The State of Candidate Engagement
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Three Recruitment Veterans Break Down:
Stop for a second and listen closely.
Can’t hear anything?
Well, you’re not alone.
That silence is the same one that
talent professionals have grown
accustomed to as they wait for
candidates to respond to their outreach.
The reasons for a lack of candidate responses are endless
Things are more digitized than ever before, which means candidates are overwhelmed with outreach from digital channels
It’s a candidate driven market, which means you’re probably not the only one reaching out to talent about an open position
Some talent professionals are trying traditional methods of outreach and failing to separate themselves from the competition
To investigate the main obstacles behind this widespread silence and, most importantly, the solutions for overcoming them, we reached out to three veterans in the recruitment industry about the current state of candidate engagement.
Here are the areas they're covering:
Over the past two decades, Katrina Collier has seen the constant ebb and flow of the talent market as an Author, Speaker, and Recruitment Consultant. In her section, she’ll break down why recruiters are struggling to get responses from talent.
In a world where social presence and branding are a competitive advantage for attracting talent, CEO and Founder of Three Ears Media Katrina Kibben’s 20+ years of media and consulting expertise are as valuable as ever. She highlights best engagement practices, areas for improvement, and the “why” behind those strategies.
“Best practices” for engagement are great, but we also need to make sure that they work. With 15+ years of recruitment industry experience, Global Talent Sourcing Trainer Vanessa Raath breaks down how to track engagement, which metrics to be mindful of, and how you can use them to measure success in your daily process.
Here are the areas they’re covering

As recruiters and sourcers, communication is our primary goal.

We want to get someone’s attention and have a conversation.

Even with 4.88 billion people using the Internet (along with 5.3 billion unique mobile users), communication has become incredibly challenging.

Heck, ‘ghosting’ has even become a term. Throw in a pandemic and somehow, we are in the most candidate driven market you may ever have known.

What on earth happened?

If you have read The Robot-Proof Recruiter, you may recall that companies had all the control decades before.

    Job seekers would look for roles in a newspaper, and they wouldn’t know:

  • if it was the only job or one of a few hundred available at a company
  • if they were the only applicant or one of a thousand

You never left a job without another. Employer brand and EVP? They didn’t exist. Companies ruled by carrot and a stick, and you were lucky to have a job.

People stayed, even when mistreated.

Fast forward to 2021,

and one quick search on the Internet will reveal thousands of job possibilities, salary expectations, and available reviews.

How a company treated its people was once opaque. Now, it’s right there for people to see.

But the other problem is that people, especially those who have skills in demand, avoid recruiters.

Even the most hyper personalized InMail fall on deaf ears because people won’t open their LinkedIn messages for fear of being confronted with piles of recruitment spam.

Robert Bratton

Promotions Sr. Product Manager role - Hey! Are you looking

Amelie Lens

Updates Bay Area Design [BAD] Recruiter at TEKsystems - Sometimes, the best way

Ricky Ramirez

Updates Sr. Software Engineer, AWS - We are looking for a Senior

Katie Jackson

Updates Account Executive for Enterprise SaaS - I stumbled across

Anderson Gray

Updates Product Operations Manager, Growth - Hi Anush, I hope that

Martin Ikin

Updates HIRING QUICK! Senior CX Manager role - Hi! I came across

Kingsley Bolt

Updates Data Scientist, Applications - We are looking for a Data

My favorite Tweet to evidence this was one sent by @pjf in May 2016.

He shared the exquisite InMail he had received from Weston at Google. It’s personalized and clearly shows that Weston had read Paul’s profile. The Twittersphere was so impressed by this rare instance of relevant communication that it has been retweeted over 5500 times.

As it turns out, Paul tweeted it nearly 11 months after the InMail was sent –– which means it took him almost a year to open LinkedIn and see it.

Imagine if Weston had emailed him directly?

But today, even an email isn't enough to guarantee someone will engage.

The pandemic forced technology onto those who had been avoiding it and created confidence in those who used it rarely. Access to technology - right there in the palm of their hand - allows them the opportunity to investigate and decide.

Here's a tough pill to swallow for some: People don't owe you a reply. You need to deserve it. You need to look worthy of someone's valuable time (and so does your company). So ask yourself: How do you all fare under the scrutiny of an Internet search? And, most importantly, would you respond to you?

In this market, recruiters and sourcers need to get back to basics. Return to the lost art of human connection, which has been harmed by implementing the wrong kinds of automation and mass mailing. It's time to ramp up your human skills and use technology wisely to create ease, openness, and certainty, especially in this uncertain time.

When I started
my company,

Three Ears Media, I went
through a branding exercise.

The first step?
Identify one universal problem for your customers and then come up with an offer that provides a solution.
Sounds easy enough, right?

As you might have guessed, there are so many nuances and inevitable differences when it comes to hiring from one company to the next, whether it's because of industry, the type of talent, or a million other variables.

After literally months of trying to focus on one universal problem, I came up with this:

Hiring Is Hard.

You must be thinking, No duh.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Yet, the reason that hiring is hard isn't as apparent as it might seem. When we hire, there are a million variables we don't control – including one of the most unpredictable variables in the world: Humans.

There's nothing we can control about their behavior, and we surely can't force them to take a job.

The one thing you
can control?
How you message people.

There are two messages that candidates conducting job research will look at:

Click on the icons to get info

Let's start with the Job Post.
What's Wrong With Job Postings
Most job posts are awful for two reasons. The first reason is that most recruiters are not taught how to correctly write them (although I know someone who will teach them). The second reason is that these postings don't always tell the truth. We tend to make up requirements and allow our imagination to get the best of us as we start writing job postings.
What To Change
To build trust at this moment, focus on creating content in the job post that's helpful to the person on the other side. An easy way to do that? Rewrite your skill section and bulleted lists. We both know most candidates are only reading those, anyway.

Start with the subheading, the line that goes right above the bulleted list. Instead of something like "Qualifications and Requirements," create a list and then use the subheading to tell people why that list exists. For example, your bulleted list describes the ideal candidates. The subheading is not "Qualifications and Requirements." Instead, the subheading should say, "Here's what we're looking for in our ideal candidate."

By repositioning this list from something that feels a little more like a menu than a description of someone's life, you can create a connection through content. Offer insights into the job and describe how you define success.
What To Change
Then, in the bulleted list, focus on creating skill bullets that are clear to anyone, concise, and don't use jargon.

It's not "3 years of experience."
It's "you've built a database that helps customers order items online."
The bulleted skill list should be specific to the work they've done in the past and be clear enough that every reader can say yes or no after reading it.

Warning: Don't use more than one third of bulleted content. Fewer women will apply to roles that are primarily bulleted lists.

Remember: Insider tips create intimacy. Think about it. If you walked into a workplace and asked for insider advice, wouldn't you instantly feel more connected to the person who offered it? This strategy can have the same impact.
Spoiler Alert:
Once a candidate sees your jobs - especially on LinkedIn - they will visit your LinkedIn profile.
This is when most of my recruiter friends make that "oh no" face. They know their profile isn't up to par even though they're looking at profiles and offering advice to candidates all day. It's a lot easier to give advice than to apply it to yourself, right?

You're not alone. I hear it every day in rewrite sessions where I sit down with people from every background to rewrite their LinkedIn profiles.

What recruiters are wondering is if this even matters to candidates. The truth is, yes. You're missing out on a free opportunity to make a memorable first impression with the right candidate without doing any work outside of that first LinkedIn update.
There are a few things to focus on when updating your LinkedIn profile.
Click on each icon to get more info
These LinkedIn profile recommendations aren't just for immediate hires.
The content upgrades will help you build a network that's your very own exclusive pipeline of warm leads for great candidates.
Profile Pic
Start with your picture — just you.
Ideally, it should be close up to your face and show a smile. The reaction from the reader should be, "you look kind and helpful."
Headline
Make it your job title.
You need to confirm to the candidate that you are who you say you are.
About
That's a little more complicated, but don't overthink it.
If you're using your profile to recruit candidates (not look for a job), add a note to candidates.
Add Note
Something like this:
"Hi there - if you found me after applying to a job here on LinkedIn,
nice to meet you! Here's what
happens next."
How they Should contact you
Then, outline the next steps and explain how they should contact you. Again, this goes back to being helpful.
The way we recruit has changed forever.
To put it simply: you have one shot at making an impression and piquing the candidate’s interest –– so you have to ensure that you make it count! These days, it’s all about enticing passive talent to leave a role (that they are likely comfortable in) to work for us.
As a result, recruiters need to start thinking more like marketers to ensure that they get responses from the best talent.

Unfortunately, too few recruiters are measuring their cold outreach response rate. Why?

But if we don’t measure the response rate from passive talent, how do we know if we are doing a good job or not?

Seriously, sourcing the best candidates is only half of the job. The other half is being able to compose a brilliant outreach email that passive talent will respond to.

They still use a ‘bulk spray and approach,’ and it’s difficult to track hundreds of emails
Response rates may not fall under their KPIs, so they do not care who responds or not
They often forget who they have messaged

So how should we track our response rates?

With email automation tools that track open rates, reply rates, and sentiment stats, tracking candidate engagement is now easier and more accessible to everyone.

To borrow a marketing term, recruiters need to adopt a “Drip Marketing Campaign” approach when reaching out to passive talent.

I see too many recruiters sending long emails jam packed with so much information in their opening emails. Like many Drip Marketing Campaigns, we should be breaking this information into bite size chunks (think TL;DR) and sending it to our targeted candidates over a five email campaign.

Those recruiters who have adopted this marketing mindset:

  • build better relationships with their candidates over a more extended period
  • send insightful snippets of information about the company and role
  • try different tones and structures to see what emails best resonate with the candidates.

Adopting this Drip Marketing Campaign will also allow you to measure which of your outreach emails delivers the highest response rate. For me, my third email (which is just a meme) always provides the best response rate.

Before I even start sourcing on a new role,

I always set up my outreach email campaigns in advance. This way, I get to sit down and pre plan which hooks I can add to each email.

I also look at things like my:

  • Email cadence: How many emails I am going to send – between 4 and 6 works best for me
  • Timing: Which time of the day will be best to send my emails (i.e. Financial Managers generally tend to start work earlier in the day than Software Engineers)

Once you have the candidate’s attention, it will be much easier to maintain their attention throughout the whole interview process.

Continuing with the theme of TL;DR

Here are some quick tricks to measuring your candidate’s engagement success:

From Silence to Successful Engagement

On behalf of Katrina Collier, Katrina Kibben, Vanessa Raath, and the Hiretual team, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to read through our insights on the state of Candidate Engagement.

The primary obstacles surrounding candidate engagement
Practices and strategies for improving candidate engagement
Ways to measure and track engagement success

We look forward to you revisiting the opening line of the ebook (“Can you hear that?”) soon and responding with “Yes, because candidates are finally responding back.”

If you’d like to learn more about supporting technology for the practices and strategies highlighted above, our team would love to speak with you!

Uncover The State of Candidate Engagement