Recruitment process automation has a seriously bad rep. Bad ATS and HRIS systems doling out pitiful generic one liners - 'Thank you for your application, we'll be in contact in 3-5 days to process your application further' or the worst culprit of all: 'We're sorry, but due to the high volume of candidates we will only respond to your application if successful'. I'm sorry - what?
I know first-hand (believe me!) how hard it can be if you are actually, genuinely deluged with applications, and are too under resourced to respond to every application individually. But there is a middle ground – a smart, well thought out candidate journey, complimented with timely automation.
Chances are, these ‘send to all’ style messages are also going to the candidates that you do want to speak to. The people that could change, shape and build your company. But what could be more off putting than that initial immediate brush off email? That is the first impression they get of your company and your employer brand. If you are using any of the examples at the top of this article, it aint gonna be a good one!
So if you are using an ATS or any other type of recruitment system (which presumably you are if you are if you are generating automated emails in the first instance) give the process a little bit of love!
Take a look at my guide to basic employer branding and work out your 'language' - your tone, your choice of words as an employer. Then write content that sounds like it could actually have been written by a human being.
Use their first name (most systems will have that as a basic capability). Let them know you are excited they have taken the time to apply to you, and get them excited about your company. The selling process starts right here. Consider giving them an outline of the process - what to expect next from you, and what you might expect from them.
Next, be kind to those who won’t move forward in the process. Don't 'reject' on sight. If you have the capacity to time delay the email, then do. If you don't, make a note in your calendar to go back into the system, bulk sending wherever possible. Ensure that your email sounds like it comes from a human being. And here’s the doozy - don't even mention feedback. The chances are, only a super small percentage will actually come back to you and ask for it, definitely no more than you can handle, and more often than not, no-one at all. And anyways if they are pro-active enough to ask for feedback to help them to improve, maybe they are someone you should be keeping in touch with after all?
If you are trying to keep candidates 'warm' in a process, make it clear (word it appropriately of course!). Keep them in the loop and explain the delays. Pick up the phone. If you like someone enough to potentially employ them, then you need to be in regular communication - particularly if a process is taking a little more time than is ideal. Trust me; your candidates will love you for it!
Deal with arranging the interview directly. Send them an initial (automated, enticing) email to let them know you want to meet them, then pick up the phone to finalise the details. Give them an opportunity to ask any questions, and if you don't do a telephone interview, use this as a chance to start selling the company as a great place to work, and build a rapport. Then an automated (personalised and exciting) email can take care of confirming this in writing.
I'm a huge believer that if someone has taken the time to meet with you, it's only polite and professional to deliver bad news over the telephone. I still think this should be the case, even where you are talking high volume recruitment (assessment centers, graduate assessment days etc.) Let’s be realistic. The vast majority of these conversations take two minutes. Generally you deliver the bad news, the candidate accepts it, and you wish each other well. You can find the time to make these calls! I don’t (personally) think there is any way to automate this without looking like a bad guy. Sorry!
So, I think there absolutely is room for automation in the recruitment process - but done in the right way. Yes, this means a little more time up front to personalise your emails, rather than just accepting whatever comes with the ATS as standard. If you're really serious about it you could even consider hiring a professional copywriter, to refine your tone and help you sell the opportunity to work for your business.
And if you are sitting there reading this article, without any form of ATS or recruitment system that will automate any part of the process, but yet you don't have the time to respond to all of the applications you receive, you're probably thinking I'm crazy to suggest that everyone should get a response. Well if your recruitment is getting that busy, and that time intensive - maybe it's time to think about investing?