Second choice candidates: Relationship management after the rejection

There can only be one person at the end of the application process – at least for the current vacancy. The “runners-up” will come away empty-handed for the time being. But because of future vacancies, second-choice candidates are valuable contacts that are worth nurturing.   

Second-choice candidates have everything it takes

Second place means being the first loser! That may be true for reality TV shows but certainly not for the selection process. As a rule, those landing in second place fulfill all the requirements of the advertised position. Because – just like the winner – runner-up candidates are only decided on at the very end. From the application to the job interview or assessment centre, they have convinced you and overcome every hurdle in the recruitment process with flying colors. Professionally first class, with the necessary expertise and desired soft skills, they are just as suitable for carrying out the role you have in mind – like an understudy in the theatre.

And yet, at the end of the day, a small detail or nuance is the decisive factor for them not leaving the stage as a winner with an employment contract in the bag. Maybe their salary expectations were somewhat high or their earliest start date a little too late. But even this doesn’t have to be the reason. If there are no sound arguments, the decision between first and second choice is made simply by “gut feeling”.

Valuable contacts for future appointments

This makes it clear that second-choice candidates are anything but inferior. These talented individuals are too valuable simply to be let go after the application process – especially when it involves positions in the company that are filled more frequently, or when the ‘number one’ turns out to be the wrong choice. After all, statistically, 25 percent of new employees do not complete the probationary period. If, at this point, the recruitment process starts again from scratch, the investment in filling the vacancy was completely wasted. A new search could have been avoided because suitable candidates had already been found. But they were let go with a rating of ‘second best’ and contact was lost.

Continue the positive candidate experience – GDPR compliant

And even if you can still find the files of a second-choice candidate somewhere, there is no guarantee that they will warm to the idea of the company again after receiving a standard rejection letter. Despite the rejection, continuing the positive candidate experience is necessary for an employer to maintain its own chances of being given a second or even third chance. This starts with getting permission to store the candidate’s data in a talent pool and keep in touch. This is not only polite, it is also imperative for data protection reasons. Personal data must be obtained legally and may only be retained with permission. However, this permission must be renewed regularly. With an ever-growing talent pool, automated consent management pays off here. It should be possible to set the date for renewing permission individually and the current permission status needs to be visible to every recruiter. That way, you guarantee GDPR-compliant relationship management.

Systematic relationship management via the talent pool

However, for second-choice candidates to become first-choice ones at some stage, you also need to invest in the relationship. If the recruiter only knocks on the former applicant’s door years later, that person may no longer have the company on their radar and have long since put out feelers to other employers. A talent pool can make this work a lot easier too. Furthermore, the advantage of runners-up is that they are no longer unknown quantities. The information that you have gleaned during the recruitment process will allow you to maintain contact on a personal level, with appealing tailored content and campaigns. A talent pool offers the necessary structure to capture and organize leads systematically and to keep people enthusiastic about the company through targeted campaigns

Find and mobilize candidates faster

Relationship management is not just a way of keeping second-choice candidates happy. Through an ongoing dialogue (for example, by being part of a talent community) and by regularly updating personal details in the candidate’s profile, a company can collect any decision-relevant information in the talent pool. This enables all HR decision-makers to access the same data and filter according to their respective requirements. If necessary, candidates can be found and mobilized much faster than the linear recruitment funnel allows. With an interface to an applicant tracking system, the time-to-hire is reduced significantly, recruitment is faster and more flexible, whilst costs decrease. A useful strategy to build loyalty with talent leads and hold your ground as an employer in a highly competitive job market.

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