The high-touch follow-up technique that helps recruiters succeed


As Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Do yourself a favor. Google “Recruiter follow-up after interview.”

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You’ll see post after post explaining to candidates what to do when their recruiter fails to follow-up after a job interview. Or, worse yet, when recruiters “ghost” the candidate by not returning their calls or emails.

In my opinion, that’s a pretty sad statement on our understanding of how important the candidate experience is to our long-term success. As HR professionals, we regularly gripe about a lack of top talent, but leave good candidates simply hanging. 

If we chased the candidate long and hard to get them to the interview stage, don’t they deserve a little follow up after the interview experience?

Not surprisingly, lack of follow-up after an interview can have a chilling effect on the candidate’s relationship with your brand. In a recent Robert Half survey, 46% of respondents said they lose interest in the job within the first two weeks after the interview due to lack of follow up. Even if you eventually present an offer, they have cooled to your company and the role.

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 9.50.38 AMCandidates have a lot of options right now. And those at the top end of the recruitment funnel expect a different class of service from their interview experience. Today candidates expect recruiters to help them navigate the process as their concierge, providing a high-touch level of customer service. Just like any other customer, if your candidate doesn’t have a good experience with you, they’ll walk away.

Here are four tips your recruiting team can easily implement to ensure your follow-up is on point and your candidate experience is one that’s memorable and satisfying:

Be (almost painfully) transparent

The best recruitment teams are transparent about the hiring process. They offer details about the hiring time frame (e.g. how long the interview process will take, what to expect during the interview) and letting candidates know if the process or timeline may change due to scheduling conflicts, hiring manager’s travel schedules or overall business changes. And they make themselves readily available to candidates and encourage them to communicate their questions or concerns at any time throughout the interview process.

It’s easy for communications to slide when the process goes longer than expected. Recruiting teams can’t often control the hiring manager’s decision process or timetable. They may have every good intention in saying things like “I will let you know by Friday” or “I am expecting the manager to get back to me ASAP,” but chances are the hiring manager doesn’t always know that a communication deadline was made.

Being really clear in your communications with candidates and creating a communication process or timetable can keep recruiters from having awkward and frustrating conversations with the candidate that may come off like the recruiter doesn’t know what’s happening or the company can’t make decisions. Neither is good! That’s why at Newton, we have a process and a dedicated candidate care team that ensures every candidate receives personal touchpoints along the way that help to build trust in our client’s brand and in the hiring process itself. Because timely and personable communications are arguably the most influential component of your candidate experience. They preemptively give the candidate an idea of how they’ll be treated as an employee. Isn’t that what the employee experience is all about?

Learn to "deal with rejection"

Statistically, recruiters have to reject more candidates than they hire. The best recruiters do it gracefully, in a helpful and personable manner, and turn these rejections into relationships that can help everyone involved, including the recruiter.   They know that, while this candidate may not have aced the interview for this particular role, the same traits that made them a good potential fit for your company might make them a good fit for another.

Rejecting “silver medal” candidates with grace is part of creating a positive candidate experience. When done right, it can help you build a healthy talent pipeline and reduce time-to-fill for other roles. It also improves their feelings about your employer brand: studies consistently show that candidates who leave your hiring pipeline on a high note are more likely to consider future openings, become customers, and even act as brand advocates, recommending your jobs and your company to others.

I think the power that silver medalist candidates have in driving referrals can be often overlooked. There is a plethora of online tools and technologies at our disposal masking who is driving the referral pipeline. But, make no doubt about it, having these brand ambassadors in the talent marketplace can be the “secret sauce” that makes your talent strategy a success.

Provide open (and helpful) feedback

Lots of employers do not give feedback to declined candidates. There is a simple, legal rationale for this: it reduces risk.  

Seventy percent of employers surveyed in Talent Board’s Annual Candidate Experience survey do not provide feedback to candidates for fear of opening themselves to legal issues. However, most admired companies get past this by telling candidates the pool was highly competitive and that they would like to keep them in their pipeline for other opportunities. This line of discussion provides candidates a positive “let down” and allows the relationship to continue.  Plus, many employers in the government or a workplace with a union contract have specific rules that pertain to hiring, promotions, job transfers and other conditions of employment so understanding those rules are important before providing candidate feedback.

Ask for feedback in return

Getting feedback from candidates about their experience throughout the hiring process is a two-way street; asking for feedback–especially of those candidates you are not selecting–helps to nurture trust between the candidate and the recruiter and organization, and shows that you value their opinions. Invite them to complete a candidate experience survey, suggest leaving a review on Glassdoor, or simply ask them their opinion over the phone. Thank candidates who respond and use their feedback to improve your hiring process.

At the end of the day, recruiting is a relationship business. Your recruiter’s ability to follow-up consistently not only helps them engage and build relationships with job seekers, it also serves to build stronger relationships between recruiters and the hiring managers and HR leaders they are working to support.  

Written by Patty Silbert

President of Newton Talent since 2018, Patty Silbert has over 30 years of experience developing the innovative solutions that help HR professionals just like you meet their most pressing recruitment challenges and their companies achieve their talent acquisition goals. She is a regular writer and speaker on the subjects of recruitment strategy, employment branding, HR technology, and leadership.