Recruiter sending an email to a job applicant

How to Engage Candidates: Key Messages to Convey at Each Stage of the Recruitment Process

As HR professionals, we all wish we could hire qualified applicants quicker. And so, we turn to technology, which plays a huge role in making the recruitment process more efficient. However, we sometimes forget that the human element – communicating with job applicants – is what will ultimately take your recruiting to the next level.  

In 2019, Talent Board reported that the candidate resentment rate – the proportion of those who are no longer willing to consider a potential employer based on their candidate experience – increased 40% since 2016. Oftentimes, resentment increases when employers are not responsive or communicative enough with their applicants. In this case, you risk losing qualified candidates for current and future positions. 

The good news is that communicating with job applicants doesn’t have to cost you a ton of time and can even help you hire faster. Here’s how to engage candidates at each stage of the recruitment process to pipeline and hire more qualified talent. 


 Recruiter searching for candidates on an online resume database


1. Sourcing 

Sometimes, finding the best person for the job means taking a proactive approach to recruiting instead of waiting for candidates to come to you. This is especially true if you’re hiring for a highly specialized position or needing to fill your role on a tight deadline. In these cases, many employers choose to source passive candidates – those not actively searching for a job – through their network, in resume databases, and other channels, in addition to posting the job.  

Reaching out to candidates who haven’t applied is a little more challenging since you have to “sell” your job to them, but it can pay off big time. Here’s how to engage candidates who aren’t actively job searching: 

  • Introduce yourself. Let them know who you are, why you’re reaching out, and how you found their information (referral, LinkedIn, resume database, etc.). 

  • Send them a link to the job, or summarize the primary job duties. 

  • Tell them about your company. Give a brief explanation of what your company does and why it’s a great place to work. You may also link them to your careers page, company website, or profile so they can do their own research. 

  • Provide contact information and a timeline. Let them know how they should contact you if they’re interested, and when you’re holding interviews so they can respond in a timely fashion. 

Check out this “letter of interest” template for inspiration. If you reached out a couple of days ago and haven’t heard back, make sure you follow up just like you would if you were cold calling sales prospects.  


Create Your Account Today

Already Registered?
Sign in »



2. Screening 

It’s a best practice to acknowledge candidates when they’ve applied and thank them for their interest. That way, applicants know their applications have been received and what they can expect to happen next.  

Many job boards and ATSs make communicating with job applicants at this stage easy by sending out an automated email as soon as a candidate applies. However, if you’re not using a candidate management solution, you can develop your own email or use this acknowledgement of application template to copy and paste in emails to new applicants. Make sure you include the following: 

  • A simple “thank you.” Let candidates know you appreciate their interest in your company and time spent completing the application. 

  • Next steps. What can applicants expect to happen from here? Give a timeline for when you’ll be reviewing applications and holding interviews.  

  • Contact information. Hiring is a two-way street, and candidates will appreciate an open line of communication. If you’re clear about next steps, you should avoid an onslaught of follow-up emails. 

Once you’ve collected a shortlist of applicants that you’re interested in pursuing, it’s time to schedule interviews. However, don’t forget to reach out to applicants that disqualify. Letting candidates know they are no longer being considered for the job is not only courteous but also can help protect your employer brand and reduce candidate resentment.  

At this stage of the recruitment process, a templated rejection email is appropriate.  


Job applicant receiving a message from the recruiter


3. Interviewing  

When you’re scheduling interviews, you have the opportunity to go above and beyond simply nailing down a date and time. Providing a more high-touch experience at this stage is sure to make a positive and lasting impression on your applicants and may give your company an edge when they’re deciding between offers. Here’s how to engage candidates before their interview: 

  • Give instructions. Make sure they have all the logistical information they need, like how to get there, where to park, who to check in with once they arrive, or how to log into your video conferencing software if the interview is virtual.  

  • Set expectations. Let them know what kind of interview to expect (behavioral, skills assessments, panel, etc.), who they’ll be meeting with, and what to wear (especially since many offices now have casual dress codes). 

  • Answer questions. Provide your contact information so that applicants are comfortable asking questions in advance if needed.  


 Hiring manager having a video call with her new hire before their first day


4. Hiring  

Once you’ve made it to the hiring stage, you’re in the home stretch – but you’re not quite finished. Job ghosting is on the rise, so it’s important to keep dedicating energy to the candidate experience right up until their first day.  

After you’ve received a signed offer letter, here’s how you should engage your new hire before their first day: 

  • Express excitement. Have you ever accepted a job offer and then not heard from the employer for days or weeks? It’s not a great feeling, so make sure you follow up immediately after they accept the position to express your excitement and answer any questions they may have. 

  • Check in. If their start date isn’t for a couple of weeks, give them a call or schedule a meeting a week or so before they begin to say hello and maintain excitement for their new job.  

  • Send first day instructions. Before your new hire arrives, put their nerves at ease by sending them all the information they’ll need for their first day (when to arrive, what to bring, where to park, etc.).  


Recruiter calling job applicant who he'd like to pipeline for future positions

5. Pipelining 

At the end of the recruitment process, it’s important to close the loop with the applicants who didn’t get the job. For all candidates you interviewed, give them a call to let them know you moved forward with another applicant. Keep in mind, this is also an opportunity to pipeline any applicants who you may want to hire in the future. 

talent pipeline is pool of engaged candidates who are ready to fill open positions, so that you can hire more efficiently in the future. And silver medalist candidates – those who narrowly missed out on the position – are great people to keep in your pipeline for jobs down the road. 

Here’s how to engage candidates that you pipeline: 

  • Let them know you’re saving their resume. Explain that although you won’t be moving forward with them for this position, you may like to consider them for future job openings. Be careful not to make any promises but tell them you’ll reach out if another relevant opportunity arises. 

  • Follow up periodically. It’s important to continue engaging candidates in your pipeline so they don’t lose interest in your company. Check in via email or LinkedIn every several months to maintain your relationship. 

  • Reach out when another job opens up. Even if the candidate isn’t actively looking for a job, they may still be interested in applying or ready for their next career move. Don’t hesitate to invite them to apply if you think they’d be a good fit. 


While technology is an invaluable resource for sourcing and hiring talent, the human element of recruiting is just as critical. Use your candidate management platform not just for finding talent but for communicating with job applicants more efficiently in each step of the recruitment process. Learning how to engage candidates in a meaningful way can help you score more qualified applicants now and in the future.  

By Sarah Ballow | December 16, 2020