For the last few years, my days have been filled with intake meetings and sourcing strategy. Building spreadsheets detailing our funnel of candidates, reaching out to candidates about opportunities and, of course, engaging with candidates. But predominantly I source.
Except over the past month the tides have changed, and I think I’m becoming Chief PenPal, as well. There are some days I could exchange up to six notes with just one potential candidate. That seems like a lot. It is manageable, and it is definitely an important aspect of my job. I’m on the front lines for our company. I think of these email exchanges as conversions, people who are on the fence… maybe not looking now, but who just need to know they’re dealing with a real person who has a degree of patience and doesn’t mind answering their questions.
What makes for a successful PenPal exchange?
- Address them the way they’ve addressed you. My kids have pointed out I can be too casual; they particularly hate the phrase “drop me a line.” So I check to see how the candidate has addressed me in their first volley… is it Hey? Hi? Dear?
- Did they call me Ms. or Mrs.? We need to break down that barrier—I’m just Kelly.
- Really read their note… maybe three times, and address all their queries in order.
- Volley back. I recently had a candidate contact me with questions about a job but also mentioned they wanted to make sure I was a “real person.” Hmmm. That’s concerning. What did I write or not write that made them think I was not real? Following up on that built more rapport and also made me aware that not everyone is reponsive to customized bit.ly links.
- Always answer where I found them. This is a science at our firm. We track every source and search string. I do have to tweak it to present in more of a normal conversation versus speaking sourcer to sourcer, but candidates still like to have this conversation.
This idea of being Chief Sourcer and PenPal doesn’t just apply to candidates—it’s important to extend the courtesy to vendors, as well. Vendors are easy to brush off, but if you share with them what you are or are not looking for or if you’re interested now or you’d rather chat in a couple of months, they can check you off their follow-up list and move on.
Is this part of the Candidate Experience? Heck yeah! But it’s also just common courtesy, which we have to make sure everyone on our team embraces as we see the number of jobs available continue to grow and the competition for candidates increase. Your engagement with candidates will be key—it’s great that you attracted them, but even more important that you build rapport and trust.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.