Why you should treat job applicants as clients

Make job applicants your best clients - www.labourflaws.comBy Barbara du Preez-Ulmi. This article is all about why you should start treating job applicants as clients, how to do so practically and how you’ll benefit from making this change of mind.

If you’re already using workflows and website/ app visitor tracking scores that help you categorise potential clients, which you’re then feeding back into your personalised communication strategies and to your front-desk teams via your CRM or ATS; and if you’re creating funnelled content experience journeys for your various personas, read no further. You’re completely on the right track – that is, if you also include job applicants in your visitor and client mix.

If this all sounds like someone had just explained to you that a nuclear reaction starts by shooting neutrons at uranium-235 atoms, invest a few minutes in reading this article and get started with the below 9-point action plan.

Why job applicants are perhaps your most important clients

Job applicants are not just buying your goods or service. They are shopping for a long term relationship and an experience. Sure, you may say the same about those that you traditionally view as clients. But after 15 years in marketing and communications, I’d argue that this is often more wishful thinking from a brand-centric perspective than reality.

While looking for employment, job seekers move in sensitive and vulnerable spaces. They put themselves on the line; they carry their hearts on a sleeve; they reveal more information about themselves than what you’re allowed to store (for more info: GDPR).

Job hunters are more connected and more critical than many of your traditional customers, as they are actively researching and networking – their profiles are not a dormant sandbox on LinkedIn and they check industry-related news more often than your clients like your tweets.  Just like with your other clients, a bad experience could result in serious brand damage and social naming and shaming.

According to a survey conducted by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry, almost half (48%) of the 422 people surveyed said that they would urge friends and family to avoid a brand if they felt they’d been treated poorly in the recruitment process. A quarter (25%) would consider taking to social media to share their bad experience.

It’s a global fact that most job applicants report bad experiences when dealing with potential employers. If you’re an employer looking to grow your talent pool, start seeing the human behind the application, and not just another CV clogging your inbox. Start treating them like you would and do any other client interested in your brand.

Some of them might have even done business with you before, liked your Facebook videos, or know someone working in one of your teams. Read the below blueprint action plan showing you how you may be able to track these activities and use them for relationship-building.

The 9-step blueprint action plan

This plan helps you integrate job applicants who are connecting with you on your social media sites, your website, job portals, apps and similar into the existing client stream – from browser to shopper to delighted consumer.

Presumption  1:  You kind of know how many and perhaps what kind of clients you have: you have a database with information containing their contact details, whether they are subscribed to your newsletter or not, and when last they interacted with you (be it as buyers, event participants, donors or similar). I also hope sincerely that you’re GDPR compliant, especially if you’re moving in a European space.

Presumption 2: You are using a third party (or proprietary) solution that helps you profile and segment the different types of personas who interact with your business or organisation online. For instance, a CRM (customer relationship manager) such as HubSpot, SharpSpring, LeadBi, SalesForce, or ZenDesk.

Presumption 3: You’ve long done your homework as a brand living in the digital age and you do have managed social media accounts such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and perhaps even Instagram and Google+.

The 9 action points:

  1. Create a new client type in your CMS called “Job Applicant”.
  2. Map out pages and forms within the content that you own – that is, those that job applicants are most likely to visit and fill in, such as: a page describing a current vacancy with a Submit button; an application form on your job portal; an Apply button on your LinkedIn job ad.
  3. On this note – why not use Social Login in your application process: Offer job seekers the option to upload their information on your job portal by creating a login via their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts  (instead of the traditional “enter username and password”- approach). This way, you’ll have some upfront information about a new lead (make sure to be transparent about what data you’ll have access to, and how you’ll be using/ storing it).
  4. Add tracking to the CTAs (Click-to action) callouts as described above (for instance; the Submit or Apply buttons). This will define the person who has entered their data as a “Job Applicant” in your database.
  5. Create a series of autoresponders (automated emails) that move applicants through the various stages of the process; for instance: a Thank You email confirming you received their interest; a Follow Up email asking them for their patience if the process is taking longer than planned; an email / survey containing a series of questions around personality, culture and work ethics; an email asking second-round candidates to write an assignment or voice-record an answer to a behaviour-based question.
  6. In order to map the above emails against your talent acquisition process properly, you first need to actually have a talent pipeline mapped out; rather than building this yourself, I recommend you use an ATS (application tracking system) such as Breezy HR or Bamboo HR, for instance. You’d also want your CRM to by synced to your ATS to be able to build a professional, smooth process that allows for an optimal full-cycle experience by all applicants.
  7. Map all data received and set up scorecards (from CVs, questionnaires, forms; but why not also from whether the client type applicant has subscribed to your newsletter, is following you on your social media sites, or has visited a minimum amount of pages on your website) against your own scorecards for your various open positions. For instance: 100 points for applicants who have certain keywords on their CV or in their cover letter; who have answered certain questions, such as length of experience, positively; who follow you socially and even comment on your posts; who visited at least 10 pages on your site showing a real interest in what you do; and who might already be in a different client type segment in your database. It’s up to you – you know what’s important. The main aim here is to filter out applicants who don’t only have a stellar CV, but also show an interest in what you do. It’s part of relationship building. Every applicant will have a certain amount of “points” against your top score and this will help you filter out those who you want to interview and perhaps hire. Scorecards are easy to set up with certain CRM and ATS solutions.
  8. Important note: It’s not just about seeking out the “low hanging fruit”- it’s about relationship and brand building. And that is a two-way process. Create the best possible experience for the client; make sure to add those who had a great score but didn’t make the cut, or the final interview, to a talent pool. Again, if you’re using an ATS, this will be fairly easy to set up. Set up a communication workflow for the various clients in your talent pools motivating them to keep applying, or connecting with you in other ways (social media, as volunteers or short-term consultants; to review your talent acquisition process – you may ask them to do it via Google + which may help you get better organic ranking for your job-related pages).
  9. While the above is a very brief outline of how to set up the technology in the background, it’s your own people who will drive the experience for your clients, especially job-seekers. Use the power of your own employees – make them part of the process. This may be in the way they communicate to pro-active applicants who call in or visit; it may be by creating an internal job-portal that they may share with interested friends; as their references, they may receive an incentive if the lead turns into a new employee; but also by creating a social media guideline that outlines social etiquette online when representing your brand; especially so for those in your HR or marketing teams who respond to interested job seekers who are commenting on your job ads on LinkedIn or other social media networks.

The results

A talent acquisition strategy that sees every applicant as a potential client is the basis for anyone wanting to earn themselves the label of Employer of Choice.

The strategy needs to be built on  a sound technology stack; backed up by great communication flows; and supported by all of your staff.

The applicant’s experience doesn’t start and end with the submission of his or her CV. It’s part of a full life circle experience: Application, interview stage, employment, on-boarding, career development, talent assessment, recognition, further learning experience, and a great exit experience should the  direct relationship come to an end at some point.

If done right, and with honesty and consistency, the results may be any or all of the following:

  • Better brand reputation and increased brand love;
  • New leads and references for future interaction;
  • A talent pool for future employment, saving cost and resources;
  • A culture of humanity, care and professionalism.

Make applicants feel valuable and valued. They put in a lot, sometimes for a very long time, to try find a great job, make a connection and build a new relationship.

If you need help with any of the above, contact me for a free initial consultation. 


The author, Barbara du Preez-Ulmi of Labourflaws,  retains the copyright of this blog article. No part of this blog article may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the publisher’s written permission. Any unauthorised reproduction of this work will constitute a copyright infringement and render the doer liable under both civil and criminal law.

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