Candidate Nurture 101: Turning Passive Candidates into Applicants
Today’s recruiters and sourcers know that attracting top talent is not an easy task. In recent years, it’s become much more about proactivity and relationship building than job descriptions and advertisements. A recent study done by Aptitude Research reports that 81% of companies agree that recruitment marketing looks different since the pandemic.
The majority of available talent are passive job seekers, meaning they aren’t actively applying to roles. That means if recruiters want to access that large pool of candidates, they need to focus on building and nurturing relationships with passive talent.
Why candidate nurture works
Let’s say you buy a shiny new iPhone – does Samsung (their top competitor) stop marketing to you? Do they stop trying to convince you that their products are a great fit?
No. They know that two years down the line, you’ll be looking for another smartphone, and they want you to think of them when you do.
The best candidate nurture programs follow the same principle. We live in a society of job-hoppers – people regularly move jobs, so the fact they’re not looking right now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be talking to them.
In fact, when they’re not looking is actually a great time to start building a relationship. If you start a relationship with them before they are looking for a new job, you’re not in a rush to cram all of your selling points into a limited window of time.
Planning for the journey
If planned right, a nurture program can become the central element of a great candidate experience, and where the best interactions with your Employer Brand happen. With social media or Career Sites, you rely on the ideal prospect to be there at the right time to apply, but when you include the element of a nurture campaign, you control the time and place of the interaction.
Good nurture programs, (when done right) can offer a lot of personalization to individual candidates. But for that to happen, the database has to be clean and well-set up to start with. Make sure that fields are named correctly and data within each field is uniform and up-to-date.
Hubspot estimates that email databases decay by 22.5% every year, so if you’ve been using the same one for a few years, it’s probably overdue for a deep clean.
To keep your data clean as you go forward, ask for the right information from candidates, and use forms that are precise and prescriptive. If they are all free text entries instead of drop down lists, (for example) you won’t be able to use the resulting data as freely.
On the other hand, if you know exactly how a candidate’s ‘area of interest’ is phrased, you can insert it in an email without being afraid that it will sound horribly wrong to the recipient. So start by taking a look at your database, and clean it up before launching any new campaigns.
Take the opportunity to learn the tools in your tech stack to make the biggest impact. A good CRM or Recruitment Marketing tool will allow you to organize information cleanly, to automatically update and enrich it, and to customize your fields: past experiences, current location, schools and universities, age, seniority level…
You can also think about tagging candidates; if they are ‘Silver Medalists’, for example, or if they came to your database through a referral or a third party organization, they can be added to specific campaigns, or you can measure how they react to your content compared to other groups.
The nurture building blocks
With a rich and well-organized database up and running, you can start thinking about the actual building blocks of your nurture campaigns: personas, content and timing.
An ideal nurture campaign is one that each candidate experiences in their own way, but somehow still conveys a consistent Employer Brand across all your audiences. Think of every campaign as part of the candidate’s personal journey from the moment they first interact with you until they submit an application.
To achieve the degree of personalization necessary to build this kind of journey, you need to figure out who will respond to each type of content. That’s where candidate personas come in.
Good personas include information about the candidate’s professional aspirations, their status in the recruiting process, the skills they have or want to learn, or the online content they like to consume.
Use personas to guide the design of every campaign, and the type of content that candidates will find useful and relevant. Imagine the possible steps of the candidate journey: from learning about the company through an email, to discovering its culture on a social media page, to reading interview reviews so they know what to expect...
Understand what type of content might be the most useful for them at each step of the journey, and make use of your database to write ultra-personalized emails, which you can learn how to write by reading this blog.
There are so many different types, formats or subjects of content you can share in a nurture email, that it’s sometimes easy to get stuck and not know where to start. Use the list below to get the creative juices flowing:
- “Best workplace” or “Best employer” rankings and awards
- Environmental initiatives or other news from your company
- Free tools that are relevant to the candidate’s field, like Hubspot’s free Marketing Grader tool, or a newsletter they might be interested in subscribing to
- Reports or ebooks developed by your company that are relevant to the candidate's area of expertise
- A live stream of a talk with a company recruiter or hiring manager
- Links to social pages that give a good inside view into your company culture
- Videos of interview simulations
- Questionnaires about candidates’ hobbies, travels, or anything that can help you learn more about them that you can’t automatically scrape from their social profiles
- An invitation to join your talent community. And don’t forget to usher in new members with a nice welcome email.
When picking and choosing what to send, consider also where the candidate is in the recruiting process.
If they are just getting to know you, they probably want to learn general information about the company and the industry. As the relationship develops, you can share content that is more specific to each candidate and their interests.
You can also invite them to check out your social media pages, upcoming company events or employee videos, as these resources can often provide context and can better appreciate that type of content. Job descriptions or personalized landing pages won’t be relevant until the candidate is in a better position to make a decision about a new role.
Don’t forget to update profiles of rejected candidates (and for ‘silver medalists’ or candidates who did well in your hiring process, but didn’t quite get an offer). They might be a great fit for a future role, or even share a job opportunity with a friend or a family member. Identify the candidates who have engaged with a lot with your campaigns, and help them become ambassadors of your Employer Brand by putting them on a new nurture track.
You may find that for your audience, different times of the day are better for different types of emails. This will vary from company to company, so consider conducting A/B testing to find out the best days and times that yield the best results for your organization.
We’ve put together our best tips about sending emails to candidates, but it’s still worth experimenting with different times and email types.
As you might expect, there is no universal email frequency for nurture campaigns. Sales teams, (who also use lead nurture campaigns a lot), think about it in terms of the sales cycle; Salesforce recommends anything from 6 to 45 days between emails depending on how long your sales cycle is.
The recruiting equivalent of the sales cycle would be how long it takes a candidate to go from thinking about moving jobs to signing an offer. For a senior executive, that might take up to a year, but it could be much shorter for a graduate candidate or an entry-level professional who is actively applying to roles already.
The frequency might also change depending on the type of job you’re looking to fill – seasonal or part-time, for example. You can send emails more often once candidates enter the application process itself, to share next steps or to keep them excited about the company.
No matter how often you will be sending out emails, a large portion of the scheduling work can be automated using your CRM or Recruitment Marketing platform. A solution like Beamery enables you to schedule emails for optimal times throughout the week.
Our solution can also help you build triggers to adapt your email drip to individual candidate behaviors – sending them different emails depending on whether they opened their previous email or not, and based on what links they clicked.
Measure and maintain
Once you’ve built a few candidate pools and set up a few email campaigns, you’re ready to start measuring and testing.
Monitor conversion rates down the pipeline of your different drips to see what works and what doesn’t. Test different sending times and content types to see what yields better results for your particular pool of candidates.
You can also use surveys to monitor the candidate experience and your candidate’s attitude towards your brand. To get the best results, try to send surveys right after an important event in the journey, such as submitting an application or being rejected for a job. This is when you are most likely to receive a response.
Make sure that whenever you’re asking candidates for help, you’re doing it in an engaging way – why not offer company swag or an invite to a company event?
Lastly, don’t forget to monitor responses and update your database accordingly. Bad email responses (like unsubscribes or being flagged as spam) downgrade your email score, and over time, reduce the efficiency of all of your hard work.
Bringing it all together
Great nurture campaigns make a huge difference in your recruiting efforts. They create space for personalized, two-way relationships between recruiters and candidates and as a result, Talent Acquisition teams make the shift from simple job advertising to real candidate engagement. They are able to access a larger pool of candidates and to turn passive prospects into applicants, and even enthusiastic ambassadors of their Employer Brand.
Why your organization needs a Talent Lifecycle Management system
Top candidates have more options than ever before, and in such a competitive market, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It’s on the Talent Acquisition function to design the new way of working that will bring in the best talent into the organization.