Getting Candidates to Respond

Peter Weddle

Recent surveys during TAtech Live, a professional development webinar series providing Remote Learning About Talent Technology for Non-Technologists, reveals a growing problem for recruiters. The number of respondents citing “Getting candidates to reply to employment opportunities’ has almost doubled in the last month. Despite record unemployment, many recruiters are apparently having a hard time generating responses to their ads and messages.

This situation is the exact opposite of what normally happens during an economic downturn. In previous recessions, the higher the unemployment figure, the more applications and email replies recruiters saw. People wanted to get back to work, and they didn’t waste any time in making their interest in an employment opportunity known.

Today, not so much. But, why is that?

One oft-cited cause is the federal government’s $600 weekly unemployment supplement. That payment has actually enabled some workers to make more money through unemployment support than they did when they were on-the-job. Those who take this view ask, “Who’s going to answer a job ad when they can get paid to head to the beach instead?”

There’s undoubtedly some merit to that view, but I think the primary reason for the low response rate is something else altogether. It’s an unconscious assumption about what motivates candidates to reply to an ad or email inquiry. In effect, we assume that all candidates have the same motivation. And, they don’t.

Motivating Better Response Rates

As Abraham Maslow explained, humans have a range of motivations that can best be portrayed in a pyramid of five tiers. Depending on their life’s circumstances, for example, one person might be motivated by a need for belonging (tier 3) while someone else is motivated by the need for basic necessities (tier 1) and still someone else by the need to be fulfilled. (tier 5) We are all different because we are all unique individuals and, at any point in time, we are at different places in our lives.

To generate a better response rate, therefore, we need to target each individual with exactly the right motivation at the right moment. The title of our ad or the subject line of our message must align our employment opportunity with exactly what they need at exactly that point in time.

This approach requires that we:
• Advertise or message the opportunity multiple times. It’s not A-B testing, but 1-2-3-4-5 messaging. Given the online clutter in our lives these days, that’s the only way to actually connect with a broad cohort of the candidate population.
• Use those 1-2-3-4-5 ad titles and subject lines to progress one-after-another through Maslow’s entire motivational hierarchy. Collectively, they will generate responses by all of the individuals who are motivated at each of the different tiers in the hierarchy.

Here’s Maslow hierarchy and examples of the corresponding recruitment topic to motivate candidates:

Maslow’s Hierarchy / Topic in Ad Title or Message Subject Line
Tier 5: Actualization / Be the best you can be at work
Tier 4: Esteem / Do important work with significant impact
Tier 3: Belonging / Become part of a high performing team
Tier 2: Health & Safety / Join a company that offers great benefits
Tier 1: Food & Shelter / Get a terrific job with great compensation

Using a series of ads or message subjects to progress through these motivating factors from 1 to 5 is the best way to connect with multiple individuals, each of whom is at a different point in their life. It makes an employment opportunity relevant to them, and that relevancy will significantly increase the likelihood of their responding.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

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