A Modern Candidate Journey Definition and Why it Matters

What does candidate journey mean

A Modern Candidate Journey Definition and Why it Matters

Most HR executives have a general candidate journey definition in their minds.

They understand the basics:

A “candidate journey” is the way your future employees experience your hiring process.

From the initial inquiry to the offer stage, your company’s candidate journey is a potential hire’s first impression of your business.

But, here’s the thing —

In today’s candidate-driven market, the candidate journey is about more than just what happens with the talent already in your pipeline.  

It’s about how potential candidates experience your brand even before they consider working for your company.

That’s right — the modern candidate journey definition extends beyond your hiring process to include your entire brand experience.

And understanding why that matters is a key focus for today’s HR executives.

So, to start, let’s map out exactly what I mean by “candidate journey”:

An Updated Candidate Journey Definition for Modern HR Executives

I’ll admit — the concept of “candidate journey” is relatively new itself.

(I can almost guarantee you no HR executives in the Don Draper era cared at all about it.)

man winking

So, right now you may be asking yourself:

Do we really need an “updated” definition of a fairly new concept?

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: the original candidate journey definition has flaws that HR leaders need to address.

First, is the idea of when the candidate journey begins.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of candidates already working their way through our hiring process.

You know who candidates will meet throughout the interview process. You know how long (on average) it will take them to go from application to offer.

But all of that is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more feeding into the modern candidate journey that you need to account for.

Just take a look at this graphic from Glassdoor:

candidate journey stages

(image source)

To this point, the candidate journey definition most HR executives know focuses on just the area in green — the recruitment process.

But as the visual suggests, there are several pre-application stages of the candidate journey that modern HR executives need to take into account.

And to do that, it’s important to establish what “candidate journey” really means in today’s candidate-driven market.

So, here’s a more thorough breakdown of those three stages in blue:

1. Awareness

It’s no secret that employer branding makes a difference in your company’s ability to attract better talent.

In fact, according to LinkedIn, 72 percent of recruiting leaders around the world agree that employer branding has a significant impact on hiring.

And that same study shows companies that invest in their brand see a tangible return on investment. That means:

linkedin employer branding

(image source)

So, how exactly does employer branding fit into the candidate journey?  

Ken Kwan, founder of Career Prophets, explains it nicely over on the Lever blog:

“Candidates can be current and future customers of your business. Seeing the process through their lens can help provide a broader branding opportunity for any organization and can have a positive impact on the bottom line.”

In other words —

Treat your talent pool as a marketer treats prospective customers.

Businesses can’t wait for leads to just show up in their sales funnel. Marketing teams understand that a huge chunk of the buying process — as much as 70 percent in fact — takes place before customers ever reach out to a sales rep.

And the candidate journey is no different.

A study from CR Magazine found 69 percent of people would not take a job with a company that has a negative reputation — even if they were unemployed.

That means getting your name out there (and making sure people feel positive about your organization) is the first step in attracting and retaining top candidates.

But once you have their attention, it’s important you capitalize on it. And that’s where the “Consideration” stage of the customer journey comes in:

2. Consideration

Put yourself in the shoes of the “buyer” (aka candidate) here for a second:

You know you’re ready to buy a new product (aka find a new job).

And so you start weighing your options.

Where are you going to turn?

To reviews, of course.

Whether it’s online reviews of your company or experiences from employees (past or present), prospective employees will seek information before jumping into your candidate pool.

According to Glassdoor, most job seekers read an average of six reviews on your company before making a decision about your company.

And if you’re worried about what people write about your candidate experience today, know this:

Your candidate journey improves exponentially with just some small investments.

Not even financial investments necessarily. Simple improvements like:

  • Shortening the application process
  • Offering faster feedback following interviews (regardless of the outcome)
  • Being transparent about things like compensation and benefits
  • Engaging with candidates via social media
  • Sharing insights into your company culture

In fact, according to a study from Future Workplace, candidates are four times more likely to consider future opportunities from your company when you provide them with constructive feedback in an interview process.

By making simple changes to your current candidate journey, you can have a positive impact on online reviews. Which in turn, gets more high-quality candidates to the “Interest” stage of the candidate journey:

3. Interest

I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this:

It would be a shame to invest so much time and effort into recruitment marketing during the “Awareness” and “Consideration” stages, only to have everything fall apart when candidates actually want to express interest in your company.

And yet, that’s a major problem for even some of the most progressive HR teams.

fix this

Finding ways to make your HR team and open opportunities more accessible can be a challenge.

And that’s because — as Elyse Mayer over at Smashfly highlights in her great visual below — there are so many twists and turns in the modern candidate journey:

candidate journey definition

(image source)

Mayer notes that it’s not enough for companies to focus on just one channel:

“To really improve the candidate experience and be useful in the career search, talent acquisition leaders need to craft messaging across stages and channels to reach the right people with the right message.”

In other words — be accessible.

Only 33 percent of recruiters use social media to spread the word about opportunities or their work.

That needs to change.

Bringing It Together

The “candidate journey” may seem like a trendy buzz term.

But the truth is, if your organization isn’t thinking about how to adapt to this modern candidate journey definition, you’re going to have a hard time attracting (and retaining) quality talent.

After reading this post, hopefully you agree that focusing on recruitment marketing before candidates even consider an application is key.

So now I’ll turn the question to you:

What are you doing to improve your company’s candidate journey?

Share your best ideas in the comments below.