Show Applicants You Care by Telling Them These 6 Things

July 29, 2015

As any recruiter knows, a lot of the job is coordination. Scheduling interviews. Meeting with hiring managers. Entering information into the ATS.

All of those little tasks, all of those practicalities can push back the bigger picture: You are dealing with candidates who are in the midst of life-altering decisions, most of whom are generally nervous and eager to make a good impression. It’s a crowd that’s vulnerable, but also motivated to show as little of that vulnerability as possible.

“One thing I notice is talent acquisition teams rarely think about the emotions the candidates are going through,” says Dave Hazlehurst, a partner at Ph. Creative. “If we can understand the questions and the objections and the things that create pain or pleasure for our candidates, we can then start to understand the types of things we can start saying to them.”

Hazlehurst’s company is a marketing company, but talent acquisition teams have been hiring them lately to improve their employer brand. Consistently, he sees recruiting material devoid of emotion, despite emotions being the fuel that motivates people to make decisions.

By creating content that’s more emotional - that’s empathetic to the candidate - you’ll get more candidates wanting to work for your company, Hazlehurst said. You’ll also get more candidates feeling better about your company, whether they get hired or not, which should also improve sales.

How do you do it? Well, specifically, you can start by telling candidates these six things:

1. What it’s really like to work at the company

Before someone applies to your company, the number-one thing they want to know is what life is really like there. Is it an intense culture that’s perhaps exhausting but also rewarding? Or is it more of a laid-back one that puts an emphasis on work-life balance?

Even beyond that, how’s life in the particular department the person is applying into? Nerdy? Fun? The more specific you can get this message to job seekers, the more likely you’ll connect with them on a truly emotional level, Hazlehurst said.

A good example from Autodesk for their internship program:

2. Why a candidate should apply for the job in the job description

Most job descriptions today, in Hazlehurst’s words, are “crap.” They are little more than a list of requirements that give little idea what the job is really like or why a candidate should apply, he said.

Instead, he suggests telling a story in the job description of both why the person should apply and also what they’ll be doing each day. A good example of what he’s talking about is this job description by EverythingMe:


3. Your exact hiring process when they submit their resume

Almost always, a person is anxious when they submit a resume. They want to know what the company will really do with it and when they’ll hear back, if they’ll hear back at all.

You can reduce that anxiety by clearly outlining the next steps, Hazlehurst said. For example, tell them they’ll hear back within two weeks, if you are interested; or they won’t hear back at all. Follow that up with the interview process: Perhaps you do a phone screen within two weeks, a face-to-face interview within three and then a panel interview a week later.

The more information you give, the more you ease that anxiety and give the candidate a better experience, Hazlehurst said. You also reduce the chance of a candidate “haunting your house” and calling you over and over, asking for updates.

A good example from the PeaceCorps:


4. Before interview day, what the hiring manager is really like

So, a candidate’s resume looks good and you’ve invited them for an interview with the hiring manager. Again, the person is likely going to be nervous leading up to the event.

The recruiter can ease that anxiety by sending them an email of what the hiring manager is really like, and what they are looking for, Hazlehurst said. For example, if the hiring manager is a very data-driven person, the recruiter should tell the candidate to be ready to back up their claims with hard numbers.

Again, the more information you can give the candidate, the less anxiety they’ll have and the better they’ll perform in the interview, Hazlehurst said.

A good example email:


Thank you so much for your interest and coming in on Friday, where you’ll be meeting with your potential manager, Samantha. Samantha is looking for a data-driven marketer, so be prepared to talk about how you’ve used data in your previous marketing efforts. Additionally, she’s looking for someone who can work independently, so make sure you point to examples in the paste where you’ve successfully worked independently. (cont.)

5. And what are some of the people they’ll work with

Along those lines, that email should also include the names and perhaps LinkedIn profiles of the people the candidate could potentially work with. This again gives the person a better idea of both what working there is really like and how to impress on the interview day.

An example email (continued from the previous one):

You’ll also be interviewed by your potential colleagues, Kathleen and Sudhi. You can see their LinkedIn pages here. They also will be wanting to hear specific examples of how you used data in your marketing.       

We are really excited to have you come in on Friday, looking forward to it!

6. If a candidate gets rejected, feedback on why

Let’s say a candidate does come in for an interview and is rejected. According to a LinkedIn survey, 94 percent of candidates would like to hear feedback about why, but only 41 percent have ever actually heard any.

Here’s a great opportunity for companies to build their employer brand and even their consumer brand, Hazlehurst said. By talking to these people and giving them some advice on what they need to improve to join your company in the future, you’ll give them a positive experience in what otherwise would be their lowest moment with the company.

Not only is this person likely to apply for your company again, they’ll consider buying it’s products or using it’s services. Plus, if the feedback is truly meaningful, you’ll help them advance their careers as well.

A win-win.

An example voicemail:

Hello Bob,

Unfortunately, we have decided to go another direction with the marketing associate job. We felt that while your content creation ability was strong, you can do a better job of using data in your marketing to become more strategic in the content you produce.

We very much appreciated the time you spent with us and hope you consider us in the future. Good luck on your job search,


Final thought

Job candidates are generally people dealing with a lot of emotions. A new job is always a big event in someone’s life, and at times can be a truly transformational one.

If you recognize those emotions and do your best to combat them, sure, you’ll help your employer brand and get better candidates. But just as importantly, you’ll ease a lot of the stress people go through when they apply for a job, just by doing the right thing.

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*Image by J.E. Theriot

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