Personalized Messaging Will Instantly Improve Candidate Engagement (Which will improve your recruiting results)

Stop spamming candidates with canned messages and improve their engagement with personalization. If you’re not familiar with the concept, personalized messaging in recruiting is the process where a recruiter changes the content of the messages they send to candidates to the point where the candidate feels special. And even more committed to taking your job as a result of the extra time that you took to personalize their messages. This personalization also provides additional opportunities to expand your conversations with the candidate.

Fortunately, recruiting leaders can easily learn a lot about personalization because it has been widely used for decades on the product side of firms like Dell, Levi, Netflix, and Amazon.

How Impersonal Canned Messaging Hurts Your Recruiting Results

Of course, everyone knows by now that a negative candidate experience will weaken a candidate’s engagement level. And that experience will eventually hurt your recruiting results by discouraging future applicants and increasing your candidate dropout rate.

Weak messaging contributes to these two serious problems because many top candidates simply assume this impersonal treatment will continue after becoming employees. It’s hard to argue against the point that impersonal messaging is a common practice because of high recruiter workloads. Most corporate recruiting has had to be extremely impersonal.

However, the intense current battle to land top recruits should be enough reason to change this approach. For top candidates, instead, what is needed is “the white glove treatment” approach. Which contains a critical component known as “personalized candidate messaging.” This type of messaging shows that your company is a different place to work. It is willing to take the time to tailor its candidate messages and its recruiting process to fit the individual candidate’s interests and needs.


Personalization Will Impress A Candidate When It Provides These 8 Categories Of Information

Your personalization can send eight information categories designed to impress your candidates. Those information categories are:

  • We know all about you – personalization messaging can reveal to the candidate that the recruiter/hiring manager knows a lot about the candidate. When you purposely reveal to them the off-the-resume details that you have learned from their LinkedIn profile and other online bios. You are showing the candidate that you have thoroughly assessed them. And so far, the company has liked what they have found. And that will build the candidate’s confidence.
  • We understand your preferences – by sending personalized messages that show that the hiring manager understands (and in some cases shares) a candidate’s interests, needs, and generational expectations. You reinforce the premise that the candidate will be treated as unique if they become an employee.
  • We invested time in you – by sharing a few hard-to-discover details about the candidate with them. You show the candidate that you have already invested significantly in learning about them. And that this willingness to invest in them will likely continue if they become an employee. And as a result, most candidates will increase their willingness to match that investment.
  • We know and praise your accomplishments – by praising their capabilities and accomplishments throughout the hiring process. You reveal to each candidate that you see their background as strong. And this positive assessment of them will increase their interest in your job. 
  • You can expect balanced two-way learning – by revealing that the manager and the team both expect to learn a great deal from you, the candidate. And vice versa. You demonstrate to the candidate that you expect to have a mutually beneficial two-way learning relationship with them if they join the Corporation.
  • Our quick response shows that you are important – a same-day response to a message from the candidate. Reveals that they both have a high level of interest in you. And their responsiveness will raise the candidate’s level of engagement. And as their level of engagement increases, the candidates themselves are likely to become more responsive.
  • Being informal shows that we consider you a colleague – when you quickly shift your messaging to a more informal and collegial level. The company reveals that they believe the relationship has a long and strong future. And as a result, the candidate will likely feel more comfortable (with less anxiety and fear). And that will make them less likely to drop out of your hiring process prematurely.
  • Knowing the same people reinforces our confidence – by revealing that the hiring manager and their team know many of the same functional and industry players as you, the candidate. Your manager reveals to them that “we all operate in the same circles,” which will help the candidate conclude that you consider them a peer with others in their network. And once they feel that you have judged them equally, their commitment level will likely increase.


When You Implement… Here Are Some Specific Action Steps To Consider 

In addition to covering the broad personalization categories of information that were highlighted in the previous section, there are some specific “best practices” in personalization that you should consider implementing. Those small but important action steps include.

  • Praise the areas where they stand out – most recruiting processes, unfortunately, focus on finding weaknesses. In direct contrast, the personalization process is designed to emphasize the positive. And that usually involves directly praising the candidate by revealing how they “stand out” among others in their qualifications, capabilities, and experience. Adding praise will also reduce their anxiety and allow them to focus on preparing for other areas before their interview. You can learn more about the “one minute of praise” best practice here.
  • Quickly shift to first names – an important part of personalization is showing candidates that you feel comfortable enough to treat them as a colleague. Because you rapidly shifted to using first names (when appropriate). And, of course, recruiters and hiring managers should also quickly begin to use their own first names.
  • Tell them how you learned about them – letting the candidate know when you have learned about them and their work from other sources will impress them. So let them know when you have come across their work on the Internet. And when admired, industry people have praised their work.
  • Pronouncing their name correctly matters – many managers will face difficulty pronouncing unusual names in a diverse world. Realize that this can be an instant deal breaker when you get the pronunciation wrong. So learn the pronunciation of their name from their recorded outgoing telephone message or from their YouTube videos.
  • Provide them with choices – top candidates expect freedom and choices. And because most interviews are strictly a “do it my way” approach. Giving the candidate some input and choices during the hiring process will demonstrate that your company is different. For example, asking interview finalists who they would like to interview. This will almost always surprise and impress top candidates.
  • Show them you respect their time – employed top candidates are always extremely busy. So they appreciate it when you respect their time. And that means that, whenever possible, try to minimize the number of interviews. And try to schedule them when it is most convenient for a top candidate. 
  • Make referred candidates feel special – if the candidate is an employee referral, be sure to mention it. Also let them know how much an employee’s recommendation impresses them.
  • A paper message will stand out – in an electronic world dominated by texting and email. The uniqueness of sending them a paper message via snail mail will be noticed. And a paper message will almost guarantee that they will open it.
  • Show them you appreciate diversity – even if a candidate is not diverse. Research has shown that most candidates want to work in a diverse environment. So whenever possible, make it easy for each candidate to experience your team’s diversity.
  • Show excitement when you meet them – educate everyone involved in the hiring process. When they meet the candidate, offering them an enthusiastic and personalized greeting will be important. That greeting should include their first name and some information about them that impressed you. 
  • Avoid these mistakes – obviously, avoiding the use of communications templates should be a given. However, another error to avoid is any appearance of lumping or stereotyping any candidate into a larger group. These practices are the opposite of personalization.
  • In most cases, prioritization will improve your results – realize up front that you can personalize every message to every applicant. However, when limited resources are available, a more recommended approach is to focus your personalized messaging on high-priority applicants and all applicants in hard-to-fill jobs. Candidates in high demand are most likely to expect and appreciate that approach. It’s also important to note that research has shown that the candidate’s interest areas have the highest impact when they are personalized with a person’s interests, location, and age.

Final Thoughts

Smart recruiting leaders are always looking for a competitive edge over their talent competitors. And one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest tools for gaining that advantage is to personalize your messages to top candidates. And if you would like to learn more about building a competitive edge in recruiting, click here. And if you want more detailed information on personalization in recruiting, click either here or here.

you only do one thing – in order to gain a better understanding about what is working in personalization. After you have successfully hired several candidates for a priority job. During their onboarding, ask each new-hire to fill out a survey. Which asks them to reveal which elements of your personalization effort had the most and the least impact on them. .


If you have the time and an interest…

Here Are The Outlines For Two Common Personalized Recruiting Messages

In this last additional information section, you will find two outlines of recruiting messages (the initial contact and invitation to an interview). Each outline includes suggested ways to make each message more personalized. 

Example #1 – Outline Of Your Initial Contact Message

  1. Responding quickly to the application is essential – make it clear to your recruiters that personalizing exceptionally qualified candidates has the highest ROI. So expect your recruiters to respond quickly to the receipt of an application from an exceptional candidate within 48 hours. And that rapid response will send the candidate a clear message about your level of interest and your culture of responsiveness.
  2. Include a compelling subject line – beyond simply thanking them for their application. By making them want to open your initial message immediately. Do that by including their first name in the subject line. And by adding phrases like “Mary, this is the opportunity you have been looking for.” Or use messages like Mary, we are excited” or “Mary, we look forward to building this relationship.”
  3. Make the message content welcoming – almost every new applicant wants to feel welcomed. So use words and phrases that show a new candidate that you welcome their application. Consider phrases like “We welcome you as a potential team member” or “We are excited about learning more about you and your career interests.” Also, show you have a helping culture by including phrases like “Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.” Also, when you leave a telephone message, use their first name when appropriate. And make certain that you pronounce their complete name perfectly. This may also be a great opportunity to include as an attachment an outline of the steps in your recruiting process.


Example #2 – Outline Of Your Invitation To An Interview Message

Obviously, whenever possible, every message to prioritized candidates should be personalized. However, focusing your personalization on the next most important candidate message is important, covering the message you send them when you invite them to an interview. Effective personalization will increase the odds that they will accept your interview invitation.

  1. Start with a compelling subject line – increase the chances they will open this important message by developing a subject line that will drive action. Start with their first name and then a message that reveals that “you have an exciting opportunity for them.” Examples might include, “Mary, please accept this opportunity to meet with us.” Or “Mary, please accept this interview opportunity that could greatly enhance your career.”
  2. Include these items in the content of the interview invitation message – the content of this invitation message should make it clear to the candidate that your interview process isn’t an adversarial one. You can do that with phrases like “We strive to make our interviews more like two-way professional conversations, where we both learn more about each other.” Or “You will be happy to learn that our past candidates have extremely highly rated our interview process.” Each of these phrases is designed to lower their anxiety levels and increase the chance they will appear for the interview. The message should also include word attachments that serve as an interview preview. Because they fully explain the steps of your hiring process. But also perfect driving directions and what to wear, bring, etc. And, of course, also provide a contact number where they can have any of their questions answered within 48 hours. Finally, it’s essential that you pretest both the subject line and the content of this invitation message. To ensure that it actually drives positive interview acceptance.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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