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Candidate Nurture 101: Turning Passive Candidates into Applicants

Candidate Nurture 101 - Turning Passive Candidates into Applicants

Preliminary results from our State of Recruitment Marketing survey suggest that more than 53% of companies don't use email nurture campaigns with their prospects and candidates...

We think candidate nurture should be much more of a priority.

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iPhone vs. Samsung: Why candidate nurture works

Let’s say you buy a shiny new iPhone – do Samsung 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 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 a relationship. You’re not rushed and trying to cram all of your selling points into a limited time window.

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 pages, you have to rely on the ideal prospect to be there at the right time, but with a nurture campaign, you control the time and place of the interaction.

Good nurture programs, when done right, can offer a lot of personalisation. 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 lists, for example, you won’t be able to use the resulting database 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.

So start with taking a look at your database, and clean it up before starting any new campaigns.

Take the opportunity to learn the tool stack you’re using to exploit it. A good CRM or Recruitment Marketing tool will allow you to organise information cleanly, to automatically update and enrich it, and to customise your fields: past experiences, current location, schools and universities, age, seniority level…

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 organisation, they can be added to specific campaigns, or you can measure how differently they react to your content.

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 she first interacts with you until she submits an application.

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i) Personas

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- you can find more about how to build them here.

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 page, to watching an interview with an employee.

Understand what type of content might be the most useful for them at each step, and make use of your database to write ultra-personalised emails, like the ones in the templates below:

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ii) Content

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 initiative or other CSR-related 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 following
  •  Reports or ebooks developed by your company that are relevant to candidates’ field
  •  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, like this We Are Netflix Facebook page or the Lululemon People twitter feed.
  •  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
  •  Invitation to join your talent community, like this one, or this other one. 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.

You can also invite them to look at social media pages, company events or employee videos, for example, as they have more context and can better appreciate that type of content. Job descriptions or personalised landing pages won’t be relevant until the candidates is in a position to make a decision about a new role.

content map

Don’t forget to update profiles of rejected candidates. They might be a great fit for a future role, or share a job opportunity with a friend or a family member. Spot the ones who engaged a lot with your campaigns, and help them become ambassadors of your Employer Brand by putting them on a new nurture track.

Just make sure that you are compliant in terms of what kind of content you can send candidates before including them in any campaign. Take a look at the Beamery Guide to GDPR for recruiters if you’d like more information about that.

iii) Timing

Different times of the day are better for different types of emails.

From research done by Beamery and Yesware, we know that candidates are in general most likely to reply to emails in the morning or the evening, for example, or that you get the highest Click-Through rates on Thursdays.

Best time of day to send email

We’ve put together our best tips about when best to send 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 sales cycle; Salesforce recommends anything from 6 to 45 days between emails depending on how long that 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.

The frequency might also change depending on the type of job - seasonal or part-time, for example. You could send emails more often when candidates enters the application process itself, to share next steps or to keep them excited about the company. It’s a tricky balance to strike, so if you’re worried about spamming your candidate list, we have more on the subject here.

No matter how often you will be sending out emails, however, a big chunk of the scheduling work can be automated using your CRM or Recruitment Marketing platform. A solution like Beamery lets you schedule emails for optimal times throughout the week, or build triggers to adapt the email drip to candidate behaviour: send them different emails depending on whether they opened their previous email or not, for example, or what links they clicked on.

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. Play around with sending times and content type to see what yields better results- a great way to do that is to set up A/B tests, where you randomly split a target list to test two different versions of the same email, for example.

You can also use surveys to monitor candidate experience and 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.

Make sure that whenever you’re asking candidates for help, you’re doing it in an engaging way: why not offer cupcakes, company swag, or an invite to a company event?

Lastly, don’t forget to monitor responses and update your database, as bad email responses (like unsubscribes or being transferred to spam) downgrade your email score, for instance, and over time, reduce the efficiency of all of your hard work.

Bringing it all together


Great nurture campaigns make a difference. They create space for a personalized, two-way relationship between recruiters and candidates; as a result, recruiting teams go 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 ambassadors of their Employer Brand. In other words, the flowchart we started with is right: yes, you should always nurture candidates.

Speaking of which, here is another flowchart for all the bacon lovers among you.


Why does a Talent Organization Need a Talent Operating System?

Top candidates have more options than ever before, and in such a competitive setting, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It's on the talent operations function to design the new way of working that will bring in the best talent.

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