate engagement.

Go the extra mile and show candidates you value their time by communicating proactively. If you realize that a candidate isn’t the right fit right in the beginning stages of the interview process, be honest rather than stringing them along. If anything changes within your company and you have to wait before hiring, explain the situation to the candidate.

Be transparent with people; they value it more than anything else.