How to communicate with job candidates like a pro

Josefine Mattsson
18 November, 2021

As a recruiter or HR manager, what does your candidate experience strategy look like today? The reason we’re asking is due to the fact that a negative candidate experience causes 69% of candidates to never work with your company again. Hence it’s imminent, not only for the candidates, but for the business itself, for the communication between HR and candidates to be frequent, clear, and informative, or you risk losing a hefty amount of talent. The real question, and the answer to this problem, is what we will base this article on: how do you ensure satisfied candidates, even though they don’t get the job? Let’s walk through how to communicate with candidates throughout the whole hiring process.

Candidate communication

As with all forms of communication, there are a few golden guidelines that are applicable to everything regarding how you communicate with candidates. These guidelines will be the theme throughout this article.

  1. Expectations - always ask yourself what the candidate is expecting of you at a certain step of the hiring process and how you meet that desire.
  2. Information - which information does the candidate need at this exact point for the process to run as smoothly as possible?
  3. Clarity - how do you deliver your message? Is it clear to the point or are you using language open for interpretation? If you are, don’t. You can still be friendly without making things too fluffy.
  4. Consistency - expectations rely on consistency. Make the candidates used to receive appropriate information at the correct time.

The job ad

Headline

It all begins with the job ad. A well-written (and at times, visually pleasing) job ad helps you attract the right target group. The headline is important here because you can already start to sift people out by writing an informative headline. Examples:

  1. “Software engineer”
  2. “C++ Software engineer - Tech lead - Gaming - (Company X)

The first example is too general and will probably annoy the candidate from the get-go since they know there are a hundred variations of software engineers. In example two however you are defining what is expected of them to know, what position you’re looking to fill, and you give the opportunity to let the candidate rule in, or out, the company and the industry. Another perk of writing the ad like in example 2 is that you help search engines find your ad.

Body text

Remember the golden guidelines and do your best to include them in the body text.

Information: location/remote/both, start date, benefits, application length

Expectation: skills, experience, tasks, benefits

Clarity: Be concise and engaging. Use bullet lists.

Apart from the above, did you know that you could subconsciously discriminate against people by using certain words? Your perfect candidate at this step of the process is everyone. That’s why you want to be as inclusive as possible. How?

There are digital tools that can scan your job ad and tell you who you are most likely to attract.. Research shows that those who define themselves as males tend to be drawn to words that indicate strength. So, if you would write, “we’re looking for a power-house of a person who can move mountains and write code faster than a cheetah runs,” then you’ve excluded many people who don’t relate to moving mountains, nor cat animals. A bit exaggerated, but you catch the drift. In order to attract everyone, you should go for a neutral language without many adjectives. This relates back to giving information and being clear rather than fluffy.

Another way of making your job ad as DE&I as possible is by not using gender-specific language. You should also state that you’re non-discriminatory: “Company X does not discriminate on the basis of color, religion, sexuality..” By doing this you invite everyone to apply.

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How does the candidate apply?

Lengthy applications can cause 60% of all applicants to drop out. Aouch. If you, on your side, are trying to get as much information out of the candidate as possible, without taking into consideration what that person has to go through, then it might be wise to change tactics. Some would say that those who decide to complete a lengthy application are those who truly want the job. But that is not true. Many people already have a job and an everyday life to take care of. Spending evenings on job applications that take over an hour is just not doable and there’s no real value in it either. Here are some tips on what to communicate during an online application process:

  1. Depending on how you choose to extract information, whether it’s a talent assessment, a text-based questionnaire along with resumés and personal letter, or solely the latter, remember to spell out (before the candidate presses “apply”) how long it will take to complete the application. It’s also kind to mention if they need to prepare certain documents for the employment form.
  2. If the applicants fill in forms, implement a progress bar that helps them know how much there’s left to do.
  3. Before they press “send” let them know what they can expect now. Write “we’ll send you a confirmation email.”
  4. In the confirmation email, you let the candidate know that you’ve received their application. Make sure to mention at what point in time they can expect to hear back from you. Again, manage expectations.

If you don’t have automated emails in place, find a digital tool that can support you with this. Sending these emails manually will take too much of your time. Another kind thing to do is to provide an email address in the confirmation email. This way they can send information they might have forgotten to write down and they can ask potential questions regarding the job… or, what a minute, is that a good idea? To risk receiving a multitude of emails from curious candidates?

No. That would be a lot for you to take on. Instead, you could implement an automated chatbot software either on your website or in the email. The chatbot can act as your HR assistant and help with answering the most common questions such as benefits, pay, starting date, etc.

Scheduling interviews

At this point, you’ve done an initial screening of all the applications you’ve received and the candidates are expecting to hear from you on the date you’ve promised to reach out. Now you have two actions to make:

  1. There are many candidates whom you don’t want to move forward with. Send them an email saying that unfortunately, you won’t be moving forward with them. But if they wish to ask questions or receive feedback, they’re welcome to do so, however, you can not promise when you’ll be able to send it to them.
  2. Connect with the chosen ones. How?

Well, in this particular example you want to schedule a phone interview with them. You begin with sending an email to all candidates. In the email, they’ll find a link that leads them to “your” calendar. In other words, it’s an online calendar in which everyone who has the link to it can schedule a meeting on already decided times and dates e.g. this is a great way for you to manage your time wisely. When they’ve booked a time slot they’ll receive a pop-up window (or such) that repeats the time and date chosen, and that they’ll receive a confirmation email in which they can reschedule if necessary.

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Phone/online interview

The day before the scheduled interview takes place, the candidate will receive an email, or an SMS, that politely reminds them of their interview, repeats the time, and whether they should prepare something or not. By doing this you’ll mitigate the risk of someone not showing up at the same time as you know that they’ll come prepared to the meeting. By the end of each interview, mention when they can expect to hear back from you. As you hang up, a new automated email will leave your automated email software containing something along the lines of:

“Hi! Thank you for taking your time. If you have any further questions please use this link (refer to the chatbot) and ask them there. We’ll get back to you in 3 days. Have a great day!”

Repeating information makes it stick better! So don’t be afraid to repeat things, everything you can do to make the process filled with flow is a perk.

How to deliver great and bad news

It’s time to let your candidates know if they got the job or not.

Disclaimer: we understand that you might have additional steps in your hiring process, but we’re fast-forwarding this a bit to make it clear and concise.

How do you deliver bad news? This is up to you. Some prefer to write a more lengthy email that lets the candidates know that you’ve moved forward with someone else. In this email, repeat that they can ask for feedback. But, if you really want to be on good terms with all applicants, you should give them a quick call during which you describe that they should keep an eye out for other job openings and that you encourage them to apply to those.

When it comes to delivering great news, and this goes without a saying, call the person! Remember to continue giving information on what the candidate can expect now and what steps need to be taken to complete the hiring.

Expectations, Information, Consistency, and Clarity

If you keep these four guiding words with you when you create a candidate experience you can be sure to increase candidate satisfaction. Why? Because the words and the actions connected to them build trust. If candidates feel like they can trust you throughout this process, it will be more difficult to react negatively to bad news or mishaps from your side.

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Josefine Mattsson
18 November, 2021

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