How to Keep Candidates Warm During the Recruiting Process

One of the biggest complaints candidates have about working with internal and external recruiters is the spottiness of the communication between them.

Recruiters deal with dozens or scores of candidates, whereas a candidate may be in one, two or three interview pipelines at one time — but seldom 10 or 15 of them.

As every kindergarten teacher in history has thought silently if not said out loud, “There are so many of them — and only one of me!”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the volume of candidates to look after, and for a recruiter that is only one side of the story. Recruiters are also busy keeping hiring managers and HR people apprised of new developments, questions, and issues that arise during the recruiting process.

However, when a candidate has been to a job interview and is awaiting feedback, recruiters can easily fall down on the job. They may tell candidates “When I have news for you, I’ll be sure to let you know,” but that is not good enough.

Your candidates need to hear from you whether you have news or not. That is simple human courtesy, but it is also good recruiting practice. You don’t need a candidate to disappear from a recruiting pipeline because they got tired of waiting for you to be in touch!

A simple solution to improve your candidate communication during the post-interview period is to set up reminders that will nudge you to communicate with candidates more often.

To illustrate, let’s imagine that Brenda is an internal recruiter for a community college. Brenda has to wait for six members of a search committee to get back to her with feedback after every job interview. Collecting that feedback from search committee members is one of the hardest parts of Brenda’s job.

Many or most of the search committee members are faculty members who have no day-to-day involvement in the community college’s hiring process. They don’t realize how the timeliness of their interview feedback affects the entire recruiting system, not to mention the college’s employer brand!

Brenda uses email,  text messages, and face-to-face visits to get search committee members to give her the interview feedback she and her candidates desperately need.

Even so, Brenda finds herself chasing search committee members just to get a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down after each candidate interview. Weeks can elapse. Candidates can get sick of waiting and remove themselves from the pipeline — a massive waste of time, energy and money.

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To keep candidates warm in the recruiting pipeline while she is working on the search committee side of her job, Brenda has created a set of simple email messages that she sends to candidates. Brenda’s standard for herself is to be in touch with every candidate in the pipeline at least once per week, whether she has news for them or not.

Here is one of the template emails Brenda uses to keep candidates feeling valued and well-informed even when she has no news to report:

Dear [X],

I hope your week is going well! I wanted to check in and let you know that I’m still gathering feedback after your interview with the search committee.

It may take a few more days to hear from all of the search committee members, and I didn’t want you to think I had forgotten about you.

You may have questions for me, and I hope you’ll let me know if that is the case. I will be in touch as soon as the search committee’s feedback is complete, but I am always happy to answer your questions in the meantime.

Thanks and have an outstanding day!


Brenda Starr

Brenda’s simple email update makes a huge, positive difference in her recruiting results. Taking just a few moments to keep candidates feeling warm and toasty has made Brenda the most successful recruiter in her institution.

Everybody is overwhelmed, including candidates, recruiters, hiring managers and other people involved in the recruiting process. However, “You haven’t heard from me because I had nothing to report” doesn’t cut it in today’s competitive recruiting environment.

You wouldn’t trust your home sale to a realtor who told you “I will let you know when somebody makes an offer on your house” and doesn’t communicate with you otherwise.

The stronger the candidate, the higher their expectations will be around prompt communication from a recruiter like you. Keep your candidates warm in the recruiting pipeline and you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises that can make your job harder than it needs to be!

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP and is the world's most widely read career advisor. She is CEO & Founder of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Liz Ryan is also author of the recently released book, "Reinvention Roadmap" -- a new millennium guide to successfully navigating the often complex and confusing world of job search today by breaking the rules to get ahead.


7 Comments on “How to Keep Candidates Warm During the Recruiting Process

  1. Liz, this is a great article with excellent advice (and I was a fan of ‘Brenda Starr, Star Reporter, back in the day – love the reference!). As a corporate recruiter who is well aware that we aren’t the only company hiring, this is an old-fashioned best practice to keep candidates in the loop. But recently, I’ve been in my own job search, and I can say first hand that recruiters generally stink at giving any type of feedback, keeping a candidate warm, or even telling them there are no further steps. How hard can it be to use the nice manners our mothers taught us?

    Outlook has some great tools for creating messages that can be sent at the push of a button, and all you have to do is set them up as a template or Quick Step. Set up those calendar reminders, set up your templates, shoot – copy your draft into your reminder if think that works best, and work smarter, not harder at keeping those candidates warm.

    Mind your manners and let people know where they stand, for Pete’s sake.

    Kacey Claiborne

    1. A good ATS can automate a lot of these tasks too, and following up each Friday so someone isn’t wondering over the weekend is so easy to do. Just instituted “Follow Up Friday” where I set aside 1-2 hours to send follow up “haven’t forgotten you” emails to anyone in my active pipeline. Super easy and I get such great notes of thanks!

      1. Thanks Liz, Kacey, and Steph. These are very important suggestions. Taking them to the next level of technical sophistication: you may be able to use an *AI chatbot programmed to send out customized, interactive, and (if necessary) escalating messages to *candidates and hiring managers/ interviewers. If the chatbot gets something it can’t handle, you get notified immediately. So instead of spending a couple of hours/week dealing with this routine activity, you spend this amount of time (maybe a bit more) up front, a fraction of that on an ongoing basis, and then can work on higher value-add activities.


        Keith Halperin, 415.672,7326

        *or a $3.00/hr offshore virtual assistant.
        ** This would also be a great way to create, develop, and manage a candidate pipeline/community of hundreds/thousands of potential candidates without spending more than a little direct human interaction

  2. Great article, thank you for sharing your insights & advice. I agree that keeping your contacts warm is a polite thing to do and makes your company seem more human and genuine in the process. How many bad experiences have we all had when companies fail to contact you at all, even to say you did not make it through the first step? As Steph noted below, using an ATS System like Recruitee makes this process even easier. The first few steps can be fully automated and simple “we haven’t forgotten you” messages are easy to compile and send to all applicants still in the pipeline. I just wish more companies would realize that such small steps go a long way in how you are presented on the job market in the long run.

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