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Jan 23, 2017

Today’s labor market has become candidate-driven. With multiple job opportunities to choose from and easy access to information about companies and their employment brand, candidates act more and more like consumers.

At the same time, there’s a strong demand for skilled specialists in many areas (programmers, marketers, consultants, etc.) all of which has stretched the time to hire in the U.S. to an average of almost 5 weeks. And many jobs can take much longer.

Among the reasons why the process has become so lengthy, according to a survey by the MRI Network is the shortage of qualified candidates and time-consuming hiring practices.

Building a relationship

Making the process more proactive by building relations with candidates before there’s a need should be a goal of HR and TA leaders. Creating talent pools of interested qualified candidates gives you a competitive advantage in hiring the best talent and can shorten the time to fill a vacancy.

It’s not a new idea, but it’s still one that few employers have implemented. Even now, most recruiting teams take a reactive approach, beginning a search only after getting a req from a hiring manager. Therefore, the majority of software solutions have been designed around storing candidate data linked with the open position they applied for. Every time an opportunity was reopened, the same candidates could be welcomed as if for the first time. Since these were the “rejected” candidates for the position, recruiters often passed them by, restarting their search from the beginning.

Such an approach limited the building of a strong employment brand.

Proactive recruiting suggests nurturing candidates until there is a suitable position to offer. Here, attracting becomes a consistent process of building a candidate’s engagement and interest in applying.

In this candidate-driven market, organizations must shift from a basic job-to-candidate matching software to a candidate relationship management solution that will build talent pools of candidates interested, even excited, about joining them.

Let’s explore how technology can help unlock the potential of proactive recruiting.

Step #1: Know your candidates well

As their first step on the way to candidates’ positive experience, HR managers should get the fullest possible information about every potential employee. Apart from the resume details, individual candidate profiles can be enriched with additional personal and professional details gathered from a variety of sources, including online assessments or game-like tools.

Technology can almost entirely automate this information gathering. Software vendors are adding this capability to their applicant tracking systems, with many now including a CRM capability. Through integration, such tools can even track updates in candidates’ professional highlights on LinkedIn so as to keep HR managers tuned to their career advancements.

Apart from candidates added during a recruiting campaign, a company can keep a database of alumni and those who declined a job offer.

Keeping in touch with alumni can lead to referrals or even boomerangs, while knowing why an offer was rejected (be it the level of responsibility, salary, or office location) the time spent with a potential employee won’t be completely lost. These insights can help to tailor the company’s further communication with such candidates to bring them back in the future when the right opportunity arises.

Step #2: Personalize the communications

As the second step, HR managers can target candidates from the database with personalized messages based on the details in their profile.

Initially, managers will have to create digital communication plans for different types of candidates — applicants, turndowns, alumni, and internal candidates. Customized workflows can be created to provide timely reminders and notifications of important events to talent pool managers and recruiters. This way, the software will assist in communicating with multiple candidates, still keeping HR managers in control of the process.

So, once the process is set, what should a company communicate to candidates to support the employment brand? The answer depends on the level of a candidate’s engagement.

Application support

At a basic level, a company can inform candidates about relevant vacancies or updates in job specifications through automatically generated emails or SMS.

Automatic emails can also support potential candidates at different stages of the process. Reminders to complete a job application or to ask them to update their profile can be efficient in increasing the candidate pool. For those selected for an interview – phone screen or in-person — pre-interview emails with tips and facts about the company that can help to relieve stress and make the employer stand out.

A look at the company culture

At a more advanced level, giving a potential future employee a taste of the corporate environment will build engagement. For instance, sharing employee-generated content like webinars and white papers, industry events, news articles and descriptions of interesting company projects are far more persuasive than ads and promises.

Reviews of working experience by the staff (in the form of articles or videos) or the stories of their career success will add to a positive employment image.

The key is being creative and transparent in communicating strong points and improvements where the employment brand is considered weaker than those of competitors’. For example, comparing results of internal job satisfaction surveys held among employees year-after-year can show a continuous improvement in the corporate climate and highlight the company’s commitment to the needs of their staff.

What’s the role of a candidate relationship management tool here? Such software enables HR managers to easily distribute content with respect to candidates’ specific competencies and interests and develop a continuous multi-week campaign requiring minimum work from HR.

A personal approach

Finally, a more personal level of communication can be achieved with a CRM integrated with a system that regularly checks for candidate updates on social media and business networks. For example, if a promising candidate gets promoted and updates their LinkedIn profile, an HR manager gets an instant notification and can congratulate them on professional growth.

For a company that needs to quickly hire new employees with sought-after competencies, traditional recruiting no longer works. A more efficient proactive approach can help to speed up the process by creating a pool of specialists familiar and already engaged to some extent with a company’s employment brand, which can increase chances that they will apply.

As candidates number in thousands and HR managers have to act like networkers to differentiate their company from other employers through a personal approach to each potential employee, candidate nurturing may seem a challenging task. Yet it won’t necessarily take much effort to get the job done if you delegate the keeping of candidates’ data and support of continuous communication to dedicated HRM software.

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