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How to Write Automated Responses that Engage Candidates

Searching for a new job is stressful, even for the most experienced candidates. Add to that, a failure to communicate and process-oriented language, and that stress can turn into disengagement very quickly.

In this guide, I’ve broken down the hiring process into 5 key stages and will share some tips for writing automated responses that you can use to keep candidates engaged in a time efficient way as they progress. If using to organise your hiring process, then these can be sent out automatically as the candidate’s status changes.


In presumably an effort to sound professional and formal, many of the messages that recruiters send out to candidates once they apply to a job sound rather cold. They tell candidates not to call to follow-up because a recruiter will get in touch “if interested in moving forward,” even if they don’t have a streamlined way to do so. This type of process-driven wording is disengaging and can make candidates feel like another cog in the machine..

Instead of telling candidates what not to do, focus on clarifying the process moving forward so that applicants know what to expect. If the next step in your hiring process is a phone screen, then let them know how they will be contacted as well as a brief note which explains that this call is to learn more about them and what they are looking for in their next role. As a general rule, look to identify the benefit to the candidate at each step in the process rather than what you need from the initial screening.


Adding to this, avoid requiring candidates to fill out an extensive application form with information that isn’t relevant to the stage of the hiring process that they are in. The information that you need to know as a prospective employer at the application stage varies greatly from the information that you will need when it is time to onboard new hires. Trying to save time in the hiring process by asking for too much information at the outset could cause candidates to drop out of the hiring process altogether.

Think about it this way: if you were interested in learning more about a product or technology, for example, would you stick around if the vendor asked for your private information as soon as you request a call or would you have concerns about giving out too much personal information?


Initial screening

If greeting each individual by name isn’t an option due to time or the quantity of applicants that your job ads receive, then choose a simple greeting rather than substituting the name. Greetings that cover multiple audiences, such as “Dear Sir or Madam” fail to resonate with either. It’s impersonal. Instead, choose a friendly “Hello” or “Hey there” that will be relevant to all applicants without sounding obviously generic.

Write in first person. Remember, if all goes well, then every piece of correspondence that you are sending out to candidates now will meet the eyes of one who will be joining your organisation later on. If you want that person to feel engaged and connected to the people they will be working with, then the first place to start is in the hiring process. Simple changes, such as changing “Company X” and “Company X employees” to “We” and “our team” will help make your automated responses sound more inviting and personal.


Offer candidates insights and advice that will help them succeed in the interview. Instead of attaching a set of documents to an email, communicate these pieces of advice in the body of the text as if you are helping your friend prepare for a job interview with a new employer. Use this as an opportunity to relate to candidates by researching interview advice from recognisable figures in their field. For example, if you are a tech recruiter, then you can pull quotes from Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and other CEOs of leading, non-competing businesses.


After interview: in case of rejection

Keep any rejection correspondence brief. Focus on thanking them for their time and interest. Just because that particular position may not be a good fit at the moment, that doesn’t mean that the candidate won’t be a good match for a position in the future or once they get more experience. Leaving candidates waiting for feedback when it’s been determined that they will not be moving forward in the hiring process, however, is a surefire way to push that individual away from your business for good.

Since the responses are automated, the feedback that you give should be applicable to all situations. If a candidate would like to learn more about the specific reason, then anticipate those individuals by giving candidates a way to follow up with a recruiter. This could be a phone number, an email, a social media account that your recruiters monitor, or another mode of communication that would be feasible for your recruiters to respond to. Doing this will save you time by not needing to respond to each candidate individually while ensuring that the candidates who you may want to consider for future employment have a way of keeping in touch.


The main purpose for this message will be to notify the candidate that they will be receiving an offer because the offer itself and other details will necessitate a direct call or email. You could show some celebration in your correspondence by congratulating the individual with a meme or comic. If you are a small business or startup, then adding a photo of your team is one way to help prospective hires “see” themselves working for your business.  

Do you like to hear more about a ATS like and how this can help you to structure your recruitment process? Join us in one of the following webinars.

Tony Restell

Tony is the Founder of and helps candidates and recruiters leverage social media. Having spent the last 15 years serving the recruitment industry, Tony is a frequent guest speaker on the ever-changing jobs market and how both candidates and recruiters must adapt in order to thrive. A published author and Cambridge graduate, you’re welcome to reach out to Tony on @tonyrestell