Career lifers are a thing of the past and job-hopping is much more commonplace. As a result, it stands to reason that candidates who passed on your offer the first time around may be interested in an opportunity down the line.

In a market led by passive job seekers, candidate nurturing is vital to effective recruiting. In this article, we’ll break down the elements of candidate nurturing and discuss 11 best practices to keep busy professionals engaged and interested.

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Table of Contents


What Is Candidate Nurturing?

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Candidate nurturing is the act of keeping job applicants engaged throughout the hiring process. The practice has become more necessary in recent years. Employees are more inclined to change jobs, which means that candidates who passed on or didn’t receive an offer may be open to other opportunities at your company at a later date.


What Is Candidate Nurturing?

Candidate nurturing is the act of keeping job applicants engaged throughout the hiring process.


This is especially important during hiring lulls; even if you’re not interested in filling open roles now, you’ll need to at some point. Candidate nurturing ensures there are qualified individuals in your talent pipeline when it comes time to recruit more aggressively.  On top of that, nurturing candidates makes the job application and interview process less intimidating and more human-centric.


How Does Candidate Nurturing Work?

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Candidate nurturing follows the three stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. In fact, it helps to think of a candidate as a consumer. If you get someone on the phone in a cold call, you’re not going to immediately start discussing contracts. Just like closing a deal, signing a new hire takes time. That’s where candidate nurturing comes in. Below we break down the key elements of nurturing job candidates.


Nurture Campaigns

Candidate nurturing efforts are often segmented into campaigns, which are a series of internal steps triggered by the candidate’s actions; when a candidate completes an action (i.e. views a job posting), the nurture campaign is triggered (i.e. a reminder email to submit an application is sent to the candidate).

Nurture campaigns begin as soon as a candidate opts in for information (or takes an action that provides you with their contact information), such as subscribing to a company newsletter. Once you have their information — usually their email — you can use branded content to nurture their interest in your company and gently guide them toward submitting a job application. 




Candidate personas 

Think about who you’re trying to engage and the type of content they like to interact with. Work with hiring managers to determine the ideal candidate persona for the role, and create additional personas based on the different individuals you hope to engage. You don’t want to flood a software engineer’s inbox full of blogs about account management. Not only is it a waste of time, it’s likely to turn a qualified candidate off from your brand and its open opportunities.

Remember, just because a candidate doesn’t receive your offer doesn’t mean you should stop nurturing them. These are the individuals you’ll likely reach out to first when a new role becomes available. Additionally, they’re the candidates that could require the most nurturing; they may still feel a slight pain of rejection and restarting the conversation with an impersonal outreach letter could be the breaking point for your relationship. 



Serve content that is relevant to the candidate based on where they are in the recruitment process. If a candidate just came into contact with your brand (i.e. in the awareness phase) avoid sending them hyper-specific content. At this stage, your nurture efforts should focus on introducing them to your company mission, core values and any other basic information. 

Additionally, different candidate personas are more likely to engage with content at various times throughout the day. There’s a variety of existing data on the best time of day to send emails, but leverage your own internal data to make a more accurate decision. Timing must also account for frequency. No one wants to wake up to another email from the same company every day.

However, highly sought-after professionals are only on the job market for 10 days, so you can’t wait to follow up. Think about who you’re nurturing and their desirability among competitors when determining how frequently to serve them content.



As outlined above, candidate nurturing is an extensive process. Manually keeping candidates engaged throughout the recruitment process would zap all your resources, which is why automation is key. Recruitment automation tools can streamline and improve the efficiency of your nurture process. 

Consider how you reject a candidate: your applicant tracking system can automatically send emails to the individuals you don’t extend an offer to. However, rejection emails should be customized to the candidate; an applicant who meets the majority of your job requirements should not receive the same rejection as one who only meets two requirements. Automation tools can organize templates and nurture campaigns tailored to specific candidate personas. 

Additionally, varying your approach to rejection emails can help usher qualified applicants into your talent community and keep them engaged. For short-list or finalist candidates, consider a phone call. This is far more personal than an email and will show that you truly care.


11 Candidate Nurturing Best Practices

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When outlining your strategy for candidate nurturing, keep the following 11 best practices in mind.


1. Engage your marketing team

First and foremost, work with your marketing department to flesh out strong nurture campaigns. Custom content and emails are central parts of a successful candidate nurture strategy, two areas of a marketer’s expertise. Leverage their knowledge to effectively target your ideal candidate and keep them engaged throughout the hiring process.


2. Use candidate personas 

The marketing team is also well versed in defining candidate personas based on the buyer’s journey. Lean on them to outline clear descriptions of your ideal candidate and any variations you want to interact with. From there, you’ll be able to create custom content and campaigns to nurture candidates toward an application.

Consider the following when creating a candidate persona: demographics; years of experience; skills and expertise; personality; education; geographic location; technical knowledge. The more specific you can get, the more effective your nurture efforts will be.


3. Personalize when possible 

Your candidate personas should inform variations in your outreach and nurture efforts; the way you nurture candidates for an executive position should be vastly different from how you nurture college students for internship roles. Still, aim to get more specific when possible. Customize emails for your most desirable candidates and reach out personally with either good or bad news. Doing so will make your shortlisted individuals feel valuable and keep them engaged.


4. Rely on email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most important aspects of candidate nurturing. Most professionals are logged into their email throughout the day and browse the web during lunch breaks or their commute. Create custom workflows and automate emails to be triggered when a candidate takes a specific action. 


5. Empower job seekers on their search

Create resources for job seekers that can be used during the application and interview process. This is especially useful for job seekers who have viewed your job posting but have yet to submit an application. 

Additionally, providing rejected candidates with resources bolsters your employer brand and builds your reputation as an empathetic employer. Not only that, but candidates may come back to your site for additional information and eventually apply to a different role. 


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6. Leverage social media

The key to engaging passive candidates is meeting them where they are. Unless they’re actively on the job hunt, they won't be spending time on job board sites. Instead, look to online hubs including social media platforms, news outlets and professional community sites. Given the popularity of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the like, social media recruitment is a must.


7. Host industry events

Event marketing is a heavier-lift but highly effective nurture strategy. Not only does it promote your employer brand and position your company as a thought leader, it also gives you the opportunity to get to know candidates on a personal level. You can also host webinars or video conferences to engage employees while working remotely.

Face-to-face interactions are far more telling of a candidate’s qualifications than a resume; you’re able to jumpstart the interview process before the individual becomes a part of your applicant pool. Getting to know candidates through recruitment events helps them form a connection with your company. From then on, they’re more likely to engage with content you offer up and apply to your open roles.


8. Stay in touch with former employees

If you parted ways with an employee on good terms, there’s no reason you shouldn’t stay connected. After all, they may be interested in rejoining your team at a later date when a different role becomes available. 

Include them on your email list — for as long as they choose to remain — and keep them in the loop with company newsletters, press releases and important updates. To improve your chances of reengaging a past hire, give every departing employee an exit interview to collect honest feedback. 


9. Explore different media

You don’t need to limit yourself to the written word. Video content, photos and audio recordings can be great ways to capture a candidate’s attention and stand out from the crowd. Thought-leadership pieces are great, but a job is about more than just the work. Highlight your company culture in a video tour of your office and show off your staff in an employee spotlight photo reel. 


10. Keep your data clean

Your nurture campaigns are only as effective as your data is accurate. Having duplicate contacts or inaccurate personal information will make your efforts seem impersonal and disingenuous. On top of that, dirty data can make it difficult to draw insights and optimize your nurture efforts. Regularly audit and organize your candidate database to ensure your information is correct and up to date. 


11. Track your performance

Keep tabs on how candidates are responding to your nurture efforts and record key recruitment metrics like email open rate, click-through rate and conversion rate. Analyze the data and use your insights to optimize your nurture strategy. 

Remember that each candidate is unique and deserves a personalized experience, especially your top contenders. Still, refining your strategy to more closely align with your personas will give you a good baseline for nurturing candidates.


Building a talent pipeline of passive candidates is a central part of any recruitment strategy, but particularly candidate nurturing. Politely engaging candidates before they’re ready to make a transition means you’ll be on their radar as a top employer when they become active job seekers.

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