How to Recruit with the Candidate Journey in Mind

Sheridan Gaenger
November 29 ․ 12 min read

how to recruitPut on a Fresh “Marketing Hat” to Guide Smarter Hiring Decisions

The candidate journey is the heart of recruitment marketing. Every engagement, every communication, and every action and reaction moves a prospect closer to seeking more information, applying, interviewing, being hired, showing up for the first day of work, and becoming a productive, engaged employee. If you pay attention to where the organization intersects with each candidate on their own personal journey, it can help you stand out and attract and nurture the best talent. However, for many companies, this journey is ignored and the candidate is often left at a dead end (and so they make a left-turn to other companies that compete with you for talent!).

Consider this statement from the 2015 Talent Board North American Candidate Research Report, written by industry experts Madeline Laurano and Kevin Grossman:

Communication with Candidates Is Very Weak. Although most companies send an immediate “thank you,” nearly half of candidates never received an indication of the status of the application, or information about why gender, race, and ethnicity questions were asked or the option to save their application for a later date.

In other words, candidates are applying and hitting a brick wall. Is this happening at your company?

In order to successfully recruit with the candidate journey in mind, you must be proactive in mapping out a strategy every step of the way. We recommend starting with a ginormous whiteboard or large piece of butcher paper and physically drawing each interaction, perhaps a bit like the game of Life. Ask the team:

  • Where do candidates currently hear from us? When should they ideally hear from us?
  • Which interactions should be personalized versus more general?
  • How does our employer brand come into play - how do we stand out?
  • Where do other organizations not pay attention and how can we put an emphasis there? (For example, most companies don’t call a candidate post-interview with feedback on where they could improve. Is this something you could do?)

As you create your custom map, here are some concrete ideas to incorporate:

First Impressions Matter

There are introductions, there are proper introductions, and then there are introductions that make a lasting impression. To get the candidate journey off to a great start, aim for option No. 3.

Think through the first impression each candidate has with your organization. (It will probably be different for each individual, which goes back to why every touchpoint matters.) You must post eye-catching, interesting content via social media, blogs, and display ads to the channels your ideal candidates frequent. Be bold! Be different! Dare to stand out! Be memorable.  

We talk over and over again about the importance of your employer brand, and it’s because it’s just that darn important! Emphasize your employer brand by telling a story of why candidates should choose to work for your company. Your mission is to keep candidates coming back to your content and, hopefully, get them to the next “stone” on their path: your career website.

Full On Nurture Mode

Congratulations: Your awareness and discovery efforts have successfully engaged candidates with your brand and they are interested in continuing on their journey with you!

At this point, you should metaphorically be riding shotgun on the journey, answering any questions your candidates may ask, as well as learning more about what they are looking for from their next job and what they bring to the table. You are in full on nurture mode at this point, using email marketing and job alerts, and consideration strategies, such as landing pages, lead capture, and your career site itself to develop a relationship with candidates that will lead them to apply at your company. This nurturing is absolutely vital to keep those “perfect” candidates engaged and interested in your company as they may be ready to apply today or they might not be ready for six months. Riding along on their journey, your job is to keep your company top of mind as one of the best choices.

The Moment of Truth

Aside from the actual hire, a candidate formally applying is the moment of truth along their journey with your organization. A HireRight survey found that “75 percent of respondents said that the look and feel of a job posting influences their decision to apply, and they will spend an average of 30 seconds looking at a post.” Thirty seconds - wow, that’s short!

Your job postings are an opportunity to let your company shine: Don’t waste precious candidate attention span on corporate gobbledygook that uses the same language everyone does. Again, use this touchpoint to illustrate why your company is different and why someone should want to work for you.

The online application process itself must be user-friendly, seamless, and integrated with other parts of the journey. It must be mobile optimized, but nowadays that’s really just table stakes. Consider the user experience and how easy it is to fill out the form. Remove friction. Do some user testing. Having an ATS that integrates with your larger recruitment marketing solution can make these changes painless and create a win-win for talent leaders and recruiters.

One more “stone” on that candidate journey path may be a skills assessment as part of the application process. Pay as much attention to this step as you are the others. Make sure the candidate knows the value of the assessment and that it’s as easy to complete as the application. Communicate their results and let them know what the next step is.

Post-application, the nurturing doesn’t stop; if anything, it’s more important because you don’t want to lose that big fish—i.e. a qualified candidate—this late in the game. Continue the conversation and don’t drop the ball!

On Board and Engaged

A candidate has applied, his or her credentials and skills have been assessed and confirmed, and a job offer has been extended and accepted. But the journey is far from over.

Engaging new employees right away is critical to long-term success, so offer as much information and encouragement as you did throughout the entire journey. Inspire—and provide the necessary tools—to turn engaged workers into advocates for your brand. These evangelists post content to social media and other channels, thus attracting more candidates who begin their own journeys.


Is this keen attention to the candidate journey worth it? According to a Recruiter article, “The good news is, if recruiters and hiring managers provide a positive candidate experience, 64 percent of candidates are likely to tell their friends and social media contacts about it.”

That’s a good chunk of people! The candidate journey is an area that has enormous opportunity for organizations to really stand above their competitors and shine. Remember:

  • Physically map out the candidate journey and each interaction with your organization.
  • Define “first impression” points and pay attention to them. Make them memorable.
  • Create a candidate experience that blows away the competition with “full on nurture mode.”
  • Make your job postings unique.
  • User test your job application form and remove any friction points.
  • Engage new employees on Day 1. Inspire them and enable them to share the message via social.

Which part of the candidate journey do you feel your company excels at? Which part are you lacking?

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