How to Keep Candidates Interested (When the Hiring Process Is Slow)

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Hiring processes today are 15 percent longer than just a few years ago. This advice will help you keep candidates warm when selection is going slow.

Job candidate smiling as he speaks on his mobile phone.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

“I’ve seen hiring processes that took five and a half months, from initial interview to hire,” notes Sydney Paris, a Los Angeles-based recruiter for Recruiting Social. “I’ve worked with managers who finally decided to hire candidates many months after they’d done the interview,” recalls Aleks Keser, a recruiter at the firm’s Toronto office.

Sound familiar?

These experiences reflect an unabating trend in recruitment: the average U.S. interview process lasted 22.9 days in 2015, according to Glassdoor’s “Why Is Hiring Taking Longer” research report. That’s almost three and a half days longer than the average in 2009, a 15 percent increase. While a longer hiring process complicates the work performed by talent acquisition teams, it’s candidates who bear the most frustration. Robert Half’s 2016 “Time to Hire” survey found that nearly a quarter of candidates, 23 percent, lose interest in an employer if they don’t hear back within one week of an initial interview. Another 46 percent lose interest if there’s no status update between one and two weeks after the interview.

The squeeze is on talent team members to keep candidates interested and upbeat as interviews and selection processes drag out. Four Recruiting Social recruiters, experienced in the diplomatic art of keeping candidates engaged and excited, share their best advice:

“I send the candidate an email at least every four or five days.”

News or no news, check in regularly

For any skilled worker, changing jobs is a big deal. “If you’re putting the state of your career in someone else’s hands – exactly what candidates do when they interview for a new role – you want to know what’s going on at every second,” observes Aleks. “If the decision-making process is delayed for some reason, or things are just going slow, it’s still important to get in touch with the candidate on a regular basis,” she says. “Maintaining contact with them and letting them know you haven’t forgotten about them helps the candidate feel comfortable.”

“When it’s taking a long time, and maybe I don’t have updates on the selection process, I will send the candidate links to company news and blog posts,” says Sydney. “It helps to keep them excited about what the company is doing, and it’s an opportunity to find out if they’ve been interviewing elsewhere.” She adds, “I also try and check in with them on their current position, and how things are going – almost as a little reminder of the issues that bothered them enough in the first place to do the initial interview for our role.”

Do it at least weekly

The frequency of contact is key when you’re trying to keep a candidate interested and engaged. “I send the candidate an email at least every four or five days,” says Teresa Holland, a Vancouver-based recruiter, “even if it’s just to let them know I haven’t heard anything yet but will be in touch again the following week. And I always invite them to email, message, or call me with any questions.”

Sydney concurs with the value of weekly check-ins, and says that she finds it useful to mix phone calls, “to put a voice behind it,” emails, “to reinforce the relationship,” and when appropriate, text messages, “even just an informal ‘haven’t heard anything yet.’” She explains, “It’s about keeping the lines of communication open. If they have concerns or questions, or they’re interviewing elsewhere, they can feel comfortable calling me up to let me know.”

“You aren’t just the recruiter, you’re someone who cares about the direction of their career.”

Be open & personable

When the process is taking a long time, and the candidate is getting anxious, it’s tempting to keep your interactions strictly all-business. Don’t, advises Aleks. “Get to know them. Learn a little about their lives. They will feel more secure in the process, and they’ll learn to trust you,” she says. “You aren’t just the recruiter, you’re someone who cares about the direction of their career.”

“I worked with one candidate who looked great on paper, but the managers weren’t sure where to fit her in the organization,” recalls Gabriela de Sousa, a Vancouver-based recruiter. “It took a month to schedule the first interview. Then they had me decline her – only to call her back a week later with a different opportunity!” But the personable relationship Gabriela built with the candidate made all the difference: “I communicated with her every step of the way, I kept her up to date on every change and delay, and in turn, she was very understanding and patient. It took time, but she did get hired.”

See their value

When it comes down to it, candidates will stay interested in you if you stay interested in them. “Know which candidates can really bring value to your company,” advises Sydney, “and make sure you express that when you’re communicating. The more you build the relationship around shared value, the more they are going to subconsciously hold out for you, versus another potential employer.”

It really doesn’t have to be that complicated, says Aleks. “Proactive relationship-building makes all the difference. I’ve had a lot of candidates say to me ‘Wow, I was just about to email you. Even though you didn’t have any new update, I appreciate it – thanks for remembering me.’”


Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand experience at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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