In January, the U.S. economy added more than 300,000 new jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate also recently fell to 3.7%.  People are working. Fantastic news, right?  But if you’re an employer, it means the competition for new employees is tougher than ever. Job seekers can be selective about accepting new positions. If you want to attract new employees, give them a reason to apply!

Your approach to talent acquisition must be comprehensive and strategic – and personalized.

Treat Job Applicants Like Your Customer

When it comes to your customers or clients, you do everything you can to gain insight. You want to know who (i.e. demographics) they are, what they like, and what they care about. You build customers not just for today but for tomorrow and beyond.

Your recruitment strategy should hold to that same thought process. Personalizing your recruiting means allocating time to research your candidates to identify aspects of their background (experience, education, etc.) that can help you tailor your outreach and align their interests to your position.


Outbound messages should grab attention immediately because you don’t want to end up in their deleted items folder.


Get to know today’s workforce.

Workforce demographics are quickly shifting. Younger, more diverse workers are entering the workforce in large numbers, while older workers are beginning to contemplate retirement.  Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z are all in the workforce.

Recruiters must also be on top of hiring surveys and occupational trends. Technology workers are a particularly tricky lot to reach.

“Technology is an important driving force behind innovation… How we incentivize our tech talent will define our business success,” shared Art Zeile, CEO of DHI Group, Inc., parent company to Dice and ClearanceJobs.

Your ability to send personalized communication tailored to the needs of all demographics and key talent needs gives you a larger, more diverse candidate pool.

Make Relationship-Building the Goal

Do your homework before you make contact. Read up on each demographic group and review surveys as well as any other valuable research you can find. Yes, this takes extra time but the message it transmits to your applicants is invaluable. You can’t afford not to do it. Having a position that goes unfilled is costly and a few extra minutes now will build your candidate pool for tomorrow and beyond.

Any outreach to a candidate, no matter what phase of the process, should include some personalized element, whenever feasible, that demonstrates you have taken the time to explore their background and expertise.

Lazy emails and one-size-fits-all templates can’t be the go-to when you need new talent. Communication (when personalized and not creepy) allows recruiters to capture attention and increases the chances of getting positive responses.

Say No to Generic One-Size-Fits-All Templates

Recruiters can rely too heavily on generic templates. When you are in the demand for talent, a degree of personalization will increase your candidate engagement and drive candidate experience.

As mentioned, we have four generations in the workforce. A strong recruiting messaging strategy will set your organization apart from the others.

For example, baby boomers have much to offer. They want to feel valued and able to share their skills and expertise with those who come after. They want to be seen as viable and critical employees.

On the other hand, research shows that Millennials say a company’s volunteer policy affects whether they will accept a job. This would be an opportunity to discuss your social responsibility efforts.

Gen X often feels as if they are forgotten since so much is made about the Boomer or the Millennial. Refresh your recruitment language with signs that you will recognize individual value and you can incorporate it into the fabric of your culture.

Simply understanding job seekers’ profiles and preferences is the first step to attracting top talent.

How to Make it Personal

Examples of personalized messages may include mentioning a mutual connection, discussing a white paper someone has written, talking about a project they managed, or talking about a certain in-demand skill.  Make it relevant and relatable to your position and/or the organization. Talk about what the company is working on and how that ties into what they have done.

But keep it professional. Something that feels like you are stalking them is a turnoff.  Saying, “Hey, I noticed that your Twitter says that you love pizza. So do I!”  That’s just cheesy, pun intended.

Or saying, “I see that you and your spouse were in Wine Country last week…” feels too personal. They will feel like their social media is scrutinized. That makes it awkward. Praise their skills and abilities, highlight what you perceive as a value they seek, and don’t make them feel like you are a creeper.

Candidate dispositions are no exceptions. If a candidate applies to a position and they are not the ideal fit, let them know the specific reason if you can.

For example:

…Unfortunately, this position is an entry-level role and our salary band for this role is lower than your desired salary. Your background is exceptional but far outweighs what is essential in the daily duties in the role. If our salary range of X is suitable for you, please do let me know.  I would love to discuss this position.  If this doesn’t work for you right now, let’s keep trying!  I have new positions frequently and hopefully we can find something that is a great match for your career…” 

A personalized message like that can ease the frustration of the applicant. They probably think they are a perfect match and a canned response leaves questions. This eases frustration. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to let the recruiter know if they are willing to accept the salary range. They could be in a career transition or looking for an entry-level role. The resume never tells the full story. Personalized messages open the lines of communication.  And if the salary doesn’t work, they will appreciate the candor.

No application is in vain. What doesn’t work today may turn out to be an ideal connection a few months from now.  Candidate experience and relationship building should be a component of every talent acquisition strategy, particularly in today’s market.

A Word of Warning

Be careful about generalizations. Even though there are varying desires amongst workforce demographics, there are also similarities. Incorporate and highlight like points into your messaging that crosses generational lines. The power that genuine and candid human contact holds cannot be overstated. A one-size-fits-all method to engaging prospective employees is never the best strategy. Only when employers consider the total value of a candidate-centered approach, will they be able to effectively attract top talent.

Your goal: Build a diverse and sustainable workforce today and beyond.

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.YourBestLifeTodayCoaching.Com .