Candidate Engagement

My definition of talent is simple: it’s those people who have the skills, knowledge, and desire to work for your organization. Increasingly, it is hard to find people with either the skills or the desire.

When I speak with young people they are generally turned off by what they perceive as the impersonal and uncaring attitude employers have toward them. They wince every time they hear the expression “people are our most important asset.” They know that most executives really believe that labor is a cost, just like steel or semiconductors, and want to get it as cheaply as they can.

Their cynicism has basis, in fact: layoffs and dismissals still occur among the youngest and mostly recently hired employees regardless of contribution or ability. We still believe that time on the job is the most important reason to keep or promote someone.

Prospective employees instinctively seek out organizations that appear to care for their employees, treat them with respect, provide development and career opportunity, and keep people based on contribution. However, even organizations that do provide these often overlook how important they are to getting candidates interested in the organization.

Most career sites remain uninspiring. Interview processes remain sterile, with most recruiters and hiring managers not capitalizing on the power of getting candidates more involved in the recruiting process through technology.

Many recruiters are adept at engaging candidates when they are face-to-face, but many are at a loss on how to do this with candidates who are on their career site or whom they have found during an Internet search. The power of social networks and Web 2.0 is its ability to get people involved, with a process, with a topic, and with each other.

Facebook and other social networking sites offer a variety of experiences, tools, and content to excite, engage, and motivate people to come back often. LinkedIn offers email, lets you invite friends to join, and provides job information. Facebook offers more. It adds the ability to share photographs and music and to engage in real-time conversation. These are all elements that should become part of your recruiting process.

Five young people between the ages of 22 and 27 were part of a recent panel discussing work and recruitment. These men and women said they wanted to work for an organization that is a fun, exciting place. They wanted to contribute to the success of the organization in meaningful ways, not just by doing what they are told. They wanted some say in what decisions are made and in the manner they work. They were especially attracted to organizations focused on doing some sort of good for the world and its people. They all felt that the career sites of their organizations failed to give them any information about these issues. The sites were also deemed boring and administrative. These are from people who are used to Facebook and YouTube!

The Lesson

It is really a simple lesson. If you want to capture more candidates and get them to accept your offers, and ultimately retain them, then improve your thinking around how you get candidates involved virtually.

Forrester recently presented the results of a survey they conducted on engagement. In it they list four elements to a successful marketing engagement program:

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  • Involvement. Essentially is the component that measures whether a person is present.
  • Interaction. Doing something meaningful. Buying something. Taking a survey.
  • Intimacy. The sentiment or affinity that a person exhibits in the things they say or the actions they take.
  • Influence. Addresses the likelihood that a person will recommend your product or service to someone else.

I have taken the four Forrester findings and written them with recruiting and candidates in mind.


This is step one. This is your career site, your job description, or your company itself. Is it presented in an interesting way? If someone were to come to your website, how long would they stay? How many people who hear about you actually ever look at open positions or ask for information? Are your job descriptions written like the marketing tools they are, or do they just list requirements and facts? There is a lot of room in this step for improvement. Most career sites are not very compelling nor do they try to involve candidates in discovering more about the organization. Measuring this step is easy: use the Web analytics I am sure your IT department is already capturing to tell you how many have come to your career site, how long have they stayed, and how many additional pages have they looked at.


Do your candidates fill out profiles? Do they watch videos or download podcasts? Are they participating in your site? Interaction is a significant component of any Web 2.0 application and is the main method for getting people really excited and willing to explore deeper. All career sites should have three to five different ways to involve candidates. And once again, success can be measured by how many candidates use these tools and for how long.


This is a complex part of engagement and often its depth depends on the brand your organization has and what employees say about it. Candidates who get involved and interact for some time should come away with a general feeling about your organization and what it might be like to work there. Whether this is positive or not makes a huge difference as to whether someone will accept your offer and to how long they will continue to work for the organization.

Success in this step can be measured by how often candidates mention your company as an example to other recruiters or to friends. It can be measured by surveys about candidates’ perceptions of what it is like to work in your firm.


This is the Holy Grail or the ultimate goal of your engagement process. At this level, candidates are recommending your site to their friends and a viral referral program is in effect. This is easily measured by the number of referrals from other candidates and by membership in any networks you establish.

While this is a high-level view of a complex topic, the idea of getting candidates engaged is not new. What is new is how to do it effectively using the Internet and the more impersonal tools that have emerged over the past five years.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


2 Comments on “Candidate Engagement

  1. Recruiters and corporations are hopefully beginning to understand that the world has changed. You describe an environment in which *people* matter and are seeking meaningful relationships with their work, colleagues, their managers and the organization in general.

    This isn’t so strange and I believe has been the case since I started in the job market in the early 1990s.

    What is new however, is that organizations are, as you say, realizing that employees will quit, there is a cost to turn-over, that spreadsheets don’t reflect reality and that it does matter how you treat people.

    What you illustrate well, Kevin, is that this extends to how you communicate and engage potential employees. You’ve described some of the ways that a company can prepare itself to engage its audience. Much like preparing to deliver a good public speech, you’ve related the needs of the audience to the steps required to deliver the content of the speech.

    HR next needs to ensure that it delivers the message value. This means meaningful job descriptions, tight basic requirements, and candidate competencies that link to company values and managements’s own required competencies. These will help screen and identify candidates that will fit and progress appropriately within the company’s desired culture and evaluation methods.


  2. Kevin
    Forrester has a nice model with the four ‘I’s.
    The final I is similar to how customer service is measured with the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It is important to ask candidates about their willingness to refer others based upon their personal application process experience. This provides feedback on how closely the careers page experience is meeting candidate expectations for the first three ‘I’s.

    There are some lessons regarding this in the book: The Experience Economy. The authors suggest we look at the experience through the lens of this question: How would I change/build the experience if I was charging for it?

    Put on your candidate hat and see if your candidate experience has anything in it worth the price of admission ticket.

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