Cultivating a Candidate Community

Maximize your return on investment

According to a Bullhorn survey, 64% of staffing firms point to candidate acquisition and experience as the top priority. But are some firms focusing more on acquiring candidates and less on the candidate experience? Kelli Schutrop, Vice President of Sales for Parqa Digital Marketing Agency, sees firms investing significant energy into the ‘top end of the funnel.’ Industry-wide, an estimated $60 billion is spent on candidate acquisition. Of that, however, $24 billion is lost to turnover. Schutrop recently presented at a TechServe Alliance Webinar, in which she shared the challenge she sees in this and the opportunity.

There are sweeping systemic challenges in the labor market. There is the so-called ‘Great Resignation,’ with employees quitting in higher numbers. In the technology sector specifically, there are widespread shortages of key skills because fewer graduates are entering the market, at the same time more people are retiring. With more companies hiring remote employees, candidates are not geographically restricted as in the past, so competition for talent is changing. Competition between staffing firms is changing as well; there is an improved candidate experience across the industry. This is a good thing, but it also means it’s more difficult for firms to differentiate themselves from others.

The opportunity is the revenue potential. To illustrate, Parqa suggests thinking about how many inactive candidates are in your ATS right now. What percentage could be redeployed, with nurturing and the right opportunity? What would that mean to your top line?

“Most firms are putting a ton of money into getting new candidates every time there’s a search,” Parqa says, “rather than focusing on what they have as a goldmine in their database.”

To realize the opportunity to cultivate your candidate community, you need to communicate with those candidates. To communicate effectively, you need the right tools. And for those tools to work, you need good data. In her presentation, Schutrop walks through these steps.

First: Good Data

Clean, accurate data is foundational; without it, efforts to engage your candidates won’t be efficient. There are real hurdles here, from inaccurate information entered by candidates, to duplicate records, to outdated information caused by fewer candidates proactively keeping recruiters informed. Not surprisingly, few firms have a high level of trust in their data and therefore can’t use it to make informed business decisions.

“In our industry, data has been something we tuck over in the corner. ‘We have an ATS, we’ve had it for years, and there’s a lot of information in it … and I don’t know if I can trust it.’” The first step, Schutrop says, is to grow trust in your data. Only then can you activate it, making informed business decisions based on what the data tells you.

For example, goals related to candidate acquisition might have one KPI for the number of new leads in the past 90 days. Your data should be able to tell you that number. For goals related to candidate retention, KPIs might include data from candidate satisfaction surveys. Good data allows for sound decisions.

Next: The Right Technology

After your data is as clean and accurate as possible, you can begin to use the technology tools to support firms in our industry in creating a community with the candidates in your network.

Technology tools available today allow recruiters to automate communication with candidates by email or text message, reaching them how they want to be reached. This technology produces enormous benefits for the recruiter by allowing them to nurture relationships with more candidates and to touch base more frequently than ever.

There are also significant benefits for the firm. These tools allow a firm to create scalable processes, lifting all staff towards the level of their best recruiters. Parqa points out, the techniques and messages that work well for one recruiter will likely help another recruiter if they’re replicated and personalized. This is particularly useful when onboarding new recruiters, shortening the learning curve dramatically. Parqa also notes that these technologies are valuable retention tools as well. A recruiter is far less likely to be tempted away to another firm if they’ll lose access to tools that work for them and help them achieve the success they want.

Then: Communication Strategy

With good data, and the right tools, the next step in cultivating a candidate community is to use those tools to communicate with that community. According to a Bullhorn survey, 43% of people who see recruiters in a negative light said that it was because of poor communication. That’s why before hitting ‘send,’ Parqa recommends first investing time and attention in strategy.

To understand how to best reach your candidates, Parqa suggests considering the candidate journey. This journey consists of the steps candidates take as they move through a relationship with your firm, from first contact to redeployment. The six steps are:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Placement
  • Transition
  • On contract
  • Preparing to redeploy

At each stage, Parqa suggests thinking about what a candidate is thinking, feeling, and doing to inform your communication strategy, giving you the ability to communicate with the candidate with the right message at the right time. Influencing them to stay with you, rather than move to another staffing firm.

Taking this one step further, Parqa recommends creating candidate personas reflecting the candidates your firm typically employs/contracts. She recommends mapping out 2-3 of these personas, considering what success means to them. Walking through the steps of the candidate’s journey and considering the pain points they experience at each step (what they’re thinking, feeling, and doing) will help you better craft the messages that speak to those pain points.

Last: Don’t Lose the Humanity

Parqa cautions that automation should be smart; not just for automation’s sake but to make your human interactions better. “Technology is there to make your good processes, and your good experiences for people, better. Not to detract from them.” She highlights examples of missteps – situations in which automation has been implemented without the human connection that creates the results you want. In one case, an NPS score survey was sent to candidates, assessing their satisfaction, but there was no follow-up. An extraordinarily low rating should trigger a phone call to diagnose and fix a problem, a very high score should prompt a congratulatory response … and a request for referrals.

“Let’s assume that ⅓ of a recruiter’s day is spent on data entry, ⅓ on prospecting, and ⅓ in ‘human stuff’,” Schutrop says. “Nobody gets into recruiting to do data entry.” The role of technology should be to automate data entry and prospecting, freeing your recruiters to do more of the ‘human stuff’.”

The ROI in Cultivating a Candidate Community

“The staffing firms leading the pack,” Schutrop says, “are investing in scalable processes, technologies, and communication strategies to ensure long-term growth and drive enterprise value.” She cites one case from Parqa’s work, putting in place a candidate nurturing strategy as described above. That project resulted in 2100 placements over 11 months, translating to $60 million in revenue.

Think again about the number of inactive candidates in your ATS and the revenue potential these candidates represent. With good data, the right technology tools that are well implemented, and a communication strategy defined by messages that reach and engage your candidates, your firm can tap into this opportunity. To view the full recorded presentation, here. For a copy of the presentation, click here.