November 6, 2020

How to Create the Perfect Candidate Journey — The 8 Stages by PALTRON

Learn about the stages and experiences that active job seekers go through during their job search. Optimise these stages to attract the top talent in your industry.

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"Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was—and still is—the most important thing we do." 

—Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce (49,000 employees)

Due to the skills shortage in today’s digital age, companies have a hard time finding suitable employees. With 124,000 vacancies, the IT industry in Germany is so badly affected that fewer than ten applications come in for any given position.

This skills shortage has triggered a "War for Talent," which you can only win if your company offers a persuasive application process.

To do so, you need to optimise your candidate journey and the associated candidate experiences.

What are candidate journey and candidate experiences?

The candidate journey describes the stages your candidate goes through from the beginning of the job search to getting hired (and beyond). During this journey, your candidate will have various experiences, which we simply call candidate experiences.

You may be familiar with the customer journey. The candidate journey is the same approach but for your staff. Identifying the phases of your company's candidate journey allows you to treat your candidates with as much effort and dedication as you treat your customers.

If you want to win the "War for Talent," you need to follow the following  principle: The candidates are queens and kings.

Throughout the entire journey, your candidate will have many interactions with your company, taking place both online and offline.

For example, your candidate could:

  • View your job listing on a job portal.
  • Visit the jobs page of your website.
  • Read a newspaper advertisement from you.
  • Visit the social media profiles of your company.
  • Subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Come into your business.
  • Join your talent network.
  • Read your reviews on Kununu or Glassdoor.
  • Talk to your employees.
  • Meet you for a job interview.

We call those points of interaction touchpoints. With each touchpoint, your candidate experiences your company. If those experiences are positive, your candidate will stay in the race. If they aren't, you'll lose your candidate to a competitor who provided a better experience. 

Why do the candidate journey and candidate experience matter so much?

As an employer, your company has to be attractive from the very first second. It needs to present itself effectively  in all channels a candidate might come into contact with it, be it on social media, on the phone or a job portal.

Of course, all interactions that follow are just as important. Positive experiences during the whole candidate journey lead to positive word-of-mouth about your company, influencing your employer branding, building brand equity and cementing your reputation as an employer people want to work for. For an employer, brand is everything, in particular for attracting the right talent.

The trust gained during the application process forms the foundation for the new relationship between employee and company. 

On the other end, after a negative candidate journey, 89% of newly hired employees consider changing jobs again. In fact, more than half of all IT professionals will  withdraw an application if the application process takes too long.

With a great candidate journey and positive candidate experiences, you can avoid your employees becoming part of this statistic.

What makes a great candidate journey?

Top candidates not only go through your candidate journey, but also your competitors'.

To stay ahead of the competition, your candidate journey must have the following three basic characteristics.

Appreciation

From the first touchpoint, and throughout the entire process, you have to show that you appreciate your candidates.

Don't treat them as if they were replaceable. Many companies have a "They are coming to us anyway..." approach and unconsciously put off the best applicants. In the end, these companies may fill their open positions, but not with their ideal hire.

The few companies that think about the candidate journey and candidate experience are the ones winning the real talent.

Here's what your candidate expects:

  • Having only one person of contact: Your candidate doesn't want to be contacted in an impersonal way by a lot of different people. Having only one person to talk to gives a feeling of familiarity and individuality.
  • Staying in touch: Stay in contact with your candidate throughout the whole candidate journey. Confirm receiving the application and thank them for it, update the candidate regularly about the current state of the application and inform them about the outcome, even if you reject them.
  • Constructive feedback: Whether you are rejecting or accepting, add short feedback. What did you like? What can the candidate do better next time?
  • Transparency: Your candidate wants to know how the selection process works and what you focus on. Communicate your process and hiring criteria as accurately and simply as possible.
  • Humanity: Nobody likes to be treated like a consumer good. Show from the very first moment that your company cares about its employees.

Speed

Your applicant's time is valuable. If they have to fill out unnecessary forms or there are other time-consuming hurdles blocking their way, they can get frustrated and abandon the whole process.

For example, it shouldn't take longer than 60 minutes to fill out an application. Practically, this means you should shy away from letting applicants type their existing CV into your own HR tool.

When the applications reach you, don't let them pile up on your desk. Two-thirds of all candidates feel that fast processing of their documents motivates them to continue with the application process. 

Key takeaway: The entire candidate journey shouldn't take longer than six weeks.

Simplicity

Did you know that almost 20% of people under 30 will not apply for your position if it means filling out a lengthy e-Recruiting form? Often, these are time-poor, high-profile candidates; exactly the people you want. 

We have some tips to simplify your candidate journey:

  • Social media: There are various social media platforms for business purposes with Xing and LinkedIn being by far the most popular. Allow potential candidates to apply directly via those platforms.
  • 1-Click application: Applying through social media is already easy. But a 1-Click application function is even more practical. With 1-Click application, potential candidates can do as little as pressing a button on your website, and your software will automatically import their Xing and LinkedIn profiles. Candidates will then only have to write their application letter after the first selection round.
  • Simple titles: Even when someone feels like they are the ideal fit, they won't apply if the job title is unclear. So keep the job title simple and understandable.
  • Clear job requirements: If nobody knows what the position entails, nobody will apply. Avoid "cool" wording and meaningless buzzwords.
  • Everything's online: Your own website and widely known job portals are the most important channels of recruitment these days. So make sure that your online presence is appealing and up-to-date.

The 8 stages of the candidate journey, according to PALTRON

Most articles talk about six stages in a candidate journey. We have found that important opportunities for optimisation are lost if we don't include two more stages. That is why we now present the eight stages of the candidate journey, according to PALTRON.

Awareness

In the first phase, your candidates will learn about the vacancy you're trying to fill. This can happen in many different ways. For example, by finding your listing on a job portal such as LinkedIn or Indeed, through your social media channels, by reading an article about your company and then visiting your jobs page, or by following someone's recommendation.

There are an infinite number of other touchpoints that you can optimise for a positive first candidate experience.

Consideration

Often, companies don't pay enough attention to this stage. Simplicity is extremely important, especially in job listings.

In the consideration phase, candidates read through your job description and expect clear, attractive conditions and challenges.

Interest

Congratulations! The touchpoint "job listing" has fulfilled the expectations of your candidate and aroused their interest. 

The candidate now goes beyond your job listing and wants to learn more about your company. What is your mission? Can they identify with your values? What do former employees say about you?

To have a positive experience in this stage of the candidate journey, you have to know and apply the principles of employer branding. 

One example is that the best employers in the world do a great job of staying consistent across all channels. Social media, website, word-of-mouth, job description, and media appearances create a uniform, positive image of a company. This, in turn, leads to proud employees and motivated applicants.

More than half of the applicants comb through the potential employer's social media profiles before applying, looking for honest opinions. Therefore, it's very worthwhile investing in a strong employer brand.

Application

As mentioned above, we recommend that you keep this stage intimate and work through it quickly.

Put yourself in the position of your applicants and test the application process yourself. You may notice details or even entire processes that could result in a bad candidate experience. When you find them, improve them right away.

Can candidates apply by using their mobile phone, for example? According to a study by Glassdoor, 58% of candidates use their mobile phone to search for a new job. Often, they would like to apply directly. If you offer this option, tell the candidates in the job description.

And most importantly, process incoming applications as quickly as possible and always keep your candidates in the loop. This way, you won't run the risk of losing top talent to your competitors while you're doing the paperwork.

The eight stages of the candidate journey by PALTRON

Selection

Here, we aren't talking about your selection of applicants, but the applicants' selection of potential employers. There's a great chance that you aren't the only one in the race.

In this phase, transparency is key. During the first interview, most candidates can already tell if they would ever work for your company or not.

It helps to communicate with clarity what it's like to work for your company. That includes what the work culture and team spirit are like, the challenges of the position, and the possible growth opportunities and further training for the candidate.

Encourage your counterpart in the interview to ask as many questions and express as many concerns as possible. Unresolved problems clutter the mind and negatively impact the applicant's decision.

Employment

Good news, your ideal candidate has just accepted your offer!

Show them that you are looking forward to working with them and are interested in your mutual success.

The candidate journey does not end with the hire. Your new employee expects further support and good onboarding.

Onboarding

About a quarter of new employees quit their position within 90 days. Onboarding is a time and cost-intensive process that can be easily optimised:

  • Arrange one-on-one meetings. According to a survey by LinkedIn, 72% of employees find that one-on-one meetings are the most important aspect of the onboarding experience.
  • Set expectations and goals together and early on. Uncertainty about work expectations and performance goals is a new employee's worst enemy. According to the same LinkedIn survey, understanding performance goals was the second most important aspect of the onboarding experience.
  • Send relevant documents to your new employee before they come in. On the first day, leave a welcome package and a card at the workplace to show your appreciation. A phone call from management to welcome them is also appreciated.
  • Group the new employee with experienced employees who can teach them all the basics while on the clock. The new employee will learn from the right people and at the same time, be able to build relationships within the team.

Optimisation

Feedback your new employee is giving you is the most important source for improving your candidate journey and candidate experiences.

Take the time to interview your new employee, listen carefully, and implement the feedback you receive as soon as possible.

After this stage, the candidate journey is over... and the employee journey begins.

Five practical tips to improve your candidate journey

The right job description

Make sure that the job title is easy to understand, that the requirements are realistic, and that the conditions are attractive.

Here's an example of one of our own live job listings.

Example of a real job description on PALTRON's website


Use a recruitment management system

With the right recruitment management software, you can create attractive job listings, post them on hundreds of channels simultaneously, and automatically sort all applications you receive.

It makes your process easier, faster, and more effective.

Find the programme that suits you here.

Proactive and personal communication

At PALTRON, we add a contact person to each job listing. The contact person takes care of the applicants for this particular position and remains in constant contact with them.

That's how we can create and maintain transparency while showing appreciation for our candidates.

Host applicant days

If you get many applications, it's beneficial to host an application day. Candidates can meet your company and get an idea of what it is like to work for it. They can ask any questions they have and introduce themselves personally.

An application day naturally reduces the number of applications you get, when people drop out upon finding out the position isn't actually a good fit for them. Additionally, you may convince the most promising candidates to apply then and there.

Acceleration of administrative processes

Keep administrative matters as short and as simple as possible. Speed is essential, and you certainly don't want to lose your top candidates to the competition just because they were able to draft a contract faster.

Conclusion

To win the "War for Talent," companies have to change their way of thinking drastically. They have to approach the hiring processes from the candidate's perspective and no longer from their own.

Many are optimising their customer journey constantly, and now it's time to take new ways on the personnel side as well.

Now you know what you have to pay attention to. Analyse your company's candidate journey from the perspective of your applicants. Identify all touchpoints and find ways to improve the connected candidate experiences.

You will see a lower drop-out rate, attract truly great professionals and lay a solid foundation for collaboration with each new employee.

If you need help at any point, we'll be happy to assist you.

All the best!