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Work Smart

The Better Way To Communicate With Job Candidates

How you interact with job seekers says a lot about what it's like to work for you.

The Better Way To Communicate With Job Candidates
[Photo: Flickr user Yoel Ben-Avraham]

According to a survey last year by the team feedback platform 15Five, some 81% of employees would rather join a company that values open communication than one that offers perks like free food and gym memberships.

The good news, of course, is that unlike some of those amenities, communicating well is free. The blunders you make during the hiring process can turn job seekers off, and these four simple communication tips can not only help you avoid them, they can give a major boost to the whole interview experience.

1. Don't Just Email

You already know that following up with candidates and keeping them up to date is an important part of the experience, but chances are that it all takes place overwhelmingly by email: You email candidates when you receive their resumes, after the interview, and when you make your hiring decision.

But if you’re only using email to communicate with job seekers, you’re not communicating as effectively as you can be. According to theEMPLOYEEapp’s 2015 Mobile Trends in the Workplace survey, 30% of employees ignore emails. That's probably less true of a job candidate, who might be on tenterhooks to hear from you. But it still hints at a shift in our communication habits and expectations: Email may no longer be the most effective or efficient way to converse.

It may sound a little too informal, but consider using social media or even texting when you need to send a quick update or message. In fact, the rise of messaging apps has led to a general reluctance to do the old-fashioned thing and pick up the phone. Yet 77% of professionals surveyed by LinkedIn last year said they preferred to receive good news during the job search over the phone. So if you have something more important to discuss, like interview details or offer negotiations, just give the candidate a call.

2. Send More Than Just Updates—And Sound Human

Your communication to candidates is short and sweet—you don’t have a lot of time, and you know they don’t either. You send them quick updates on their status throughout your hiring process, and that’s about it. But while brief communication is efficient, job seekers are looking for more from a prospective employer—they want a relationship.

In a survey of U.S. and Canadian employees by Virgin Pulse last year, 60% said their relationships with their employer positively impacts their focus and productivity at work, while 44% said their relationships with their employer helps improve their stress levels.

Of course, it’s unrealistic (and possibly ill-advised) to form relationships with every candidate before you commit to hiring them, but it's important to start making efforts in that direction with top contenders as early as you can. Build rapport in your communications by sending personalized messages that are clearly composed by a human, not a robot.

If that sounds obvious to you, consider the last dry, formulaic email you received from a hiring manager: "Thank you for taking the time to meet on Wednesday. Please let me know if you have any other questions. We will be in touch shortly with our decision."

3. Offer Some Feedback

After the interview, you probably don’t communicate with candidates until you've reached a decision. You let the candidate reach out first to say thanks, and then you probably just fire off a version of the lame note above.

But candidates are dying to know how they did, good or bad. In fact, 94% of respondents in the LinkedIn survey said they want to receive feedback on their interview.

Communicate with candidates about their interview performance on the spot and in person. Let them know what they did well and how they can improve. Doing so will show them that you care about their skills and professional growth, even if it turns out they aren't the best match for the specific position you're looking to fill. Sometimes that good karma can come back around, and over time, you'll find your company's stellar reputation in the job market precedes you.

4. Open Up Negotiations

Many companies don't mention a word about salary ranges from the job posting straight through the interview, saying only that it's "competitive." That's effectively meaningless to a job seeker. Hiring managers then only talk money when they're ready, and at that point typically state a number, then wait for the candidate either to accept or negotiate for a higher salary.

But without any other information, candidates don’t know if your offer is in line with their skills, or what’s typical at the organization. And to be sure, many companies feel it's in their best interest to keep candidates in the dark. But the truth is that candidates don’t necessarily want more money, they just want to know that they're being paid fairly.

A PayScale survey of 71,000 employees last year found that 82% of employees who were paid lower than their industry average but whose employer was open about their salary were satisfied with their jobs. In comparison, employees who were overpaid but didn’t have an open conversation about salary were less likely to be satisfied.

So be open and transparent about pay and benefits throughout the hiring process. That not only instills trust, it subtly shifts the focus away from the salary conversation, which is otherwise the subject of anxiety, speculation, and a grand reveal. When you finally do make an offer, show your math: How did you reach that figure? In addition, explain clearly how raises and bonuses work within the organization, and how the candidates can increase their pay over time.

Tim Cannon is the vice president of product management and marketing at HealthITJobs.com, a free job search resource that provides health IT professionals access to more than 1,000 industry jobs.

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