Hello Job Candidate! You’ve got mail. Now, can you understand it?

Harnessing the automated emailing functionality of your company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can be a powerful way to reach out to candidates and help strengthen your relationship and build trust. Unfortunately, usability is largely ignored in electronic communications because people don’t think of email as having a user interface. Don’t fall into this trap!! Here are some tips for putting together top notch email communications your candidates will understand and appreciate.

Skip the Fluff

According to usability guru Jacob Nielson, “It has long been a strong usability guideline to be brief when writing for the Web; email writers must be even briefer.” Why? In all of the email usability tests Nielson has conducted over the years, he points out the one thing that remains unchanged – email is stressful. People often find the amount of email they receive to be overwhelming, and so their goal is to quickly find the information that is essential and move on.

FROM: Ummm…Who?

The FROM field plays a very important role in helping your ATS email avoid falling prey to the applicant’s SPAM filters. To avoid being perceived as “junk” mail or an advertisement, make sure your message is FROM a trusted brand. An example of this might be FROM: “XYZ Company Career Center” or “XYZ Company Recruiting” or “ATS name sent on behalf of XYZ Company Recruiting”. According to Nielson, “People simply don’t open messages that don’t have recognizable sender information.

SUBJECT: Does it have a scent?

It seems the importance of the SUBJECT line of an email is lost on many people. Here are a couple I recently received from different news organizations and groups I subscribe to:

Subject: Please RSVP
To whom and for what?

Subject: They’ll listen to us now…
Why? What are we saying?

Subject: Back by Popular Demand
Really? How do I know it’s popular if I don’t know what it is that’s back?

Email subjects are like links on a web page. In order to motivate the user to click the link or open the email, you have to provide what usability types call “informational scent”. What does this mean? The subject line needs to provide a strong indication of the content and purpose of the email message. A good example might be, “Job Application UPDATE: Concerning Your Application for XYZ Job with XYZ Company”.

MESSAGE BODY: Make it brief and make it matter!

Write the email notification or message with the receiver’s priorities in mind. Tell them the things they most want to know first – specifics on the job, how to view their status, how their status may have changed. If they need to take action, what is the action required and how do they proceed? If there is a contact, who is it, how do they contact them, when do they contact them? Details, details, details!!! Also, make sure any really important information appears “above the fold”. What is above the fold, you ask? Good question. This means it should be viewable when the message is opened and not require the candidate to scroll down (below the fold) to see it. This is very important when including links and/or buttons the candidate needs to proceed or take action.

Example of Fold

Also, avoid using “HR speak” like acronyms or jargon not recognized by the candidate. Your candidates may not know what a requisition is, and terms like onboarding, assessments, prescreening could mean nothing to them and may just cause confusion. If you are writing for a broad audience, Nielson recommends you write to the 8th grade reading level.

Your ATS can send email updates all day long, but if your candidates don’t read them or can’t understand them, you’ve lost a major opportunity to communicate with your applicant pool. It’s kind of like owning a Mercedes you never drive.

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