Candidate Communication – Being Creative in Your Outreach

It’s the heat of August, the last days of summer, and Vanessa Raath, in her peak of winter (coming to us all the way from South Africa) joined us to talk about talking, what to say and more importantly how to say it to get candidates to engage. This talent shortage isn’t going away any time soon and recruiters need a whole new set of tools in their arsenal to stand out in a crowded market of ‘opportunities’.

So turn those mics and cameras on and enjoy our latest installment of the recruitment marketing roundtable.

Why do candidates want to work for you?

At the heart of all of recruiting is first and foremost, why should a person spend their limited time working for you. For many, it’s not just about a paycheck (although that is important too!). It’s more than that. Candidates want to work at companies they feel connected to. Candidates might leave bad bosses, but they GO to companies. For some, that means they want to work for companies that have a purpose and a mission to make the world a better place. For others, it’s interesting technology, a personal challenge, or a sense of community. Why candidates go to companies isn’t a one size fits all – but there is nearly always a ‘reason’, and that reason might not be on your corporate careers page.

And your first impression is everything. Which means first understanding candidate behavior. How do they discover you? Your career site? Maybe. Your job posting? Probably. Great job postings can attract great candidates. Like recruiters scanning hundreds of applicants at once, candidates are reviewing hundreds of jobs quickly, weeding out most. At first glance, most people can make a pretty quick decision about whether or not they want to apply for a job- your job.

And this is where so many companies fail. Your job postings aren’t actually about you. It’s about creating a connection. It’s about getting potential candidates to nod to your posting. To your questions. Are you passionate about helping others? Do you thrive when you get to work independently? Are you a self proclaimed problem solver who loves learning new tech to improve processes? These kinds of questions get the reader excited, they want to say ‘yes!’.

Asking valuable questions right out of the gate can help candidates get a better understanding of the ‘why’ behind your hiring needs. But as a hiring team have you considered WHY a candidate wants to work for you? We’ve all seen the meme.

It’s naive to think that candidates strictly applied to your role just because they love your company. It’s actually one of the bigger follies of hiring organizations – expecting candidates to already love your business – when they don’t even know you. They are talking to you for a few reasons 1) they are seeking a new thing (what they have isn’t doing it for them) 2) you are most likely paying the same or more 3) something about your business is intriguing. That’s it. Expecting more is unrealistic. But knowing the best way to communicate with them to get them to say “yes” because they’re the best fit can be daunting. Gone are the days of templates and standard inmails. It’s time for recruiters to get creative in their communication.

Use your whole workforce and NOT just your recruitment and recruitment marketing team

Attracting great candidates is one thing. Getting them to apply is another. Recruitment Marketing is the bridge of your marketing and recruiting efforts. Recruiters who can’t think like marketers and also like sales have a distinct advantage. When doing your outreach are you able to show your candidate examples of other employees at your company and how happy they are working there? Are they active enough on social media that you can point to a profile and say, “This person works in the department we’re hiring for and they’ve accomplished this and this,” all while showing some glowing examples of their social posts indicating their happiness at work?

Along with explaining how great your benefit package is, consider sharing statistics on how long people have stayed in roles, and at the company proving turnover is low. Using data to support your case is Marketing 101, the marriage of the exciting things your business is doing for its customers (compliments of the marketing team) and the great things it’s doing for its employees (straight from the recruiters) is your Recruitment Marketing Messaging and the foundation for your Recruitment Marketing activities.


“Recruiters are the unsung heroes of the Marketing team.” – Vanessa Raath


It’s about being authentic – not saying what you THINK everyone wants to hear

No great salesperson ever closed a deal because they operate on a level of fear. Authenticity and confidence go a long way when you’re trying to convince someone they should buy something, not because the salesperson wants to buy it, but because the buyer needs it.

The same thing goes for how recruiters reach out to candidates. It’s clear that you want to entice them but saying the same thing they’ve heard in every other outreach won’t make them bat an eye. It’s not about the job you have, it’s about the opportunity they need.

“Hi there, you applied for the role of [insert position] and I think you would be a great fit for our organization. Can we set up a time to talk?”

Is this a person or an automated bot meant to sound like a human? You might as well have said, “I’m not that interested in talking to you so here’s the same line we use for every applicant.” It’s imperative that you stand out and prove that you’re real.


Vanessa suggests using a minimum of six points of personalization in your first email message to a potential candidate. Everything is on the table when it comes to personalization – name, schools, schools mascots and sports teams, yesterday’s tweet, tomorrow’s tweet, common interests, common connections, known projects, posts on Reddit, GitHub, stack or LinkedIn.

Do a little digging. What can you find about the potential candidate that you can add to your message to show that you did your homework? Did they post something about Star Wars on LinkedIn or Reddit? In your video ask if they’ve watched the latest installment of the Obi Wan Kenobi show. Tell them that The Force was strong with their resume.

Use Memes

If your company allows for the use of media, try including a gif or a meme that’s relevant to your industry.


“I post memes specific to our Niche Market that the candidates can identify with.” – Marli Putter


Why? Because bots don’t have a sense of humor and they sure haven’t figured out meme based communication. Candidates

But what bots are persistent, and you have to be as well.A passive candidate that you’re reaching out to for a technical role might not be receptive to your initial outreach – so consider a witty follow up as to why they might not have responded.

If on the other hand, if you do get a response from them, make sure to ask them why? This accomplishes a number of things, first, it’ll help make them feel like they’re a part of the process and second, it will inform you on what is working and why so you can do more of it.

Use Video & Voice Messages

Another way to connect with potential candidates is a 1:1 video message or a voice note. While that may seem a little scary,what’s more personal than a video message? Not only do videos and voice notes personalize your outreach, but it can save you time (if you keep it to a single take). Why spend ten minutes typing out an email when you can just say it?

Not everyone in the workforce grew up taking selfies of themselves and posting videos on TikTok. But let’s face it, a lot of people have Facebook or LinkedIn. Why is it that we can post ourselves on social media but can put ourselves in front of candidates? It’s time to put your fears aside and do what’s best for your company. And if that means a one minute video explaining why a candidate should come work for you – do it. Just remember to have a call to action or your efforts are wasted. This isn’t just an attempt to say hello,you’re kicking off what hopefully is a conversation that leads to a hire.

Five tips for using video to communicate with candidates

  1. Best platform/tool for using video – record on your phone and send on WhatsApp

  2. For email – loom is a great tool

  3. Embed video directly and don’t require them to click a link

  4. People can tell when you’re smiling on the phone, they can see it on a video

  5. Label the video so they know it’s not spam

You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it people like you.

It’s time recruiters realize that without them companies wouldn’t have the rockstars they have working for them. You should have the confidence to be different and acknowledge that your skills are awesome.


“Recruiters are responsible for the future of every company.” – Alex Murphy


Candidates are researching recruiters, too

With your research complete and content that’s NOT based on boring templates created,. it’s time to look in the mirror – or at least in a browser. What does your social media presence look like? According to Vanessa Raath, 90% of the time a candidate is going to cross reference you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

Make sure your pictures match across your social profiles so when they research you they know that you’re legit.

Ask Candidates to Communication through Alternative Media

Ask candidates to send videos to showcase themselves. If they are willing, it speaks to their ambition, but remember that bias can creep in when we use video. It’s important to be mindful of that. Additionally, you will see a drop off rate if you ask them to use video as a form of communication.

In Conclusion

The thing about recruiters is that they have a lot to say – the problem is, candidates have all heard it before. As the talent shortage looks to remain for the foreseeable future, and shortage is just code for ‘a candidates market’. You need to take the next step, stand out, be different, be bold and try something new. You might surprise yourself and find out it works.

Happy hunting.