Feb 25, 2016

The hiring process is often harder than you think — and not always for the reasons you expected.

Many times you interview one great candidate after another. And the truth is, you can’t hire them all. However, you can hire the one that got away once the right opportunity presents itself.

When a position opens up, 72 percent of more than 2,000 hiring decision makers in a 2015 CareerBuilder study responded that they first look at internal resources — including ATS, talent community/network and referrals.

Often times, second choice candidates become your first choice when another position becomes available. That is why keeping in touch with the runners-up is essential and why you should consider creating a candidate library for these qualified candidates.

From inviting them to join your email list to connecting over coffee, here are five (5) ways you can stay in touch with a first runner-up and make them your first choice next time:

1. Leave a good impression

Most people emphasize how important it is for candidates to leave a good impression, but it goes both ways.

Some 69 percent of job seekers surveyed in the CareerBuilder study said they are less likely to buy from a company they had a bad experience with during the interview process. If that many candidates would be discouraged from purchasing from a company following a bad interview, why would they ever want to work for that company in the future?

It all comes down to the post-interview and how you handle rejecting them.

  • First, it is crucial to call candidates cut from the running, rather than send them an email. An impersonal, rejection email lacks inflection and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. When you make a call, they can hear how sincere you are, and you can let them down easy.
  • Explain why they didn’t get the job. Whether they were under-experienced or there wasn’t enough room on the team — the key is honesty. Then, stress how impressed you were during their interview, and suggest they consider keeping their eyes open for other opportunities with the company. This will give them confidence and leave them feeling good about the experience, despite not being offered the job.

Take it a step further, and invite runners-up to join your company’s newsletter/email list — this is a simple way of holding onto past candidates and gives them a reason to engage with your company long after the interview.

2. Remember the little things

When you interview many candidates and ask the same questions, it’s natural for their answers to start to mesh together. But if a candidate sticks out to you, it’s important to remember the little things. Once a candidate you like leaves the room, be sure to jot down unique information about them because it’ll become useful in the future.

When you want to remind the runner-up that they are still in your mind, shoot them an email about the note you made. For instance, if they love keeping track of social media trends, send them an article on social media with a little note about recalling their interest.

This will prove that you actually pay attention to candidates when they speak and care about their future — remembering the little details about a person makes a big impact.

3. Add the runner-up on social media

Social and professional networks are essential when it comes to recruiting. In fact, 37 percent of recruiting leaders globally agree that social and professional networks are the top long-lasting recruiting trend, as reported by LinkedIn in 2015. It’s also no secret that LinkedIn is one of the main sources professionals use to recruit and find jobs.

Adding a candidate on LinkedIn is beneficial for both parties. It will help you keep tabs on exactly what they are doing in their career and how they are growing professionally. In addition, endorsing them in a skill or sending them a personal congratulations on an updated experience or promotion speaks volumes about your interest in their career path.

If the runner-up doesn’t have a LinkedIn account, a brief email from time to time goes a long way. Candidates often don’t hear back from hiring managers at all, let alone ones who have rejected them. This personal yet professional exchange will highlight your character and keep you on their radar.

4. Meet for a cup of coffee

Meeting with a candidate in person is such a meaningful experience, especially, considering how dependent we have become on communicating through technology.

Plan to meet in a comfortable setting and have a laid-back conversation; this will make the runner-up relaxed and willing to open up. The conversation may lead to more information on interests and unique skills they have which could reveal available opportunities you may not have previously considered them for.

Think of this meetup as an interview in disguise. Casually ask the runner-up questions about their work life, and see if they have made any solid advancements in their experience and career.

Who knows? This conversation could lead to a formal interview for that new position.

5. Be upfront

Maintaining a relationship with a runner-up is only appropriate if you truly see a candidate being a part of your team in the future. That being said, if you are up in the air about the runner-up being an ideal candidate for another position, the rejection phone call and newsletter invite should be as far as you go in reaching out to them.

The key is to not string them along. As you maintain a good relationship with the runner-up, be transparent about your interest and the potential you see in them. Be honest about job openings if you want them to apply, but never guarantee them a job.

If you stay in touch with your runner-up now, they could become your first-choice in the future.

What are other ways to stay in touch with the runner-up job candidate?

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