What Is Candidate Nurturing?

Nurturing is defined as “to care for and encourage the growth or development of.” Candidate nurturing, then, is the process of building interpersonal relationships with job applicants that help facilitate the interview process and improve the candidate experience. Recruiters and HR teams use candidate nurturing as a strategic process to keep candidates hooked, get to know them better, and use that information to best serve their candidates and the hiring process as a whole.

Candidate nurturing extends beyond building interpersonal relationships to facilitate the candidate experience through the interview process. It is also used to attract, engage, and re-engage with passive talent.

Why Is Candidate Nurturing Important?

The talent market is always in flux, but one thing that remains constant is that top candidates have options. Top candidates need a reason to bring their talents and skills to your organization, and candidate nurturing can supply that. Here are a few reasons why candidate nurturing is an important part of your recruitment process.

Keeps Candidates Engaged

Active and passive candidates alike get a lot of noise. They are constantly seeing ads from hiring companies, receiving cold outreach messages from recruiters, and seeing friends and colleagues post on social media that their company is hiring.

Converts Potential Candidates Into Active Ones

The candidate process today is not as linear as it used to be. Often, candidates require multiple touch points before they become active applicants.

Think of the traditional linear process as seeing a job posting, applying, interviewing, accepting an offer, and starting a new role. The process today looks more like seeing a company post on social media, receiving an email from a recruiter, seeing a job opening on a job board, holding a conversation with someone who has heard of that company, reading content on your company’s website or blog, reaching out to a current employee, receiving another email from a recruiter, receiving an email from a hiring manager, applying, interviewing, accepting an offer, and starting the new role.

Candidate nurturing engages candidates to the point of converting past the maze of touch points to become an active applicant.

Builds a Talent Network

Traditional recruitment focused on posting open job requisitions, gathering applications, screening applications for the right fit, interviewing, and hiring. Modern recruitment sits in a more competitive environment. Simply posting an open role and gathering incoming applications may not be enough to fill the role with the right person.

In order to find the right person for a role, the best recruiters spend time building a talent network before the requisition ever opens. By proactively building an ongoing talent acquisition network that uses candidate nurturing, professionals actively nurture pools of top talent that can be called on as roles open. Nurturing a talent network can drastically reduce your time to fill, which can save your organization thousands of dollars. In addition, nurturing a talent network may help your organization land the dream hire who may not have been actively applying for a new position.

Re-engages the Talent Network

Timing is everything in recruiting (sounds a lot like dating). You may find yourself talking to a perfect candidate for your organization, but either you don’t have an open role that fits their skills, or they are not in a position to make a job change.

Top talent professionals do not rebuild their prospect lists from scratch every time they hire a position. Instead, they use candidate nurturing to re-engage with top talent they’ve connected with in the past. Perhaps you spoke to a talented software engineer six months ago who was actively engaged in a challenging project and not interested in making a move. That same software engineer may now be open to a new role. Part of the candidate nurturing process is keeping in contact with the talent you have engaged with so you can draw on that network when the timing is right.

Converts Offers Sent Into Offers Accepted

Just because you have gotten a candidate to an offer does not mean the job is done. The last thing you want to have happen is to invest your time for weeks or even months in a candidate, put an offer in their hands, and have them turn you down for another opportunity. Candidate nurturing is a crucial tool to prevent that.

Successful Candidate Nurturing Strategies

If you’re interested in candidate nurturing or if your executive team has requested that you level up your talent acquisition processes, you need a strategy. Here are a few suggestions to develop your own talent-nurturing strategies.

Get Started

The first step is to get started. You don’t need to wait until you have expensive sophisticated CRM software. You don’t need to wait until you have a team of coordinators who can manage high-volume automation sequences. You don’t even need to wait until you have a formalized candidate-nurturing strategy. The first step is to get started.

Get Organized

Candidate nurturing is a fairly broad topic that encompasses every step of sourcing and recruiting. First, define the different areas in which candidates need to be nurtured. From there, you will be able to develop a specific and intentional strategy for each stage.

Here are a few suggestions of steps or areas within the recruitment process that you may want to develop a strategy for.

  • Proactively-sourced prospects who you believe would be a fit for your organization that you would like to engage
  • Passive candidates who have expressed an interest in your organization but are not currently open to making a move
  • Connections in your network who have interacted with your brand
  • Job applicants who have applied to an open position at your organization
  • Active applicants who are currently interviewing for your organization
  • Previous applicants who were rejected without an initial interview because they were not a fit at the time, but could potentially be a fit in the future
  • Previous applicants who progressed through your process and ultimately did not end up receiving a job offer but could be a fit in the future
  • Employee referrals who are not currently looking for a new role but could be a fit if the timing lines up
  • New hires who have accepted an offer but have not started yet

Be Intentional

The most successful candidate nurturing strategies feel organic, personal, and human. Be intentional that each communication point helps to grow interpersonal relationships with yourself and your brand.

As you develop intentional candidate-nurturing messaging and sequences, think back to the best hiring managers and recruiters you have worked with. What was the best interview process you have ever gone through, and what set it apart? Maybe it was a recruiter who sent you a thoughtful text message after each interview to ask how you were feeling. Maybe it was a hiring manager who took time to jump on an unscheduled call with you to answer additional questions. Maybe it was a recruiter who reached out to you to check in at the new year, just like they said they would, and the timing happened to be right. Most of the interactions that make for the best interviewing process are likely related to interpersonal relationships.

Here are a few suggestions on how to be intentional with your candidate-nurturing strategy.

  • Aim for empathy. Nobody wants to be treated like a number, especially when applying for a new job. We spend the majority of our waking lives at work. Work is such an integrated part of our overall lifetime experience—it is much more than clocking in and clocking out. When your candidate nurturing is led by empathy, you will understand what someone is passionate about, what their goals and ambitions are, and what their fears are. When you understand all of these nuanced elements of your candidates, you will be in a stronger position to recruit them to your organization.
  • Get curious. Don’t be afraid to drill down and ask follow-up questions. Being curious and getting to know what your candidate is looking for in their next role helps you find a role that will be the best fit for them and sell them on that role. Curiosity helps you determine the candidate’s interest in your company and job opening. Accurately understanding their interest level will guide your subsequent efforts as you sell them on the opportunity.
  • Be an enthusiastic resource. Whether you are communicating with an active applicant going through your interview process or someone who only signed up for your external-facing company newsletter, be a welcoming resource for what they need. They will be more open and more likely to proactively reach out to you.

Be Consistent

Candidate nurturing does not work if it is inconsistent. You don’t want to reach out to someone so often that it gets annoying or feels like spam, so be intentional about the cadence of what you send out. Make sure to be consistent in whatever cadence frequency you decide on in each section of your candidate-nurturing strategy.

Each section of your strategy will have a different cadence. For example, you are going to reach out to a finalist who is going into a final interview with an executive at your organization far more frequently than you will with someone who applied for a role at your company but withdrew their application three years ago. You may want to reach out to a candidate in the final stages of your interview process every single day, but you may only reach out to previous applicants that you want to stay engaged with once a quarter.

Regardless of your determined best frequency to reach out to a candidate or a prospect, make sure you keep it consistent.

How to Nurture a Candidate

Each step of the candidate-nurturing process has its own goal and desired outcome. Here are the main areas of candidate nurturing and your desired outcome.

Step 1: Spark Interest

The first step in candidate nurturing is to spark a potential candidate’s interest. This may be someone who saw your company on a job board and applied to your open role while also applying to a dozen similar positions at other companies.

Spark their interest by reaching out with a personalized message instead of something generic like this:

“Thank you for your interest in our organization. After extensively reviewing your application and qualifications, our talent team has determined that you may be a fit for this position. We would like to advance you to the next step of our interview process.”

If this applicant has applied to a dozen different companies, this invitation will not set you apart from the others. Try something more personalized, like this:

“Thank you for considering our organization. We know there are a lot of companies you could have applied to, and it means the world to us that you chose to invest your time applying to our organization. We saw from your cover letter that you are interested in building processes that connect products to consumers. Our talent team was very impressed that you were able to increase the efficiency of your department at your last organization by 37%. The person in this role will be working on very similar objectives, and we believe your experience could lend to success here. We would like to set up a time to explore this potential match further.”

If a candidate sees that you took the time to genuinely review the information that they put hard work into and that you can connect how the specific things they have accomplished will lead to success in your organization, you are already on the way to nurturing that candidate’s interest.

Step 2: Maintain Interest

Always assume a candidate is interviewing with other companies and that other companies are actively reaching out to them. If you operate from this assumption, you will understand the importance of keeping their attention.

The candidate relationship is not static.Their interest is either growing or waning. If their interest is not growing in your organization, then it is likely growing in another role at another organization, and you may lose that candidate.

Set up opportunities to check in with a candidate and ask the important questions. Here are a few example questions that can help you maintain and nurture their interest.

  • How are you feeling after that last interview?
  • Do you have any lingering questions after that last interview?
  • Did any new questions pop up for you in that last interview that weren’t answered?
  • Has anything changed on your end with your job search process?
  • Are there any updates with other opportunities that I should be aware of?
  • After that last interview, how high would you gauge your interest in this position?
  • After that last interview, are you feeling more or less excited about this opportunity?
  • Have any new opportunities become available to you since we last spoke?
  • Have you received or anticipate any other job offers since we last spoke?
  • Where do we sit in your ranking of the different opportunities you are pursuing?
  • If we were to continue to an offer, what else would you need to feel confident in accepting it?

Maintaining interest takes effort. Bring in additional resources if needed. A simple call, email, or text message from a hiring manager can go a long way. If their interest in your organization is not continually increasing, assume it is decreasing.

Step 3: Stay Up to Date

Since each step of the candidate nurturing process is different, make sure to stay up to date. You may have incoming applications that you need to respond to, current applications that need a follow-up touch point, and people in your extended talent network who are due for a re-connect.

If you end up getting caught up nurturing current applicants and neglect prospects, your pipeline will be hurt. On the flipside, if you spend too much time sparking the interest of prospects and neglect your currently active applicants, you may lose them. If you forget to re-engage, you may see that the person who was perfect for your organization but the timing wasn’t right just started a new job at another company, and you lost out because you didn’t re-engage.

Step 4: Re-engage

Re-engaging with people you have contacted or interviewed before provides a wealth of potential top-talent applicants. Just as you are constantly looking to grow and take on more in your own career, the people you have talked to before are doing the same thing.

Say you had someone apply to your company for a social media marketing position a year ago who didn’t have enough experience. Over that last year, they may have gained the experience you are looking for, and now may be a perfect fit. Or maybe you reached out to someone who at the time was only looking for a position with a well-established publicly traded organization, and you work for a small start-up. Maybe their interests and experience have changed; the only way you will know is if you re-engage with people.

Re-engaging can greatly be augmented by automation software that emails someone once a quarter or once a year. Not everyone has expensive automation software, and it’s not necessarily needed. Create a process that triggers you to reach out when it’s time.