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Candidate engagement: human connections in a virtual world

Recruitment teams have faced a complex set of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, insists Ali Hackett, co-founder of candidate engagement platform Meet & Engage.

“They’re lean, they’re having to find creative ways of engaging with candidates. But they’re doing that at home with the added stress of the pandemic, children around, and getting used to new ways of working in a world that’s changing. Recruitment is a very data-driven function and many plans that were in place may have been thrown out of the window,” she says.

Hackett co-founded the recruitment technology company with Graham Shroll five years ago having worked in in-house recruitment. “We couldn’t understand why big brands could not offer a better level of engagement at every level of the recruitment process,” she says. “Why weren’t they helping candidates understand more about their brands through the process and post-offer, ensuring that onboarding is smooth and nurturing?”

Tools for engagement

Meet & Engage comprises three core products: a live chat platform so candidates can engage with hiring managers or potential team-mates and ask questions or find out more about the role; a chatbot that can answer queries 24/7 or even run simple interview screening questions; and a tool that automates elements of the onboarding process to make it more efficient but enables brands to personalise that experience too.

The live chat tool offers employers the opportunity to really showcase their brand and candidates the chance to gauge whether they’d be a good fit. “So you could run a session at different stages of the recruitment process with a relevant audience – a number of our legal clients use it for graduate and internship recruitment. Candidates see someone from the business, perhaps a graduate who has been there for a year already, talking about their experiences. It’s a human connection,” she explains.

Graduate recruitment and COVID-19

With graduate recruitment in particular, the candidate engagement landscape has changed dramatically thanks to COVID-19. “A law firm might go to 10 universities’ career fairs or attend specific legal fairs in Spring and Autumn,” adds Hackett. “Now it won’t be practical for employers to go, or the fairs won’t take place at all. Even if you did want to send a team there would be so much red tape – potential travel issues and cancellation for example – it’s not worth it.” Where once employers would have done the bulk of engagement through face-to-face meetings and follow-up with a digital approach, it’s been flipped, she explains.

This means organisations are having to find ways to add value digitally in ways they might have done through physical meet-and-greets or skills sessions. Some are running virtual sessions on career-focused topics such as improving a LinkedIn profile. They’re also mindful that word gets around about what they do as a brand online in just the same way as it would in the physical world.

Creative communications

“Candidates are savvy, they still look at Glassdoor and the like. And organisations that have treated people well during the crisis, that have been flexible, will fare well,” she says. “Engagement is more important than ever.” In order to respond to that, employers are finding creative ways to tailor their communications with candidates rather than simply sending emails during the recruitment process.

“If you put effort into something like live chat it can be a rich experience. And the response you get will be much richer, too,” she adds. Meet & Engage helps clients to measure this by using Net Promoter Score as a measure of candidate experience – if candidates attended a chat they can score it, meaning clients can benchmark sessions and see what has been well received.

In the background, the tools can support recruiters to automate those repetitive aspects of the job that aren’t as fulfilling, such as requests for documentation. And from the candidate’s perspective, they can respond in a time that suits them. “Being able to access information when you need it is part of a great candidate experience,” says Hackett.

Virtual onboarding

With many employers hesitant about a return to the office – and many planning to continue working from home until next year at the earliest – the virtual onboarding experience will need to shine. Meet & Engage sends someone who has been made an offer a link to a personalised portal where they can see all the relevant joining information.

Alongside that, it can support live chats with the hiring manager or a chance to ‘meet’ the new recruit’s team. “Renege rates can be high, especially in times of anxiety. People may be wobbling or worried about leaving their current employer,” she concludes. “We want to support them to be work-ready, making the process more efficient but also ensuring they’re happier and more prepared.”

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