How to Prioritize Candidate Engagement and Build Relationships with Talent

Lever is thrilled to continue a quarterly feature highlighting responses from some of our expert HR service and technology partners.

See how the following thought leaders responded to the question below and apply their insights to your own business.

According to the 2024 Employ Job Seeker Nation Report, 56% of job seekers today believe that the labor market favors candidates. And nearly two in three workers believe it would take them less than three months to find a new job.  

For employers today, understanding job seekers’ mindsets, motivations, and behavior is critical to connecting with candidates more effectively and staying competitive in a tight labor market.

How are you working with scaling organizations to prioritize candidate engagement at every step of the hiring journey and build stronger relationships with talent? 


Lourdes Fernandes, Chief Operating Officer, cFIRST Background Checks 


Effective candidate engagement is a critical component of the background screening process. It involves striking a balance between engaging candidates while also safeguarding candidate data.

As a background screening company, cFIRST prioritizes creating a seamless and frictionless experience for candidates. Our candidate engagement strategies are based on robust technology, clear communication, and efficient processes.

Here are some operating principles we follow:

  • Automated Candidate Outreach: We leverage automation to streamline candidate communication. Automated emails, SMS, and chatbots ensure timely updates and reduce manual intervention. Personalized messages enhance engagement, providing candidates with relevant information about the screening process.
  • Efficient Document Upload Process: cFIRST candidate portal offers a user-friendly interface for document submission. Candidates can seamlessly upload necessary documents. Clear instructions and tooltips guide candidates through the process, minimizing errors and ensuring accurate submissions.
  • Seamless Physical Checks: We work with top pathology service providers to facilitate physical checks, including drug tests and health screenings. Our scheduling system integrates seamlessly with candidates’ calendars, allowing them to choose convenient time slots. Regular communication keeps candidates informed about the status of their screenings, reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
  • Candidate Satisfaction Metrics: We measure candidate satisfaction through post-screening surveys. Feedback helps us identify areas for improvement and refine our processes. Our impressive 97% candidate happiness rate reflects our commitment to delivering a positive experience.

About cFIRST

cFIRST is a leading global digital background screening partner for enterprises, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, with operations in the United States, India, and the United Kingdom. With 15+ years of industry experience, cFIRST has been helping enterprises make informed hiring decisions globally.

We enhance the client experience through a user-friendly online platform that enables easy ordering of background checks, collecting documents, tracking live statuses, and retrieving documents. With our intelligent platform mechanics, multiple screening capabilities, and responsive interface, our clients can achieve a faster turnaround time for their background screening requirements. cFIRST consistently outperforms its competitors in excellent client and candidate ratings, as proven by our 97% client retention ratio and 98% customer happiness rate.  

Julie Reed, Recruiting Manager, SDHR Consulting 

Julie Reed

In the current job market, job seekers have gained significant power, as the 2024 Employ Job Seeker Nation Report underscored. It reveals that 56% of job seekers now perceive the labor market as favoring candidates, and nearly two-thirds are confident they could secure a new job in less than three months.

This shift in dynamics necessitates employers to adapt their recruitment strategies. Effective candidate engagement has emerged as an essential recruitment tactic and a critical component in building long-term relationships with potential employees. By understanding and prioritizing the candidate experience, organizations can successfully attract and retain top talent.

Personalizing the recruitment process is not just a strategy but a crucial step in making candidates feel valued from their first interaction. Strategies to enhance candidate engagement include maintaining timely and transparent communication throughout the hiring process, which helps build trust and manage expectations.

Providing constructive feedback, even to those not selected, encourages future applications and leaves a positive impression.

Leveraging technology, such as AI-driven recruitment platforms, can streamline processes while ensuring a personalized touch remains intact. These technologies can handle initial candidate screening, allowing recruiters to spend more time building meaningful relationships with candidates and enhancing overall engagement.

Effective candidate engagement strategies offer numerous long-term benefits for organizations. Improved employer branding, for instance, can attract high-quality candidates and increase the likelihood of offer acceptances. Fully engaged candidates are more likely to accept job offers and remain loyal to the company, resulting in higher employee retention rates. Providing a quality candidate experience can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations, expanding the pool of potential applicants. 

In conclusion, prioritizing candidate engagement is about filling positions and building a competitive, successful organization. Companies should take immediate and actionable steps to ensure their recruitment processes are candidate-centric, fostering stronger relationships with talent in today’s candidate-driven market.

About SDHR Consulting

SDHR Consulting is an HR and Recruiting firm that supports clients in a wide range of industries and sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. When it comes to the Recruiting side of our organization, our Recruiters have a collective average years of experience of over a decade and are located across the U.S., allowing regional market expertise as well as time zone advantages. We customize our recruiting services to fit the organization’s needs, including monthly subscriptions, hourly subscriptions, and contingency. Our Recruiting experts specialize in filling functional and technical positions and the ability to support all your organization’s recruiting needs. Learn more at


Katja Vincetic, HR Transformation and HR Technology Consultant | Founder, Shape Up HR

Katja Vincetic

When founding Shape Up HR, I had exactly this as a goal — I wanted to help companies understand and prioritize candidate experience at every step of the journey. Employers can’t afford to provide negative candidate experiences anymore as the business and brand costs are too high.

When helping companies optimize the candidate experience and journey, we start with an audit and a health check of their whole talent acquisition. We map the journey out, identify improvement points and come up with an improvement plan. Mapping the candidate journey is a critical step to do as it gives an outside-in perspective and really helps us identify core problems in it.

We do it by using product management tools and principles — we really want to understand the end users and their pain points and build meaningful solutions for those pain points. User interviews, focus groups, process, and persona maps all help us empathize with stakeholders in the talent acquisition process.

We believe empathy is key in deciding which improvements are critical.

Very often, improvements we need to make are often related to technology optimization. Companies either need help choosing their first tools or optimizing the existing recruitment tech stack. While just implementing technology doesn’t solve problems, good tools help streamline processes, create clarity, and make hiring simple for candidates and employers. 

About Shape Up HR

Shape Up HR is a boutique consulting agency specializing in Agile HR Transformation and HR Technology. We help companies optimize their HR functions, prepare for scale, and implement technology to drive efficiency. Our product-driven, human-centric approach makes us a unique partner for forward-thinking organizations looking to transform their People functions into business value drivers.

Our mission is to empower HR and People teams to lead their organizations to future success. Founded in the Netherlands in 2023, Shape Up HR serves global companies of all sizes and industries, driven by a commitment to innovate and improve. We offer workshops and interim project services in product-led, agile, and digital HR transformation. Contact us at or visit


Ben Keighley, Co-Founder of the AI-powered recruitment platform Socially Recruited

Ben Keighley

From First Contact To First Day In The Job, Connection Is Key For Employers

Tight labor markets have made it a seller’s market for candidates, so it’s perhaps no surprise that two in three workers surveyed for the Employ Job Seeker Nation Report feel it would take them as little as two months to get a new job.

Nowhere is this truer than in the U.S., where the labor market continues to run hot — creating 206,00 new jobs in June alone and pushing up wages by 4.1% over the year. Hiring managers, therefore, face two challenges: intense competition from other employers in the battle for talent and a talent pool that feels so confident in its ability to get a new job that it only searches sporadically or even not at all. The key to meeting both challenges is connection.

If you can understand the job seeker’s mindset and motivation, you will identify the right people and engage them in the right way — even if they’re not actively seeking a new role.

Helping employers identify and connect with ‘passive candidates’ like this is central to our mission at Socially Recruited. Our platform uses machine learning to pinpoint ‘needles in a haystack’ people who are already at work but could be tempted to move to an attractive new role.

We do this by analyzing almost four million individual data points to reveal people’s suitability for roles, based on their social media presence and activity. Once we’ve found candidates who match perfectly our client’s needs, we reach out to them with targeted adverts placed in their preferred social media network.

As soon as they click on one of our ads, they’re guided seamlessly through an intuitive, AI-powered application process that can be completed in just 60 seconds. This makes applying for a job as quick and easy as making a purchase on Amazon.

This encourages more qualified candidates to apply while also avoiding the curse of abandoned applications suffered by conventional, clunky online job application forms. The first vacancies we advertised using this system recorded an average application rate of 9.7%, with one in 10 of those who saw a job advert applying immediately.

By contrast, the industry average advert view-to-application rate — even among active candidates searching for a job — ranges from 1% to 4.3%. In a competitive labor market, building a connection with candidates is key — right from first contact and even before they’ve considered applying.

About Socially Recruited

Socially Recruited is a digital headhunter which helps employers find the right people faster. It uses social media to target ‘passive candidates’, reducing the amount of time it takes to apply for roles and providing employers with a diverse pool of high-quality candidates.

The firm’s technology identifies where and when adverts should appear and tailors recruitment campaigns based on candidate profiles and which platforms are generating the most engagement. Socially Recruited advertises across thousands of websites, social platforms, and apps, including YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, Gumtree, Sky Sports, and The Sun. Learn more at


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