Recruiters – Work Smarter by Implementing a Candidate Nurture Strategy

A big thanks to the recruiters and leaders in this community for their passionate and unwavering focus on supporting their organizations. You are the reasons that have brought this work to life, and inspire more to be done!

Recruiter – We have 9,000 candidate records in our ATS.

Business – We do?

Recruiter – Yes! Isn’t that impressive?

Business – I guess so. But we only hired 27 people last year. That’s about .3% of our database. Is that good?

Recruiter – Well, we met our goal. 

Business – Could we have exceeded it? 

Recruiter – No. With only two of us, there isn’t enough time in the day to connect with more people.

Business – Maybe we should hire another person.

Recruiter – Yeah, we could really use the help.

A variation of this conversation happens all too often. Hiring goals are stretched annually and subsequently recruiting teams are too. Thinly. What if there was a better way, rather than simply falling back on the expensive idea of hiring another person, working longer hours, or struggling to just meet the goal? Spoiler alert. There is.

What is your team’s candidate nurture strategy? “Our what?”

Most organizations and recruiters say that their biggest challenge is the lack of having enough qualified applicants to fill open positions. How can that be? Your company has a database of 9,000 prospects! (For the purpose of this discussion, note that I mostly refer to “qualified” as someone who has the appropriate clearance.) 


“I sent out 30 emails on Monday and not one of them replied. It’s a tight market. I think we need to offer a sign-on bonus, or more salary.” Does this seem familiar?

How do prospects engage with your job marketing, employer brand, and employer value proposition if you aren’t connecting with them consistently? In other words, candidates who show that they’re more interested in who you are and what you offer as an employer can be prioritized, but you have to engage with them first, and then regularly. This recruitment marketing effort is achieved using a candidate nurture strategy, in which you provide regular, personalized communication to prospects, and based on how they engage with your communication, you can more easily see which candidates are cold, warm and potentially hire-ready.

“Sounds too good to be true.”

Let’s consider – candidate nurturing is a strategy intended to increase a candidate’s interest in working for your company. In a finite market such as intel/DoD, many recruiters spend their time looking for an untouched, secret meadow filled with a plethora of talent just waiting to be met by them. You know and I know that those don’t exist! At least not to that extent. But the good news is that you can have your own organic garden for which to develop, care for, cultivate, and benefit from over time.

Start planning your strategy by understanding: 
Who – who are you targeting? Can you segment your ATS into lists?
What – what communication and content will you send to each audience?
How – how will you track and measure if they engage with your communication to know that you are building their interest in working for your organization?When – when they engage, what will you do next, to deepen their level of interest?

Now consider how to design your strategy. Do you have the tools to do this or will you need to find alternative solutions? Remember, one of the main points here is to minimize the overhead of hiring another team member, or even any encroachment on your TA team’s nights and weekends. There are plenty of automation solutions available that will bolt onto your ATS or LinkedIn account. In terms of best practices, this is the direction you want to pursue, as the benefit here is a communication workflow that saves you time and automates much of the process! Automation tools will allow you to develop an effective nurturing campaign, without the heavy lifting associated with manual email messaging and/or LinkedIn InMail. 

An effective candidate nurture strategy should be personalized. Here are five considerations to help you personalize yours:

  • Start with a segmented list of prospects with similar characteristics, such as applied for similar jobs in the past, employee referrals, attended a hiring event, former employees, and similar.
  • Plan out what communication they will receive and how often, in sequence, that will help build their interest and influence their candidate journey (too much too quickly can be a turn off, and that is more of a drowning than a nurturing! Remember, this is your garden. Don’t over water it, and give it plenty of sunshine!)
  • Determine who the sender of the communication will be. Easy if only one or two people on the team, but this can be a bit more complicated with larger teams. 
  • Factor in how you will communicate, such as via text, email, phone, messaging app, etc.
  • Decide the key message and the call to action (CTA) for each communication.

Sample Workflow
The main idea in your design phase is to create a communication workflow. 

Schedule  Sender Method Message Call to Action
Day 1 Recruiter email Long time. How ya been Watch company-centric video, blog post, similar
Day 21 Recruiter email New program Review jobs on the program
Day 42 Hiring Manager email Introduction and program opportunities Ask for availability to meet for lunch to learn more
Day 63 Recruiter email Company spotlight – community involvement, news, awards, similar Review LinkedIn post
Day 84 Recruiter Call Time for lunch? Return call or email to coordinate

If you don’t have the budget for new tools, you can still pull this off through your ATS, just not with the full benefit of automation. But your results will remain better than adding an additional member to the team who also ignores candidate nurturing best practices. Begin with developing a sequential messaging manuscript (see above and create your own messaging topics). What is it that you want to say to this segment of your database? Create well thought out messages that are personalized, relevant, and build on your previous communications. You can ruin a perfectly good campaign by being irrelevant and appearing lazy to your audience. The message creation isn’t easy. Capturing the interest of a highly employable prospect requires patience and unique content that stands apart from the other messages they are receiving. This should be a healthy balance of focus on them as well as your organization. Automation tools will allow you to build your messaging workflow, complete with your sequential messaging and timeline. 

Once launched, the rest takes care of itself and your database begins to turn into a more useful resource your recruiting team can leverage to meet and exceed those annual goals! And when ready to take your strategy to the next level, you can do so by adding in lead scoring. What’s that? For each action that a candidate takes with your communication, such as opens, clicks, views, lunch meetings, calls, email replies, etc., you will give that candidate an increasing number of points. Recruiters can then factor in lead score when prioritizing their personal follow-up. There is recruitment marketing automation technology that can automatically assign lead scores and even notify a recruiter that a hot lead has taken a valuable action. This may not be feasible if you are already committed to an ATS that doesn’t allow for integrating 3rd party tools.


You can continue doing what you’ve been doing and getting the same results. And worst case, your results slip because of complacency, fatigue, frustration, and a feeling of helplessness!