3 Tips to Build Relationships with Past Job Applicants and Candidates

By Beth Kempton,
November 19, 2018

Given the record-low unemployment rate and abundance of opportunities available at the tips of job seekers’ fingers, as a hiring manager or HR leader, you need need to think outside the box and identify new ways to attract top job applicants. And one strategy you might overlook is engaging with past job applicants and candidates who might be fits for open roles.

If you don’t end up hiring a given candidate, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll never be a fit for your team. A variety of factors can go into not necessarily hiring a quality candidate, including: not having the budget for a hire at the time, choosing between several highly qualified candidates, the candidate not being a fit for the specific role, or the candidate accepting a role with a different company, among other reasons.

When great candidates come along but you can’t hire them for one reason or another, it’s important not to lose touch with these candidates. Below, we’ve outlined several tips to build relationships with previous job applicants and candidates.

Support an Engaging Candidate Experience

The candidate experience begins as soon as job applicants start researching your company and open roles. To keep top candidates engaged, make sure you have a strong employment brand that answers the “What’s in it for me?” question for job applicants – including a career site and job descriptions that outline benefits, career paths, employee success stories and testimonials, and more.

Once applicants apply, keep them engaged by reviewing their applications as soon as possible. Hireology data found that the average business waits up to 10 days to review and respond to job applicants. If you did the same with customer leads, you likely wouldn’t grow your business.

After you’ve initially reviewed applicants, your hiring team should regularly communicate with candidates throughout the entire hiring process. If you’re in the process of scheduling interviews and can’t find time in a team member’s schedule for a few days, reach out to the candidate instead of leaving them waiting and wondering when – or if –  the interview will be confirmed. And if it’s taking a while to receive reference or background checks back from a candidate, reach out to check on the status or see if there’s anything you can do to help. By supporting an engaging experience, candidates will remember how efficient your team is and be more likely to consider your open roles in the future, even if they don’t get a job offer initially.

Share Feedback with All Candidates

For candidates who don’t end up getting an offer, make sure to close the loop by letting them know. According to recent data from SHRM, only 20 percent of candidates on average receive an email from a recruiter or hiring manager and only 8 percent receive a phone call letting them know they aren’t moving forward in the hiring process. Failing to respond to job applicants can leave a bad impression, and make these applicants hesitant to apply to future roles.

Rather than leave candidates hanging, share specific feedback when they don’t receive an offer – especially if they make it beyond the initial application step in the process. For example, you might choose one candidate over another because he or she had slightly more experience. Or, a candidate’s skills might not fit with the specific role he or she applied for, but can fit better with a different role if it opens up. By sharing candid feedback, your candidates will feel valued and have a positive impression of your team. And not only will they be more likely to apply for future roles, but they will also be more apt to refer friends or colleagues to your open roles.

Stay in Touch

If candidates don’t get hired but might be a fit for your team in the future, your HR team should make an effort to stay in touch. One simple way to do so is adding top candidates on LinkedIn. This way, if a new role comes up that past candidates are qualified for, it will be easy to reach out via your LinkedIn network.

Beyond LinkedIn, another option to stay in touch with past candidates is through text messaging. If you have a text messaging solution to keep candidates updated throughout the hiring process – such as scheduling interviews – you can continue to use this solution to re-engage with past candidates. For example, if a top candidate applies for a sales role and doesn’t receive an offer, you can text the candidate the next time a sales role opens up on your team. Text messaging can be much more personal and engaging than an email that candidates might accidentally overlook, and is an easy option for you to get previous candidates excited about new open roles.

In some cases, you might have candidates you want on your team but don’t have the resources to hire them right away. For top candidates you don’t want to lose, consider meeting with them informally every so often – either for lunch, coffee or something similar. Then, when you do have the perfect open positions for these candidates, they’ll remember all the time and effort you put into building the relationship and be more interested in applying.

Candidates you can’t hire the first time they apply to join your team might end up applying to roles down the road and turn into some of your top hires. By building relationships with top job applicants, you can maintain a pipeline of prospective talent to turn to as your team grows. For more tips on keeping job applicants engaged, read our resource, “The Hireology Employment Brand Playbook.”


About the Author

Beth is the content strategist on Hireology’s marketing team, responsible for creating compelling blog posts, eBooks, marketing materials and other content. Her background includes five years of experience at a B2B digital marketing agency, where she crafted content for a variety of clients, including several in the HR technology space. Before beginning her career, Beth attended Loyola University Chicago, where she studied advertising and public relations.

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