Picture this scenario: You post a job and receive an avalanche of applications. Some candidates display the right skill set, while others aren’t quite suited for the position
However, this doesn’t mean they won’t fit your next open role perfectly. If you lose touch with them, you forfeit a prospect you’ve already paid for – and accept that you’ll start from scratch on your next recruitment drive.
Instead of wiping the slate clean, it’s possible to nurture these candidates via personalized updates and bring them in for future positions.
Candidate nurturing initiatives such as this can be utilized not only with past applicants but also with active job seekers and even passive candidates.
When executed as part of your overall talent acquisition strategy, candidate nurturing keeps your talent pipeline well-oiled, so you can:
Compete for talent with companies with larger budgets
Reduce your cost-to-hire and time-to-hire metrics
Build a better reputation among your target candidates
This article covers the wide benefits of a nurture campaign, the best practices for setting one up in your own company, the role that skills testing plays in the process, and three real-world examples to inspire your hiring strategy.
Candidate nurturing is a talent acquisition trend aimed at engaging (or re-engaging) job seekers and encouraging them to keep an open line of communication with your company. This is accomplished through email communication or social media advertising, for example.
There are three key groups of talent where candidate nurturing is most effective:
Active applicants already within your funnel who may not fit an open position at the moment but who have the right skill set for future positions
Past candidates who fell just short on a previous application, who you want to keep engaged and interested in case another position opens up
Top talent not yet in your talent funnel who you want to attract to your company (especially for senior or executive roles)
In each case, nurturing aims to convert these quality candidates into employees by showing off all your company’s positive attributes.
Candidate lead nurturing is comparable to customer nurturing – a job candidate moves through the different recruitment stages in their search process, just as a customer does when making a purchase decision.
For a job applicant, these stages start from the initial job search phase and last until they join the company as a new hire ready for onboarding. There are opportunities at each step to foster a stronger relationship with the candidate, which we cover in our best practices below.
The global talent shortage means top candidates are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing where and who to work for.
In this battle for talent, companies must go above and beyond to make themselves stand out in a sea of prospective employers.
If you don’t nurture applicants and offer them an excellent candidate experience, they can readily grab other opportunities that come their way, leaving you clutching at straws.
With 65% of current employees searching for a new job, nurturing has the potential to jumpstart your recruitment efforts by drawing the interest of a large pool of candidates. Nurturing also helps you consciously engage passive job seekers, who comprise 37% of the US workforce.
Candidate nurturing is especially crucial during hiring lulls because it ensures your talent pipeline is filled with potential candidates who can be activated on short notice.
Nurturing candidates isn’t just a talent acquisition trend that top applicants have come to expect; this practice also has many concrete benefits for organizations.
Let’s cover five proven reasons why candidate lead nurturing is a must for your business:
An immediate benefit of a candidate nurture campaign is that it keeps talent engaged with your company.
Job seekers constantly see job adverts on social media platforms, receive cold outreach calls from recruiters, or listen to subtle recommendations from their friends and colleagues.
These messages are mostly irrelevant and out of sync with their career plans.
When you take the time to send out personalized nurturing messages to candidates who applied to your company in the past, you separate your business from the bland efforts of other less strategic competitors.
Efforts like these forge an intimate relationship with your prospects, helping you stay front of mind and convincing them to apply for roles at your company – even in moments they aren’t actively looking for jobs.
Moreover, nurturing reduces the costs and embarrassment of candidate ghosting: the tendency of job seekers to disappear during the hiring process or after receiving an offer.
Ghosting has become HR managers’ worst nightmare in recent years.
A survey by ZipRecruiter involving 2,550 newly recruited employees reported that 21.6% had ghosted an employer in their latest job hunt.
A separate study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business indicates that 37% of small businesses reported getting ghosted during the selection process, with 36% reporting ghosting by candidates who failed to report on their first day of work.
Ghosting is a stark reminder that hiring is a two-way process where candidates seek to convince the employer they are fit for the role, and the company has to show it’s going to provide a good workplace.
Gone are the days when companies used social media only to engage with followers; companies are now using social media recruiting to connect with potential employees, with 84% of organizations recruiting through social media.
Candidates are also using these platforms more productively, with three in four Twitter users engaging directly with brands on the platform.
Social media is fantastic for passive recruiting efforts because companies can target people who might be interested in switching jobs but aren’t actively searching on job boards. Positive posts make your company culture and employer brand visible, potentially triggering a candidate’s interest.
With social media, you can also directly answer hiring and career questions. For instance, you can hold Q&A sessions, host career talks, or post employee stories talking about working with the company.
One company that has improved its social media recruiting and nurturing efforts is Marriott Hotels.
Marriott's Facebook career page contains stories of employees' professional lives. These provide first-hand accounts of what it's like to work there, enhancing the hotel chain’s corporate identity through testimonials.
Candidates can also participate in Marriott career chats and receive guidance on how to apply for various roles.
Finally, social media managers are available to answer questions from job seekers, ensuring these prospective employees have all the information they need before applying for a role, reducing candidate ghosting and the risk of hires who do not mesh well with the company culture.
Workers gravitate toward companies that value their time and efforts.
And what better way to improve your candidate's experience than by nurturing them and cultivating good vibes?
The candidate experience refers to the perception that job seekers build of your organization during the hiring process. It includes all the interactions they have with your employees – from the job search stage to their application all the way to them signing a contract.
Candidate experience is a critical determinant of recruitment success because 68% of job applicants believe a company’s hiring process is a reflection of how the company treats its workers.
An excellent candidate experience shows prospects just how awesome it will be to work at your company. On the other hand, a less-than-stellar experience creates the impression that your company may not be the right place for them.
Every time you engage, educate, or entertain job candidates, you are cultivating a positive employee experience.
For instance, sending a personalized newsletter to your candidates makes them feel remembered and keeps them interested in a career with your company.
You could also organize in-person recruitment events, offering candidates the opportunity to meet your team and tour your facilities. These are particularly great for the nurturing process because they give a human face to your recruitment efforts and let you show off your company culture.
The time it takes to hire an employee is an important metric for measuring your company’s hiring efficiency. The longer it takes, the costlier it becomes.
Candidates are also likely to lose interest if the recruitment process takes too long – consider that 57% of applicants find waiting for a response after an interview the most frustrating situation in their job search.
Slow hiring processes also strain your existing employees, who have to take on extra responsibilities and risk burnout if you take too long to bring in a new colleague.
Candidate nurturing can be a timely intervention to improve your time to hire.
Effective nurturing ensures you stay in touch with job seekers, even when you’re not actively hiring. And when you roll out a new hiring plan, you already have a warm pool of candidates you can reach out to for applications.
If these candidates are still interested in joining your business, you can rely on a skills-based hiring process – anchored around tailored skills tests and structured interviews – to hire the best talent bias-free and get them on board within a short period.
Candidates come from various backgrounds, experiences, and industries, and these unique perspectives help them challenge the status quo.
Looking at how an individual can add to your company culture is known as culture add.
Instead of simply finding candidates who fit your mold, you seek out those candidates who bring something new and fresh to the table. These candidates can be a powerful presence within your organization.
Like with highly skilled prospects, targeting strong culture-add applicants with candidate nurturing is a smart idea because you can show off your approach to culture and how you value unique perspectives.
This gently nudges them down your talent funnel.
Patagonia gives us a real-world example of culture add in action. Although it wants employees who align with its mission, the company doesn’t want to build a homogeneous culture because it recognizes this can lead to stagnancy.
Instead, Patagonia actively seeks candidates who bring new perspectives to the organization. Doing so ensures its culture stays innovative and continues to play a major part in the company’s enduring success.
Integrating candidate lead nurturing may seem like an impossible task for an already overwhelmed HR team.
Luckily, by leveraging recruitment technology, you can automate tasks and make your nurturing strategy far more efficient.
However, there is more to nurturing than just automation. Incorporating the following best practices enables your HR team and company to get the most out of your nurture campaigns.
1. Decide which prospects to nurture
Define the specific candidates you are looking to nurture to better focus your budget and efforts
2. Develop candidate personas
Understand your applicants and their interests
3. Personalize content
Give candidates information that’s related to their interests and career aspirations
4. Show off your upskilling opportunities
Put an emphasis on the upskilling opportunities you offer employees throughout the hiring process
5. Use the tools at your disposal
Leverage tools, such as applicant tracking systems, to better organize data or analytics tools to establish a data-driven nurture campaign
6. Bring skills testing into the process
Utilize skills testing to gain a better idea of which candidates are the top prospects to nurture
7. Stay in touch with previous employees
Maintain relationships with top ex-employees to keep the door open
It’s essential to define which candidates you want to nurture because it’s unlikely you have the budget and staff to reach out to every single applicant you ever received.
On top of that, some applicants – like those who have recently secured jobs – might not be interested in your campaigns.
Prime candidates for nurturing include:
Job seekers in your talent community
Past applicants who had an impressive skill set but weren’t chosen for a given role
Users who have engaged with you via social media
Career talk/webinar participants
Initiate nurture campaigns as soon as a qualified candidate expresses interest or takes a concrete action that provides you with their contact details, such as applying for an open position and passing the skills tests.
Once you have access to their information, usually their email address, employ branded content to cultivate their interest in your organization and gently steer them toward choosing a career in your company.
You should also create a database of these candidates to quickly activate them in the hiring process. For instance, if you’re a tech company, you might develop a database of applicants with skills in a specific programming language, such as Scala coding.
Then, once you have a position requiring Scala skills, you can easily notify those candidates about the open position.
Unfortunately, you cannot nurture every candidate that comes your way via one of your chosen channels – it would simply take too much time.
You want to focus primarily on top prospects.
This is where the ideal candidate persona comes in. A persona is an invented character who represents the ideal candidate for your team.
Some factors that inform a candidate's persona include:
Developing a persona gives you a more concrete idea of the candidates who would be potential nurture targets, saving you from wasting time on targets who aren’t the right fit.
For example, if you’re looking to fill management positions, you’d want to focus on nurturing candidates who already demonstrate thorough leadership skills. Using skills assessments in the application process can help you identify who these candidates are.
Let your candidate personas guide the content and approach you adopt in your nurturing campaign strategies.
For example, the approach you use to nurture candidates for management roles should differ significantly from how you nurture for entry-level roles.
As much as possible, aim for greater specificity. Develop personalized emails and make personal contact, whether the news is positive or negative.
For instance, if you meet an impressive executive candidate at a recruitment event, you can call them or invite them to your premises for a one-on-one meeting to discuss their career interests.
Talent assessment tests can be a huge help when personalizing this content because they provide insights into applicants’ strengths, weaknesses, and career aspirations.
Use this data to tailor your candidate nurturing efforts and provide opportunities that align with the candidate’s needs.
One of the best ways to pique candidate interest is to show them what they want – in the case of job seekers, that’s opportunities for growth, with 83% of employees looking to improve their skills.
There are plenty of ways to emphasize your upskilling opportunities at every turn of the nurturing process.
When sending out your personalized content, be sure to include info about the development programs your organization offers. For example, weave in success stories from current employees who’ve pursued industry certifications or other aspirations.
By tailoring your content to this major demand of modern-day candidates, you keep them engaged in your talent funnel, ensuring that your organization stands out in a faceless crowd.
Using outdated or inaccurate tools can negatively affect the candidate experience and make it harder to track the applicant’s journey in the hiring process.
Luckily, we live in the modern age and have a wide palette of tools at our disposal to assist in the candidate nurturing process.
An applicant tracking system, or ATS for short, captures important candidate information, including details of their interactions with the company. Many of these systems let you construct a branded recruitment portal to advertise open positions, even to external candidates.
There are also recruitment automation tools that can power your nurture campaigns and take much of the work off your shoulders. These include email marketing tools that automatically send messages out when prospects take a certain action, such as commenting on a social media post or applying for a job ad on your website.
You can even leverage machine learning and AI in talent acquisition in this process. Predictive analytics combined with skills testing gives you a much more accurate picture of which candidates have the highest potential for success. You can then guide your nurturing campaign to prioritize those targets using data driven recruiting.
And speaking of skills testing…
Implementing skills testing during your hiring process supercharges your candidate nurturing process by giving you a practical and thorough look into the skills candidates possess.
In conjunction with a skills gap analysis, the results of these skill assessments can be used to build an informed, proactive candidate nurturing campaign.
A skills gap analysis tells you what skills you may need in the near future, while skills testing shows you exactly who you can get those skills from. You can then focus your nurturing efforts on the highest-skilled candidates to build a well-stocked talent pipeline.
Take a digital content agency, for example. Its skills gap analysis revealed that it only has a handful of employees skilled at video content creation. These workers are already stretched thin, and the agency is projecting to take on more clients in the near future.
Thankfully, the agency used a Video Content Creator test during their previous round of hiring. In doing so, they already know which previous candidates stand out in this category.
Though they may not have been the right candidate last time, because of the impressive skill set they demonstrated, the agency maintained a relationship with them through candidate nurturing – by connecting with them on LinkedIn, for instance.
This ensured their organization stayed at the front of these candidates’ minds.
Now, once the agency opens up more video content roles, it already has a pool of ready talent chomping at the bit to apply.
If an employee leaves your company on good terms, do your best to maintain a solid relationship with them.
Previous employees make great nurturing targets because rehiring former employees carries a host of benefits: Most importantly, they’re already familiar with your expectations and processes, and you know exactly what they bring to the table.
Of course, whether or not you choose to nurture an ex-employee depends on their reason for leaving. This is why it’s always important to conduct an exit interview when employees leave.
Exit interviews accomplish two major things in your nurturing process:
They tell you exactly why the employee is leaving, so you can decide whether they are an appropriate nurturing target
They let you make one final impression before the worker leaves the company, effectively acting as the first step in your nurture campaign
For the first point, suppose the employee says they decided to leave because the company culture wasn’t quite what they expected.
This might mean you need to make efforts toward building a good company culture. If you choose to nurture this exiting employee, you can show off the strides you’ve made toward a better culture to them, which can attract them back to your company.
If you are thinking about starting a candidate lead nurturing campaign but are unsure where to start, the good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Many companies have already developed highly effective nurture campaigns, and their experiences can help you build your own.
Here are three examples to inspire your journey.
- An interactive experience where candidates can easily explore career opportunities
- Job alerts to notify applicants when a suitable job opening becomes available
- In-person events to meet and engage candidates
- Transparent hiring journey
- Phone conversations with candidates to give interview feedback
- A resource repository to enable candidates to access information they need
- Job fairs and internship programs to nurture talent early in their careers
- Learning resources to enhance skills of its talent pool
Booking.com has developed an engaging, interactive digital experience to entice candidates.
Any top talent who lands on its career page is immediately greeted by friendly faces and a clear and established company culture. The company values are laid out up front, and it offers a FAQ section as well as video advice from Booking.com employees about the application process.
The close relationship between candidate and company continues throughout the hiring process:
Intuitive career site: Booking.com’s career site is designed to support candidates to find the most suitable opportunity at any given time
Timely interview feedback: Candidates receive interview feedback within a week. This enables them to plan their next move with more certainty
Job alerts: Booking.com sets up job alerts to ensure candidates are promptly notified when a suitable job opening becomes available
In-person events: The company organizes in-person recruitment events that offer candidates the chance to meet the team and tour the office facilities
To establish trust and cultivate a strong rapport between the recruiting team and the applicants, DigitalOcean has doubled down on transparency throughout the candidate journey.
The recruiting team is available for phone conversations with unsuccessful candidates to provide feedback on why they were not selected for a role.
This underscores DigitalOcean’s commitment to candidates and its willingness to assist them in better preparing for future interviews.
DigitalOcean's recruiting team also maintains a centralized repository of resources for applicants. This eliminates the need for repetitive email exchanges to address the same inquiries repeatedly, enhancing the candidate's experience and saving recruiters time.
Google has mastered the process of building a vast and varied talent reservoir by proactively connecting with prospective candidates through different channels, such as job fairs and internship programs.
Google also places significant importance on upskilling within its workforce, committing substantial resources to ongoing educational and developmental initiatives. It emphasizes these opportunities at every step of the recruitment process.
For instance, through the Google apprenticeship program, apprentices get exposure to different areas and teams while receiving external training and developing their professional skills on the job.
Such programs enable individuals within the organization’s talent pool to acquire new skills and adapt to the ever-evolving technology landscape.
Nurturing candidates who are already familiar with your organization goes a long way toward improving your talent acquisition strategy.
Candidate nurturing isn't just about immediate hiring needs; it's about building long-term relationships with potential talent and building a pool of future applicants.
Talent assessments put the icing on the cake of your nurture campaign – they contribute to your organization’s long-term success and significantly improve the quality of candidates in your talent pipeline by helping you focus your efforts on the right people.
Try our Leadership & People Management test to pinpoint the top prospects to nurture for your senior leadership roles.
Learn more about how you can leverage talent acquisition technology to create a data-driven candidate nurture campaign and bring the best talent into your talent pool.
1. MacKenzie, Keith. “INFOGRAPHIC: 37% of US workers are passive candidates. Who are they?”. Workable. Retrieved September 24, 2023. https://resources.workable.com/stories-and-insights/infographic-passive-candidates-who-are-they-us
2. “Employers get ‘ghosted’ too: One-third of small businesses had new hires and interview candidates not show up or disappear”. (December 1, 2022). CFIB. Retrieved September 21, 2023. https://www.cfib-fcei.ca/en/media/employers-get-ghosted-too-one-third-of-small-businesses-had-new-hires-and-interview-candidates-not-show-up-or-disappear
3. Maurer, Roy. (January 7, 2016). “Survey: Employers Using Social Media to Find Passive Candidates”. SHRM. Retrieved September 24, 2023. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/using-social-media-find-passive-candidates.aspx
4. “Why Marriott is a Social Media Recruiting Superstar”. (2015). Brandemix. Retrieved September 19, 2023 https://www.brandemix.com/why-marriott-is-a-social-media-recruiting-superstar/
5. “Job Seekers Are Now in the Driver’s Seat and Expect Next-Gen Recruiting and New Hire Experiences, Survey Finds”. (October 30, 2018). Career Builder. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://press.careerbuilder.com/2018-10-30-Job-Seekers-Are-Now-in-the-Drivers-Seat-and-Expect-Next-Gen-Recruiting-and-New-Hire-Experiences-Survey-Finds
6. “Are You Taking Too Long to Hire?”. (August 2016). Robert Half. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.roberthalf.com/us/en/insights/hiring-help/are-you-taking-too-long-to-hire
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