Group of job applicants waiting to speak to a recruiter

How to Respond to Job Applicants the Right Way

Improve candidate response rates and maximize candidate experience with these 3 tips.

A few years ago, the employment market was a recruiter’s paradise. The demand for jobs far outweighed the supply, there were many great applicants available for each open position, and the approach to communicating with candidates amounted to “I’ll get back to you if I have time, but if you don’t hear from me it means we’re not interested.” Times have changed – significantly.

Nowadays, with the unemployment rate hovering around 3.7% (the lowest it’s been in over a decade), the climate is completely different. Recruiters are at a disadvantage, and the best talent can afford to be choosy and weigh multiple competing offers. Suddenly, knowing how to respond to job applicants is essential and testing recruiting email templates to improve candidate response rates is a must.


Young woman sitting outside and looking at her email on a tablet


1. Don’t Forget, Communicating with Candidates is a Two-Way Street

A lot of hiring sites suggest you should treat job seekers the way you would like to be treated. Actually, you should treat job seekers even better than that—treat them like valued customers. Make yourself available, respond to questions quickly, and reach out to candidates with regular updates. Provide a top-notch candidate experience and you’ll keep talent engaged throughout the hiring process.

According to the folks at Hireology, it takes the average business 10 days to review and respond to applicants. That’s far too long. A lot can happen in that amount of time, and not communicating with candidates for almost two weeks could have a disastrous impact on your hiring efforts. On the contrary, if you can quickly review applications and follow up with candidates in a timely fashion, you may be able to snag top performers before your competition.


Recruiter sitting in front of his laptop and using templates to communicate with candidates


2. Use Recruiting Email Templates to Save Time

Knowing how to respond to job applicants and manage candidate expectations is incredibly important to running an effective recruiting operation but corresponding with job seekers also has the potential to bog you down. This is one area where you need to work smart and not hard. Why write the same message over and over again if you can simply use templates to keep in touch with applicants?

Take advantage of iHire’s library of recruiting email templates to save time and ensure that you have consistent messaging for all candidates regardless of whether you’re simply acknowledging receipt of their application or sending them an invitation to interview for your open position.


Job seeker looking at an email from a recruiter on her phone


3. Improve Candidate Response Rates by Testing Subject Lines, But Be Careful

Making sure your team knows how to respond to job applicants and reach out to qualified talent is important, but what if candidates don’t even open your emails? The problem could be your subject lines. According to SocialTalent, candidates are 26% more likely to open your messages if you reference their name in the subject line. For example:

  • [Name], you’re a perfect fit for this role with Company A
  • Tired of that long commute, [Name]? Join the Company A team!


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In addition to increasing the number of individuals who open your emails, including a candidate’s name can raise click-through rates by as much as 130%. Be cautious though – you can go overboard with your subject lines. Hubspot put together a list of terms that get flagged for SPAM that includes things like “be your own boss” and “earn extra cash” as well as words that seem harmless like ”opportunity.”


In a job seekers’ market, the best candidates will often have multiple opportunities to choose from. Make your company stand out by providing a superior candidate experience. Treat them like customers, find ways to save time and increase efficiency, and experiment with different strategies to uncover what works best for your team.

By Freddie Rohner, iHire | April 30, 2022