Maintaining Contact

7 minutes, 1 link


Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

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For candidates who will be moving through the process, this is a great place to establish a few elements that will help you maintain a great candidate experience and be well-situated to close a candidate should you end up extending an offer.

First, establish someone on your team to be the candidate’s confidant. The candidate should have someone that they can reach out to if they have questions or concerns during the process. At larger companies, this is often a recruiter, but it may be someone else at the company. Either way, the confidant should be someone that the candidate will feel comfortable talking to without risk of hurting their future working relationship (in other words, usually not the hiring manager). The candidate should really trust that they can talk openly to the confidant, and that the confidant will be quickly responsive, available to reply to emails or hop on the phone at short notice. The confidant is important throughout the process, but perhaps will be most critical at the offer stage.

Second, make sure you (or someone on your team) maintains a regular cadence of contact with the candidate to stay top of mind, keep them engaged, and find out if there are any updates from their side. This can involve sending them updates about where they are in the process, or sometimes just sharing exciting milestones or announcements from your company. If, at any point, a candidate is confused about where they stand or is reaching out to you for updates, you’ve probably done something wrong; either you haven’t set expectations with them about the timeline, or you’ve set expectations and failed to meet them. It can be a good idea to have regular pipeline review meetings with your team, to check on the status of everyone in your pipeline and make sure no one is “stuck” or hasn’t been communicated with in a while.

This cadence should increase as a candidate progresses through your pipeline. For instance, initially, while the candidate is early in your process, you might be communicating with them on a weekly basis to check-in and build trust and excitement through repeated interactions. By the time you have extended (or are close to extending) an offer, you might aim to have a touchpoint every couple of days.

important Many companies lose candidates because they aren’t in close contact with them, especially if they are in the pipelines of other companies and receive competing offers.

Nurturing for the Long Term

For positive candidates that you won’t be putting through the process, either because you don’t have a suitable role or the timing isn’t right for them, it’s valuable to try and maintain a long-term relationship.

For candidates who aren’t fully convinced they’d take the job (or, if you’ve sought them out, have not formally applied), maintaining contact could help you sway their opinion of your company, or catch them at that serendipitous moment in the future when they are open to switching. On the other hand, maintaining a relationship with candidates who you don’t have a current role for can be very valuable in the future by saving you the time and cost of having to build a pipeline of candidates from scratch whenever you open a new role. In either case, these relationships can accrue other dividends, for instance, these candidates might refer other candidates to you.

How you maintain these relationships will differ. It might entail a simple check-in email every few months, perhaps coupled with some updates or announcements about your team and company. Other ways to maintain contact could be giving them early access to parts of your product (if it’s a product they would use) or inviting them to events (if you’re hosting events at your company). You might connect with them on LinkedIn so that they can see when you post company updates. For higher-value candidates, you might take a higher-touch approach, by meeting with them every few months to get coffee and catch up. If you’re really aiming to build a trustful relationship with the candidate, you might offer access to your network or an intro to another recruiter or company that might be a better fit for them right now.

Whenever I meet a candidate at the top of the funnel, my only goal in that conversation is to do right by the candidate. I take this to an extreme. During our conversation, if I know that my company is not right for this candidate I let them know of another company who is [a] better fit and I make the necessary introductions. My take is that if you have discovered that with Dropbox for example, productivity software is not what the candidate really wants to work on, why would you want them in the company? Instead, do right by the candidate and pay it forward. You’ll be surprised by the network you end up building. Every one of the candidates I’ve referred to a different company has sent me someone else in their network that is a better fit for my company.Aditya Agarwal, former CTO, Dropbox*

caution If a candidate isn’t interested in maintaining a relationship with you or your company, don’t try to force it. Never spam candidates or overwhelm them. When in doubt, give candidates a polite “out.” For instance, your emails could mention that while you’re reaching out because you want to maintain a relationship, you’d be happy to just let them reach out themselves when things change on their end.

important Note that nurturing for the long-term can be important for candidates all along the funnel, not just at the beginning, who enter your process and aren’t suitable for the job or self-select out. Even candidates who have made it all the way through the process and ultimately don’t receive a job offer from your company (or don’t accept an offer) can be valuable assets in the future—and rather than pretending they never existed, continuing to stay in touch with those you respect and admire is the right thing to do.

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