Candidate relationship management is key to building your employer brand

Talent attraction specialist Elmen Lamprecht on how to ensure your organisation lives up to its messaging.

In its most basic form, employer branding is a marketing exercise in much the same way as product/service branding. In the same way that organisations spend loads of resources to carefully plan their marketing message to their customers to drive sales, employer branding is about crafting marketing messages to the labour market to drive employment applications. Therefore, it is understandable that most employer branding strategies focus all of their attention on the marketing aspect – content placed on the careers site, social media, mainstream media, etc. While such an approach is definitely necessary, it is not sufficient to drive an outstanding employer branding strategy.

It is a well-known sales mantra that client retention is far more rewarding to the bottom line than client acquisition. Similarly, I would argue that it is cheaper for organisations to retain talent in their community than always trying to acquire new talent.

Therefore, to complete an outstanding employer branding strategy, a well-crafted marketing message needs to be supported by a well-crafted candidate relationship management strategy. It is only when candidates start interacting with an organisation that the employer brand is really put to the test.  

Making sure your organisation lives up to its messaging

A meticulously planned candidate management process that is perfectly executed will essentially help organisations to build their talent community when satisfied candidates (whether they are hired or not) become brand ambassadors, re-applying for future vacancies and referring other talented individuals to the brand. Since the recruitment department is the only department that interacts with people before they become employees, they take ownership as the custodians of the candidate management process. Recruiters need to make sure that every time they interact with a candidate (face to face or via technology), that it builds a relationship with the candidate and contributes towards brand equity.

Candidate relationship management strategies should take the following principles into consideration:

  • Candidates do not want to be treated as one of many options. They want to be treated as unique individuals. Therefore, all communication and interactions must be personalised as much as possible. 
  • Building relationships with candidates requires reciprocal value-adding personal interactions. You need to add value to their lives and career prior to the recruitment process.
  • Relationships require regular contact and not just contact whenever the company has a vacancy. Treat candidates not just as a means to an end but as and end by their own right. Candidates must be treated and feel like an equal partner in the talent relationship – allowing for reciprocal engagement. 

How to build a candidate relationship management strategy

In practice, it is extremely hard for organisations to balance the realities of administering large volumes of candidate applications with the goal of building a meaningful relationship with each and every candidate. To maintain this balance, a successful candidate relationship management strategy requires recruiters to work closely with technology, embracing the powerful capacity that machines have to work with data and administrative process while focusing their time and attention on the human to human aspects.

Recent technological breakthroughs such as Artificial Intelligence allow organisations to gain a true understanding of the large volumes of data that they are dealing with. Recruiters can benefit from these breakthroughs by working with various software applications that allow for personalised communication while harnessing the power of process automation. Modern applicant tracking systems have built-in candidate relationship management modules, allowing recruiters to engage strategically with specified talent communities. Add text messaging applications that allow for real-time engagement and AI software like chatbots into the mix, and technology empowers recruiters to reinforce the employer brand on a mass scale.

Technology is your friend 

Allowing technology to do what it does best will free up your recruiters to do what they do best – build a network of relationships. Instead of being chained down by transactional and administrative processes, recruiters can spend more time interacting directly with humans to improve the quality of the recruitment process. They will have more time to interact with line management to gain a more in depth understanding of the roles they are recruiting for. They will also have more time interact personally (video or face to face interviews) with candidates, enhancing their ability to measure the softer aspects such as culture fit. More human to human interaction build a strong network of relationships inside and outside the organisation that enhances the quality of the entire recruitment process.

More face-time with recruiters enriches candidates’ interaction with the brand, directly improving brand equity. Therefore, organisations need to be careful to balance the efficiencies brought by technology with human interaction. Relying too much on technology removes the humanity from recruitment and dealing exclusively with software is a real turn-off for candidates.  

Candidate experience process flow

Whenever I consult with new clients, I enquire about their candidate experience process flow. This is a simple visual representation of the events/activities that speak directly with candidates on a personal level, that runs parallel with the recruitment process. Throughout the recruitment process, there are certain milestones which allow the organisation the opportunity to enhance the candidate experience. Just think about that first email a candidate gets, or the first face-to-face interview, or the message of regret two of the top three candidates will receive once a hiring decision has been made. Develop personal touch-points around these events that makes candidates feel valued and you turn every candidate into a brand ambassador. 

Employer branding is much more than just sending out the right message to attract talent. It also includes all the interactions the brand has with talent once they decide to engage. A candidate relationship management strategy is needed to ensure that every interaction the organisation has with the talent in the market grows the brand equity. 

Elmen Lamprecht has over 15 years’ experience in HR, talent attraction and sales. Throughout his career, her has fulfilled regional and national roles in outsourced labour services, permanent recruitment and BPO services with a number of JSE-listed companies.