SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

 

The Key to Successful Candidate Communication

A lot can go wrong when you’re communicating with candidates. An unprofessional or careless communication strategy not only leads to disgruntled applicants, but can also damage the company’s reputation in the long term. Here’s what HR Managers need to know. 

Every job applicant, regardless of whether they end up getting the job or not, is an ambassador for the company. The candidate’s experience of the application process may decide whether they speak positively or negatively about the company thereafter.

You might not think that one dissatisfied candidate could possibly ruin your employer brand, but when there are fundamental problems with candidate communication, negative sentiment starts to accrue. In the long run, this has an enormous effect on the company’s public image, and in turn, its attractiveness as an employer.

An applicant and their network

study [in German] conducted by Meta HR Consultancy and stellenanzeigen.de found that 80% of applicants publicly share their experiences. They tell their friends and acquaintances in person, or share their experiences via Facebook,Twitter, or review portals like kununu or Glassdoor. The same study shows that only 17% of respondents felt that companies catered to their needs as candidates during the application process. Potentially, this could result in quite a few negative comments.

Ultimately, this underlines how important a professional candidate communication strategy is to employer branding. Maintaining a high level of communication through the application process isn’t all that difficult. Here are the essential elements.

A step-by-step guide to an ideal candidate communication strategy

  1. Be available for questions

Before applications start to come in, HR should make themselves available for questions about the role, or the application process. The job description should state the relevant contact person, along with an email address, and a phone number. This adds a personal touch, regardless of whether the applicant makes contact or not.

  1. Acknowledge receipt of applications

If the candidate hasn’t been in touch with questions, your first point of contact with them will be when you acknowledge receipt of their application. This can heavily influence the candidate’s perception of the whole process. Acknowledgement of receipt should of course confirm that they have successfully applied for the position, but also outline a basic timetable of how things will progress, e.g. when people will be called for interview, when people will find out if they got the job or not. That way, every candidate knows what to expect.

  1. Give status updates

Like anything, the hiring process can be subject to delays. For example, sometimes you’ll receive many more applications than you were expecting. This delay can be a pain for applicants, but providing that you communicate this to them in a transparent way, you’ll maintain their interest in the role. Send them a brief notice about the delay, giving reasons as to why it occurred. However, make sure to avoid stalling candidates for weeks on end if, for example, your decision is still pending. Being staved off like that will leave a negative aftertaste with candidates, and you risk application withdrawals if they have to wait too long for a decision.

  1. Send constructive rejections

The most sensitive aspect of candidate communication is obviously the rejection letter. It is, without a doubt, the biggest challenge for HR managers, so please don’t avoid the task altogether! That’s completely unacceptable.

In addition to providing them with a general ‘regret letter’, it is very helpful to the applicant if you give them some feedback as to why you made your decision. Constructive criticism is worth its weight in gold to a job seeker, as it gives them the chance to improve their next application. Ideally, you could offer a feedback session over the phone. If the candidate is still interesting – even if they don’t suit the current role on offer – you should invite them to apply again at a later date for a more suitable role within your organisation. The study shows that 84% of candidates would re-apply for a different role within a company if they have a good experience during their initial application process – even if they were rejected!

Communicate on the same level

Any method of communication with candidates should have a personal touch, instead of just anonymous mass mailings. Companies should never forget that candidates usually invest a lot of time and effort in their applications, and connect hopes and desires to them. Although in most cases you will be sending rejections, you need to treat each person with respect, and communicate in an open, honest and transparent way. Don’t leave anyone in the dark!

Republished from Jobspotting and updated November 29, 2017.

Sandra Stein

Sandra Stein