Brand and Candidate Experience

The Candidate Journey: How to Create, Map and Measure it

I'm the kind of person that reads at least 5 reviews before I can pull the trigger on Amazon.

It takes me time to make up my mind. Often more time than I'd like. I prefer to learn about a company, product or service before I invest time and money in it.

Turns out this is pretty natural:

As a rule, we tend to interact with brands because they connect with us emotionally or we need a problem solved.

Think about the last sales cold call you got – how receptive were you?

Companies try to establish a relationship and a certain level of trust with you before asking if you want to buy something. We often go through many of these interactions with a company before we're ready to make a purchase. This is known as the customer journey.

Recruiting is no different:

Candidates rarely just pitch up at your website "ready to apply". They like to learn about your corporate culture and opportunities before they're ready to dive into an application.

This decision-making cycle is known as the candidate journey.

What is the candidate journey?

The candidate journey is the set of experiences that job seekers and candidates go through during their job hunt.

You can map the candidate experience a little like this:

candidate journey

There's one very important thing to note here. The candidate journey starts long before the application. It starts the very first time a candidate "touches" your brand.

At each stage of this journey, recruiters and hiring managers can do different things to impact candidate behavior, experience, and attitude.

In short, companies can influence candidates enough to turn them from passive strangers into enthusiastic applicants.

Getting the candidate journey right can also lead to more referrals, increased job applications, faster hiring times, improved quality of hire, and a stronger employer brand.

Sounds worth it right?

Why does the candidate journey matter?

Nearly 60% of candidates have a negative candidate experience, and it's often down to a lack of thought being applied to the candidate journey.

There is a web of different online and offline interactions between candidates and your company. Every time you connect with a candidate, you have an opportunity to build your relationship and increase their brand loyalty.

Each interaction can also lead to disaster though:

Take a look at a few of these comments that Forbes collected from candidates describing their own journey:

“I spent three hours customizing my resume for the job opportunity and writing my cover letter. Then it took me over an hour to trudge through the online application process. I couldn’t believe how difficult they made it.”

“The recruiter scheduled a telephone interview, then never called. After I emailed him, he rescheduled twice and blew me off two more times. You can be sure I’ll never consider that company for employment again and I can’t wait to share my thoughts in a Glassdoor review.”

“Having gone through the lengthy interview process at many different companies and been treated so poorly, I now know where I don’t want to work and the companies where I won’t buy their products. It’s truly shocking at the lack of respect for job candidates these days.”

There's a real danger that candidates are saying the same things about your recruiting process right now and, if they are, you're doing some real damage to your employer brand.

For many brands, candidates actually are also customers, so this negative experience can also have a pretty significant impact on the bottom line, plenty of you will have seen how much money Virgin Media was losing every year from disgruntled candidates.

How to create a great candidate journey

A great candidate journey doesn't just happen overnight. Making sure the candidate experience is optimal at every touchpoint typically requires a lot of work.

We've broken down some of the most important areas to get started with:

i Take your own application

There’s a severe disconnect over the application experience - the average candidate spends 3-4 hours submitting a single application, while 70% companies think it takes them less than an hour.

Hardly surprising then, that 60 percent of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because of their length or complexity.

application experience

High dropoff rates lead to loss of top talent, brand damage from candidates frustrated with the process, and the higher costs associated with abandonment in cost-per-click recruiting models.

Around 50% of employers believe that the length of application processes is a positive because it "weeds out" applicants.

They argue that good talent should be dedicated enough to fill out complex forms, while the lengthy process should screen out apathetic applicants.

In reality, the opposite is true - the best candidates have plenty of opportunities in today’s job market. They aren’t as willing to jump through hoops, and will happily go where the grass looks greener.

Taking your own application is the easiest way to walk a mile in your candidates' shoes.[tweetery-end]

Taking your own application is the easiest way to walk a mile in your candidates' shoes and see what needs to change. Apply with a fake name and details, and take an honest look at your process.

Does it make you more or less enthusiastic to work at your company?

ii Focus on relationships not resumes

This is something we say a lot at Beamery at least once a day.

This is why:

Online people are not candidates or consumers. They are both. There is no distinction, people are just people. They look at purchasing decisions and applications in the same way.

candidates are like customers

This represents a problem for recruiting teams.

Marketing departments have got extremely good at providing a customized experience for us. They pour money into the consumer journey, investing in our relationship with their brand and making it as easy as possible for us to buy.

Want an example?

Well, I booked a weekend trip a few days ago on Skyscanner, and when I was digging around for places to stay, already knew where I was going, how many people were involved and the exact dates.

This is a crazy level of personalization. This is now what people expect online. This is the new normal.

Compare this to the average recruiting journey. 65% of candidates say they either never or rarely receive notice of the decision made on their application from an employer.

Instead of feeling like a company cares about them and is invested in their future, they feel like they're throwing their CV into a black hole.

Companies need to move from a transactional approach filling a role to a relationship first approach building value with candidates whether they apply or not.

If you want to make talent your competitive advantage you need to learn from marketing departments and focus on building relationships, not collecting resumes.

iii Map your ideal candidate journey

This is an exercise that requires a whiteboard or a large stack of A3 paper.

Sit down with your team and map out what an ideal candidate journey looks like. Storyboard the entire process from start to finish, what does best in class really look like?

Mapping the entire, end-to-end candidate journey requires a lot of thought. Here are a few questions that you should start with though:

  • Who is your ideal candidate? What does your candidate persona look like? What's the best way to interact with that person online?
  • What do you want candidates to _feel _when they first come across your brand online?
  • How regularly can you reasonably expect your team to communicate with candidates? Is there a way that you can use automation to make a candidate's experience more high touch?
  • How can you make candidates feel welcome, valued and well informed at every stage of your process?
  • What is the best way to nurture candidates that aren't ready to apply and keep them warm for the future?

iv Learn from your mistakes

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

No one has a perfect candidate journey.

There, I said it.

There's always room for improvement, always space for optimization. You can always do more to strengthen your brand, improve your process and delight candidates.

There's a simple way to learn what's currently broken and try and fix it. Ask your candidates.

They're the people that are actually going through your process, they're the ones that you need to impress. They have all the answers.

[tweetery]Want to understand your candidate journey. Try asking your candidates[tweetery-end]

Some of the companies we speak to are surveying candidates at the end of the application process. This is a step in the right direction, but typically the survey data sits in an excel file, never to be opened again.

Most companies are in worse shape. They have no idea what candidates think until the reviews start rolling in on Glassdoor a very public way to find out!

Ideally, you should get feedback from candidates at every stage of the recruiting process. This way, you can see bottlenecks and issues immediately and put immediate fixes in place to improve the candidate experience.

Measuring and monitoring the candidate experience is something that Beamery enables companies to do, but even if you don't have a Recruitment Marketing platform, you should be collecting feedback in some shape or form.

Start 2020 with an outlook on best practices from the Fortune 500

We analyzed and ranked the talent attraction practices of the Fortune 500, and learned how the world's most successful companies attract and engage the best candidates: what they do more of, what they do better, and what marks them as winners in the talent attraction game.

Download the study.

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Ben Slater

VP Marketing

Ben Slater leads marketing globally at Beamery. He typically writes about the future of work and talent transformation.

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