Common Candidate Engagement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common Candidate Engagement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Building a talent network is beneficial for any company. By doing so, you have a pool of talent ready to access whenever necessary. Maintaining that talent pool can come with its challenges, and you’d be surprised at the common mistakes companies make in their engagement efforts. Here are the most common candidate engagement mistakes I’ve found and some tips for ways that you can avoid them.

Not Understanding Your Audience

A big mistake companies make is putting out generalized communications for multiple audiences. When you try to target everyone, you'll have trouble developing content specific enough to win over anyone. In reality, you have to give meaningful thought to the audience(s) that you are truly seeking to target. You need to understand who your audience is, what you're trying to communicate to them, and what they're interested in hearing from you. If your content isn’t developed with your specific audience in mind, it’s going to be too general and therefore less effective. Ultimately, you'll end up with fewer positive results until you make changes to your content aimed at appealing to the needs and interests of the demographic you're actually seeking to connect with.

Tip: From start to finish -- regardless of whether you're focusing on acquisition or retention marketing -- you should research and understand the candidate, the candidate experience they'll have applying to an opportunity with your organization, and the messaging about the candidate journey through the application process that you'll want to put forth. Rather than trying to target everyone with generic messaging, aim to appeal to specific audience with tailored and personalized messaging based around their interests and background.


You're Not Being Cohesive

A big mistake is not looking at the big picture, the experience or individual journey, and putting a cohesive message together. If the message you put forth as the acquisition marketing strategy -- whether it's display, paid social, search organic through your website -- is not seamless, you may lose your audience. Edit your content to make sure all your messaging matches. If the sequence of events does not flow, you're going to lose out on conversions.

If people can’t follow what's happening in the process, they are going to get disinterested. This involves everything from the content you're putting forward, to the brand you're trying to represent, and even the smallest things such as the URLs that you're using to send people. If they don't all sync, people are going to notice and may abandon the process altogether. This is a common oversight companies make. For example, if you build a different site with another name, people need to see the connection. You cannot guarantee your audience will be able to see the connection outright. If your audience feels something different, they’re not going to trust it. If someone Googles your brand and sees a second site that feels different than the main brand, they may not trust it.

Your branding elements throughout the entire communication strategy need to be synchronous, and if you're going to veer from your brand, you need to be upfront by saying, “we are this company, here's a link to our website.”


You Aren't Aware Of The Positive And Negative Actions

When creating emails, it’s important to learn the difference between positive and negative activity. A big mistake many organizations make is missing the positive steps or actions their target audience takes. 

Identifying positive and negative activity is actually not too difficult. A positive action is when someone takes a desired action that you put in front of them. A few examples of positive actions would be when someone opens your email, when they click a link, they reply, they forward your email, or they whitelist your organization. A negative action is anyone who does an action that can harm the emails you're sending them, such as reporting you to spam.

A crucial mistake I see talent acquisition professionals make is thinking when someone unsubscribes from your emails, it’s a negative action. As it turns out, an unsubscribe can be viewed as a positive action. The reason this action is positive is because you're putting a link in front of your talent pool asking them to click that button if they don't want the material anymore. When someone right clicks on your email and says, “this is spam, this is junk” and moves your email into a spam folder, that's a negative action -- and this is what you're trying to prevent. 

In reality, you want people in the talent pool who don't want to receive your emails to unsubscribe from them, so you put it as an option at the bottom. This gives the candidate a chance to read your copy and what you're putting forward, which might make them stick around. If you put the unsubscribe button at the top of the email, many people don't even know why they're unsubscribing or what they’re unsubscribing to.

If your candidate still wants to unsubscribe from your content, the unsubscribe button is giving them an alternative to complaining. When someone complains about your emails, your deliverability goes down. High unsubscribes aren’t gonna hurt your deliverability directly. But indirectly, it's your consumers telling you, “I didn't want this communication. I am not positively receiving this.” 


You Aren't Evaluating Your Leads

An important step to take is to evaluate the source of leads, because you need to make sure that what you're getting is quality. The best way to get quality leads is through a landing page or having people come to your website and supply their information. If that's not an option, or if you're getting the leads cold, you need to evaluate that source. Then, take those leads and use a third party cleansing system.


More Is Not Better

The next mistake I see many companies make is having a mentality that more volume should equate to more conversions. More email volume is not necessarily better or healthier. You want to make sure that you're emailing the people who want to receive your communications -- because not every individual wants to hear from you.

A communication in front of the right person causes the conversion to occur. In order to identify who the right audience is, you need to go back to what your acquisition strategy is. How did you acquire these individuals? If these candidates came to you organically -- meaning they came through your main website or through a landing page -- they're going to be more responsive to your brand (because they came to you directly). If you’re contacting the individuals cold and they don't know who you are, they're not going to be as responsive. To that end, when you’re talking about acquisition marketing, you need to put an end date to when you're communicating with people.

Tip: When deciding on end dates, it’s different depending on where your lead came from. If the lead came from a landing page or your website, you should have moderate communication over 6 weeks - 3 months. If the lead came from a cold list, you should have light communication over 3 weeks.


You Aren't Testing

It’s important that you're testing your emails constantly. I like to follow the rule of three: one is not a trend, two is not a trend, only after testing three times can you start to understand performance. If you don’t test at least three times, you haven't actually tested -- you only start seeing trends after three. 

This is the bare minimum, because you should test until you’re confident. Testing regularly is important because you could test something today that can give you completely opposite results tomorrow. 

Tip: When you’re testing, don't change too many aspects of the email at once. For example, if you’re testing where your acquisition point is, don’t change your email copy and the structure as well. Multivariate testing is not the ideal way to test. Each change you make is going to impact the overall performance, and you can't truly measure what you test, when you're testing more than one thing at a time. If you have the time (and really even if you don’t), you should be doing single variant testing.


Not Giving People The Choice

Make sure there's a way to edit preferences. Not giving your candidates a choice is a key mistake companies make. Building a preference center, and having different types of copy or communication, will allow people to decide what you're sending them. One suggestion is putting multiple types of copy or creative out there for people to engage with and let them decide what they want to receive. 

One type of copy content should be conversion-focused (i.e. about your products and services) and the other informational (i.e. your newsletters or blog updates). Two different types of communication let people choose which one they want to receive. If you don't put a preference center out there stating, “tell us if you want to receive these,” you're going to get more people complaining or unsubscribing than you would like. 

Tip: The unsubscribe button can lead to a preference center that allows individuals to adjust their preferences before they unsubscribe. That way, you have the potential to retain someone who's looking to jump ship. Just remember to add the option to unsubscribe on your preference center.


You're Being Misleading In Your Messaging

If you're not upfront with your messaging or are being misleading, people will stop opening, complain, or they will unsubscribe. It’s all about building trust with the individual. 

You also don't want to be alarmist (to an extent), and you want to make sure the message that you're putting out there is going to be well received. You need to think of the consumer and put yourself in the consumers shoes and say, “if I received this email, how would I respond?” 

When you send a message, you're telling a story, and you have about 2.5 seconds to capture someone's interest before they move on. The first thing they're going to see is who's sending an email, the second thing they're going to see is your subject line, the third thing they're gonna see is your preheader, and the fourth is any copy from the body of the email that fits. This content should be a teaser of what the reader is to expect from your email. Make sure the content that's going to be displayed to the individual is in line with the story you’re trying to tell.

Tip: When you're mailing out to any audience, each email carrier email provider is going to display the first part of your messaging a little bit differently -- so it’s important to make sure your content can be displayed on any platform. 


Spell It Out

Another mistake I often see is assuming that recipients have context about the content in your emails. It’s easy to assume that the people in your talent network know everything about what you're sending as much as you know. Assume your audience doesn’t know your industry’s abbreviations and write the words out completely. I recommend not abbreviating anything in your copy, unless it's a standard well known abbreviation.

Tip: Many companies are using emoticons to abbreviate words. Different audiences may interpret an emoticon differently. What seems funny or playful to you, may be offensive to others. If you feel your audience would be receptive to it, test into it. It’s really about understanding and testing to make sure that you're not just doing something for the sake of doing or to try something because it’s a trend.



A talent network is a very powerful tool for companies, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep a happy and prospering pipeline. Being proactive and fixing these common mistakes will help maintain and even build trust with your audience.

If you're interested in learning more about best practices for email marketing and engagement, Recruitics is happy to help!


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