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Nov 20, 2014

Recruiters, you’ve probably experienced this: You say one thing, candidates hear another.

You say you’ll be in touch, and candidates take that as a sign they’re frontrunners for the position. You say you’re looking for specific industry experience, and candidates think any experience remotely related will do.

All of these miscommunications lead you to wonder: Are recruiters and candidates from different planets?

My company recently compiled research on some of the miscommunications between recruiters and candidates. We found that many candidates waste time pursuing positions they aren’t qualified for. Though there are about three unemployed persons for every open position, it still takes an average of 24.5 working days to fill a job.

Here are some tips to help bridge the communication gap between you and job candidates to improve the recruiting experience for everyone:

1. Don’t give ambiguous or unclear status updates

Candidates often misinterpret ambiguous phrases like “I’ll keep your resume on file.” To help eliminate miscommunications, clearly explain the steps in the hiring process so candidates know what to expect.

Give candidates a time frame during which they can expect to hear back from you if they are selected. If you don’t plan to contact candidates who don’t make the cut, let them know that right from the beginning.

If you experience an unexpected roadblock in the process, let your top candidates know immediately and apologize for the delay. Say when they can expect to hear from you again so they don’t have to guess.

2. Stay in touch with 2nd and 3rd choice candidates

With the average of 250 resumes you may receive per job posting, it can be overwhelming to sift through all of them to find qualified talent. What you might do instead is keep a file of past qualified candidates who weren’t selected for positions prior, but had viable skills that put them in the running.

This could significantly reduce your efforts next time you have a similar open position to fill. You may not even need to post a job opening, reducing the flock of resumes. Instead, you can just give the runners up a call.

Tell your second and third choice candidates how impressed you are with their skills and that, although it didn’t work out this time, you will truly keep them in mind for future positions. Ensure you get the candidates’ best contact information, and keep in touch for updates on availability.

3. Respectfully decline those you have no interest in ASAP

Saying, “I’ll be in touch if anything comes up” when you don’t feel the candidate has any qualifications you seek doesn’t help either of you. You don’t want to crush a candidate’s dreams, but making a candidate feel hopeful that you’re their personal career agent leaves a door open for many disruptive and unnecessary follow-up calls.

The sooner you let the candidate know he isn’t being considered anymore, the sooner both of you can move on to connect with others.

Respectfully suggest to the candidates that they obtain more experience or education to become competitive in the field. Or suggest they look into a different field, but clearly tell them you don’t have an opening that suits them.

4. Be specific about the type of experience you seek

Our research showed that nearly half of candidates don’t meet the basic qualifications for the job they are seeking. Sometimes, candidates assume experience in a different field can translate to the experience required for the open position. Of course, it doesn’t always.

For example, I’ve seen many candidates with experience in pharmaceutical sales think they are qualified for a position in medical device sales, when, in fact, these positions are very different.

TheLadders recently studied how candidates read job posts using eye-tracking technology. The study found candidates spend an average of 49.7 to 76.7 seconds reviewing a job post.

Be as specific as possible about the type of experience the position requires. Give tangible examples using names of programs and certifications if applicable. Use bullet points to list qualifications.

5. Always check references and social media

Some 96 percent of  HR professionals check references before hiring, but 94 percent use social media to screen applicants, as well.

When researching a candidate, be sure to check all of the candidate’s social media profiles for consistency in information pertaining to education, work experience, and any skills that may be listed. On professional networking sites, look for recommendations and endorsements.

Use Facebook and Instagram to see what candidates spend most of their time doing outside of work to see if their interests fit in with the company’s culture.

Miscommunications happen, especially when recruiters are juggling so many eager applicants. When posting positions and speaking to applicants, be sure to be as clear and honest as possible. Stay in touch with top candidates and runners up to keep them in the loop for a more seamless process.

What are some other tips that might help bridge the communication gap between recruiters and candidates?