Are Personalized Messages to Candidates a Waste of Time?

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Apr 25, 2022

The answer to the title of this article depends on what we mean by “personalized.” So let’s start by pointing out that about 50% of sourcing time is invested in trying to engage with candidates. Indeed, candidate engagement is hard, time-consuming, and often frustrating. Passive candidates are especially hardest to hook.

And so recruiters spend a disproportionate amount of time drafting messages to candidates via LinkedIn, email, and, yes, even phone calls. They assume that the more personal a message is, the higher the chances of getting a response. What’s more, there’s no shortage of advice on crafting messages; LinkedIn provides several tips, including a compelling subject line, a message focused on the candidate rather than the company, a call for action, and more. 

This is all good advice — but it’s not really scalable. Researching each candidate’s background when drafting a message may take 10 to 20 minutes per message. That can bring you to upwards of eight hours of engagement per job if you want to reach out to 50 candidates. Meanwhile, InMail average response rate is 10% to 25%. This leaves 75% to 90% of your candidates unresponsive. 

That is a poor ROI. 

If you send messages to 50 candidates per job and five respond, you may end up with two or three qualified candidates for interviews. That may not be enough to make a hire in a market where candidates have multiple opportunities. 

And this is only via LinkedIn messages. You can also send emails and do cold calls. But this adds to the time already spent on engagement and to its inefficiency. On the other hand, everyone in marketing knows that you need several touchpoints to achieve response. Recruitment marketing is no exception.

The most effective and efficient way to create more touchpoints is via AI technology. In leveraging tech, however, it’s important to consider numerous aspects to ensure you’re not creating touchpoints for the sake of creating touchpoints. That is, the quantity is as important as the quality of touchpoints, as is how you manage them. Here’s what to keep in mind when using AI tech to engage candidates.

Wider reach. AI can select and reach out to many candidates on your behalf. It can use a job description and a little feedback from you (thumbs-up and -down on profiles) to curate a list of hundreds of potential candidates. It can then contact these candidates at scale. The response rate might be lower than a manual approach, but, for example, with 200 candidates contacted, even a 5% response rate will get you 10 additional interviews. 

A drip campaign. AI can run a drip campaign with a series of messages at optimized timing. If the candidate does not respond to the first message, a second message is sent. A good practice is to send up to three email messages, as well as give the candidate an option to click on “Interested” or “Not Interested.” If “Not Interested” or “Unsubscribe” are clicked, the campaign is stopped. Often, the second and third emails deliver more than 50% of the total positive responses. 

Message timing. If you are sending individual messages, you may not be sure about the best time to send them. The best day of the week and the best time of day may vary by the candidate’s seniority, job, and location. AI, though, can optimize the message timing at a very granular level. Millions of data points are collected and analyzed to maximize response for each candidate.

In addition, AI can predict candidates’ propensity to leave their jobs — even before they take action to do so —  by analyzing career patterns and social-network signals. It can then reach out to candidates just before they start their search. 

Personalization that matters. Now, it’s true that a human-generated email can be more personalized than one developed by AI tech. But it’s worth asking: Just what sort of personalization really matters? 

AI can still send messages personalized based on the candidate’s skills, previous experience, and their relevance to the job. AI-crafted messages can also provide much information about the role, the company, and their relevance to the candidate. Additionally, such communication can show profiles of people who are currently working in a similar role at the company or people who used to work in that role and were promoted to more senior roles. 

All told, such messages may not be hyper-personalized, but they’ll certainly be personalized enough to enable connecting with people —  even if it’s clear to recipients that such messages were not sent by a human.

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