Before consumers decide to buy, they go through a lengthy thought process. It takes time for them to learn about a company and the product or service it offers before they eventually decide whether they want to make a purchase. This customer journey does not differ too much from the candidate journey, showing that recruitment and sales are very much alike.
Candidates go through multiple steps in the candidate journey before they decide to apply to your company. As a matter of fact, when they make their final decision to apply, the second phase of their journey begins.
Understanding the candidate journey is crucial to improving the overall candidate experience and acquiring the best talent. As the market has become very candidate-centric, it is becoming increasingly harder to get candidates further down your application funnel. Understanding what candidates go through can improve your entire hiring process to ensure that candidates don’t churn or drop out in the process.
What is the candidate journey?
The candidate journey can be defined as the experiences that job seekers go through during the job-hunting process. It starts before candidates apply for a job, and it continues even after you have hired the candidate.
Understanding the candidate journey can improve the candidate experience, lower the cost and time to hire, and build a stronger employer brand.
The candidate journey definition shouldn't vary too much from company to company, though the candidate journey touchpoints may, depending on their unique hiring process.
What are the candidate journey touchpoints?
The candidate journey is a multi-step process that candidates go through in their job hunt. Generally, there are seven candidate journey touchpoints:
The first three touchpoints can be described as the pre-application phase. In this phase, your job as a recruiter is mainly to engage in recruitment marketing to reach passive job seekers. This means grabbing the attention of your potential candidates, getting them excited to work for your company, and eventually get them to apply.
The pre-application phase of the candidate journey involves all the touchpoints candidates have with your company before applying. These can be both online and offline.
- Viewing your job ads
- Talk to a company representative at a career fair
- Visit your career site
- Visit your company social media pages
- Talk to someone they know at the company
- Any interaction they might have had as a customer
Every touchpoint with your company plays a role in whether potential candidates will turn (or “convert”, as you might say in sales terminology) into actual candidates. That’s why it is crucial to make sure that each touchpoint gives the potential candidates a positive experience.
The pre-application phase consists of three steps:
These are the first of the candidate journey touchpoints with your company. They make potential candidates aware of who you are, what your organization does and what it’s like to work there. In this stage, candidates are just getting to know you. This could be through jobs or speaking to a current employee.
When candidates have experienced a few of your touchpoints, they enter the consideration phase, where they determine if they’re interested in working for your company.
During this stage, they may have additional points of contact with your company (like meeting representatives at job fairs or visiting your careers page) that will lead them to the next stage or filter them out of the candidate journey.
It’s essential to keep in mind that potential candidates can move back to the awareness phase from the consideration phase. The candidate journey is not a linear process for everyone, especially in the pre-application stage.
In this step, potential candidates are genuinely interested in working for your company. This is the final step in the thought process before applying.
When potential candidates have reached this step, they are likely to apply unless something happens (like getting a job offer from another company they applied to). There are still several touchpoints at this stage. Common examples include retargeted job ads or candidates emailing to ask questions about the job.
The application phase: application, selection, and hiring
As soon as a candidate starts filling in the application form on your website, they enter the application candidate journey touchpoint. From this moment, you have much more control over how they perceive you and their experiences with you. The application phase involves everything that happens from the moment that candidates fill out the application form to the moment that you hire or reject them.
This phase of the candidate journey has three main steps:
The application step naturally starts when the applicants fill out the application form and end when they are rejected or after the job interview(s).
The way you communicate with your candidates during this step is a crucial factor in determining their perception of your company. Also, the way you reject candidates is important to think about. It involves face-to-face communication as its main touchpoint.
At this point, you have an excellent opportunity to show your candidates what your company is all about and why they should work there.
The selection step starts immediately after the interview(s).
During this step, you evaluate your candidates based on their interviews. For the candidate, it means a lot of waiting. While most companies don’t communicate too much with candidates during this stage, you can still generate touchpoints to improve the candidate experience.
For example, you could send an email to thank the candidates for their time and let them know how long it will take before making your decision. You could also send them study materials if they would like to know more about your company. Remember, though, it’s poor practice to fail to supply candidates with updates if this step is taking some time.
The last step in the application phase is when candidates get either hired or rejected after interviews conclude. Many recruiters consider this step to be the final step of the candidate journey.
Nothing could be further from the truth for those seeking to create a great candidate experience. The touchpoint for this stage is the call or email that informs the candidate of the decision. If you reject a candidate, make sure that you let them know why they didn’t make it. Transparency in your recruitment processes significantly improves the candidate experience.
The post-application phase: onboarding
Recruiters often forget the onboarding process. They get so caught up in the hiring process that they often have little time to think about the successful hires they have made. This practice, however, can be damaging to the company.
Onboarding your candidates is an essential part of the candidate journey. It has a significant impact on whether your candidate stays at your company after the probation period. This directly correlates with your new starter retention rates.
As a recruiter, you should already be thinking about onboarding before you hire. After all, you don’t want to lose an employee just a month after spending so much time, effort, and resources on the recruitment process.
Onboarding involves different people from different departments. The best practice involves at least one person from the new hire's team and one from HR or hiring. The HR member can take care of company onboarding while the team member carries out the team onboarding.
Mapping out your candidate journey touchpoints
Mapping out the candidate journey is crucial to understanding what your candidates go through and what you can do to improve candidate experience. It can help you improve the journey to ensure that you attract the best candidates, shorten the time to hire and decrease your hiring costs.
Mapping out your candidate journey can be done in three steps:
Step 1: Define your candidate persona
Understanding your ideal candidates is the first step in mapping out your candidate journey. You need to understand whose journey it is that you are mapping, after all. Creating a candidate persona is one way to do this.
Creating candidate personas is similar to creating customer personas. It’s consideration into what your ideal candidate would be and describing them. It’s absolutely fine to have multiple personas for each job.
Candidate personas help you to clarify whose journey you are mapping for what job. This is important because different candidates can have very different journeys. A senior developer, for example, will not have the same journey as a junior legal counsel.
Step 2: Set up the candidate journey framework and identify the needs of the candidate
The different phases and seven steps described above should form the basis of your candidate journey map. This framework is universally applicable as all candidates go through every step of the process, regardless of where they apply.
The basis of every step in the candidate journey is made up of the candidates’ needs. To map out the journey properly, you will need to think about what those needs are and what thoughts and feelings drive the candidates' behavior.
These thoughts might be:
- Awareness: What does this company do? Who are they?
- Consideration: What can this company offer me?
- Interest: What makes this company different from others? Could I see myself working here?
- Application: Has my application been received? Will I get invited for an interview?
- Selection: Do they like me? Did I get a good impression of the company?
- Hire: I got the job!
- Onboarding: What should I be doing? What are my tasks? How do I do this and that?
Contemplating your (potential) candidates' thoughts helps you understand the candidate journey a lot better. Having a hard time knowing what it is that your candidates are thinking during their journey? Try sending out questionnaires after each step in the application phase (application, selection, and hire).
Step 3: Map out candidate journey touchpoints
To map out the journey, you need to know what the touchpoints are between your company and the (potential) candidates.
Touchpoints refer to all the interactions candidates have with your company. Your task is to discover all possible touchpoints that a specific persona can have in every part of the candidate journey.
The number of possible touchpoints that candidates could have is endless, especially in the pre-application phase. This can make it hard to map out every single touchpoint and where your candidate persona will be most beneficial. Think about their behaviors: how do they spend their time? What websites do they often visit? What social media channels are they active on? Try to identify between three and five touchpoints for every step of the journey.
When mapping out the touchpoints, don’t forget to create a list of channels where these interactions take place. Having an overview of the channels makes it easier for you to know where you can reach each persona, at what stage of the journey and for what job.
Using the candidate journey map
You’ve mapped out your candidate journey; now what?
Your map can help you with many things. First of all, you can use it to improve the candidate experience. Candidate experience has become one of the most critical factors in acquiring the best talent. A poor candidate experience can do a lot of damage to both your business and employer brand. The journey map shows you every touchpoint and stage that candidates go through. This helps you get a good overview of what your recruitment process looks like and where you can improve on the candidate experience.
The candidate journey map is also a great tool to help make your recruitment processes more efficient and effective. It allows you to identify bottlenecks within the process and get a good idea of which parts of the process aren’t going well. This way, you can improve both your hiring decisions and shorten your time to hire.
In conclusion: your new talent are people, not products
Candidate journeys and candidate experience are about people and relationships. Heading right back to the beginning of this piece, we talked about how similar the customer journey was to acquiring new talent and the candidate journey.
The crucial difference between products and people is people are living, breathing entities with feelings and emotions. We act on how we feel, so we must consider every interaction we make with those around us.
When it comes to candidate journeys, it’s more crucial than ever. Not only do you want to impress, you need your candidates to feel safe, valued, and informed at every step—even if you decide you don’t have a place for them at the time.
Use the journey and candidate map to look after your people, and you won’t go too far wrong. Use them to make your possible hires feel truly important and cared for, and you’ll succeed in boosting a far more substantial range of candidates through your acquisition funnel.