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A New Approach to Candidate Engagement for Recruiting Teams

| Ameya Deshmukh
Candidate Experience

The war for talent is over. Your recruiting teams are now fighting the war for time and candidate engagement. As a marketer, I know that getting someone to give you their time is really hard. Now, your recruiting teams need to figure out how to acquire the attention, time and interest of candidates. That’s going to require an entirely new mindset and approach to how you approach candidate engagement.

In this article, I’ll discuss the changes in thinking your company needs to make to be successful at acquiring talent in the current market.

This article covers:

  1. What is candidate engagement
  2. The science of candidate engagement
  3. Common candidate engagement issues
  4. Why you don’t need more candidates
  5. What are the goals of candidate engagement?
  6. Why is candidate engagement important?
  7. How to create a candidate engagement strategy
  8. Using the right mindset, strategy, and tactics

What is candidate engagement? 

Candidate engagement isn’t sending text messages. It isn’t adopting AI. It’s a new mindset and approach you need to take to your recruiting.

Candidate engagement is the process of building personal 1 to 1 relationships between your recruiters and your candidates. The more human and personal you can make the interactions between your recruiters and your candidates the better engaged your candidates will be with your company.

In the race to make placements, approaching candidate engagement the right way is the only thing that’s going to enable your recruiting teams to create the strong candidate relationships that’ll drive your ability to rapidly fill positions.

The science behind engagement 

The BBC completed some great research on engagement. I studied their analysis of the factors that drive engagement and applied it to candidate engagement. If you want to rapidly acquire talent, you need to deliver convenience & empathy in each interaction candidates have with your company.

Create convenience on par with the consumer experiences candidates have

Convenience is massively important in modern recruiting. Candidates want to be able to engage with your recruiters on their own terms and on their own time. The closer you can map the experience you create to the convenience of the experiences candidates have as consumers the more engagement you’ll get. Think about your recruiting process right now.

How easy is it for a candidate to give you their time no matter where they are right now? Is it as easy for your candidates to engage with your recruiting team as it is for them to call an Uber?

Top talent has a lot of choices in this market. Many can have as many as 4 offers at any time and for certain positions, like in the HVAC industry, talent might only be on the market for a matter of days.  Building a convenient recruiting experience is necessary. Convenience is how you get more candidates to the offer stage faster.

To get to a convenient experience you need to start by having empathy for your candidates. That means thinking about what it feels like to go through your current recruiting process. What sort of emotions do your candidates feel as they engage with your current process?

Research on engagement has shown that there are 5 emotions that build connection – happiness, sadness, fear, anticipation, and puzzlement.

How are you managing the emotions of your candidates in your hiring experience?

Here’s an example of the emotional journey a candidate is taking when interacting with a standard hiring process.

  1. They see a position open on your website that matches their interest. (Happiness)
  2. They fill out an application.  (Anticipation)
  3. They wait to hear back from a recruiter for weeks. (Sadness)
  4. They think they might not be qualified. (Fear)
  5. They wonder why they never heard back from you. (Puzzlement)

Whether you know it or not, your current candidate engagement strategy is creating an emotional journey for your candidates. Creating an engaging experience means you need to create a more positive emotional journey for your candidates. Delivering more positive emotions will make them more likely to continue to engage with your staffing agency in the future.

Candidate experience is an emotional journey that happens across a set of interactions and experiences

Your candidate engagement strategy needs to be convenient & it needs to create positive emotions. How you actually go about doing that is by changing your thinking about the hiring process. Candidate engagement isn’t the open or reply rate to a text message or a phone call. It’s a set of experiences along a journey. Candidates aren’t looking at your company just once.

They interact with you 14 times before they make a decision. Other research shows that candidates can even spend as much as 7 hours researching your company before they apply or decide to work with you.

When you think about candidate engagement you need to also consider the interactions candidates have with your brand outside of your recruiting teams’ control.

Have you checked what employees or past candidates are saying about working with your agency on review websites and social media?

If you’re not doing a good job engaging your candidates today it’ll show and it’ll be shared publicly. You could lose your chance to win the war for a candidate’s attention before a recruiter even sends a single text message to them.


7 common candidate engagement issues 

  1. The candidate black hole – never hearing back after applying.
  2. Long application forms dissuade qualified candidates from completing applications. They know they can find work elsewhere in this market.
  3. Repetitive application questions. Using ATS based resume parsing tools damages candidate engagement. No one wants to re-enter information from their resume multiple times.
  4. Inconvenient communication times. Nurses for example often work nights and aren’t available during normal business hours to engage with recruiters or for screening calls.
  5. Inconvenient communication methods. Deskless workers like construction workers for example, often don’t even have an email address or rarely check their inbox.
  6. One-way communication. It frustrates candidates if they aren’t able to respond to your text messages or emails with comments/questions.
  7. Irrelevant outreach. Out of date candidate profile data can cause your recruiting teams to send out information about positions that are no longer relevant to experience level or location.

You need to engage candidates through their preferred communication method, whenever they’re ready to engage with you. Candidate engagement needs to be continuous & convenient. It also needs to be data-driven and highly personalized.

If it isn’t all these things at all times of the day it isn’t going to be engaging.

In fact, our customer data shows that many candidates actually prefer to engage with hiring teams outside of working hours. Many applications come in in the middle of the night and after business hours.

I’m sure we can both agree that the best time to engage a candidate would be right after they’ve applied? data proving the need for continuous candidate engagement

You don’t need more candidates

Candidates are drowning in your talent pool.  How many candidates do you get every month who enter your ATS? How many of them do you actually engage and convert? The numbers are low and that’s why there is such a strong focus on getting more candidates. It’s not more candidates that you need.

You can’t constantly get more and more candidates. It doesn’t work, especially in this job market.  Instead, staffing companies need to focus on engaging the candidates you already have.

This requires shifting your thinking from creating a talent pool to nurturing a candidate community with plenty of meaningful human to human interaction and an exchange of value.

You can build a candidate community by understanding your personas, delivering value to your candidates first, and by thinking about how you can engage and support your candidates along their talent journey.

Think about how you can support candidates and create positive emotional experiences along their journey of finding work. Think about your candidates as your customers instead of raw materials that need to be pushed through an assembly line.

What are the goals of candidate engagement? 

I often see that the goal of candidate engagement is to get someone to open your emails, or reply to your text messages or other communications from your recruiting team.

These metrics are a good way to measure whether your communications are engaging. However, they aren’t the goal of candidate engagement.

The goal of candidate engagement is to find qualified candidates quickly by building relationships on an individual one to one level. A human relationship.

Enabling your recruiting teams to engage in more 1 to 1 relationship building with the right people, process, and technology is what candidate engagement is actually all about.

While collecting standard engagement metrics is important and should be done the real metric you should measure is the candidate satisfaction score.

Why is candidate engagement important? 

You can’t put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it. Easy-apply and job boards are already flooding your recruiting teams with more candidates than they can manage. Most of these candidates are unqualified.

The challenge today isn’t finding ways to get more candidates in your pipeline. The challenge is in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

How can you find the qualified candidates in your database?

How can you find the qualified candidates in your applicant pool?

How can you get to them faster than everyone else?  How can you get them to continue to work with your recruiting teams and complete your hiring process?

The answer to these questions is in candidate engagement.

How to create a candidate engagement strategy

Approach your candidate engagement strategy by considering people, process, and technology.


Define your candidate audiences. There are many approaches you can take to segment your audience. You can build segments according to the revenue they contribute to your business. If you’re a staffing company you could start by thinking about your highest volume roles first.

You could also segment your audience by your top industries.   For example, you could begin to organize your candidates by segmenting your audiences into transportation, IT, or manufacturing.

Another approach you could take would be to segment your audiences into a deskless workers category.

For example, truck drivers and warehouse roles would fall into the deskless worker category while office/clerical roles would not. The communication methods deskless workers engage with are slightly different.

As you decide what audience segments you want to focus on engaging, think about who’ll be responsible for them internally at your staffing company.

It’s a best practice to have your recruiting teams specialize and support specific audience segments. For example, you may want to assign a certain percentage of your recruiters to focus entirely on deskless roles.


Next, you need to create a documented process for driving engagement in your audience segments.

Start this by mapping out their talent journey. Regardless of where they begin their journey with you, their journey will have 3 stages:  awareness, consideration, and conversion.


How will they hear about open positions you have available? Will you be using social media? What review sites will they go on to hear from candidates who’ve worked with your agency? How will you provide stories to them from candidates you’ve worked with to build trust?


How will your team engage with interested candidates?  How will you determine who’s qualified and who’s not? How many stages are there in the interview process? How can you make each experience candidates have with your staffing agency positive and convenient?


How will you get qualified and engaged candidates to the offer stage as fast as possible?

Carefully map out this process for each one of your audiences. Think about how you’ll measure the success of your process. Think about the emotional journey candidates are going on as they enter each stage of your process. What can you do to create positive emotions along the talent journey?


What tools will you use to support your process? What kind of AI for staffing technology will you use? How will you measure the success of your technology investments?

What sort of recruiting automation will you be using to engage your candidates?

Will you use auto-scheduling tools to support high volume interview scheduling communications and streamline your process?

After you finish planning out your approach to the 3 areas of people, process, and technology make sure to examine your strategy to see where you fall on the range of candidate engagement. Using highly engaging processes and technologies in your strategy will help you to hire more efficiently.


Use the right mindset, strategy, and tactics

Candidate engagement isn’t the reply rate of your emails. Candidate engagement isn’t acquiring and deploying conversational AI or recruiting chatbots. It isn’t building a more effective careers website. It also doesn’t mean starting a recruitment marketing program.

Candidate engagement is all of these things. Fundamentally, candidate engagement is how you serve your candidates and how you make your candidates feel. The right way to approach candidate engagement is with the thought “how can we create more value for our candidates?”

If you focus on creating value, all the other tactics fall into place. If you focus on creating value for your candidates you’ll also see reductions in time to interview, you’ll see better open rates/response rates, and you’ll make more placements than you do now.

As you think through your candidate engagement strategy examining this diagram will help. Try to think of ways you can make the way you engage your candidates more human and personal. Creating a human hiring process involves strategically making the right use of automation and deploying it with empathy for your candidates and your recruiting teams.

comparison of candidate engagement tactics


Get help with candidate engagement

At Mya, we help many of the world’s largest staffing agencies and most well-known brands become more effective at candidate engagement. Certainly, we do that by helping them deploy conversational AI and integrate it with their ATS through our partner network. But we don’t stop at helping our customers to deploy conversational AI technology.

We work with our customers to help them make the right people and process changes to get the most out of the resources they have. That includes partnering with leading recruitment marketing agencies to create educational content for our customers. It also means providing our customers with a dedicated customer success manager to set goals and track towards milestones.

If you’re struggling to create a candidate engagement strategy and finding that filling your funnel with more candidates simply isn’t working, we can help you transform the way you recruit from end to end. Book a demo with our team today, we’d love to help you transform the way you’re recruiting and build competitive advantage.

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