The easiest way to source top talent?
Re-engage lost candidates.

At any given time, there are thousands of job openings at Google. For each one, we get hundreds of applications, but only hire one candidate.

What happens to the rest? To discard them would be a massive waste of potential. Many of these silver-medal candidates could be a great fit for the role or one of our other 2,999 open jobs.

At Google, we call these people “lost” candidates. They are the people filling your ATS but not filling roles at your company. Each one could be the perfect fit for a future role, but you won't know unless they return to your pipeline.

How do you lure them back? Re-engagement.

Why re-engagement is worth your time

Recruiters are trained to find new, fresh talent to fill their pipeline. But along with traditional sourcing, I also like to re-engage lost candidates for a few reasons:

  • The hiring process is faster. You already have former candidates' resumes, references, and interview feedback on file, so you don't need to complete a full hiring process. In these cases, the time to hire is practically zero.

  • It saves money. Here's why: Cost per hire includes the cost to acquire and hire talent. If you are re-engaging previous applicants, you've already acquired them. You don't need to post the role on LinkedIn, Indeed, or go to a trade show—you've already sourced and evaluated your talent.

  • Past candidates are likely to accept your offer. If a candidate has applied before, they tend to be much more interested and engaged than people who haven't. They've applied and interviewed at your company, so they already know what they love about your workplace.

Often, previous candidates, including former employees, are just as valuable, if not more valuable, than brand-new applicants. Re-engaging them to quickly fill your pipeline with top talent starts with designing a hiring culture that enables and encourages you to do so.

Build a hiring culture that supports re-engagement

You can't expect past candidates to consider future roles with your company unless their experience with your hiring process is first-rate.

After all, switching jobs is a big life decision, like getting married or buying a house. If you have a high level of respect for what candidates go through, you'll treat them in a way that leaves them excited to re-engage in the future.

Pave the way for future re-engagement by treating your current candidates according to these three principles:

  • Dignity. Treat candidates well every step of the way, and they'll be more receptive when you're ready to re-engage. Here are a few ways to practice this principle:

    • Respond to every candidate, regardless of whether you’re sending them an offer or a rejection. By communicating candidates' hiring outcomes in a timely fashion, you reduce their stress and allow them to move forward in their job search.

    • Arrive for interviews on time, and avoid cancelling interviews as much as possible. Sticking to the schedule shows candidates that you respect them and take the hiring process seriously.

  • Honesty. Transparency makes your hiring decisions feel more objective, which helps you avoid hard-feelings - even when you have to reject a candidate. Candidates who understand your decision-making process and feel that they were treated fairly will be more willing to re-apply in the future. Here are a few ways to practice honesty with candidates:

    • Be very clear about what you're looking for in a position. With this clarity, candidates can objectively assess whether the role is a good fit for them.

    • Offer truthful, non-negotiable feedback when you reject candidates to help them improve. Share why they were not offered a position, and you'll empowers them to become a stronger candidate.

  • Sensitivity. Show the candidate that you’ve taken the time to understand their specific background. That level of individualized treatment leaves candidates impressed and eager to reconnect in the future. Here are a few ways to practice sensitivity:

    • Mention small details about candidates' interests and background to show that you've done your research. For example, if a candidate went to the same college as I did, I would start our conversation by mentioning the connection and asking about their experience.

    • Understand candidates' background and how it matches the details of your opening. If you can explain how their specific interests align with the role, candidates will most likely be excited about working with you. Likewise, tactfully giving candidates clues about why they may not be a good fit (e.g., a lack of management experience or customer problem-solving) will make letting them down easier.

Practice these principles with every candidate, regardless of their hiring outcome. Your applicants will be impressed with your candidate experience and, as a result, be more willing to re-engage in the future.

How to re-engage your silver-medal candidates

You'll start every requisition with a pipeline of strong candidates if you've meticulously logged great applicants from the past.

You can't rely on paper-based, manual organization to store candidate information in a way that allows you to effectively re-engage. You need technology that tracks candidates for you and makes it easy to search through your database to find the right applicant.

The most useful contact-management tools are applicant tracking systems (ATS) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Some recruiters think these tools are black holes, but when used correctly, the truth is they're gold mines. A well-organized ATS and CRM can make finding silver-medal candidates easy when you use these three powerful organizational features:

  • Grouping: Create a shared group of silver-medal candidates in your ATS or CRM. Even when you're not hiring, use these lists to maintain relationships with promising candidates and track your most recent communications with them. Invite them to your company's events, tell them about conferences you'll be speaking at, and send them articles about your company's growth. Maintaining a relationship with these candidates when you aren’t hiring will make reaching out when you are hiring much easier.

  • Tagging: ATS and CRM software let you assign tags to candidates for easy categorization. Create a taxonomy of tags and document it so that you and your team can quickly sort and find silver-medal candidates. Here are a few recommended custom tags:

    • Job title
    • Location preference
    • Skills
    • Degree
  • Smart search: If you don't have a silver-medal candidates folder, some ATS and CRM tools include “smart” search features that can pull apart the criteria behind single job description keywords (“front-end developer”) to find past candidates from your database who are a great fit.

Track applicants with these features, and you'll be able to quickly find past candidates who are great fits for your current openings.

When you're ready to re-engage, give the candidate a call. If it's someone you've engaged with in the past, then you've probably spoken with them before. Picking up the phone is a great way to let them know you're still invested. Compared to an email or LinkedIn message, a phone call shows past candidates that you're seriously interested in working with them, which encourages them to re-engage and consider your current opening.

Keep the conversation smooth by following these re-engagement call steps:

  1. Thank the candidate for applying or engaging in the past. It's polite and allows you to ease into the conversation.

  2. Acknowledge their past application. Whether the candidate was rejected or declined an offer, it's important to recognize your last interaction, so you can address any relevant concerns. Say, for example, a social media marketer was rejected because they didn’t have enough quantitative experience for a marketing analyst role. When you re-engage, you could mention how this previous skills gap makes them the perfect candidate for your current social media marketer opening.

  3. Discuss the current opportunity and ask if they're interested. Describe the role, and explain with full transparency what your company is looking for. With this information, the candidate should be able to assess whether they're interested in the role.

  4. Follow up with next steps. If they are interested, set up an in-person meeting and send a follow-up email invitation that they can accept.

  5. Log the call in your ATS. With this record, your team can stay informed on your most recent communication with the candidate for future reference.

The key is to be both friendly and transparent about your expectations in this call. Strike this balance, and you'll leave a positive impression on every previous candidate, regardless of whether they want to re-engage or not.

Re-engage lost candidates to find top talent

You don't always need to screen hundreds of resumes to find your top candidate. More often than not, you've already screened and interviewed an applicant in another hiring round who is the perfect fit for your current role.

Don't miss a stellar past candidate. Enable your team to consider previous talent by introducing tracking tools and establishing a positive hiring culture that make re-engagement simple.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.

Request a Demo to learn more about how you can hire smarter, together, faster, with the recruiting app for G Suite.