Featured Image

The voice of the candidate is shaping your company’s candidate experience in new ways throughout the pre-apply and post-apply stages. As candidates seek a deeper connection and more knowledge about your organization and its culture earlier in their career search, you need to be ready to not only inform them but entice them with the potential of working at your organization long before it’s time to click an “Apply” button.

I was invited by our partner HireVue to provide some tips on how listening to the voice the candidate – pre-apply and post-apply – can help transform the way you attract and engage talent. These proven recruitment marketing tips will help you fill jobs faster today and be better prepared to compete for “consumer-minded” talent tomorrow.

Embracing How Candidates Have Become Consumers

Candidates have reoriented the career search journey around their needs, such that they research a new employer in the same way they research products and services they want to buy; they expect the experience of engaging with a prospective employer to have a similar “consumer-friendly” feel. They expect a full, warm experience with your company, from first touchpoint to application – not just another cold job ad. You have an unprecedented opportunity to use this change in candidate behavior to your advantage.

We’re sure many of you are seeing these changes, too. Today’s candidates are well-informed about who you are and what you represent as an employer long before they’re ready to talk with one of your recruiters or apply for a job. They’re following you on LinkedIn and Twitter, reading reviews of your managers, perks, and culture on Glassdoor, and checking out your latest blog posts or YouTube videos. They are less likely to connect with a company that has spent no time on making their employer brand accessible and understood. Why? Because candidates have more choices than ever before! Regardless of what industry you’re in, this is a universal challenge. Organizations are competing for the same skilled talent, not just locally, but globally.

All of these trends point to one truth: candidates are in more control of the candidate experience than employers. This is having a significant impact, causing companies to change how they think about our talent strategies.

If candidates are in control, how does that change the hiring process?

Candidates begin their employment journey long before their official job search starts. This places the burden of proof on the employer! You must convince the candidate why you provide a great place to work and entice them to apply. It is only after a candidate applies for a job that the burden of proof shifts to the candidate – they will need to convince the employer (you) why they’re a great hire.

We now see two distinct phases in the candidate experience – pre-apply and post-apply. This requires talent acquisition teams to consider different strategies during each phase. During the pre-apply stage, recruitment marketing is used to find, attract, engage, and nurture talent in order to then convert potential talent into applicants. This is more about making your employer brand accessible to all the candidates in your target personas, wherever they may find you. During the post-apply stage, recruiting is focused on managing applicants through the hiring process. This is more about creating a great experience, personalizing your entire approach, using automation appropriately, and setting clear expectations for candidates using personalized interactions with individual applicants.

During the pre-apply stage, when the burden of proof is on the employer, all of a company’s recruitment marketing strategies are aimed at attracting talent and convincing them to become applicants. In spite of this, many employers have a very job-centric view of recruitment marketing. They only thing they market is available jobs, and the only call to action on their career site is “Apply Now.” The problem with this job-centric view of recruitment marketing during the pre-apply stage is that not everyone is ready to apply now, and jobs are not the only thing that matters to people seeking to work with you.

SmashFly data shows that 74% of candidates who click “Apply” drop off at some point during the application process. These are candidates who were interested in your employer brand, and now you have no idea who they are! That means 74% of your recruitment marketing time, resources, and budget is wasted. This reveals only 26% make it into your ATS.

That’s a huge missed opportunity to build relationships with talent while they’re considering you as an employer for now or the future. Don’t underestimate that. Research shows that a candidate’s decision to take their career to your organization can involve as many as a dozen different touch points with your employer brand and content.


No doubt candidates are in control, but you still have influence.

Seizing and leveraging that influence starts with providing a way for interested candidates to opt in to a relationship with your employer brand. We call those interested candidates leads, because they’re not yet applicants. You don’t even need their resume during the lead stage; you simply need their email address. Once you capture their contact information in a talent network form, you can nurture them and keep them engaged over time to help fulfill your hiring needs not only today, but in the future as well.

So how can you build and nurture relationships with leads during the pre-apply stage? Through your career site and social channels, through events and referrals, and through your nurture programs. Every place that you market your jobs and your employer brand, add a talent network form to capture valuable leads.


What Does Recruitment Marketing Look Like in Action?

Companies like Eaton have used talent network forms in their apply flow to capture more than 1,000 new contacts per day. Most of those candidates they never would have known existed before. Capturing these leads in your talent network is just the start!

Even more important is what you do with those leads – how you nurture them and ultimately convert them into applicants. To nurture them, provide candidates with valuable content about your organization and about your industry, not only to educate them, but also to entertain them so you remain top of mind as an employer of choice when they are ready to make their next move.

Companies like CH2M provide a monthly newsletter to over 100,000 subscribers to maintain relationships with their talent network. This newsletter has led to over 400 new applicants per month – applicants that are now primed to make a career move to CH2M.

By moving from a job-centric view of recruitment marketing to an employer brand-focused view, organizations can use the pre-apply stage as a way to attract and nurture leads to get more quality candidates to become applicants.


What Comes Next?

Candidate perception of their overall experience matters. They perceive that the hiring process offers little in the way of helping them tell their story. It’s an added frustration that their resume is likely to be sucked into the black hole of the application process, which is a negative experience that leads to a negative perception of your employer brand.

They are craving other ways to tell their story, demonstrate their skills, and interact with employers. Sure, resumes are still important, but the voice of the candidate can come through clearly in other ways such as a digital interview or their professional social media presence.

Your candidates want to feel like they’ve been provided a fair opportunity to demonstrate themselves as a person, not as a resume. Candidates also expect immediacy and transparency. If they take an action like submitting an application, they expect to hear from the employer that they received it. If the candidate interviews, they want feedback and to know what their next steps are.

These candidates already understand that the news they get might be bad news. It’s failing to communicate in any manner that’s worse than hearing they are not getting the job. Last, but not least, candidates expect to move quickly through the hiring process, however many steps there are, as long as you’re transparent about what the process is as well as how long it takes.

With competition for skilled talent at an all-time high, the speed at which we’re able to give candidates a voice, evaluate them, then make them an offer has a tremendous impact on meeting our hiring goals and providing a positive candidate experience.

Finally, if we align our talent acquisition strategy with the two distinct stages of the candidate experience – pre-apply and post-apply – we also need to align how we track and measure our success:

  • How do employees and candidates perceive your employer brand
  • What sources best influence a candidate’s decision to opt in and/or apply
  • What career site content and email campaigns engage candidates and drive apply flow
  • What metrics influence how you evaluate candidates, and ultimately how you convert them into hires

This all affects your high-level metrics around cost and time-to-hire to drive bottom-line performance of your talent acquisition team. In the end, let’s not make any of the stakeholders, your company, or your candidates feel completely ignored.

Instead, build a strategy that better attracts and nurtures candidate relationships and provides a way for candidates to feel like their voice, their time, and their effort was respected.

Leave a Reply