How to Build and Maintain a Strong Candidate Database

How to Build and Maintain a Strong Candidate Database

A strong candidate database can make all the difference to your recruitment process. This article looks at the benefits you can expect, the strategies you can use to build and engage with your database and how to keep your database looking good.

Why do you need a candidate database?

A candidate database will make it easier for you to nurture future talent from your talent pipeline by keeping contact information and other relevant candidate data organised. This applies whether you are storing the details of active applicants or passive candidates sourced from social media, careers fairs or elsewhere.

A database will speed up the recruitment process, reducing time-to-hire and increasing ROI.

If you don’t have an effective candidate database in place right now, you are likely to be losing data and spending more time (and hence money) trying to track down candidate information. Some businesses rely on spreadsheets instead of databases but these are cumbersome to work with.

When you are not actively recruiting, you will also be missing out on potential talent you could have been nurturing for future positions.

It is also harder to connect with candidates on a personal level if you don’t have up to date information on them. You could end up making a bad hire or annoying a good candidate by setting them irrelevant or duplicated tasks.

Strategies for building and engaging with your database

If you have never built an effective database before, how do you go about it?

First, it helps to invest in some specialist recruitment database software. This could be a standalone database or part of a CRM system. Either way, you should ensure it integrates with the rest of your recruitment applications and services (e.g. ATM, job board, screening tools, etc.)

There is some dispute over how big a candidate database should be with some sources saying a small database is better and others saying you should follow the ‘ABC principle’ (Always Be looking for Candidates). Either way, quality is far more important than quantity.

To optimize your recruitment process, you will need to segment your database using tags. For example, you could tag candidates based on skills, qualifications, languages spoken, geographical location, etc. Some software is able to parse resumes to automate the tagging process.

You should also record whether the applicant has been through your application process and how far they got. Add notes explaining why they weren’t hired so you know exactly what to focus on if they are suitable for a future opening.

In addition to active applicants, you should add passive candidates from employee referral programs, social media searches, diversity drives, career fairs and other sources.

To engage with your database, you should use a combination of email marketing and social media activity and use a soft-sell approach. If you are only posting your open positions, potential future candidates are likely to be turned off so be sure to include a mixture of industry updates, candidate advice and company insights. The golden rule is to share content that focuses on your audience’s interests not your company’s needs.

Make sure you are not spamming your audience. Sticking to a twice monthly frequency is probably sufficient and if you are recruiting in the European Union, be sure to follow GDPR guidelines (e.g. obtain active consent for email marketing and detail what subscribers will be sent and how often).

Keeping your database in order

A good candidate basis will be up-to-date with no duplicate information. All necessary data will be present and consistently formatted and there will be tutorials so that any appropriate stakeholder can add, edit and delete entries.

No matter how good your candidate database is, it will degrade over time. The natural process of database decay will set in as candidates change their contact details and gain experience, skills and qualifications.

Stats from Kissmetrics quantify some of this process:

  • 60% of people change their job title within one year
  • 40% of people change their email address within two years
  • 20% of people change their postal address within one year
  • 18% of people change their telephone number within one year

Database maintenance is the process of appending, normalizing and cleaning data. Appending involves checking database fields with other vendors and adding missing ones. Normalizing is ensuring that data is presented in a consistent format. Finally, database cleaning is all about removing duplicate entries, adding missing candidates and updating contact information and other outdated data.

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