In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed what employers already knew: The labor market is tighter than ever. Unemployment rates hover around 3.6 percent. Businesses are struggling to fill roles for unskilled labor; competition for top talent in competitive industries is fierce.

When employees have options, employers have to pull out all the stops to land top candidates. Companies have to nail everything from the job description to the interview process. After interviews, recruiters have to keep the conversation going to maintain mutual interest.

Follow-ups provide numerous benefits to diligent employers. Interviewers can streamline the post-interview process to keep candidates engaged without expending much time or effort. Even if an offer isn't extended, a friendly exchange after the interview can go a long way toward building a better reputation among future candidates.

Consider these reasons for following up after interviews:

1. Keep your brand top of mind.

Brilliant candidates typically interview at multiple companies. You might believe your culture and mission make your brand stand out, but those qualities don't always shine through during fast-moving interview processes. Even if you make a good first impression, that memory will fade when candidates don't hear from you.

Keep the experience fresh by following up early and often. As candidates continue their job searches, many companies cease communication unless they need something. When you keep the lines of communication open, candidates continue to think about your company -- even while they interview with others.

2. Showcase your respectful culture.

Every job seeker knows the story: A company claims to value transparency and employee well-being, then ghosts unsuccessful interviewees. Not only does this practice leave a bad taste in prospective hires' mouths, but it can also create a bad start if new hires suspect your company doesn't walk its talk.

Back up your claims of a positive company culture with continued transparency before, during and after the interview. If a candidate doesn't make the cut, communicate quickly and offer to provide feedback. Not everyone wants criticism, but many would love to know why you chose someone else. Remain tactful at every turn, and don't compare candidates.

3. Inspire positive word-of-mouth marketing.

Great minds think alike. Often, especially in niche industries, great minds also run in the same circles. Provide a bad interview experience to one, and your company could quickly gain a bad reputation. Poor communication with the wrong fit could cause the right fit to write off your business.

When you turn someone down tactfully, you plant seeds that could grow in unexpected ways. Many companies fail to follow up with rejected candidates, and when they do, they do it poorly. The words of a junior-level programmer who speaks highly of your company could reach the ears of a senior marketing expert when you need one. Show respect after the interview to boost the odds that candidates (successful or not) will praise you.

4. Prevent competitors from swooping in.

The longer you take to complete your hiring process, the greater the odds are that a competitor will scoop up your favorite candidate. Mixmax, a workflow automation company founded by former Skype and Google employees, recommends using something as simple as email automation to stay in touch. "Keep your networking activity high with the mindset of a future 'sale' and leverage email tracking apps to stay in touch with candidates at the right time," writes Stephanie Tan, recruiter at Mixmax.

By even letting high-quality candidates know we've received their materials, my team has used email to build trust from the beginning. Over-communicating can nudge top talent to wait for an offer from your team -- even if another company makes an offer, giving you an opportunity to beat it.

Truly great hires are too valuable to leave hanging. It's bad enough when your top choice picks a different company, but you lose twice when that candidate goes to work on behalf of your rival.

5. Increase the odds top talent will choose your company.

When you treat people with respect, inspire positive word-of-mouth marketing and keep your company top of mind, good things happen. Strong candidates deciding where to take their talents will choose the company with the best communication.

You won't land every brilliant applicant with a follow-up process, but you'll greatly increase your odds of success when you keep the conversation going. Don't let excuses stand in the way -- you can use tools to schedule emails, set up meetings and create call reminders. Up your odds of a long-term relationship by establishing strong communication.

Just like in sales, follow-through is key to recruiting. If you don't already follow up after interviews, consider this your wake-up call. No matter what happens to the job market, the best candidates will never lack for suitors -- and a few emails can make all the difference.

Published on: Jun 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.