The Ultimate Guide to Candidate Engagement
Adam Barratt

3 minutes

The Ultimate Guide to Candidate Engagement

Effective candidate engagement has always been a smart strategy to ensure access to top talent. But in today’s hyper-competitive market, successfully building relationships with potential recruits has never been more vital.

Competition for applicants is fierce. In order to secure scarce skills, talent acquisition teams must direct time and resources into building a robust long-term talent attraction strategy - and candidate engagement is crucial to that.

Here’s all you need to know if you want to boost candidate engagement levels, and reap the associated rewards.

What is candidate engagement?

Candidate engagement is the practice of building relationships with candidates across every single touchpoint throughout the recruitment journey. This encompasses everything from employer branding through to application and assessment, job offer, onboarding, and beyond. In short, it’s every communication a person experiences while looking to get a job with a particular employer - and this starts before any application is made.

Of course, communicating a favourable employer value proposition (EVP) is an important part of the candidate experience. However, EVP is only part of the puzzle: candidate engagement is much more than communicating key corporate messages.

Actions speak louder than words, and great candidate engagement includes both a swift, slick, and enjoyable recruitment process, as well as plenty of opportunities for two-way conversations.

Why is candidate engagement important?

Candidate engagement is vital when recruiting and hiring both permanent employees and contingent talent. It ensures that:

  • brands, and the career opportunities they offer, are visible to the right audiences
  • potential recruits are left with a positive image of the employer, and
  • job applicants are compelled to begin, and complete, the recruitment process.

However, effective candidate engagement strategies do more than guarantee access to top talent. Employer and consumer brands are intrinsically linked, and through boosting engagement with potential recruits, businesses can also help strengthen wider brand appeal.

It is worth noting that 41% of candidates who have had a poor overall recruitment experience will take their allegiance, product purchases and relationships elsewhere.

PepsiCo previously worked out how much money it was losing due to bad candidate experience. They concluded that bad candidate experience was costing them $1.6 million per year, by taking into account:

  • the number of applicants the company rejected for every hire
  • the number of hires they made each year, and
  • how much a customer was worth and how many of the rejected candidates had a bad experience.

Virgin UK announced an even more frightening annual figure of £4.5m. Conversely, IBM has found that 53% of applicants who have a positive candidate experience will become a customer.

Clearly, candidate engagement can have a very real and direct impact on your company’s bottom line, as well as on the volume and calibre of applicants you attract.

How can I improve my candidate engagement?

The practice of improving candidate engagement begins with taking a fresh look at your current hiring processes. Go back to basics and test your brand’s recruitment journey for yourself:

  • Are there any technical glitches that may result in candidates abandoning their applications?
  • Are there any unnecessary, or unnecessarily long, steps that could be cut out?
  • Does the process offer tailored and timely feedback?

Consider how your candidates feel by putting yourself in their shoes. See where you can make process efficiencies and identify opportunities for personalised engagement. Candidate engagement should always be authentic, and all existing and potential applicants should continually be treated with honesty and respect.

Don’t just broadcast your messages; invite a two-way narrative, and ask for feedback. Finally, consider how you are represented externally, across every channel, and by the recruitment partners you work with. Without knowing where you stand now, attempts to improve candidate engagement levels will be at worst fruitless, at best misdirected.

Effective candidate engagement practices

Effective candidate engagement practices should be embedded throughout the entire recruitment journey, and streamlining candidate communications is often key to success. Too many recruitment processes are clunky, confused, and drawn-out. In fact, almost 50% of jobseekers have abandoned an application because it was too lengthy. This is even more alarming when you consider that 74% of the data companies collect on their candidates isn’t even used in the selection process.

Organisations must focus on the quality of each interaction, rather than the volume of information each applicant or potential applicant receives – and personalised messaging is the gold standard in candidate engagement. Always consider the unique drivers of each individual candidate persona, and how, and through which channels, these groups prefer to communicate.

Take a look at our Advanced Direct Sourcing solution - Guidant’s integrated approach to direct sourcing activates your EVP and employer brand to attract, curate and engage exclusive talent communities to support repeatable hiring needs without the need for suppliers.

Tailoring candidate engagement to specific personas

When we worked with Shop Direct (now known as The Very Group), we specifically sought to engage female candidates. We designed a candidate persona, Female Farah, to target a potential gap in applicant demographic and increase the number of women workers at the firm’s distribution centres. We did this by challenging stereotypical perceptions of a warehouse environment and increasing diversity.

Visual design and messaging were tailored to this specific persona. Rather than taking a ‘one-design-fits-all’ approach to job adverts, communications included persona-focused imagery and targeted social media posts. As a result of the campaign, 69% of all temporary female hires at Shop Direct that year were placed in the three months our campaign was live.

Hiring managers should also consider if their recruitment process is truly accessible, to those with disabilities for example, and how they can best build long-term relationships with great talent. Above all, always provide relevant and timely feedback, even to unsuccessful applicants. Research by Talentboard has found that more than half of jobseekers say employers never keep them informed about their application status – almost guaranteeing that these individuals will never reapply for another position at the firm.

Candidate engagement tools

Today’s talent technology is transforming the way that organisations find, secure, manage and communicate with the talent they need to stay competitive.

Modern applicant tracking systems (ATSs) are designed to make timely and personalised interactions with potential recruits simple. Other contemporary tools mean that candidate engagement can be further enhanced through the assessment process and beyond.

When Heathrow Airport asked us to recruit a new team of ‘Innovation Catalysts’ to support the brand’s expansion project, we reimagined the recruitment process and used gamification to take candidate engagement to another level.

The ‘Theme Park Hero’ assessment game built by Revelian assessed candidates using four different puzzles of increasing complexity. This provided reliable and valid data on a candidate’s ability in a variety of areas, including information processing style and decision making.

All candidates highlighted their enjoyment of both the gamification assessment and the assessment day. While a traditional recruitment process would have had agencies supplying candidates based on a broad job specification, we were able to give Heathrow an innovative and market leading recruitment process – one that objectively selected the most innovative, analytical, and resilient candidates.

Virtual candidate engagement

Here at Guidant, we recently worked with a US government contractor that was expanding its operations into Ireland and needed to build an entire new team locally. Through the smart use of technology, we were able to increase candidate engagement remotely with a quick but comprehensive recruitment process, underpinned by chatbot and video interviewing technology.

We created bespoke chatbots, based on tech from Leadoo, to remove the need for manual screening and used video interview software Hinterview to engage with qualified candidates, adding an important ‘human touch’ when face-to-face meetings were not possible. This strategy removed an entire round of initial screening, saving up to 75 hours across 100 applicants alone, and reduced time-to-hire from 20 days to 10. 

In a world of work that’s shaped as much by digital tools and virtual interactions as it is by face-to-face interactions, an effective virtual candidate engagement strategy is something all organisations should invest in.

Continuous candidate engagement

While the principles of candidate engagement are similar regardless of whether you are seeking to attract permanent or contingent talent, when designing communications for the latter, it is essential that engagement is continuous.

By building and nurturing long-term relationships with former temporary workers and other potential recruits, you can ensure ongoing availability of skills so that your workforces can flex as demand dictates. Creating robust talent pools allows businesses to maximise the chance of bringing back great candidates at short notice, candidates who:

  • are already familiar with how your business operates
  • understand what is expected of them, and
  • have an affinity with your brand’s culture and values.

Ex-contingent workers, former permanent employees, freelancers, retirees, and even previously unsuccessful final-round applicants can all be included in talent pools - which are usually managed in an ATS as part of a managed service programme.

Regular communication with your talent pool is crucial to ensuring past, present, and future candidates are (and remain) engaged by the offering you have. Rich and immersive content can be shared to tell good news stories about your organisation and people, via email newsletters, social media updates, written content, video, or imagery.

How is candidate engagement measured?

Candidate engagement levels can be measured through a number of important metrics, with time-to-hire, quality-of-hire, and retention levels all providing a good indication of how successful your strategy is. Acceptance rates can also provide valuable data, particularly when you consider that 42% of job offers are actually rejected – and 37% of candidates who turn down job offers do so because they’ve accepted a role elsewhere.

Most importantly, candidate engagement should be measured by inviting honest feedback from both successful and unsuccessful applicants. Companies that bury their head in the sand stand no chance of ever improving their candidate engagement levels. Plus, the act of soliciting feedback is, in itself, a great way to incite a longer-term relationship with contractors and silver medallists (those who are considered ‘runner up’ for a role) alike.

By approaching candidate engagement in a better way, hiring managers can ensure that active and potential candidates are left with a favourable impression of their brand, which should last way beyond a single recruitment cycle. Treat your applicants in the same way you would your most valued customers, and see your candidate engagement strategy become your competitive advantage.

Want more on candidate experience? Get the guide

As we’ve seen, the cost of poor candidate experience can be high. Everyone is now connected, with information widely accessible. On top of this, many problems with employee engagement and eventual turnover can be traced all the way back to poor candidate experience. Get our guide to learn more about providing a first-class candidate experience.


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