It takes only a few minutes, but following up with job applicants is one of the most important parts of your hiring process. That contact is one of the first times the candidates interact with a person from your company, and the experience they have will set the tone for the rest of the interviewing process. If you’re interested in the candidate, you need to get this moment right.

“For a good candidate experience, you need quick, prompt and frequent contacts,” says Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions, an HR consultancy that provides candidate screening solutions. “You can’t just put them in a black hole and say ‘we’ll get back to you.’ We don’t live in that time anymore.”

Here’s how to follow up with job applicants and leave a great impression.

Call and Chat

Calling the candidate on the phone signals you’re genuinely interested. With the job market tight, it’s critical that you engage with candidates by making this contact, Wolfe says. Emails should be reserved only for very large hiring volumes and should include a time the candidate should expect a phone call, or for turning down candidates.

If you feel like you have too many people to call then you should probably narrow down your pool, Wolfe says. Go through the resumes again and narrow the field to the ones who really stand out. You can always go back to the “maybe” pile if things don’t work out with the top candidates.

Talk a Little, Listen More

Plan on talking with each candidate for five to 10 minutes, Wolfe says. Start by telling them what made them stand out, what you liked about their resume and how you think they might fit in the job you’re trying to fill. After that, it’s time to get the candidate to talk, Wolfe says.

Spend a little time asking about what attracted the candidate to the position and how they think they might be a good fit, Wolfe says. Also ask about the work they’re doing now and what they’d like to do in their career. “You’re not hiring based on this limited information, and there’s no reason this call needs to be an hour,” Wolfe says. These questions are simply meant to help you get a feel for how the person works and what they’re looking for from the opportunities you have at your company.

Outline the Next Steps

This short initial contact provides immediate engagement with interested and qualified candidates, Wolfe says, and sets the stage for further interactions. “The process used to be ‘we’re going to evaluate candidates over the next two to three weeks, and someone will get back to you sometime,’ ” Wolfe says. “That’s a guarantee that you will lose top candidates.”

Regardless of whether you decide to bring the employee in for an interview, tell them what the next step will be so they know what to expect. Tell them when they will hear from you again and how long the process might take. Setting expectations and then meeting them will help provide a good candidate experience, which is vital in this job market, Wolfe says.

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