5 Ways to Improve Candidate Engagement (and Boost Your Company’s Reputation)

A white woman with blonde hair and glasses smiling at her open laptop due to a positive candidate engagement experience.
Candidate engagement involves building relationships with candidates through communication and responsiveness. These tips can help you improve the candidate experience.

Key points about how to improve candidate engagement:

  • Candidate engagement refers to building positive relationships with candidates through communication and responsiveness.
  • Continuous candidate engagement creates a better candidate experience. It can also enhance your quality of hire and improve your brand reputation.
  • These effective candidate engagement strategies can help you strengthen your hiring process.

Chances are you’ve heard the term employee engagement before. And you know why it’s important

But are you familiar with candidate engagement? Candidate engagement is all about building positive relationships with candidates to improve their overall experience. 

If you have a lengthy recruitment process, poor communication, and uncertain timelines, quality applicants may abandon your hiring process. A strong candidate engagement plan can help you avoid such pitfalls and engage the most talented individuals in your pipeline. 

What is candidate engagement? 

Candidate engagement is an important HR metric that’s gaining popularity. In general, candidate engagement measures how communicative, responsive, and informative you are throughout the recruiting and hiring process. 

Candidate engagement affects the candidate experience. This determines how your candidates feel about your organization’s hiring process. Do they view it positively? Do they view it negatively? How does their experience affect their opinion of your company?

How does candidate engagement differ from employee engagement?

Candidate engagement focuses on applicants and candidates. Employee engagement, unsurprisingly, focuses on existing employees. Employee engagement measures your current employees’ feelings of satisfaction, loyalty, and commitment. In general, highly engaged businesses see increased productivity, profitability, and retention. 

Why is candidate engagement important?

75% of people work at their current company because a positive candidate experience led them to accept the job offer. However, at least 50% of job seekers have declined a job offer due to a poor candidate experience. And that’s only the number of candidates who have stuck around long enough to receive an offer.  

The reality is that job seekers apply to multiple companies. The competition for qualified candidates can be fierce, and if you truly want to hire the best person for the role, you need to center the candidate and keep them engaged. 

When you have a candidate engagement process, you also receive other benefits, like:

  • Reduced time to fill
  • Decreased cost per hire
  • Improved brand reputation

How to improve candidate engagement

The key to effective candidate engagement is to build relationships with your candidates as humans first and applicants second. 

Candidates want to be treated as individuals throughout the hiring process. They want personalized messages. They want to speak with real people who can tell them what to expect. What they don’t want is to receive automated replies or be kept in the dark.

The more responsive your hiring process is, and the more touchpoints you create, the more opportunities you have to engage candidates and craft a positive experience. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Create a hiring process before posting a requisition

When a role opens up, you may want to post the job opening immediately. This impulse is natural, but it doesn’t always lead to the best result. 

This practice can actually undermine your efforts if you don’t already have a hiring process in place. If applicants need to wait for you to figure things out, they may feel frustrated and take another opportunity. 

That’s why it’s important to document a hiring process for each role before posting the requisition. From start to finish, outline both the potential candidate’s journey and your internal hiring process. Include roughly how long you think each step will take. 

A simplified process may look a little like this:

  1. You post a job ad.
  2. Candidates apply.
  3. You arrange meetings with qualified candidates within one week of receiving their applications.
  4. You conduct 30-minute interviews with relevant internal stakeholders.
  5. After careful deliberation, you select a candidate and make an employment offer.
  6. The candidate accepts within one week. 
  7. You hire the candidate. 

Of course, most hiring processes have more steps. But detailing your process from both the candidate and hiring manager’s perspectives will ensure everyone knows what to expect. 

It can also help you identify areas to optimize. For instance, your current employees may have heavy workloads right now. As a result, it may take up to 2 weeks for them to arrange a preliminary interview with an applicant. But you know that this is too long to make prospective candidates wait. 

Look for ways to streamline this process before you have candidates in your pipeline. You might invest in software to help you identify qualified resumes or automate interview scheduling so you can respond to top talent faster.

2. Review applications quickly

According to research by Talent Board, 53% of applicants said they did not receive a response from employers until 3 months after applying. 

But the best candidates get hired within 10 days. If you take too long to review applications and reach out to applicants, you might find they’ve already accepted offers elsewhere.

Clearly, time is of the essence. But it can be difficult to reduce the time it takes to review applications. After all, it isn’t the only thing you or your recruiters have to do. 

Use resume screening software

One of the easiest ways to speed up your review process is to leverage resume screening or resume management software. This software lets you parse multiple resumes at once. You can quickly sort them for keywords and other qualifying criteria. This way, you can eliminate resumes that don’t meet your basic requirements without having to waste time reviewing them yourself.

Identify the most important job requirements

If you can’t (or don’t want to) invest in resume screening software right now, you can still make your review process more efficient with a few best practices. 

Start by identifying the most important role requirements. This might be a certain educational degree or professional certification. When you create a list of these “must-haves,” it’ll be easier for you to narrow your talent pool by eliminating unqualified resumes that aren’t worth your time. 

Another trick recruiters use is to sort resumes into categories depending on how many of those key requirements they meet. For instance, resumes or applications that meet 6 or more key requirements may fall into a yes category. Those that meet 4-5 requirements might go into a maybe pile. And those that meet 3 or less become a no.

With the right technology and practices, you can cut down on administrative work and only spend time on the most qualified candidates. This will streamline your process and decrease your cost per hire at the same time.

3. Prioritize responsiveness and communication

According to job seekers, responsiveness is the most important factor of the candidate experience. But 63% of candidates say that employers and recruiters don’t communicate enough throughout the hiring process.

In fact, 75% of applicants never hear back from employers after applying for a position. Another 60% never hear back from employers after an interview. 

No one likes to be kept in the dark, and candidates are no exception. Regardless of whether you decide to move forward with an applicant, keep them informed at each step. Here are some essential touchpoints: 

After the candidate submits an application

As soon as someone applies, send them an email that confirms you received their application. This email should also include a message that thanks them for taking the time to apply. Most recruiting platforms will allow you to automate this process with email templates. This way, you can create that first touchpoint without needing to send messages manually to each candidate.  

Before the candidate advances to the next step

If a candidate progresses to the next stage, provide a general outline of your hiring process. Let them know how many steps there will be, who they’ll be speaking with at each stage, and how long the entire process will take. 

When they know what to expect, they can prepare accordingly. This extra preparation can boost their confidence and show them that you support their success. You don’t want the interviews to be a surprise and you aren’t intentionally trying to trip them up. You genuinely want them to put their best foot forward.

After you decide not to move forward with a candidate

Even if you decide not to hire a candidate, you should still inform them of their application status. Candidates would rather hear a definitive rejection than nothing at all. They won’t hold on to false hope and can move forward with their job search. 

Depending on your bandwidth, you can reach out over the phone for a quick call or send them a rejection email. Thank them for taking the time to apply and (if applicable) tell them that you’ll consider them for any future openings. 

4. Incorporate feedback

One of the most crucial parts of a candidate engagement plan is often overlooked: feedback.

Ask for feedback from candidates

75% of job seekers are rarely or never asked for feedback after applying even though it’s such an important step.

Gathering anonymous feedback lets you tap into the candidate experience and thought process. This feedback can help you improve your hiring process and boost candidate engagement. Ask every candidate who applies (regardless of whether you extended an offer) to take a short survey. In this survey, ask them candidate engagement questions like:

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with the recruiting and hiring processes?
  • What was most challenging about the process?
  • What would have helped you to perform better?
  • How could we improve our hiring process?

You might also include a section with statements that candidates respond to on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Some example statements include:

  • My questions were answered in a timely manner.
  • The interviewers were on time. 
  • It was easy to obtain the information I needed (Zoom meeting links, interviewer contact information, etc.)
  • The recruiter kept me updated throughout the process.
  • I felt welcomed throughout the process.
  • I would recommend Company to friends.

Provide feedback to candidates

Receiving a rejection letter is never fun. While it’s an unavoidable part of the job seeker’s experience, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In many cases, you have to choose between several stellar candidates. A rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection of someone’s skills and experience. 

One way you can make rejection more bearable is by providing feedback. Feedback helps candidates understand why they weren’t selected for a role. For instance, maybe they had excellent work experience but lacked a certain soft skill critical to the position. 

A specific comment like this can help them understand their development areas and grow into even better candidates. They’ll appreciate the insight and they won’t leave your hiring process feeling like they were left in the dark—two things that will improve their overall experience. 

5. Use automated recruiting software

While it isn’t 100% necessary, automated recruiting software can make candidate engagement much easier to manage. Because this software uses automation, it reduces administrative work, decreases time to hire, and streamlines key processes. All of this frees up time for you and your recruiter and boosts candidate engagement in the process. 

While you can reap these benefits with any type of recruiting software, there are a lot of options out there. The type that works best for your business will depend on your needs. 

Some solutions focus on one specific aspect of recruiting and hiring. These are great choices if you need help with a certain part of the process. Examples include:

Other solutions are less specific but still offer deep functionality. Examples include:

  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  • Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) software

Still other recruiting software solutions are housed within larger HR systems. These platforms usually don’t have as many recruiting-specific features as the niche solutions mentioned above. But they still have the capabilities most businesses need, including the ability to:

  • Design job applications
  • Post directly to job boards
  • Find and hire candidates
  • Evaluate applicants
  • Track offers

What makes these HRIS platforms really shine, though, is their all-in-one nature. They house all of your HR processes in one place. This means that you can manage candidates during the recruiting and hiring process and then funnel them directly into onboarding as new hires. 

You don’t need multiple platforms to manage everything, and new hires don’t need to learn a new system. In this way, candidate engagement flows right into employee engagement. 

The long-term impact of candidate engagement

Candidate engagement helps you find quality hires and improve the candidate experience overall. But it’s also important for your company on a larger scale. 

37% of candidates who have a negative experience leave a negative review of your company online. Negative reviews discourage prospective job seekers from applying. In addition, people who have a negative candidate experience often don’t want to support your company as a customer. If you consistently provide a negative experience, you limit your future talent pool and your overall brand reputation and revenue could suffer. 

However, the opposite is also true. 61% of candidates who have a positive experience leave a positive review online. With your brand reputation at stake, you need to engage candidates from the start.

SentricHR gives you the power to manage recruiting and hiring within a seamless HR solution. From the second you post a requisition to the moment you extend an offer, it’s easy to engage candidates at each step.

To learn more about recruiting and hiring within our all-in-one system, check out our Talent Management video

How to Improve Candidate Engagement Infographic

How to Improve Candidate Engagement Infographic with 5 tips


The Sentric Team

The Sentric Team

At Sentric, we help businesses make people management easier with industry-leading technology and standout support.

Sentric HR & Payroll Insights

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