Decreasing Time to Hire: 8 Tips to Improve Your Response Rates from Candidates

If you’re like most businesses, you’re struggling to fill jobs. While there are factors outside your control that are no doubt contributing to this — we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, after all — there are some levers you can pull to improve and accelerate the hiring process.

Hiring talent becomes exceptionally harder when most candidates never respond in the first place. Unfortunately, many recruiters are dealing with low response rates and are having a difficult time hearing back from the best prospects.

In case you’re new to the term, the response rate metric reflects the percentage of candidates who reply to a recruiter’s initial sourcing email. Generally speaking, the higher the response rate, the easier the position will be to fill. Response rates reflect a combination of a number of things: the company you work for, what you say, how you say it, when you send messages, and where you send messages, among other things.

One of the main reasons that companies are struggling to fill positions is because they’re dealing with very low response rates. One recent study found that the average recruiter only hears back on 35% of the sourcing emails they send out.

If you’re only engaging one out of every three candidates you contact, there are almost certainly some obstacles in your hiring process that are discouraging them from proceeding with your company. If your time to hire is more than 10 days, for example, you will likely have a hard time locking down top talent.

The good news is that by committing to continuous improvement and taking a proactive and strategic approach to your sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes, you can optimize your response rates and decrease time to hire while adding more top talent to your organization’s roster.

With that in mind, here are eight tactics you can use to increase response rates and fill open roles faster and more effectively.

1. Focus on branding

Improving response rates starts with conveying your company’s culture effectively so that potential employees understand your mission and values and get a better sense of what it might be like to work with you. The goal isn’t to appeal to everyone; you don’t want to attract candidates who aren’t a good culture add — that’s a waste of time. This is why it’s also important to avoid the trap of not publicly displaying your values at all.

According to Glassdoor, 86% of jobseekers research companies online to determine whether or not they’d enjoy working there. As a result, your company would be wise to spend some time optimizing your Glassdoor page and encouraging employees to write honest reviews of what the work environment is like. 

While you’re at it, you might also want to look into applying for awards that honor great workplaces, such as those from Inc. and Fast Company. The more (credible) awards you get, and the better your rating on Glassdoor is, the more social validation your company will have — likely leading to increased response rates.

You should also reinforce your employer branding efforts by leveraging social media beyond LinkedIn for sharing snippets about your company culture and why people might want to work with you. When you use social media as a recruiting tool, you benefit from engaging talent that already knows about your brand and likely aligns with your values — giving you a head start.

Finally, you should also set up a landing page that speaks about your company culture and shows employees having fun and getting involved in various activities. Need some inspiration for what such a page should look like? Check this out.

2. Personalize candidate outreach emails

In recruitment, the cold email approach works best when the messages are specifically tailored to the candidate you’re reaching out to. Just like candidates are expected to edit their cover letters to suit each job they’re interested in, a recruiter should be able to pull out the parts of the role that fit the candidate’s experience and interests and personalize outreach accordingly.

For the best results, recruiters need to be considerate about the candidate’s time zone and engage with them during appropriate hours. For example, if you’re hiring for a remote position, don’t send someone a message at 3 a.m. their time. In our experience, it’s best to reach out in the mornings, before 12 pm in the candidate’s time zone, and Monday, Tuesday, and Friday are the most ideal days of the week to get a response.

You’ll also want to pay close attention to what you say, specifically, in each outreach (e.g., about benefits and salary). Keep things short and sweet; most candidates are unlikely to read messages that are longer than 125 words. Lead with who you are and why you’re reaching out (e.g., “our company is hiring and we thought you’d be a great fit because …”), talk about your company’s unique benefits (e.g., do you have role-specific training and development programs and flexible work options?), and close with the next steps (e.g., “Would you be open to chatting more about this opportunity for 30 minutes next week?”).

It’s also important where you communicate. For example, sending a cold email to someone might seem a bit invasive, particularly if they’re not actively searching for work. On the other hand, if you communicate with someone on a job board or at a recruiting event, they’re more likely to be actively searching for work, increasing the chances they respond. 

3. Use inclusive language

Employers should also be mindful of bias in their communications and messaging. By using inclusive language – in outreach emails, job descriptions, content and posts on outside platforms such as social media, and on your own website – you can avoid turning anyone away or discouraging someone who would be a great fit from applying and being interested in your company. 

Form a task force and have your team analyze email templates, job descriptions, and other brand content to prevent unconscious bias from seeping into them. Remove gender-specific pronouns and gender-coded terms (e.g., “ninja” or “rock star”). Be specific, concise, and jargon-free. You can also use a tool like Textio to identify any remaining biases in your writing.

4. Invest in digital solutions to automate certain hiring tasks

Nobody has time to search through thousands of resumes to find the needle in the proverbial haystack. Similarly, having recruiters play email tag all day to try and coordinate schedules isn’t the best use of their time.

By investing in digital solutions that automate these sorts of tasks, you can build a much more efficient and productive recruiting engine. For example, try Calendly for easy scheduling and data-driven marketplaces like Hired for resume screening that can save up to 45 sourcing hours per hire. This enables you to spend more time assessing and engaging with top talent.

5. Prioritize skills-based hiring

Far too many companies fall into the trap of hiring candidates based on traditional pedigrees (think: people who graduated from Ivy League schools and worked for Fortune 500 companies). Not only does pedigree bias limit a company’s talent pool, it also perpetuates inequality.

In recent years, leading tech companies like Apple, Google, Netflix, and Tesla have challenged the status quo by removing college degree requirements for job applications. Perhaps it’s time for you to do the same.

Instead of sourcing candidates from specific colleges with traditional degrees, companies should commit to skills-based hiring and consider those with alternative backgrounds and non-traditional education or career paths. For example, if you’re hiring a software developer, consider someone who cut their teeth in a coding bootcamp or is self-taught. 

Unfortunately, many university STEM departments are still male-dominated. If you’re only considering computer science graduates for a position, you might miss out on talented women coders who have the same skills but learned how to write software by enrolling in something like a Girls Who Code program.

6. Leverage data and AI to source candidates

Take your technology investments a step further by looking for platforms built with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that make sourcing talent even easier. Using a platform like Hired can be particularly game-changing for increasing response rates and speed to hire.

In fact, Hired has an industry-leading 90% candidate response rate and a 60% interview acceptance rate thanks to the platform’s ability to match companies with the exact kind of talent they’re looking for. On top of this, Hired helps recruiters reduce time-to-hire by as much as 4x, serving as an extension of your team to surface the ideal candidates.

7. Consider pre-interview assessments

At the end of the day, you want to hire people who are able to succeed doing the tasks you’re hiring them to do. This is where pre-interview assessments can be particularly helpful, making the hiring process more measurable and efficient.

Pre-interview assessments enable recruiters to quickly and effectively evaluate talent from anywhere and bring candidates with the best skill sets to the forefront. Using these assessments, it’s possible to reduce hiring bias and standardize your hiring process with a test that makes it easy to compare candidates based on their skills. 

At the same time, you can ditch technical phone screens and free up engineering resources — a true win-win.

8. Expand your parameters

While you might be tempted to only look for candidates in your local area, we’re now officially in the age of remote work — to the point that most workers would accept a pay cut just to be able to keep working from home.

If you want to improve your response rates and build a diverse, high-performing team, start looking for candidates across the country and even globally.

Embracing remote and flexible work enables you to hire from a considerably wider talent pool while also meeting new candidate expectations around the ability to work from anywhere.

Ready to bring up your response rates?

When you focus on optimizing your response rates, great things happen. Not only is it easier to fill positions with top talent, it’s also considerably faster. Are you ready to begin using these tactics to transform and speed up your sourcing and hiring processes? 

Join Hired today to boost your response rate up to 90% and find the best people for the job up to 4x faster! 

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