When Should You Follow Up with a Candidate?

October 9, 2014

When it comes to pursuing top candidates you don’t want to come off too strong, but you also don’t want them to slip through the cracks. Here are a few tips for determining exactly when the time is right to send that perfect follow up.

As a startup recruiter, most of my day is spent sourcing for candidates, holding phone screens, scheduling interviews, and sifting through applications. It is quite rare, unfortunately, that the ideal candidate has applied to my posting via inbound, so much of my energy is spent on outreach to prospective candidates. As I go about my day, I also set aside time to check in on previous candidates I’ve worked with or others I’d like to reach out to for a second time. It is always a delicate dance to determine when to follow up with a candidate as I want to maintain a genuine connection with the individual, but also want to really make sure this person is or is not interested in my position.

First Off, Track the Timeline

To quickly determine your level of correspondence with the candidate, it is best to keep track of as much information as possible, whether in an applicant tracking system, Excel spreadsheet, or Google document. This will not only help you stay organized, it will also clearly show you each stage of communication with the candidate from first touch point to phone screen to interview to offer. With this information handy, you can clearly identify when you last emailed or spoke with the candidate.
The tracking method also proves its worth when you hire for future positions of similarity. You’ll already have a target list ready to go and will be able to begin outreach painlessly!

Use Your Judgment

If it’s a candidate you’ve never spoken to before…
Say you reached out to one candidate 3 weeks ago with no response. I’d recommend reaching out to them again with a quick follow up note regarding who you are, why you’re contacting them, and what position they might be interested in. This is the candidate’s opportunity to take a second look at what you have to say and respond accordingly. This second message will often spur a response, favorable or not.
If it’s a candidate you spoke with but didn’t send to the hiring manager…
You’ll find that this group is quite large. If the position you connected on has closed, send the candidate a note informing them but also letting them know that you wish to continue working together for future positions. This leaves the door open on both sides to continue correspondence. If you truly believe the candidate is strong, you’ll likely want to reach out to them once a month to check in on their search status.
If the candidate interviewed with the hiring manager but was not selected…
By this point, you will have spent a significant amount of time with this category of candidates. After the position closes and you inform your candidate of the hiring manager’s decision, it will be important to follow up 2-4 weeks later and perhaps once a month after that. Likely, they will still be engaged in a job search and will want to see if you have any additional positions that could be a fit for their skill set. Whether you are working on a new potential role or not is beside the point. Rather, this was a good candidate that other hiring managers would probably like to interview in the future.

Perseverance, Perseverance, Perseverance!

As the saying goes “nothing good in life comes easy” — the same mentality can be applied to startup recruitment. The most qualified, talented candidates are always employed, excelling at their work, and often not thinking about leaving their positions. Continued outreach and follow up athree, six, or even 12 months later will leave an impression on them.
What do you think? Is there a firm cut off when it becomes useless to continue following up with a candidate?

Photo by: Cam Evans

Technical Recruiter

<strong>Rose O'Connell</strong> is a technical recruiter at <a href="http://www.athenahealth.com/">AthenaHealth</a>. She was previously a Talent Specialist with OpenView.