Candidate Experience Recruitment Marketing

Candidate Nurture for $0 Budget: How Talbots Did It

Profile photo of Susan Collins
Written by Susan Collins

Getting big results doesn’t require a big budget. Hear how Talbots created a candidate nurture strategy with a $0 budget and generated 199 hires (not candidates or applicants, but actual hires!) in just one year.

Candidate Nurture for $0 Budget: How Talbots Did It
5 (100%) 3 votes

Making a career change is a big decision. Qualified candidates aren’t going to make a move without fully understanding what your organization has to offer and what your employee experience looks like. This is where candidate nurture comes into play and why it’s critical for your Recruitment Marketing strategy.

While the career content you share on your social media accounts and careers site can help provide candidates with essential job search information, a robust Recruitment Marketing program should also involve a candidate nurture strategy that engages talent on a regular basis through email and text communication.

But don’t worry… if you think you don’t have the resources to implement a candidate nurture strategy, then stay tuned to hear how we did this at Talbots for $0 budget and how our approach generated 199 hires (not candidates or applicants, but actual hires!) in just one year.

What is candidate nurture?

Candidate nurture refers to initiatives that are designed to engage and convert candidates through the ongoing distribution of personalized content. Often candidate nurture programs rely on email marketing or text messaging to engage talent in your talent community, Recruitment Marketing Platform, CRM or ATS database.

How does candidate nurture engage talent?

First things first, you need to provide a spot where candidates can choose to join your talent community or consent to ongoing communications. You might entice people to sign up through top-of-funnel Recruitment Marketing activities like social media posts, or by asking them to join your talent network when they apply for a job. Once you’ve developed a pipeline of warm leads who have consented to receive communications from you, you can send regular messages to keep them warm and primed to take action.

Using this approach, you can stay top of mind with candidates, inform them about your culture, and make sure they don’t miss out on applying for the perfect fit opportunity when it becomes available.

Candidate nurture results at Talbots

We’ve certainly seen our candidate nurture efforts work wonders at Talbots. We’ve worked to engage talent through our monthly “Career Conversations” talent newsletter.

We sent 13 talent newsletters from January 2019 to January 2020, which resulted in a total of 9,916 applications and 199 hires! In addition, only 1% of people who subscribed to receive this content opted out over the span of that year. Candidates want to hear about your culture and opportunities if you present valuable content to them at the right time in their candidate journey.

Considering these were the results of just one year in operation, we were pretty thrilled! And because we achieved these results with a $0 budget and a very small team, we wanted to share how we did it to help other practitioners — regardless of your team size or resources — so that you can create a successful candidate nurture email program of our own!

With this in mind, here are 8 tips that helped us to launch our candidate nurture strategy and what’s worked for us at Talbots to deliver captivating email newsletters that engage our talent on an ongoing basis.

1. Just get started

There’s never a perfect time to get started with a big new initiative. There are always lots of projects on the go and many things that need your attention. In addition, it can be easy to overthink a candidate nurture program and complicate your approach.

However, as my colleague, Project Manager Christine Kamp, and I found out while launching our “Career Conversations” talent newsletter, this mindset can quickly lead to analysis paralysis. So after deciding that we couldn’t wait any longer, we decided to just get started with a simple content plan and one general newsletter per month.

While we recognized our approach wouldn’t be perfect right off the bat, we knew that by monitoring feedback we’d quickly learn what was (and wasn’t!) working and improve over time.

2. Invest in the right tools to collect candidate leads

If you don’t have one already, it’s worth investing in a good Candidate Relationship Management system or ATS with CRM capabilities or a Recruitment Marketing Platform. This will help you to capture and manage new candidate leads over time. Most modern ATS and CRM vendors also let you send branded emails from within their platform directly, which means you don’t have to export any data or purchase additional email marketing software.

At Talbots, we use GR8 People as our recruitment CRM. The platform does everything we need in the candidate tracking department and provides a metrics dashboard. GR8 People also has a simple HTML email builder that lets us create and send beautifully-designed and mobile-optimized emails.

3. Come up with a candidate lead generation strategy

Once you have a good system in place, the next step is to think through how you’ll grow the leads in that database over time so that you have talent to nurture and engage.

In order to get more leads in your ATS, CRM, or RMP, there are a few approaches you can take, including:

  • Putting a talent community or/and careers newsletter sign-up form on your careers site home page
  • Adding this option in your apply flow
  • Creating a job posting that says something along the lines of “Don’t see the role you’re looking for? Submit a general application” that can add people to your database (remember you’ll need their consent to send communications though!)
  • Asking declined applicants if they’d like to join your talent community and receive communications from you about new roles and future opportunities

In addition, we create social posts with repurposed talent newsletter content as teasers, encouraging people to sign up for our newsletter. To do this, we post just a small part of a larger story and pair these posts with captions like, “Want to find out more/hear other stories? Subscribe to our monthly careers newsletter!” We share these types of teaser posts across our social accounts once a month, one week before the release of our next careers newsletter.

Using these approaches, you’ll see your candidate leads grow quickly in your CRM and you’ll have lots of people to nurture in the emails you send out!

4. Develop a Recruitment Marketing content strategy

Deciding what content is going to be inside your emails is naturally one of the most important aspects of a successful candidate nurture program. Not just that, but the longer you can plan things out in advance, the more time and consideration you have to put into actually creating your content.

Your candidate nurture content should answer questions that candidates might have throughout their candidate journey, share information about your employee value proposition, and link to open roles. At Talbots, we decided to use employee stories (in addition to job alerts) to convey this information. We organize each talent newsletter and set of employee stories around a key theme.

Here are a few of the themes we’ve focused on so far:

  • Career growth — how employees have progressed during their time at Talbots
  • Leadership — what our employees identified as the best qualities in a boss and what they appreciate about the Talbots leadership team
  • Career decisions — what types of decisions our employees have made to get to where they are today

Regardless of the theme, I suggest that you keep your content short and digestible for the highest-possible engagement and to reduce opt-outs.

5. Find a method for identifying good employee stories

Your company may be filled to the brim with interesting employee stories that exemplify your employee value proposition, but if you don’t know how to find them, they may as well not exist.

To find good employee stories to include in our emails, we send out a survey to different departments using Survey Monkey. Some of the questions we asked were based on the department completing the survey. Other questions were less “organization specific” and instead showed off our people, our culture and their leaders.

Here are some examples of the themes and topics we explored in our survey:

  • First job
  • Best career advice
  • What makes a great leader
  • 3 qualities that got me to where I am today
  • Best part of my job
  • What I do to prepare for my day

We then go through the survey results and reach out to any employees who have submitted interesting answers. Next, we follow up with those individuals by email asking to learn more and if they would be interested in being featured in an upcoming newsletter. Most say yes!

6. Create a talent newsletter landing page

If you’re investing time and energy into creating top-notch Recruitment Marketing content for your candidate nurture email campaign, why not republish that content in a central spot that people can visit whenever they want to? (And that can be found by candidates searching online?) This way candidates who don’t subscribe to your talent newsletter, or haven’t subscribed for very long, can go back and access the great stories you’ve produced over time.

At Talbots, we do this by taking content from our careers newsletter and reposting it to a landing page (the “Stay Connected page” on our website). The Stay Connected page provides a great additional touchpoint for people to self-identify if your organization is the right fit for them. It’s also another spot where people can learn that our newsletters exist and sign up to receive them if they like what they’re seeing.

Talbots' Stay Connected Landing Page

Talbots uses their Stay Connected Landing Page to provide another opportunity for talent to self-identify if your organization is the right fit for them.

7. Personalize your emails

Different talent segments and candidate personas are going to be interested in engaging with different types of recruiting content. Engineers want to hear stories from other engineers, salespeople want to learn about Sales leadership, etc. This is why one of our plans for 2021 is to build out our talent newsletter for different talent segments (i.e. by team or department).

Rally note: If you want to take your personalization to the next level, consider implementing micro talent networks! Read all about this approach in Jill Shabelman’s blog for Rally, Micro Talent Networks: Go Small to Go Big on Talent Engagement.

With a different newsletter for each talent segment, we can be confident that we’re communicating with each segment in the most personalized, helpful, and attractive way possible.

In addition to taking a team-based approach, you can also personalize your career newsletter by setting up your emails to automatically pull in the first name of the recipient in the email. This is a small thing, but seeing your first name at the top of an email goes a long way to encourage you to actually engage with the content. Most modern recruiting tools that have email functionality will make this easy for you to do.

8. Monitor and adjust your candidate nurture strategy over time

About a week after each careers newsletter is sent out we take a look at the performance and observe what worked best, what can be improved and decide if there’s anything we should change for the next newsletter.

We also take a look at larger themes from several career newsletters at once on a quarterly basis. As an example, after combing through our quarterly results, we noticed that we got the most positive feedback on our career growth themed newsletter. Knowing that this type of content performed really well, we knew we should create more content around that topic in the future.

While key performance indicators will likely look different from company to company, here are a few areas that can be helpful to keep an eye on:

  • Open rate — how many people are opening your talent newsletter each month? A dip in your open rate could indicate an issue with your subject line or that the topic didn’t resonate.
  • Opt-out rate — how many people opt out (unsubscribe) after a newsletter is sent out? A sudden surge in opt-outs could indicate that the content isn’t resonating or that you’re sending out too many emails.
  • Click-through rate — how many people are actually clicking through and engaging with the content you’re producing? This can provide insight into what content is working best and what can be improved.
  • Source of hire/source of influence — over time, you can also track how many people apply for jobs from your email newsletter in order to see how it’s influencing hiring outcomes.

I hope these tips to launch and successfully execute on a candidate nurture strategy using an email newsletter are helpful to read about. Candidates today want to understand that you care about their experience, and nurturing them over time provides a proof point of this. A solid candidate nurture strategy also ensures that you can keep your talent database engaged so that you’re a qualified candidate’s first choice when the right role comes along.

If the success we’ve had with our Career Conversations talent newsletter at Talbots is any indication — the success we’ve achieved with a $0 budget and a very small team — we hope that by following the 8 tips outlined above that you too can successfully engage talent by creating your own candidate nurture strategy.

Candidate Nurture for $0 Budget: How Talbots Did It
5 (100%) 3 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Susan Collins

Susan Collins

Susan Collins is the Director of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding for Talbots. She manages both recruiting and recruitment marketing activities at Talbot's to help find the right candidate for every role.

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