Using Mail Merge for Candidate Follow-up

Recruiters have taken a lot of hits for not following up with candidates even if only to say, ‘Sorry, this job did not work out but I’d like to have your permission to call you for the next one?” This is evident in a post titled Recruiters Need to Follow Through by Stephen Dufaux and an open poem to recruiters written by a candidate on’s technical recruiter forum, lamenting about this practice.

We all can agree that following up (or the lack of it) with candidates is a big differentiator in recruiting or any other career for that matter. The question now is how one can go from being a non-responsive recruiter to one who follows up. To address this we have to first identify the reasons recruiters don’t follow-up.

  • Procrastination: Putting things off until we convince ourselves that it wasn’t important in the first place.
  • Insensitivity: We feel that candidates should already know that a no-response from a recruiter means that they were rejected, so why would one require a phone call/email for that?
  • Fear of Conflict: We’re afraid of the conversation that might ensue after we tell someone that they were rejected.
  • No Automated System: There is no automated process for performing candidate follow-up, and doing it the normal way takes a lot of time.

The first, second, and third reasons are easier to fix because they require mindset changes that can be induced by understanding the un-mined benefits of candidate follow-up.

Following up can be a matter of choice (for the contract/independent recruiter) or can be made mandatory and incorporated as a business rule in any recruiting software for corporate and 3rd party recruiters. In either case, following up is good for business for a number of reasons. It builds credibility, which is the main ingredient for candidate and client referrals. When candidates know that recruiters don’t think of them as numbers and perceive that recruiters care about their job well being, candidates will respond in kind with the natural next step of referring recruiters to other people in their network.

The last reason for not following-up is more difficult to fix because it requires the use of a software system that may not be readily available to all recruiters. For recruiters who already have a software system in the form of a CRM (Customer Management Systems) or ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), it becomes easy to add a workflow that provides a process for automated follow-up, if not already in place.

For other recruiters who do not have a system, here’s a simple way of putting the technology you may already have to another use, thereby maximizing your software investments.

Mail Merge: It’s a tool in Microsoft Word that can be used to send individualized (mass) emails. You can use this for candidate follow-up.

So you talked to seven candidates for a particular requisition and for different reasons have identified only two to advance to the next stage of hiring process. What do you do with the other five? Instead of procrastinating till you’re labeled a non-responder, you can send them individualized emails using mail merge at the end of each week or day depending on your bandwidth. Here’s how.

Create a new contact folder in MS Outlook and name it accordingly; example, NotNowCandidates.

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Right-click on your inbox -> click New folder -> type NotNowCandidates in the name box -> In the ‘Folder contains’ pull down menu, select ‘Contact Items’ -> In the ‘Select where to place the folder’, select a containing folder for your new NotNowCandidates folder contact folder. Click OK and you have created a container where all your identified candidates are stored.

Add identified contacts to this new NotNowCandidates folder: To add the rejected candidates to this folder …

Right-click an email item from an identified candidate -> Click Move to folder -> Find and select the NotNowCandidates folder created in the last step -> Click OK. Do this for all the candidates you want to follow up with.

Create a form letter in MS Word that contains the message you want to send to each person. You can download a sample form email

  1. Open Microsoft Office Word
  2. Locate and Open the downloaded sample form email, and click OK.
  3. On the ‘Mailings’ tab, in the ‘Start Mail Merge’ group, click ‘Start Mail Merge’ and then select ‘Email Messages.’
  4. In the ‘Start Mail Merge’ group, click ‘Select Recipients,’ and then click ‘Select from Outlook contacts’
  5. Locate and select the contact list you created earlier, and then click OK.
  6. To add unique messaging to each candidate, select the X located after Hi.
  7. On the ‘Mailing’ tab, in the ‘Writing and Insert Fields’ group, click ‘Insert Merge Fields’ and then select the ‘First’ for the first  name of your candidate from the contact list.
  8. In the ‘Previewing Results’ group, click ‘Preview Results’ to see the results of the merged fields.
  9. In the ‘Finish’ group, click on ‘Finish & Merge’
  10. Select ‘Send Email Messages,’ and then in the ‘Merge to Email’ window, ensure that ‘Email’ is selected in the To: drop down list box.
  11. Enter subject of your choice in the ‘Subject Line’ text box; e.g.  ‘Job Follow up’
  12. Click OK to send the individualized and unique emails to all the addresses on your contact list.

In just a few steps you are able to follow up with your candidates, sending individualized emails to 2 – 300 or more candidates at one time. I hope you use this to put your candidates’ minds at rest and begin to change the view candidates have of recruiters one follow-up email at a time.

Obi Ogbanufe is a speaker, trainer, and founder of Indigomark LLC, a technology consulting firm in Dallas, Texas, with fifteen years of hands-on IT experience. She is also the author of ?Technology Made Simple for the Technical Recruiter ? A Technical Skills Primer.? You can reach her at


6 Comments on “Using Mail Merge for Candidate Follow-up

  1. Obi- Thanks for the article… You are correct, candidate follow up is a huge problem in our community. You identify an idea to deal with the issue in this article and that is great. (talk is cheap, this article shows action) We use Infusionsoft/CRM. ATS (“Average Tracking System”), and other recruiter specific software often fails to address “follow up failure”, which is why we went outside the industry on our CRM/Automated solutions… Best,

  2. Obi,
    Thank you for your support of the ongoing issue in following up with candidates. Also, for your recommendations on a technological option that would help to ensure the process is conducted. There are so many reasons to follow up with applicants and candidates in which initial conversations have been initiated, and there are several tools that will aide in doing so. The most essential thing is that it is conducted… through some channel.
    Best. S DuFaux

  3. @Stephen – thank you. It was your article that made me start thinking of how to make following up simpler for the recruiter using tools we already have.

  4. Good tips for people without ATS. I have reviewed many different ATS and CRMs and although there are very cheap and free options available in this category but those tools miss these kind of features, mainly because these tools are build by people who have never been recruiters. For this reason, I decided to write my own software that includes ATS, CRM and Job sharing portal, as most of the recruiters just need one software that does all.

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