27 Minute Read

Connecting with Candidates: Where, How & When

By Maren Hogan

Editor’s Note: These are the notes and visuals from Maren Hogan’s 2017 LinkedIn Talent Connect presentation. 

Connecting with Candidates, um PEOPLE: Where, How, & When

Something is missing. We’re at the lowest unemployment rates this country has seen in recent history, so we’re obviously doing something right. So what’s MISSING?

We come to conferences like this LinkedIn Talent Connect and try to get inside the minds of candidates. We spout statistics about active candidates and passive candidates. You’ll probably learn how to source LinkedIn and a thousand other professional networks, using Boolean or semantic or unicorn dust or whatever.

But something is missing.

Technology is not enough.

Huge networks aren’t enough.

We’re still fighting to connect when searching for talent that matters to their business’ bottom line. Today, you’ll learn where, how and when to connect with candidates from a distinctly HUMAN perspective. Why? Because all the tools in the world can’t help you hire if you’re tone-deaf about people.

Did you miss @marenhogan's session at the 2017 #TalentConnect? Catch up here: Share on X

Before we start, take your toughest req and build a brief persona for the HUMAN you’re looking for. It should include:

  • A picture to keep in your mind’s eye.
  • What they do and how long they’ve been doing it.
  • What parts of their work they enjoy (and which parts they hate)
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Career goals
  • Motivating factors
  • Where they might go online
  • How long they stay in one place


Of course, there is the biggest mammer-jammer of them all, LinkedIn right? I mean that’s why we’re all here. But there are several places within LinkedIn wherein to connect. For example, did you know that answering candidate questions within LinkedIn can increase your exposure to qualified candidates? Joining groups, really personalizing your company page, and keeping your content up to date are all ways to make the most of your LinkedIn membership.

LinkedIn is one of the most effective ways to recruit great candidates. They provide employers with steps on how to maximize keywords to find diverse talent. Here are ways you can take advantage of this resource to help you recruit diverse candidates:

  • You can pick and choose which keywords will maximize diversity sourcing efforts. Build them into your recruiter search strings to narrow down which kind of applicants you want to connect with. For example, if you want to attract female candidates, add professional women’s organizations and schools to your keyword search like “American Business Women’s Association.” To find minority candidates you could add, “LGBT in higher ed,” or, “Blacks in higher ed,” and so on.
  • Establish contact with school campus groups such as sororities, organizations and clubs that embody or promote diversity. You can try directly recruiting individuals, offering your company to assist with school initiatives, or simply to gain exposure and influence to a diverse audience.

However, my clients in manufacturing and retail say they need other places to supplement what they’re doing for more management level positions. And of course, any good recruiter fishes from more than one pool.

  • Facebook’s core personification is an 18-29 year old woman with some college experience. While 76% of women are on Facebook, company recruitment still needs to account for the 66% of men who use the platform.
  • On the other hand, more men (22%) use Twitter than women (15%) even though it used to be a fairly balanced platform. A key indicator that recruiters have to adjust their recruitment habits as the sources evolve.
  • Job seekers prefer Facebook with 83% of them looking at Facebook for jobs while only 36% search on LinkedIn.

Primary: These are the networks from which we all pull. Job boards, professional networks, even social media like Facebook and Twitter. There are at least ten sessions to tell you how to recruit here, so I will skip the lecture.

Secondary: Next up are more niched networks and social media platforms. For example, using Quora, Reddit, Behance, CodePen and StackOverflow. Make sure to get a complete picture of the requirement from the hiring manager before jumping in, especially in a technical field you might be less than familiar with.

What you can tell from Github:

  • How often and on which days they contribute
  • Where they’re from
  • Their picture and name give you insight into whether they’re more project-oriented. A company name generally means they’re loyal to their company.
  • What kind of issues they’ve posted and code they’ve pushed.
  • If other developers think they’re any good
  • What languages they’re most skilled in.

IRL: This might actually feel a bit old school. But these days I find myself advocating more for groups, organizations, meetups, employee referral. Basically traditional methods that have fallen by the wayside (to our detriment I believe). Yup, I’m talking hiring events, lunch n’ learns, clubs, organizations. Did you know you have to be neither black nor an accountant to join National Association of Black Accountants? Did you know you can encourage your employees to bring their friends to a hiring happy hour?

A friend asked me two years ago to speak at his marketing class. I went, I sweated and stuttered through 30 agonizing minutes, accidentally said “circle-jerk”, felt bad, said “shit” and got a parking ticket. That resulted in three hires, all are still with our company!


When you connect with a candidate is as important as the why and how. In fact, making sure your when is accurate can be the difference between an annoying recruiter and a trusted talent advisor. So what do we know about the talent market in general?

We know job seeking behavior (the active kind) spikes on Mondays and again on Fridays. We can safely assume that people are disengaged with their current jobs if they are job hunting on these days.

This is why many recruitment marketing firms and technologies are recommending something usually reserved for marketers: retargeting. So what can this do for you?

Simple: Put a pixel on your job site that follows the user around the internet. If you have a huge ad budget this is relatively easy. If you don’t, you can upload CSVs to Facebook and LinkedIn to create lookalike audiences. Perhaps you have an amazing culture and want people just like the ones you have already. Welp, simply upload your people and see how quickly the job spreads. You also need to use the timing functions available in Google AdWords, and the other ad options I mentioned. Stretch your budget further by only exercising your ads at peak job seeking times and then retargeting throughout the week.

There’s another aspect of WHEN, which is before, during and after the interview. If you want to truly connect with candidates, here are some crucial steps to add into your recruiting lifecycle.

BEFORE: Create a template using a service like MixMax (or if it’s in your ATS already) that goes beyond the typical response to apply. Instead of: Thank you for your application, we’ll respond within 4-6 weeks if you’re a fit BS try:

Thank you for taking time out of your day to apply at our amazing company. We’re hoping (like you are) that you’ll be a perfect fit and we’re committed to letting you know either way. Please stay tuned (we’ll probably email) for a couple of weeks while we try to make a match.

Can’t wait? Here’s a little more about the culture at ACME corp and the values that are important to us. Follow us on Twitter…etc…etc

DURING: Give them the information they need to be successful. I honestly have no idea why TPRs do this and corporate recruiters rarely do, especially those in hard to recruit for areas. During the interview process (which averages out at about 23-47 days so there’s definitely time), send questions they’ll need to know the answers to, information about your area (if recruiting out of the area) and unspoken or unwritten rules.

For example, when interviewing people for my company, I always give them a little insight around signing onto the intranet and email systems we use. Our CTO always feels they’re unlikely to work out if they cannot manage it in one go. He’s right but also my goal is not to trip up these candidates but to set them up for success.

There are myriad ways to do this: templates that lead them to a video the hiring manager created, a FAQs page that spells out the interview process, blog posts that delineate what kinds of people are successful in your company.

AFTER: Make time to call. I read an article about two years ago from a recruiter who blocked off an hour on Tuesdays and Fridays to call candidates; Tuesdays were for letting candidates down easy and giving them feedback, while Fridays were for giving updates to candidates who were still in the pipeline so they wouldn’t spend their weekend worrying. I LOVE this idea and once you block off your calendar to do something like this (maybe not for every candidate if you’re in high volume recruiting, perhaps just phone or in-person interviews receive a call), you’ll be less likely to forget.

ALWAYS: Respond. Are you constantly responding to reviews, candidate feedback requests and hiring manager questions? If not, you may want to consider how that is impacting your role. While your entire day can’t be taken up playing the defense, 62% of job seekers say their perception of a company improves when they see the employer respond to reviews. If you don’t define the role with your hiring managers, how can you show your prospects what their goals will look like? Ensure you put aside time weekly to respond to questions and reviews.

Read @marenhogan's advice on making more meaningful connections with candidates: Share on X


Okay so that’s how you reach them but that’s not really connecting is it? Ask a phone sourcer and they’ll tell you to get past the gatekeeper at their work. Ask someone well-versed in deep web sourcing and they might tell you to approach them via the network on which you found them (unless it’s super creepy). Ask me? It’s paying attention!

For instance, if you were looking for an outgoing CMO or VP of Marketing and Brand, you might stumble across my profile. You’ll see I’ve hooked up Slideshare, updated my accomplishments, post regularly and waaaaaaay down at the bottom I’ve included a little note that says: I don’t even know why you read all the way down here if you don’t want to talk to me along with my email address.

So what can you tell about me from these things?

  • I keep up my LI profile for a reason so I might be open to new opps.
  • My accomplishments are myriad and I want everyone to know it.
  • I have a lot of connections.
  • I accept a good chunk of connections (so your odds are good).
  • I expect you to do your homework (which is why my contact info is at the bottom).
  • I write for LinkedIn and other publications (you can read my writing if you really want to get fancy).
  • I want to be contacted VIA EMAIL!

So you can source my phone number if you want but calling me will only serve to irritate me and inure me to your offer. Not a good thing.

However, you might be trying to hire my accountant, Nate. Based on his candidate persona and the lack of detail in his LinkedIn profile, I can safely assume he’s less of an internet person than most. I can also see he’s been at his current firm for four years and at his old one 17 years before that. This indicates to me, he’s unlikely to move but if I still want to reach him, his home phone will be the best way to do so. Why? He’s less likely to use email in general and he’s very unlikely to use his office phone to get an offer at work.

Universal truths about the HOW:

  • Recent LI research shows that candidates are especially flattered when the hiring manager reaches out, 56% say so.
  • Don’t approach unless you’ve built a candidate persona. This is true even with high volume recruiting.

Find ONE way to personalize. It can be a speaking gig, an article, a cool upload on CodePen or a great answer on Quora. More traditional in scope? Maybe they were featured in your local business journal or you saw they were a member of a certain club, organization or fraternity.

Lead with what’s important to them. Your candidate persona should tell you this. It falls under the heading of “What is keeping them up at night?” Are they desperate for more money because they’re about to have their third child or do they need a more flexible schedule to take care of an ailing parent? Do they enjoy a really casual work environment or do they feel strongly about a suit and tie kind of place?

It’s Not About YOU. If I could teach the world to sing this, I would. Most recruiting emails or phone calls start with my name, my company, my job, I’m recruiting for, I’m looking for…See how that’s a turnoff? Instead, focus on why they are the perfect fit. Oh, and you damn well better make sure they are the perfect fit. Nothing turns off an executive more than being recruited en masse for a junior level role, or a prolific art director being offered a graphic designer role. It takes literally one look at someone’s profile or a quick Google search of their name to determine where they are in their career.

Confront Your Bias. Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. If you automatically rule someone out based on age, gender, race or any other ridiculous thing…stop it. You’re affecting your own talent pool and hurting your company (not to mention being kind of a dick).

Check Your Tone. Are you approaching a woman? According to a recent study on how vocabulary affects diversity in recruiting, masculinely-worded online job ads were less than half as appealing to female participants as femininely-worded ads. The same study revealed that ads for stereotypically male-occupied jobs are made up almost entirely (about 99%) of masculine words. If you’re a company that wants to reach more female candidates, try using words like cooperative, honest, loyal and understanding in your job postings and avoid phrases like “requirements” which can drive away women that don’t meet them 100%. Avoid masculine words like competitive, confident, and outspoken.

Visual Matters. One of our clients is recruiting in Omaha, NE and Des Moines, IA for highly technical roles. That’s not easy! So we mix in a lot of visual content for the jobs AND the locations. This shows we’re no slouch in the tech department and also showcases the locations we’re asking these people to move to. It’s a win/win. Also, people basically look at things for like 8 seconds now. Visual lends itself well to that.

So often after I speak, people come up to me and say, “Well I can’t do that in my job ads because of company policy.” Well, is company policy preventing you from writing an email that includes a funnier, better, more attractive version of the job ad they pumped out in 1997? This is the one part of the process you control implicitly. Use that power to truly connect with candidates.

Do you have time to respond to every half-assed request you get over LI or even email or Facebook? I know what my answer is. I definitely do NOT. So why do we expect candidates to respond to our boilerplate messaging that we blast without a second thought to who they are, what they do, where they live or how much they’d like to be making?

Yeah, that’s why you’re not getting responses. It’s not because of the talent wars, and it’s not because your company isn’t paying enough. It’s because you don’t personalize your message. Just as I throw away the envelope in my mailbox addressed to resident, candidates don’t care about you if you don’t take the time to care about them.

Things you can reference if you want people to respond to you:

  • Things they are interested in!
  • The fact that they might be looking for a change/more money/position bump/chance to learn new skills
  • Places they like to go
  • Their work and/or projects
  • Their dog/favorite comic/obsession with Firefly/Red Bull addiction


  • Their family
  • What they look like
  • How long you’ve been following their work

Let’s Get Engaged

Let’s face it. As recruiters, sourcers and marketers, we’ve made social a really crowded place, full of overused platitudes “Congrats!” and “HBD” ring a bell?

In order to reach candidates we have to take a beat, put ourselves in their shoes and then prove that our job is the best job, our company is the best company and our experience will be the best experience. Getting “engagement” should be a little like getting “engaged” or at least it should feel like it is. So…whaaddya say?

The Hidden Engagement

Just open the ring box and don’t say a word. Hold back some information so they might be compelled to reach back out to fill in the missing details.

You. Complete. Me.

Is this about the job or the candidate? If you answered the former you are incorrect! Show them what they can bring and put them in the role with your words.

I get lost in your eyes proposal…

Wouldn’t work very well if you got the color of his or her eyes wrong. Make sure to get the details about their background and work correct. And try not talking in generalities so they know you’re sincere.

The Roxanne Engagement

Don’t use someone else’s words to communicate. Above all be yourself! Jargon, slang and BS job titles do not make a candidate swoon…nor did they ever.

The Banana Pancakes Proposal

Do you both love the same thing? Or even just enjoy NPR? Find common ground with your desired candidate so you can make them feel comfortable. (Maybe they’ll say yes!)

The “As You Wish” Engagement

Sometimes the fewer words, the better. You can’t find out more about a candidate by yapping the entire time.

If you remember nothing else from this entire talk, remember this. You are not going after candidates or job seekers, or prospects…you’re trying to attract and connect with PEOPLE. Other PEOPLE just like you. They have worries, concerns, dreams and desires just like you. You may not be able to guess the particulars, but when you decide to connect with people, you cannot lose.

Want me to speak at your conference, private user meeting or staff training? Learn how here!